My Commentary on “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller

6 Oct


“The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller is a 200 page novel about a four day love affair. A photographer travels from Washington to a dusty, small town in Iowa on assignment for National Geographic. He is assigned to photograph the old covered bridges in Madison County. When he gets lost, he stops to ask a woman for directions. This woman is an Italian immigrant who met her current husband while he was assigned to Italy through the military. She has two children who are away with her husband showing cattle at the State Fair. The photographer is named Robert Kincaid and is referred to by his first and last name throughout the novel. The family of four is father Richard, mother Francesca,  daughter Carolyn and son Michael. They are all referred to by their first names only.

Robert Kincaid and Francesca spend four days alone together while the rest of the family is at the State Fair, loving, talking and relating to each other. He asks her to go with him when it is time for him to return to Washington; she replies she is bound by responsibility and he needs to respect her wishes. He does, but neither of the lovers ever truly loves again, and they both die without seeing each other ever again. Carolyn and Michael find out about the relationship after their mother’s death and decide to tell the story to a writer, who puts it into this novel.

This is the basic outline of this story. It may seem that the tale does not require 200 pages, but the story reaches beyond the love affair to reveal a commentary on art. It was written in 1992, when the world was just coming out of a few decades of free love, random intimacy and a serious AIDS outbreak. Sexually transmitted diseases were gaining much needed attention and “sleeping around” was gaining notoriety for its despicability. The art of love and the deep emotion of art in general was seriously overlooked, even ignored. Robert James Waller brought the world back to the emotion and the art form of real love and lovemaking with this deeply impassioned story of two people who found it then lost it in a space of only four days.

Admittedly, this story omits the basic, underlying idea that this is sex outside of marriage. However, if this had become a theme within the story, Mr. Waller would have lost the deep artistic direction he had gently built in the first few chapters. While giving away nothing of Robert Kincaid, Mr. Waller describes Robert in a way which creates an admiration for the character within the reader. The reader is so in love with the idea of Robert Kincaid that the basic sin of extra-marital sex doesn’t occur to bother the reader until Richard calls on the lovers’ third day together.

The lovers, as well, make the whole ordeal acceptable with the poetic rhythm of their whirlwind romance. The words Mr. Waller chooses to describe the feelings that occurred in that kitchen carry such poetic, perfect, romantic appeal that the reader simply melts for the basic want within every human to feel that way. When the lovers find themselves in bed, the description of their lovemaking is complete in a non-pornographic, romantic, artistic manner. Women feel sex in an emotional manner; Mr. Waller captures the female emotion in the lovemaking scene and draws the reader into the bedroom through the raw love between Robert and Francesca.

Throughout the novel, the artistic theme stays true, through Robert’s refusal to let go of Francesca’s memory and through Francesca’s annual celebration of Robert. The letter Francesca pens to her children explaining the affair is not apologetic, it is simply explanatory and informative. The love is never shameful, afraid or in need of apology from anyone. It simply is.

This novel is truly written for the female need to be accepted and loved in an emotional manner, not in the practical manner of many men. While there are many different types of love which are acceptable and fine for those who can make them work, this novel was a best seller in 1992 due to its terrific connection to the artist in every one of us and its excellent interpretation of an emotional attachment which many people will only read about but never truly feel.


2 Responses to “My Commentary on “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller”

  1. married for married December 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Lol! What is that??!

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