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The Ironic Title of Ordinary People
The significance of the title "Ordinary People" is that it is
ironic because there are not ordinary people in the book. It does not
correspond with the novel itself. As defined in Webster's Dictionary,
ordinary means usual, common, or normal. To most people, this is what they
think they are. However, in the book being unordinary is common for most
of the characters. The author of this book, Judith Guest, probably titled
this book "Ordinary People" to make readers ask themselves, "What is
ordinary? Am I ordinary?"
The title describes the book as being ordinary when the characters
are really unusual. For example, most teenagers do not try to commit
suicide. However, in this book, Conrad Jarett tries to kill himself. He
attempts suicide because he is depressed about his older brother's death.
He lost his brother in a boating accident and he blames himself for his
death. He believes that he could have prevented the accident by coming in
from the sea when the waters began to get rough. However, there was
nothing that Conrad could have done to prevent the boat from capsizing.
His attempt to commit suicide is one of the things that makes him
unordinary from normal teenagers.
In the real world, many teenagers attempt suicide. But, this is
not ordinary. It is unusual for a teenager to attempt or commit suicide.
Society does not look at this sort of behavior as ordinary. If a teenager
does attempt suicide, they are usually seeking attention and looking for
pity. As a result of these actions, they are seen as having some sort of
mental incapacity and are treated for it. Therefore, this is not ordinary
and Conrad was not either.
Another character in this book who is not ordinary is Beth Jarett,
Conrad's mother. Conrad feels as if she does not love him. She hardly
talks to him. She also treats him as if he does not belong in the family,
like a stranger. For example, in one part of the book, Conrad bends over
to hug his mother and she just sits there and does not hug him back. In
another part, his father wants to take a picture of Conrad and his mother
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together, but she suggests that she take a picture of all the men instead.
This incident makes Conrad feel as if his mother does not like him. Beth
Jarett does not act like an 'ordinary' mother.
An ordinary mother does not act like Beth. An ordinary mother
would show affection for her son even if he tried to commit suicide. As a
matter of fact, a mother would show even more affection and love if her son
tried to kill himself. Beth does not show the type of affection that an
ordinary mother would show towards her own children.
Not showing affection is not the only thing that makes Beth
unordinary. At the end of the novel, Calvin, Conrad's father, tells Beth
that he is not sure if he loves her the way he used to anymore. Beth has
no reaction. Instead of talking with him and trying to find out why he
feels this way, she silently walks away. She goes up to her bedroom and
packs her bags. In the morning she leaves for Houston, to her brother's
house while Conrad is still sleeping. She does not even say good-bye to
him. An ordinary mother would not abandon her family like Beth does.
Instead, an ordinary mother would try to fix the problems in her family.
In conclusion, the book "Ordinary People" has nothing to do with '
ordinary people.' The title does not correspond to the description that
the author has given it, which is ordinary. The examples given show how
ironic the title of the book is in relation to the book itself.