Ordinary People

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Music Symbol Icon
Music is a comforting presence in the novel. In sharp contrast to swimming or schoolwork, choir practice offers Conrad a sense of calm and belonging; it is a rare opportunity for his body and mind to work in harmony with one another. He and Jeannine meet are in choir together; Conrad is as attracted to her talent as he is to her beauty and personality. The transformation of their relationship is conveyed through their conversations about music. Whether Conrad is playing some of his original songs for Jeannine, or Jeannine is teaching Conrad about classical composers, music is one medium through which the two learn to trust one another.

Music Quotes in Ordinary People

The Ordinary People quotes below all refer to the symbol of Music. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Ordinary People published in 1982.
Chapter 3 Quotes

Choir is the one time of day when he lets down his guard; there is peace in the strict concentration that Faughnan demands of all of them, in the sweet dissonance of voices in chorus. He has sung in here since he was a freshman. …Every minute of every hour that is spent there, they work, and there is only one way to prove yourself. You sing, and sing, and sing. All else is unimportant.

Related Characters: Conrad Jarrett
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn a lot about what makes Conrad tick. Conrad is still getting over the trauma of his brother's death and his own attempted suicide--he's intensely depressed, and doesn't always have someone to talk to about his feelings. Singing, however, keeps Conrad sane. He enjoys choir because he's asked to do one thing and one thing only--sing. Singing is at once familiar and foreign; thus, Conrad doesn't have to go through the motions of pretending to be "normal." Furthermore, singing is a kind of combination of exercise for both the body and the mind--Conrad hasn't been able to take any pleasure in his usual physical pursuits, but even the "exercise" of singing helps his mental state.

The passage also suggests that Conrad might have some "guiding principles" after all. Even Conrad, who's in the grips of depression, has things to live for: art, music, his friends, his family, etc. Singing is a relief for him because it gives him an outlet for exercise, and it allows him to vent his feelings without drawing attention to himself.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Ordinary People quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Ordinary People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ordinary people.pdf.medium

Music Symbol Timeline in Ordinary People

The timeline below shows where the symbol Music appears in Ordinary People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...peers are silently judging his behavior as well. His only sense of refuge comes with choir practice ; singing in harmony with others soothes him. (full context)
Chapter 16
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...to find new friends and a job (but isn't sure how to do either). After "guitar" and "books," though, comes "girls"; Karen, Suzanne, and Jeannine all come to mind, but for... (full context)
Chapter 18
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Conrad and Jeannine listen to the radio in silence during the ride. They eventually reach her house, and with a twinge of... (full context)
Chapter 20
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
...and Mike alone in the living room. Mike chimes in and declares that he'll start guitar lessons soon. More small talk follows, when Mike notes that Conrad looks just like a... (full context)
Chapter 24
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
Mike shows off his fledgling guitar skills to Conrad. Conrad praises his performance enthusiastically, encouraging him to keep at his lessons.... (full context)
Chapter 30
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...Jeannine laments having to part ways with Conrad, but she is soon distracted by his guitar playing. She enthusiastically encourages him to write words for his songs. Conrad wonders how she... (full context)