Ordinary People


Calvin Jarrett

Calvin Jarrett (Cal) is one of the other main protagonist of the novel. He is Conrad’s father, married to Beth, and recently having lost a son, Buck, in a boating accident. Calvin came from a troubled childhood. His mother gave him up to an orphanage when she was unable to support him, and he never knew his father. Despite this background, Calvin has been committed to having a good family life and has worked hard to provide a stable background for his family. For him, part of that has meant financial stability, because of the financial struggles in his own childhood, and he has managed to provide his family with a significant amount of financial stability. However, this financial stability has not protected his family in the way that he had hoped. Not only did his oldest son, Buck, die in an accident, but his younger son made a suicide attempt.

Throughout the novel, Calvin is struggling with how to protect his youngest son and how to save his marriage to Beth, which is obviously faltering. The problem is that the two things are in conflict. Beth wants to move on as if nothing has happened, but pretending like nothing has happened is very detrimental to Conrad. Conrad needs to deal with what has happened, not ignore it. Calvin is torn between both of their needs, but grows increasingly upset with Beth’s disinterest in Conrad’s life.

The alternating chapters of the book explore Calvin’s life and offer some insight into him. He had a mentor, Arnold Bacon, when he was a young adult. Bacon was an attorney and inspired Calvin to go to law school. He also helped pay for Calvin’s education, and served as the closest thing to a father figure that Calvin ever had. However, Bacon was very disappointed by Calvin’s decision to marry Beth while he was still a student. This led to a rift in the relationship between the two men. Calvin did marry Beth, and he found happiness with her for a time. However, even before their son’s death, Calvin seemed to realize something was missing. He even contemplated having an affair.


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Essays About Ordinary People