Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Beth and Cal return home without speaking to one another. Cal has finally realized that trying to help Beth would only push her away, so he resolves to leave her be. Conrad teases Cal when he sees him catching up on work, calling him "the indispensable man." The joke hits home harder than Conrad realizes; it tugs at the sense of pointlessness that has hovered over Cal lately. He recalls a few of Howard's favorite sayings about action and inaction.
Cal reaches the painful realization that he cannot control the feelings and actions of others. The collection of sayings provide an answer to Cal's search for a guiding principle.
Themes
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Beth, Cal, and, and Conrad go to dinner. Cal is surprised at Beth's attention to their son; she and Conrad talk comfortably at dinner. He even gives her a hug as he wishes his parents good night. The gesture shocks her – she isn't sure how to respond, so she remains silent and acts as if nothing happened.
Cal is confused by Beth's kind behavior toward Conrad. He cannot figure out what's motivating her—nor will he be able to.
Themes
"Family" and Love Theme Icon