Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Conrad decides to attend a swim meet at school. Unfortunately the team is doing poorly; for a moment he regrets leaving the team. After the meet he tiptoes through the slushy parking lot to get to his car, but on the way he hears his friends complaining about the match and about their coach. Truan complains that, to their annoyance, Salan constantly compares the team to Buck, "the all-time great swimmer of the world." Too little too late, someone spots Conrad and cautions the group to be quiet.
Just as he starts to develop his relational skills, Conrad is alone. He has made progress but may not be able to handle an encounter with his friends, who are already a major source of stress for him. The water in the parking lot suggests that his run-in with the guys from the swim team will be difficult to navigate.
Themes
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Embarrassed, Lazenby and Truan try to make small talk with Conrad. But Stillman emerges and cuts in, mocking Conrad bitterly about his car and relationship with Jeannine. Lazenby tries to calm the brewing conflict, but an insult from Stillman pushes Conrad over the edge. He snaps and hits Stillman in the face. The group scrambles to pry the two apart as they throw punches. After a while they are separated, and Conrad retreats to his car to sit alone.
Conrad takes Berger's advice, but in a radically different way than we might expect. He unleashes his rage in a dramatic physical expression that "makes him whole again." The narrator describes the scene as "bathed in yellow light," a further sign that Conrad's release is a moment of genuine feeling—and Conrad genuinely feels that his "friends" are not actually his friends!
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Once in his car Conrad realizes that he's lost his keys, but Lazenby soon appears with them in hand. He gets into Conrad's car, demanding that the two talk. He is disappointed that Conrad would allow himself to be provoked by Stillman. Conrad doesn't take Lazenby's words well. Lazenby asks Conrad why he insists on dealing with his struggles alone; he doubts whether the two of them are still friends. He also admits that he misses Buck just as much as Conrad does; the confession takes Conrad by surprise. They sit in painful silence for a moment, and then Conrad excuses himself. Driving off, he is determined to keep control of himself and his feelings.
Lazenby is the only member of the group that actually demonstrates concern for Conrad. But like Cal, Conrad refuses to share his grief with one of the few people who can relate to him. The lessons he is beginning to learn with Jeannine have yet to be applied to his other relationships.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
To his relief, Conrad comes home to an empty house. He washes the blood off of his jacket, but notices a stubborn spot on his shirt. Not wanting Beth to ask questions about it, he struggles to scrub it clean. After tidying up he heads to the kitchen to make a TV dinner and some coffee, but all the while flashbacks of the fight swirl around him. The phone rings, and Conrad imagines that Stillman's father has called to explain that his son's nose and jaw are broken. As guilt sets in and the flashbacks continue, Conrad punishes himself by gulping down the still-hot coffee. He takes his clothes out of the dryer and, in spite of his need to move around, decides to sit in the living room in stillness.
Conrad's emotional progress takes a step backward. He seeks isolation after the fight and tries to punish himself for his loss of control. He is still acting on Berger's advice, but in an unhealthy way; he tries to address his turmoil by inflicting physical discomfort on himself.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
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