Ordinary People, by Judith Guest, is a touching, sensitive novel that deals with healing and moving on from a tragedy or a difficult situation. It uniquely tells the stories of two different people and their personal situations from chapter to chapter, and how each person recovers from his/her problems. The reader is taken into their lives to share and sympathize with their misunderstandings, their pain, and their ultimate healing.
The novel begins with the statement: “To have a reason to get up in the morning, it is necessary to possess a guiding principle.” This statement is true because in order to actually be successful, one must know what they want to become in life. Guest compares these “guiding principles” to bumper stickers, since they identify and summarize the beliefs of different people. The main characters that the author focuses on in this novel are Conrad and Calvin Jarrett. The Jarrett family has been traumatized from a boating accident, which killed their eldest son, Jordan “Buck” Jarrett. Conrad, Calvin’s son, has been affected so greatly by this tragedy that he attempted to commit suicide about six months later by slashing his wrists with a razor.
Conrad’s parents, Calvin and Beth, admitted him to a psychiatric hospital after his attempt, and he was released about a month later. At this point, Conrad is at a “recovery stage” in his life and is trying to put his life in place. He also has yet to find a “bumper sticker”; he feels like he needs motivation from someone to actually have a guiding principle. Throughout the novel, Conrad begins to recover from the tragic death of his beloved brother in various ways, such as visiting a psychiatrist named Dr. Berger twice a week, focusing on schoolwork, and dating a girl named Jeannine to boost his self-esteem and self-confidence.
Calvin, Conrad’s father, begins to face serious marital problems and disagreements with his wife, Beth, later in the book. Calvin believes that the way to heal the wounds...
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