Ordinary People


TC Berger

Dr. Berger is Conrad’s psychiatrist. Dr. Berger matches many of Conrad’s negative stereotypes of a therapist. It is important to keep in mind the setting of the novel, which was the late 1970s. People were far more skeptical of psychiatrists and therapy during that time period, and the layperson’s understanding of depression was significantly limited. Therefore, the fact that Berger is able to help Conrad transition into a normal life is meaningful. Perhaps most significant is Berger’s attitude about depression. He makes it clear that depression is not sadness and crying, but the absence of feeling. Dr. Berger makes it apparent to Conrad that Conrad should be feeling some emotions in the wake of his brother’s death, and that it is appropriate to feel those emotions.

About midway through the novel, Calvin begins to see Dr. Berger, as well. Though their relationship is not developed as thoroughly as the relationship between Conrad and Berger, Berger is able to ask some insightful questions that help Calvin understand and process his own feelings about Buck’s death and Conrad’s suicide attempt. Calvin spends much of the novel feeling, which his wife criticizes. Berger reaffirms Calvin’s intuitive belief that it is important to feel the emotions, even the negative ones, and that talking about the problems could help lessen their pain. While this is never a perspective that Beth can embrace, it is one that helps both Conrad and Calvin.

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Essays About Ordinary People