Ordinary People

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Color Symbol Analysis

Color Symbol Icon
Guest uses color to represent characters' emotional states. Because Conrad and many of the other characters in the novel are deeply affected by changes in their environment, the appearance of places, things, and even people come to represent various states of being. Three colors occur most often. Blue represents anxiety; it is manifested in the outfit Jeannine wears when Conrad sees her for the first time, and is also the color of Dr. Berger's piercing eyes. Gray symbolizes failure; many of the narration's descriptions of weather mention the gray sky of early-winter Illinois. Lastly, gold marks truth or insight; ideas or characters that are valued highly by a character are decked in the color, as Jeannine is in later parts of the novel, as is Cal's bathroom mirror in the second chapter.
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Color Symbol Timeline in Ordinary People

The timeline below shows where the symbol Color appears in Ordinary People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...out to the parking lot – and by surprise he encounters her again, noticing her blue skirt and blue car. Nonchalantly, she apologizes for embarrassing him, flirtatiously complements his good looks,... (full context)
Chapter 17
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...Berger. Like his son, Cal is struck by Berger's crazed appearance and the "sharp, stinging blue" of his eyes. His nervous attention to detail runs wild in Berger's office, causing his... (full context)
Chapter 18
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...handful of details as he glances around the classroom: his peers hard at work, the blue shadows of trees on the snow outside, his teacher passing through the aisles of the... (full context)
Chapter 26
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...Conrad is jolted awake; he looks around and realizes that everything in his room is blue. In the next dream, Conrad revisits the moment he slit his wrists. (full context)