They may have spent very little time together one-on-one, but Evelyn and Norman have an incredible amount of things in common both literally, and theoretically. In fact, they are practically the same person. What makes their dynamic of particular interest is how, beyond superficial similarities, Evelyn grounds Norman's character, growing him in both wisdom and maturity in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again.
Besides each having six letters in their given names---a common tell-tale sign of deeper connection---Evelyn and Norman also share two other things---wardrobe and demeanor.
The clothing connection is apparent almost immediately. Both are partial to blue---Evelyn to her Tye-dye and Norman to his plaid. Throughout Home Again, Evelyn constantly sported a vest reminiscent of Norman's sweaters, which are one of his many wardrobe staples also featured in the film. It's a superficial link between the two, which, once the major conflict between Bill, Norman and Rita is resolved, transitioned into a more integrated palette across the merging family.
Most of us would have probably been pretty livid over broken glasses, but Evelyn still remained positive and energetic towards everyone with whom she came in contact. Norman, too, is generally amiable towards all people (with the slight exception of Ramon---but that's worth its own post), and we don't have much indication regarding his attitude towards material things, but we do know he values the experience of life, perhaps even more than material things. And, even in the face of Bill's apparent rejection, Norman held his tongue when he could have easily done otherwise, opting instead to continue to be respectful, even as he struggled to connect with Bill.
Also, Evelyn's line about Bill being "...a good man. He just a sad dad right now," explaining that "he used to be her hero, now she has two," has echoes of Norman's statement to Oliver in his time of distress in Truth Be Told: “Think of it this way---you had two dads, some people don’t even have one.” In both instances, the new perspectives informed the struggles of Norman and Oliver respectively, sending them on the right path towards resolution in whatever way each man required it.
From wardrobe and demeanor, the similarities between Norman and Evelyn only continue to deepen.
It's no surprise Evelyn and Norman shared so many visible similarities, because underneath it all they shared a deep connection literally woven into the fabric of their characters, that, given the chance to interact, brought Norman into a new level of understanding of himself and the world around him at a very critical juncture.
When it comes to their names, Evelyn and Norman share a unique connection. At a core level, each of them are an expression of our base need as humans to connect with one another. Norman does it by assigning roles to the people with whom he interacts, Evelyn does so by weaving people together into a single narrative. Though seemingly the same, the realities of these angles are strikingly different.
As we've discussed before, Norman thrives on creating and assigning roles to people in his life. And, as has been observed on multiple occasions throughout the series, "everyone likes Norman," and because of being liked, it has been easy for him to find allies along the way. What didn't strike me until recently is how superficial, and, indeed, fragile, this method of association can be. One need only review Odd Man Out to see its breakdown for evidence. Norman's less than ideal first impression put him in the position of seeking the approval of Rita's parents. Laser-focused on this goal, he became narrow-minded, misreading the situation as strictly a matter of being liked, unsuccessfully working to achieve those ends for a time. But it's exactly that "work" that was the problem. If Norman's acceptance was based on work, then, taken to its extreme, it's possible Norman could have never made the connection either because he didn't find the right thing to do or say, or because Bill simply refused to acquiesce. Ultimately, it wasn't anything Norman "did" that made the difference, but his perspective, and how that informed his interactions moving forward. The solution was much deeper than simply "being liked."
It's interesting to note an additional dynamic that, likely without him recognizing it, frustrated Norman's efforts initially. Over the course of the series, Norman, along with Rita, Oliver and Shane, have established and built a family. It's a family whose provenance stretches back to the Pilot and whose narrative has developed and evolved over the course of the series, adding people like Joe along the way. You get a sense of this in Home Again as Shane, Oliver and Joe rally around him to help, and how Norman wished they were present for the second proposal. When it comes to the Haywith family, however, Norman's true struggle was finding his way into the narrative of their already established family, something he lacked the full context to do on his own.
The Evelyn Angle
Evelyn was perfectly positioned to give Norman the context he needed. Where Norman clung to creating associations, Evelyn's character was woven together in such a way that she instinctively recognized connections between people and things as inherent, the context of that connection simply waiting to be revealed. It's this evolved understanding and perspective which Norman required to make the progress he previously failed to make with Bill.
"Bill's a good man, Norman. He's just a sad dad right now...he used to be her hero, now she has two."
Evelyn humanized Bill by expressing her understanding of his heart. Though he seemed gruff, Bill was really just "a sad dad." It caused Norman to empathize with Bill, while giving him a perspective the look on his face suggested he hadn't yet considered. At the same time, it framed the narrative of their family in a way that identified Norman's point of entry to the story as one of Rita's "heroes," a role, of course, Bill also holds. All Norman's previous efforts were aimed at bridging the gaps where he and Bill were different. Evelyn called Norman to look at the most important place where he and Bill were the same at a very basic level---in their love for Rita. It's the most basic of truths, but served as the most profound---and effective---point of connection for Bill and Norman.
Not only did Evelyn weave Norman into the narrative of their family, she facilitated an emotional understanding that transcended the labels of father/future son-in-law, to two humans who both love and care about the same woman. Equipped with this perspective, Norman had the tools to modify his approach with Bill. And it's out of this place that Norman approached his re-proposal.
We know Norman is not stranger to integrating advice into his daily life--- it was, after all, Abby's anecdote about the hole in her pocket that likely prompted Norman to check his bedroom floor for the missing ring. But what Norman did in presenting the ring to Rita, in front of Evelyn and Bill, demonstrated perhaps his most important moment advice integration to date.
While Evelyn supplied Norman with a new lens through which to view the disconnect between he and Bill, she didn't provide him the exact method of reconciling it. Instead, she let him "fly solo" as it were. Brilliantly, Norman took a page from Evelyn's book and weaved his own story, centered on owls, to not only honor Rita's "provenance," but honor Bill's role in it, while also drafting a blueprint for their future.
It was obviously no secret to either man that Rita had an affinity for owls, but Norman turned the owl into a nexus for himself, Bill and Rita, creating a continuous timeline in which all three were included. He did so by describing Rita---and, of course, owls---as "...wise...smart and so brave...," and crediting Bill with being the "wise...smart...brave" person who "taught [her] how." Then Norman extended the timeline and the narrative when he declared, "...and now I get to fly right alongside you forever...," associating himself with the woodland creature (a category Evelyn associated him with right off the bat). Norman acknowledged Rita as a product of Bill's love and example in terms of the traits he associated with owls, then picked up the analogy to integrate himself. As a result, all three existed in a single narrative that recognized Bill's influence---both past and present---while envisioning a future where Norman "[flies] right alongside [Rita]."
It's immediately clear this integrated narrative, along with Norman's heartfelt expression of love, possessed the content and character to successfully forge a solid connection between the two men, evidenced by Bill initiating the handshake. Unlike Norman's previous, and, arguably, superficial attempts to connect with Bill, this more nuanced approach reached all the way to Bill's heart, which, we can assume, was really Norman's intended objective from the very beginning.
Clearly similar in wardrobe and personality, Evelyn and Norman's most unique---and most important--- connection was literally woven into the fabric of their characters. Each an expression of our base need as humans to connect with one another, the manner in which they perceived and achieved those connections differed. Encountering a scenario in which his methods were challenged, Norman required not only Evelyn's gentle guidance, but also her lens of perspective to find his place in the story of the Haywith family moving forward. Through the process of their interaction, Norman became a more mature, confident and complete version of himself, a man ready to pursue his future.
Seeing It Through,