Ordinary People

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Ordinary People Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On a Saturday, Conrad reunites with Karen (a fellow patient he befriended during his time in the hospital) in a soda shop. They briefly discuss life after the hospital; Karen is keeping busy as a member of her school's drama club, and Conrad mentions his time on the swim team. The conversation soon veers into more serious territory when Karen brings up the subject of therapy. She notes that she was seeing a psychiatrist briefly but eventually decided to stop; she felt that she wasn't getting anything helpful out of it. Conrad feels obligated to mention Berger too – but only to explain that seeing him was his dad's idea, and that he personally doesn't like Berger very much. He feels guilty for saying so.
What seems like a pleasant moment is haunted by insecurity. The grumpy shopkeeper hovering near Conrad and Karen's table, as well as the awkward stops and starts in their conversation, reflect a strained effort at remaining positive. Once again, Conrad's inner feelings are at odds with his words and behavior. His primary goal in this moment is to maintain a positive mood – and as a result, he finds it hard to relate deeply to someone who was once his close friend.
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Conrad quickly changes the subject by recalling a piece of Dr. Crawford's advice: "Go with the things that [make] you laugh." He tells Karen a joke that, for a moment, lightens the mood. But she urges Conrad to be "less intense" about life, which offends him. Conrad insists that he's fine. An awkward silence settles between them; Karen soon excuses herself from the table. As she turns to leave, she warns Conrad to remember that sadness is "contagious." After a while he leaves too, chiding himself for dealing with Karen so crudely.
As we've seen throughout the earliest chapters of the novel, a "sense of humor" is one of Conrad's ways of avoiding negative feelings. But Karen doesn't allow him to ignore the gravity of mental recovery. Karen's departure leaves him feeling isolated, as suggested by the soda shop's NO LOITERING sign (and, of course, the hovering shop owner).
Themes
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon