Ordinary People

by: Judith Guest

Suggested Essay Topics

In what ways does Conrad change during the novel?

Present-tense, stream-of-consciousness, flashbacks, and third-person narrative: comment on some of the literary techniques in the novel. How do they function with one another? What effect does the writing style have on the reader?

Ordinary People relies on a plot heavily influenced by chance or fate. The death of Buck, for instance, was a freak occurrence that came about as the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Comment on the role fate plays in the novel as opposed to free choice. It may help to refer to the incorporation of Jude the Obscure into the novel's early chapters.

What motivates Beth?

How does Dr. Berger help Conrad?

Comment on the title of the novel. In what way is this book about "ordinary people"? Given the fact that most parents do not lose a teenage son to death, and most parents do not have to deal with suicidal teenage sons, can the Jarrett family still be called "ordinary"?

In what ways is this novel a coming-of-age story? In what ways is it a return-to-innocence story?