Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The day after his fight with Beth, Conrad is heavy with guilt. Not only does he feel bad about himself, but he also believes that his peers are silently judging his behavior as well. His only sense of refuge comes with choir practice; singing in harmony with others soothes him.
Conrad's anxiety leads him to feel both mentally isolated and physically separate from the crowds of people around him. Singing in a choir, though, solves both of those problems. When singing, he is literally in harmony with others.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Conrad discusses the argument with his mother in the day's session with Berger. He is reluctant to tell the doctor how the outburst makes him feel, but Berger refuses to let him bury his emotions. He reminds Conrad of his advice to drop his emotional burden, asking if Conrad has tried to make amends with his mother by talking through their problems together. Conrad angrily rejects Berger's proposal. To him, reconciliation between him and his mother is unthinkable – his suicide attempt, and the mess it made, turned her against him for good.
Berger helps Conrad realize that his unwillingness to discuss painful events is linked to his habit of wallowing in guilt. Because he knows nothing of Beth's perspective, he cannot know what kind of role she plays in their relationship. In turn, Conrad assumes that he is the cause of their strained relationship. Conrad is always blaming himself.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Berger is taken aback by Conrad's passionate refusal. As the mood settles, Berger tries to help Conrad put the argument into perspective. Perhaps Beth's personality prevents her from being more emotionally invested. Conrad remains convinced that he is the main reason his relationship with his parents is so troubled. Yet Berger believes that Conrad's attempted suicide does not mean he cannot forgive Beth. Conrad must learn to forgive his mother, but he must forgive himself first.
Conrad's admission is accompanied by strong physical sensations. This is one of the first moments in which working through his guilt causes Conrad's mental and physical selves to work together—though in an unpleasant way. Both literally and physically, Conrad learns to "feel" for a brief moment.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Conrad doesn't think his suicide was an act of self-loathing, but when pressed he can't explain his motivation. Berger gives him a piece of advice at the very end of their session: "The body doesn't lie." Keeping in touch with himself will make Conrad understand the way his mind works.
Berger's advice is one of the most important statements in the novel. It addresses Conrad's inability to get in touch with his feelings, and it becomes increasingly helpful as his character develops.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
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