Ordinary People

Who is the main character in Ordinary People by Judith Guest?

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Conrad Jarrett is at the center of Ordinary People, which begins on the day he makes an appointment with his therapist. Con's suicide attempt in the wake of his brother Buck's death after a boating accident lands him in a mental hospital, where he is given electric shock treatment for severe depression When he is finally released from the hospital, he feels alienated from family, friends, and teachers, as well as from his former self. He resents his obligations to the swim team and to his former friendships, and he feels at peace only when singing with the choir. Con's journey back to health is one of the main themes of Ordinary People. Through his relationships with Dr. Berger and Jeannine Pratt, Conrad begins to express his repressed emotions, to find reconciliation with his parents, and to recover from the survivor's guilt he feels over his brother's death. He learns to accept his failures, his anxieties, and his fears and to act positively in spite of them. He also learns to accept others' limitations. The turning point for Con is when his friend Karen kills herself, unleashing a flood of guilt in him. In his meeting with Dr. Berger, he realizes that he is not responsible for the deaths of either Buck or Karen, and that it is okay to be himself. His relationship with his mother is less easily resolved. When his parents separate, she leaves without saying good-bye. Con feels intense anger and disappointment about this, but with Berger's help, he tries to accept that she loves him as much as she is able to. The Epilogue shows that Con's final lesson is learning that his mother does indeed love him, and that he loves her. His alienation is assuaged, and his relationships with family and friends are renewed by the end of the novel.