Life is a journey everyone must go through, and everyone's journey consists of extreme obstacles they must overcome. Judith Guest illustrates the journey of each member of the Jarrett family in her book, Ordinary People. The family suffers from a great tragedy when the eldest son of the Jarrett's drowns in a boating accident. Throughout the book, Guest depicts a vivid picture of each character's conflicts, and expectations with her attention to detail, therefore, allowing the reader to sympathize with each character (McGuire 2). The grief over Jordan's death and the loss of Beth's affection forces Conrad on a journey to overcome his depression and recover his once happy adolescence.
Conrad is the troubled protagonist of Ordinary People. He is an ordinary boy living with his ordinary family, At least until his brother, Jordan, is unexpectedly killed in a boating accident. This tragic event begins the breakdown of the Jarrett's perfect lives. Conrad initially refuses to answer his call to cope with Jordan's death until his grief overwhelms him and he attempts suicide. Luckily, after surviving cutting his wrists and a brief stay in a mental hospital, Conrad gets another chance to deal with the loss of Jordan and lead a normal life. Ordinary People is the opposite of a coming of age Story. Conrad has already been through his life-changing moment and is now trying to regain his youthful innocence (SparkNotes: Analysis).
Although Conrad feels like he is taking this journey alone, he does have supporters that help him along. His father, Cal, acts as the motivation for Conrad's wanting to adjust back into society. Cal is a successful tax attorney, his partner envies Cal for having the perfect marriage. Cal is not quite over Jordan's death, but maintains the image that he is, while trying to help Conrad deal with Jordan's death. Cal tends to blame himself for what's wrong in his family (RaveCentral 1).