Ordinary People


Judith Guest

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Ordinary People can help.

Religious Imagery Symbol Analysis

Religious Imagery Symbol Icon
Christian slogans and imagery crop up in a few scenes, though they are relatively rare. They act as an omniscient "conscience" – a sense of right and wrong, or a symbol of guidance – against which Conrad and Cal work to discover their own form of guidance. Some of the bumper stickers Conrad recalls in the novel's opening scene (the "guiding principles" mentioned by the narrator) are religious in nature: for example, "Christ Is the Answer…What Was the Question?" One of the things Conrad notices when visiting Dr. Berger's office for the first time is a small index card containing a message signed by "Jesus C.". And though he tries to draw on it in his adulthood, the spiritual guidance Cal receives as a child in the Evangelical Home isn't enough to help him deal with major issues like grief and fate. After he and Jeannine have sex – a major plot point in the novel – Conrad explains that he believes not in God, but in Jeannine. For Conrad and others, the hope of healthy, loving relationships outweighs any form of established belief.
Get the entire Ordinary People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Ordinary People PDF

Religious Imagery Symbol Timeline in Ordinary People

The timeline below shows where the symbol Religious Imagery appears in Ordinary People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 23
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
...who passes him with a raised middle finger. Soon the sight of angered drivers and religious billboards get him thinking about the difficulty of communication: how to know what someone means when... (full context)
Chapter 30
Mental Disorder Theme Icon
Fate vs. Responsibility Theme Icon
"Family" and Love Theme Icon
Body/Mind Duality Theme Icon
...empty response, but he assures her that the question has no answer. Conrad admits that he doesn't believe in God (she does), but he owns up to believing in Jeannine. Conrad feels in touch not... (full context)