Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Judith Guest's Ordinary People. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Ordinary People: Context
Ordinary People: Plot Summary
Ordinary People: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Ordinary People: Themes
Ordinary People: Quotes
Ordinary People: Characters
Ordinary People: Symbols
Ordinary People: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Judith Guest
Other Books Related to Ordinary People
- Full Title: Ordinary People
- When Written: 1976
- Where Written: Michigan
- When Published: 1976
- Genre: Psychological realism
- Setting: Evanston, Illinois (a town just outside of Chicago; home to Northwestern University), especially Conrad's school, Lake Forest High; some scenes in Chicago and Dallas, Texas
- Climax: Conrad learns about his friend Karen's suicide.
- Antagonist: While each character may feel at odds with different characters at different times, many of them struggle hardest against their own thoughts and emotions.
- Point of View: Third-person subjective; alternates between an "omniscient" narrator and the (implied) ideas and voices of each character
Extra Credit for Ordinary People
From Page to Screen. Ordinary People was adapted into a film in 1980. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore, the film eventually won four Academy Awards—including the year's title for Best Picture.
Too Hot to Handle? Ordinary People's challenging content is not without its critics. The American Library Association lists the novel as one of the 100 books "most frequently challenged" between 1990 and 1999, making it a mainstay of many Banned Books Week reading lists.