Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Conrad stands on the front port of Jeannine's house eagerly anticipating his first date with her. He is in a good mood; he's made so much progress with Berger that they have reduced their meetings to once a week. He gets so caught up in the memory of their latest appointment that he forgets to ring Jeannine's doorbell. After a while the front door opens, and Jeannine's mother greets him. She invites him into the living room. While waiting for Jeannine, Conrad meets her younger brother Mike and makes small talk with Ms. Pratt.
Conrad makes small talk with Ms. Pratt the way he sometimes does with his father, but his good mood helps him not be too self-conscious; he doesn't withhold information in order to protect himself from her probing.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
After a while Ms. Pratt goes to check on Jeannine, leaving Conrad and Mike alone in the living room. Mike chimes in and declares that he'll start guitar lessons soon. More small talk follows, when Mike notes that Conrad looks just like a man who'd visited his house the week before. Conrad wants to know the man's name, but Mike can't remember; as he explains, "there's too many." Jeannine suddenly hurries into the room, and soon she and Conrad are off.
Mike plays a role similar to that of many other children in literature: his innocence enables him to access deep ideas that may not be readily obvious to adults. Not only does his interest in music echo Conrad's own, but his comment about the many men who visit Jeannine's house forebodes some unpleasant information about her.
Themes
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
In the car Jeannine apologizes for leaving Conrad with her mother for too long. She also warns Conrad that she isn't a great bowler. Conrad asks if she'd rather do something else, but neither of them can think of a better plan. Conrad promises to teach her how to bowl, and at the alley Jeannine catches on quickly; Conrad realizes that Jeannine is attentive and listens well. Afterward the two grab a meal at McDonald's, and they entertain themselves by making up stories about the strangers surrounding them.
Yet again, we see that awkwardness is the catalyst of Conrad and Jeannine's relationship. Conrad's bowling lesson gives him and Jeannine a taste of how trust and openness function in a relationship. Meanwhile, play-acting in McDonald's provides them an opportunity to confront the reality of their budding relationship head-on.
Themes
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Jeannine tells Conrad about her family on the ride home. Her parents are divorced; her father is a salesman in Akron, Ohio, and her mother is a nurse in a nearby town. Jeannine explains her uncle helped her mother find a new job, which required her to move to Illinois, but she doesn't mention any other causes for the relocation. Soon the two pull into Jeannine's driveway, where they agree to see each other again. They kiss for the first time.
Because the foundations of trust and honesty were laid during their date, Jeannine can begin sharing secrets about her past. This is a moment of truth for her and Conrad, as represented by the yellow light that surrounds them as they kiss, as well as by Berger's advice that "the body never lies" (which Conrad remembers).
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
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