Ordinary People

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There are many factors that contribute to strong relationships. Some of the key elements are communication, trust, and forgiveness. In Judith Guests novel, Ordinary People, there are several relationships where these elements are portrayed. They are illustrated either in a positive or negative manner, usually between several family members. One element that helps relationships become strong, and keeps people together is communication. Communication can hold a relationship tightly together, whereas a lack of communication can tear it apart. One example of good communication in a relationship is demonstrated between Dr. Berger and Conrad Jarrett. One of the only people that Conrad feels comfortable talking to and showing all of his emotions, is Dr. Berger. Dr. Berger wants Conrad to communicate with him and gives him good reasons for doing so, by saying, “That’s what happens when you bury this junk, kiddo. It keeps resurfacing. Won’t leave you alone.” (Page 109) Berger says that because he is trying to get Conrad to open the lines of communication with everyone, so that everything does not become buried in the closet. Communication is a vital component of all relationships and when it is missing it can make people miserable. In Conrad’s relationship with his mother, Beth, they do not go out of their way to talk to each other, and their conversations are superficial and trivial. Some reasons that they do not talk to each other probably has to do with the fact that they are too much alike, stubborn, and will not admit to their innermost feelings. One example of miscommunication occurred when Beth learned at a meeting that her son had quit the swim team. She came home very angry, because Conrad had not tried to discuss his decision to quit with his parents. “Never mind,’ she says. ‘It’s meant for me. Isn’t it? I wish I knew, Conrad, why it is still so important for you to try to hurt me!” (Page 101) Apparently there is a definite lack of communication between Conrad and his parents, and in particular with his mother. She takes all of his actions the wrong way, thinking that he is singling her out in order to hurt her. Therefore, in order for a relationship to be strong and for it to last, there must be proper communication, with openness and honesty. Another key element in relationships is trust. Without trust a relationship will most likely be sabotaged with suspicion and lies. Cal trusted his son, Con in many ways, even before Con learned to trust himself. One of the first evident signs of external trust in this novel was when Con gets his car for Christmas and “Cal, resisting the urge to call, ‘Take it easy!’ or any other of those good luck charms, thinks, He will be careful. He will take it easy, even though he has not driven in nearly a year, because he is a good driver.” (Page 117) An additional example of a lack of trust is when Conrad does not have enough faith in his mother to tell her how he feels about everything. This includes what he believes his mother thinks of him, and about his feelings on his brother’s death. When a relationship is devoid of trust, many hurtful and damaging things are held inside, and feelings do not become acknowledged or purged. The element of forgiveness is very important in numerous ways, because no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes in life. Some people can come to terms with the past and move on, but others cannot help keeping the memory of horrid things, and not forgive. Beth was one of those people, or so her son thought. “Lately! Listen, if you-listen! I am never going to be forgiven for that, never! You can’t get it out, you know! All of the blood on her rug and her goddamn towels-everything had to be pitched! Even the goddamn tile in the bathroom had to be re-grouted. Christ, she fired a goddamn maid because she couldn’t dust the living room right, and if you think that she is ever going to forgive me-“ (Page 110) This statement made by Conrad portrays that he could not even forgive himself, and since he was not able to do this for himself, how could he expect his mother to forgive him. For most families, parents are forced to forgive their children for many things. This is all part of life, becaus

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