Ordinary People


Chapter 11 to Chapter 15

Chapter Eleven

While Calvin’s family problems take up a significant amount of his time, he also has to deal with work and work issues. Work is very important to him because so much of his self-worth is dependent upon his perception that he is able to adequately provide for his family. However, his work life is not running smoothly. They have a secretary named Cherry who is experiencing problems in her personal life. Those problems are bleeding over into her performance. While Calvin feels that he should be an objective boss and just look at her performance, he cannot help but be sympathetic to her. He also reflects that they have not had a good secretary in their office since Lynn Searles, a secretary with whom his partner, Ray, had an affair.

Cal spends much of the day contemplating his life and the appearance of perfection. He runs into an old friend, Carole Lazenby, and they have lunch. They spend time discussing their history together, and Calvin is reminded of how tense Beth used to be because she was searching for perfection for their family. To Calvin, that perfection actually existed up until the time of Beth’s death. When Conrad brings home an “A” on a trigonometry test, Calvin allows himself to believe that they may be regaining some of that perfection. He thinks about the fact that his partner, Ray, once had an affair with a secretary, Lynn Searles, and his conversation with Ray’s wife about the affair. Ray’s wife, Nancy, had left Ray, but eventually returned to him, although it seems that Ray continues to be unfaithful. Nancy and Ray have found happiness, largely based on Nancy’s willingness to let her fantasies about her life replace the reality of her life. While this concept was once impossible for Calvin to understand, in the wake of Buck’s death the concept has become much more understandable. He is also willing to pretend that things are okay as long as he can just get back a semblance of happiness.

Chapter Twelve

The focus shifts back to...

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Essays About Ordinary People