Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cal relaxes at Ward and Audrey's house after a day playing golf. Beth and her brother have gone horseback riding, leaving Cal and Audrey with her two sons Charlie and Kerry. Cal and Audrey chat about their kids. Audrey expresses worry for Beth and Conrad. She notices that Beth's terse letters hardly ever mention her son, and complains that Beth treated questions about her son as "off limits" during a conversation the night before.
At the Butlers' home, Cal is dropped right in the middle of what he lacks: a lively family with two young, eager sons. The new environment mirrors his life before the accident. It also gives him a chance to see how Beth acts in unusual circumstances, and how much she opens up to other loved ones. The stage is set for Cal's eventual confrontation with Beth.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Inwardly, Cal sympathizes with Audrey. He, too, has sensed Beth's growing reluctance to discuss certain issues. He recalls how she fussed at him in a conversation during the flight to Dallas; she accused him of being "so sincere…and so pushy." Slowly, he recognizes her habit of making herself emotionally distant. But he knows she is capable of grieving. He recalls a time when Beth broke down in tears. Otherwise, she suppresses her emotions. She and Conrad were the only family members who hadn't cried at Buck's funeral.
Again, Cal is in the company of someone with whom he can sympathize. Audrey's stories confirm what is suggested by Beth's physical appearance and perfectionism—she will not allow herself to be shaken by external factors—but Cal's memory suggests that Beth's resistance doesn't come naturally to her. She must make a conscious effort to remain emotionally distant.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Soon Beth and Ward return from horseback riding in high spirits. The four of them make lighthearted conversation, and Ward asks Beth if everything is going well. She hesitates a bit but answers affirmatively. Ward asks a couple of questions about Conrad, but Cal is the one who answers him – Beth drops out, staring silently at her wristwatch until the moment passes.
As Cal expected, a new setting unveils aspects of Beth's personality that he is not used to seeing. We witnesses her giving and receiving warmth to family members, but we also catch her in the process of avoiding difficult conversation.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon