Ordinary People


Chapter 21 to Chapter 25

Chapter Twenty-One

The happiness of Conrad and Jeannine’s first date is contrasted by the focus of chapter twenty-one. Calvin and Beth are discussing their upcoming trip to the golf tournament in Houston. They plan on staying with Beth’s brother,Ward, and his wife, Audrey. Planning their trip has lent an air of happiness to them, which causes Calvin to reflect upon them as a couple. He realizes that they seem to find happiness when avoiding their problems. For example, they went to Spain while Conrad was in the hospital, and he felt happy there, avoiding dealing with his son who had attempted suicide. However, Calvin also seems aware that avoiding problems provides only a temporary solution. As much as he wants to avoid them, the problems still exist.

Calvin spends a significant amount of time contemplating his relationship with Beth in this chapter. He reflects on how his decision to marry Beth while still a student led to the end of his mentor-mentee relationship with Arnold Bacon. However, he also acknowledges the strong love that was the foundation of that relationship. He feels that Arnold was too quick to turn away from Calvin and should have understood that as a young adult, Calvin would naturally find a woman and want to marry her. He thinks that Bacon’s failure to accept that priorities can and do shift helped lead to the destruction of their relationship. This seems to foreshadow the fact that Beth is equally unable to accept that priorities change. She resents that Conrad has become Calvin’s priority, and, much like Arnold Bacon did, she punishes Calvin for his changing feelings.

One of the things that Calvin considers in this chapter is his fidelity to Beth. Infidelity is a subtopic in much of the novel, with people in other families engaging in infidelity with different results. Calvin’s partner almost lost his marriage because of an affair, but Nancy decided to return to him, content with her illusion of a monogamous marriage. Beth indicated to Calvin that unlike Nancy, she could not forgive...

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Essays About Ordinary People