5. How were Jake and Arthur affected by their family dynamic? Did their mother pamper Jake too much? Did their father favor Arthur because he was easier to manage, or was Jake difficult to manage because of his father’s favoritism?
Each parent in the Dunn family favored one of their sons more. Perhaps it was because Henry and Mary were fairly different from each other. Mary was intelligent in book learning and read the Sunday papers. She inclined her affections to Jake, the son who did well in school and was social. Henry was hard working and knowledgeable about running a farm. He favored his sturdy, hard-working, obedient son, Arthur.
From Mary's point of view, she wasn't pampering Jake. She just wanted him to have a "better" life than working on a farm and she saw getting as much schooling as he could as a way out of farming for Jake. Henry viewed it as Jake not carrying his weight at home and on the farm.
I think Henry favor Arthur because he was more like him. They had things in common. Neither enjoyed school and while Arthur may tired of endless farm chores, he did them well and didn't shrink from doing them. Jake did shrink from doing his share of chores. Had Jake been more amicable to doing his share of the work, Henry might have bonded more with his second son.
6. How are the characters shaped by the novel’s setting? What do the natural surroundings of the town mean to them? What separates those who want to escape from those who bask in the town’s familiarity?
The Other Side of the Bridge is set in Struan, a remote, rural town in northern Canada on the edge of a 50 mile long lake. It's not a place many would choose to move to and young residents growing up might long to move away, but others couldn't imagine living anywhere else. In a town as small as Struan, the residents all know one another and one another's business. Living in this kind of community would impact a person's life more than living in a large city.
Ian and Pete especially enjoy fishing on the lake. Pete, a Native Canadian (or Canadian Indian?), fishes like it's in his blood. Ian ably catches fish but only a fraction of what Pete catches. Pete doesn't want to leave his lake-side home. Ian longs to be somewhere else but fears missing the lake and being drawn back home, caught by the life of following in his father's footsteps that everyone expects him to lead.
Aside from Ian, his mother, Beth, Jake, and perhaps his mother, Mary, want more from life than living in a small rural town. While Henry, Arthur, Dr. Christopherson, Ian's father, and Pete seem content or even enjoy the peace of a slower life. I think it comes down to the person. Some people can't imagine ever going beyond the furthest place they've been while others feel trapped and caged. Those people might love the hustle and bustle of a large city while the others would feel overwhelmed and lost. As to what would make someone grow into one of those groups over the other, I think it would be a combinations of personality, skills, and interests.
7. Take a look at the men's relationships with their mothers. As a pre-schooler, Arthur "already knew that his mother's happiness depended on Jake's well-being" (p. 28), while school-boy Jake "had great confidence in his mother's ability to win arguments on his behalf" (p. 36). Ian's opinion of his mother shortly before she left was that she "had two moods nowadays, absent or annoyed, and whichever one she was in he invariably found he preferred the other" (p. 13). What do these relationships look like to you?
Jake was small and sickly as a young child taking his mother's attention away from Arthur who only tried to please her more so she'd pay attention to him again. So Arthur keep Jake safe in hopes that his mother would notice and give him the same attention she paid to Jake. Jake, I think, took for granted that his mother would always be in his corner and do whatever she could for him. Mary related to Jake better as the boys grew older because he was more similar to her while Arthur took after his father.
I think Ian would have liked his mother to care more about him. I think Beth did love Ian but she was one of those people who felt stifled by living in a remote, rural town. She seemed depressed. I think she just wanted someone to care about what she wanted as well as wanting to be somewhere else.
8. Quote something from the book that captured your attention, and tell us what you thought of it.
Ian on visiting Toronto the previous summer with his mother (pg 16): "What had impressed him most had not been the size of the city or the noise or even the buildings--he'd been expecting all that. What had struck him most forcibly was the fact that when he walked down the street he hadn't known anyone. Thousands upon thousands of strangers. He'd found it amazing. Liberating!"
This passage caught my attention because it said very well some of what I try to explain to my friends when they don't understand why I miss living in a big city so much.
9. Can you relate to any of the characters? In what way?
I can relate to Ian for not being content living where he is, but still loving certain aspects of it. I can related to Jake's love of school and learning, but not to Jake as a person.