The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People

analytical Essay
1497 words
1497 words

The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People

Ordinary People by Judith Guest is the story of a dysfunctional family who relate to one another through a series of extensive defense mechanisms, i.e. an unconscious process whereby reality is distorted to reduce or prevent anxiety. The book opens with seventeen year old Conrad, son of upper middle-class Beth and Calvin Jarrett, home after eight months in a psychiatric hospital, there because he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. His mother is a meticulously orderly person who, Jared, through projection, feels despises him. She does all the right things; attending to Jared's 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". Jared's father, raised in an orphanage, seems anxious to please everyone, a commonplace reaction of individuals who, as children, experienced parental indifference or inconsistency. Though a successful tax attorney, he is jumpy around Conrad, and, according to his wife, drinks too many martinis. Conrad seems consumed with despair. A return to normalcy, school and home-life, appear to be more than Conrad can handle. Chalk-faced, hair-hacked Conrad seems bent on perpetuating 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. And, besides, there is no problem." Yet, there is not one problem in this family but two - Conrad's suicide and the death by drowning of Conrad's older brother, Buck. Conrad eventually contacts a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, because he feels the "air is full of flying glass" and wants to feel in control. Their initial ses...

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...Bower, G.H., Zajonc, R.B., Random House, NY, 1986, page 464. Ordinary People, page 4. ibid, p. 116 ibid, p. 118

Carlson, Neil R., page 393.

Time, July 19, 1976, p.68 Hergenhahn, page 481.

Carlson, Neil R., page 484.

Against All Odds, Helmreich, William B., Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1992, p. 134.

Guest, p. 217. Guest, p. 218. Guest, page 98. Guest, page 116. Guest, page 97. Bootzin, et. al., page 459. Bootzin, et al., page 459. a psych. book, p. Helmreich, p. 234. Guest, p. 100. Guest, page 190. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 7, p. 269. ibid, p. 269. Guest, page 30. Guest, page 59. Guest, page 114. Guest, Page 127. Guest, page 173. Guest, page 8. Guest, page 26. Bootzin, et. al., pp. 457-460. Guest, page 89. Guest, page 147. Hergenhahn, page 40. Ibid, page 147. Guest, page 204. Guest, page 225. Bootzin, et. al, page 467. Ibid, page 467.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how judith guest's ordinary people is the story of a dysfunctional family who relate to one another through an unconscious process to reduce or prevent anxiety.
  • Analyzes how conrad contacts a psychiatrist, dr. berger, because he feels the "air is full of flying glass" and wants to feel in control.
  • Analyzes how conrad's anger and aggression is displaced, i.e. vented on another, as when he physically attacked a schoolmate. he also expresses extreme and dangerous depression and guilt.
  • Analyzes how conrad's family, and especially his mother, frown upon public displays of emotion, which contributes to depression.
  • Analyzes how conrad's mother, beth, is self-possessed and perfectionist. she is an overachiever, an "a" student, on the swim team and a list-maker.
  • Analyzes the message of berger's glib saying that, "people who keep stiff upper lips find that it'll be damn hard to smile". erikson explains that conrad is moving toward recovery and the successful management of his stage of development.
  • Explains hergenhahn's introduction to theories of personality, prentice hall, new jersey, 1994, page 60.
  • Explains psychology, the science of behavior, carlson, neil r., simon & schuster, ma, 1984, page 481.
  • Cites psychology today, an introduction, bootzin, r.r., bower, g.h.
  • Cites helmreich, william b., simon & schuster, new york, 1992, against all odds.
  • Cites guest's p. 217, 218, 116, and 97, as well as the encyclopedia britannica, vol. 7, pp. 269.
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