Dealing With Grief In James Joyce’s Ordinary People Essay

In Ordinary People the Jarrett family is stricken with grief. There is constant tension in the air as the family goes about the day, yet each person in the family does not speak about it. They each do not have emotional security with one another. There is a serious lack of human connection in the household. Any type of therapy or conflict management would have been extremely beneficial to the family. Conrad, Beth, and Calvin each have their own way of dealing with grief. They each use unhealthy methods when dealing with the pain.

Conrad is mostly silent in dealing with his trauma while Beth, his mother, is more passiveaggressive. Calvin wants the best for his family but is oblivious most of the time to Conrad’s struggles. Beth is lost. It was as if she placed all of her love with Buck and it got buried with him when he died. She houses hostility between herself and Conrad. In the scene where Beth goes into Bucks old room she admires all his trophies and his pictures and his seemingly untouched bed. The room is exactly how Buck left it, which shows how Beth has not gotten over her grief and that she is stuck in it.

When dealing with her son she is withdrawn. It’s as If she loved Buck a hundred times more than Conrad. Their distant relationship only gets worse throughout the movie. Conrad explains that his mother never even showed up to the hospital while he was in there after his attempted suicide. When Calvin shares with a friend that Conrad is seeing a psychiatrist, she verbally attacks him in the car ride home. When Calvin spoke about Conrad while they were on vacation it made her angry.

Beth raised her voice in front of their friends and verbally abused Calvin for being apologetic towards Calvin. Beth desperately tries to force Calvin into her way of thinking. It is very saddening to watch a mother be so distant to her son. Beth needs to talk about what bothers her. She needs that human connection with her family. If she saw psychiatrist it would have helped because he would have helped her talk to people. If someone mentioned Buck’s name in a conversation she put up her defense mechanisms and shut down the conversation.

Calvin contrasts Beth as an empathetic father who tries his best to understand his hurting son. He even goes to see the psychiatrist at one point. At first, he does not see through Beth’s passive aggressive behavior, but as the film goes on he realizes how cold she really is. During the vacation golf course scene, Calvin mentions Conrad’s name and Beth becomes enraged at the fact that he is even talking about their son. She tries to forcefully communicate that Conrad is controlling him even when they are far away.

Calvin understands that this is actually reality but is caught off guard by Beth’s aggressive accusations. He defends his son and attempts to create safety by stating what he thinks the problem is. He tries in vain to explain her that Conrad does not feel the proper connection a mother and son should have. If Beth would have stepped out of the crucial converstion long enough for her temper to cool down, there would not have been a shouting match and they could have gotten their intentions to each other non-violently.

This is a turning point in their relationship because they realize that they both do not see eye to eye. Conrad is an innocent young man who goes through a significant amount of psychological trauma. He is too hard on himself even for things that are not his fault. He blames himself for his brother’s death, he attempts suicide himself, he blames himself for his friend’s suicide, and he no connection to his family to talk things out. Dr. Berger is Conrad’s only true friend. As the film goes on he gets a lot closer with his father.

At the breakfast table his father asks him a series of questions relating to his wellbeing. He uses silence as a natural defense mechanism and masks his feelings. If Conrad would have spoken what was on his mind it would have opened up doors for the future. While sitting alone Conrad is suddenly accompanied by his mother. They begin to have a normal conversation but at the slightest reference to Buck, Beth changes the subject immediately and they begin to talk over each other. As they get louder and louder Conrad barks because they were talking about a dog.

His bark signifies a cry out for connection. He wants to feel loved and understood. He wishes to share his feelings but his mother is too cold. The Jarrett family was extremely dysfunctional. Anything could have helped them. Any small step in the right direction would have helped something as little as talking with each other on a deeper level. In the end, Beth left because she was stubborn in her grief. She housed it for too long. If someone allows grief to dwell within, then there will be no room for love.