Ordinary People | Study Guide

Judith Guest

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Course Hero. "Ordinary People Study Guide." Course Hero. 18 Jan. 2018. Web. 26 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ordinary-People/>.

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Course Hero. (2018, January 18). Ordinary People Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ordinary-People/

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(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Ordinary People Study Guide." January 18, 2018. Accessed September 26, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ordinary-People/.


Course Hero, "Ordinary People Study Guide," January 18, 2018, accessed September 26, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ordinary-People/.

Ordinary People | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Summer 1974

    Brothers Conrad and Buck Jarrett have a sailing accident in which Buck dies.

    Chapter 26
  • Sept. 30, 1975

    Conrad marks one month since coming home from the hospital after an attempted suicide.

    Chapter 1
  • The next day

    Though Beth wants to go away for Christmas as usual, Calvin wants to stay home for Conrad's sake.

    Chapter 4
  • Later that afternoon

    Conrad begins his sessions with Dr. Berger.

    Chapter 5
  • A month later

    Conrad quits the swim team to focus on his emotional health.

    Chapter 10
  • A month later

    Beth discovers Conrad quit and lashes out at him for hurting her on purpose.

    Chapter 13
  • January 1976

    Calvin goes to see Dr. Berger to talk about his own issues with Beth.

    Chapter 17
  • Exam week

    Conrad asks Jeannine out on a date.

    Chapter 18
  • February 1976

    Conrad gets into a fight with Stillman, who makes crude comments.

    Chapter 22
  • March 1976

    Beth and Calvin go to Texas to visit her brother and for Calvin to play in a golf tournament.

    Chapter 24
  • March 1976

    At his grandparents' house Conrad has a crisis when he reads about Karen's suicide.

    Chapter 26
  • The next morning

    Conrad has a cathartic emergency session with Dr. Berger.

    Chapter 27
  • About the same time

    Beth angrily tells Calvin she can't forgive Conrad because his suicide attempt was meant to hurt her.

    Chapter 28
  • Some time later

    Jeannine and Conrad open up to each other and make love.

    Chapter 30
  • Mid-May

    Beth leaves without telling Conrad, her return date remaining indefinite.

    Chapter 31
  • Later that day

    Planning to sell the house, Calvin has rented a house in Evanston.

    Chapter 31
  • August 1976

    Now living in Evanston, Conrad visits Joe Lazenby, finally at peace with his past.


Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Epigraph The epigraph is taken from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Sonnet CLXXI" in which the speaker praises people's extraordinary ... Read More
Chapters 1–2 Conrad Jarrett, 17 years old, lives with his parents in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, in the mi... Read More
Chapters 3–4 Conrad's friend Joe Lazenby picks him up for school, with his swim team buddies Dick Van Buren and Kevin Stillman alre... Read More
Chapters 5–6 Conrad goes to his appointment with Dr. Berger, whose office in Evanston looks as though it has just been burgled—and ... Read More
Chapters 7–8 Conrad meets Karen for a drink—coffee for her, a Coke for him. They were good friends at the hospital, but Karen seems... Read More
Chapters 9–10 Conrad has a surprise quiz in math, but he wills himself to stay calm and finishes it. When he offers to help his clas... Read More
Chapters 11–12 On his lunch break Calvin runs into Carole Lazenby, and they eat together at the University Sandwich Shop. They have a... Read More
Chapters 13–14 Conrad goes with Calvin to pick out a Christmas tree. Conrad insists on a giant blue spruce, which they put up in the ... Read More
Chapters 15–16 Beth's parents, Howard and Ellen, come to spend Christmas with the Jarretts. Conrad dresses nicely, "a concession to h... Read More
Chapters 17–18 On Conrad's birthday Calvin has him help clean the garage, and Calvin notices Conrad seems in a good mood. Calvin asks... Read More
Chapters 19–20 At work Ray tells Calvin he's not acting like himself and not to worry so much about Conrad, who soon will be an adult... Read More
Chapters 21–22 Calvin and Beth make plans to visit her brother Ward and his wife in Texas. Calvin recalls their trip to Europe while ... Read More
Chapters 23–24 On his drive home from work, Calvin thinks about communication. When he sees a religious sign that asks "are you on th... Read More
Chapters 25–26 Calvin does well on his first day of the golf tournament in Texas. Audrey asks Calvin about Conrad, and they end up di... Read More
Chapters 27–28 At Dr. Berger's office Conrad pleads for something to get him "off the hook": Conrad feels responsible for Buck's deat... Read More
Chapters 29–30 On the plane home, Beth sits "untouchable beside him." Calvin leaves her alone, realizing he is "not in control, so le... Read More
Chapter 31 and Epilogue Beth packs her things to leave Calvin and Conrad. She claims she is leaving because she can't stand the way Calvin loo... Read More
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