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Dominant Issues Faced by the Characters in the NovelOrdinary People by Judith Guest is the story of a family having psychological problems which relate to one another through superficial behaviors They distort reality and hide their true emotions to reduce or prevent anxiety The book opens with seventeen year old Conrad son of upper middle-class Beth and Calvin Jarrett comes home after eight months in a psychiatric hospital because he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists His mother is a meticulously orderly person who despises him She does all the right things attending to Jareds physical needs keeping a spotless home plays golf and bridge with other women in her social circle but in her own words is an emotional cripple Jareds father raised in an orphanage seems anxious to please everyone Though a successful tax attorney he is jumpy around Conrad and according to his wife drinks too many martinisConrad seems consumed with despair Chalk-faced hair-hacked Conrad seems bent on preserving the family myth that all is well in the world His family after all are people of good taste They do not discuss a problem in the face of the problem Yet there is not one problem in this family but two Conrads suicide and the death by drowning of Conrads older brother BuckConrad eventually contacts a psychiatrist Dr Berger because he feels the air is full of flying glass and wants to feel in control Their initial sessions together frustrate the psychiatrist because of Conrads inability to express his feelings Conrads slow but steady journey towards healing seems the result of catharsis which remove guilt feelings regarding his brothers death and his familys denial of that death plus the love of a good woman There is no doubt that Conrad is consumed with guilt this guilt gives him feelings of low self-esteem Survivors of horrible tragedies such as the Holocaust frequently express similar feelings of worthlessness
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