Ordinary People: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

Diana Evans
This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Ordinary People.
This section contains 515 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Ordinary People: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

Ordinary People: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Ordinary People: A Novel by Diana Evans.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Evans, Diana. Ordinary People. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2018.

The novel opens in November of 2008, shortly after Barack Obama is elected to the U.S. Presidency. The story opens in London, where many black citizens of the UK are celebrating Obama’s election as a landmark of social progress. Attending one such party is Michael and Melissa. They are black, in their late 30s, and have been a couple for 13 years. They are not married, but they live together and have two young children together. Recently, their relationship has become increasingly dysfunctional. Michael is unsatisfied with his corporate office job, and Melissa is unhappy that she must handle most of the domestic and childcare responsibilities.

Damian and Stephanie are a married couple who are good friends of Michael and Melissa. Damian and Stephanie have three children. Stephanie is happy being a stay-at-home mother. Damian, however, is unhappy with his office job. He aspires to be a writer. Recently, Damian’s father died, and Damian is suffering grief. This grief has negatively impacted his relationship with Stephanie, and they have begun to have frequent arguments. In the months following the start of the book, Melissa becomes increasingly stressed by her household duties and lack of freedom, and she and Michael begin to argue more frequently and fiercely. Meanwhile, Michael begins to be attracted to a younger coworker named Rachel.

After Michael talks to Damian about his and Melissa’s problems, Damian suggests that Michael and Melissa go on a date. Melissa’s friend Hazel makes a similar suggestion. Michael and Melissa go on a date to a music concert and attempt to have sex at home afterwards. However, all parts of the date feel uncomfortable for Michael and Melissa. Michael eventually has a brief affair with Rachel, but he finds it unfulfilling. Meanwhile, Melissa’s mental/emotional state begins to deteriorate, and she begins to believe that her and Michael’s house has become infected with a malevolent force. Their relationship continues to deteriorate, and Michael temporarily moves to a hotel. Damian visits Melissa to offer her comfort and support, and a slight romantic tension begins to form between them. Michael eventually movies back in with Melissa.

After a local boy is randomly killed in a park by a local gang, Michael and Melissa briefly consider moving to a new neighborhood, but they decide against it. Michael and Melissa go on vacation to Spain with Damian and Stephanie. During the vacation, Melissa converses with Stephanie. Melissa finds herself jealous of Stephanie’s relative sense of satisfaction with her life. Melissa and Damian secretly have sex on the last night of the vacation. As the next several months pass, Melissa’s emotional state worsens further. She eventually decides to end her relationship with Michael. She moves with her children to an apartment. Meanwhile, Damian and Stephanie continue to have marital problems; they decide to stay together for the time being and to continue trying to fix these problems.

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This section contains 515 words
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