There is a pleasure in listening to the imagery of Alexander’s Bridge that is similar to viewing a beautiful watercolor, as in the following description of a Boston street in late afternoon: “The sun sank rapidly; the silvery light had faded from the bare boughs and the watery twilight was setting in when Wilson at last walked down the hill, descending into cooler and cooler depths of grayish shadow.”
Against this delicate imagery, Willa Cather renders the tough inner terrain of a man in mid-life crisis. Bartley Alexander is a master bridge engineer. At forty-three he is at the height of his power, comfortable with success and all it brings. Yet he yearns for the lost vibrancy of his youth. He leads a double life, veering between his beautiful, accomplished wife and his mistress, an actress he knew as a student in Paris. This conflict creates a crack in the structure of his life which ultimately undermines him.