Judith Guest's Ordinary People: Internal & External Conflicts as They Result from the Suppression of Emotions

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"What we say is important…for in most cases the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."—Jim Beggs. Literature, as far back as it can be dated, has been progressing towards this very notion of articulacy. Through the civilizing process, literary texts have mirrored how societies—and individuals within a society—have moved from battling conflict using external, physical forces to fighting, increasingly, with internally conceived methods, such as knowledge, social mannerisms, and communication. From the epic of Beowulf to even the most contemporary piece of literature, conflict is an unavoidable facet of human life. A significant difference to note, however, is that the battles fought in Beowulf's time are a different kind of battle than the battles fought in the majority of contemporary literature. This change is largely due to the long and continuing process of human civilization. The needs of today's society are vastly different from the needs of the society during Beowulf's time. Different needs produce different battles and, therefore, require different weapons with which to compete. In a contemporary novel by Judith Guest, entitled Ordinary People, it is this very notion of expressiveness around which the storyline builds upon when each of the characters attempt to appear to be something different from what they really are by suppressing their emotions. The characters tried to fight what was natural by suppressing how they really felt and, resultantly, internal and external conflicts developed.

A tragedy struck the Jarrett Family when their eldest son, Jordan (Buck), drowned in a boating accident. Up until his brother's death, Conrad Jarrett was a socially healthy and physically active 17 year-old high school student, growing up in a wealthy suburban neighborhood. Each family member responded to the fatality differently; yet one similarity in all of them was that their response was something different from who they really were and...
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