Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Conrad has gotten used to filling the time once reserved for swim practice. Still having yet to tell his parents that he left the team, he spends his time studying or visiting many different places around town. Lazenby confronts Conrad one morning at school, upset that Salan was the person to let them known about Conrad's decision. Conrad claims that his decision to leave was simply one of boredom, but Lazenby suspects something might be wrong with Conrad. He tries to dig for the answer and only upsets Conrad in the process. Conrad snaps and asks to be left alone. The two bitterly part ways.
Conrad's attempts to relieve his stress have improved, but he's still unwilling to let his friend help him with his problems.
Themes
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Later, Conrad confesses to Dr. Berger that he hasn't told his parents about his decision to quit swimming. He offers several excuses: the timing isn't right, his father would get too worked up. When Berger asks how Beth would respond, Conrad asserts that Beth wouldn't care at all. His mother, he says, is "a very private person" who's completely out of touch with him. Like Lazenby, Berger senses that something is bothering Conrad despite his claims to the contrary. Eventually Berger advises Conrad to release the pent-up frustration he feels. Conrad admits to fearing the idea, but Berger presses it: "Don't think too much about it. And don't expect it to tickle."
This is a breakthrough moment in Conrad's sessions with Berger. Conrad gets his first glimpse of the connection between his relationships and his personal feelings. Though he remains ambivalent toward Beth, Berger helps him realize that part of his stress comes from maintaining too tight a grip on his feelings.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Conrad encounters Jeannine by chance one day after school. She teasingly compliments him on his singing, and he asks her if she'd like to get a Coke with him; she agrees. They head for a popular soda shop, but a brief shock of anxiety leads Conrad to choose a less-crowded coffee shop instead. He and Jeannine struggle to make conversation at first – she wants to talk about music, but mostly only knows about classical repertoire, while Conrad is more into pop records. Once they acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation, though, their conversation flows freely.
This scene mirrors Conrad's meeting with Karen, but it is much more positive in tone and feeling. Jeannine doesn't try to instruct Conrad like Karen does. Instead, the two eventually become comfortable with one another because they feel equally awkward about being alone together.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
On the way home Jeannine asks Conrad if he has any siblings. When he says no, she tells him that he's lucky (not knowing about the sailing accident). Despite her remark the two part ways on good terms. Conrad feels the urge to run joyfully down the street, but in the midst of strangers he suddenly becomes self-conscious. Heading down the street he sees a window advertisement for a ski vacation—without warning, it triggers a memory of him having a minor accident while skiing down a mountain with Buck. The flashback scares him at first, but anxiety soon transforms into pleasure. Conrad composes himself and heads home.
We see a connection between Conrad's relationships and emotional well-being once again. His time with Jeannine prepares him to meet a memory of Buck with more control than was possible before. He doesn't realize it yet, but emotional openness with others enables Conrad to confront his past more peacefully.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
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