Judith Guest's Ordinary People: Internal & External Conflicts as They Result from the Suppression of Emotions

1517 WordsApr 27, 20067 Pages
"What we say is important…for in most cases the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."—Jim Beggs. Literature, as far back as it can be dated, has been progressing towards this very notion of articulacy. Through the civilizing process, literary texts have mirrored how societies—and individuals within a society—have moved from battling conflict using external, physical forces to fighting, increasingly, with internally conceived methods, such as knowledge, social mannerisms, and communication. From the epic of Beowulf to even the most contemporary piece of literature, conflict is an unavoidable facet of human life. A significant difference to note, however, is that the battles fought in Beowulf's time are a different kind of battle than…show more content…
In reaction to the tragedy, which he had to bear witness to, Conrad built up a defensive shield to block off any release of emotion or of feelings. Consequently, this led Conrad to further discourses, including both, internal and external, conflicts. One of the most significant conflicts in Ordinary People is the internal conflict that Conrad battles against himself. Throughout the novel, he struggles in trying to appear "normal", so to please everyone around him. However, it is very obvious that he, himself, is not pleased. The novel opens with his recent release from a mental hospital, which he was admitted to after a failed suicide attempt. The novel continues by slowly revealing what prompted his suicide attempt and, thereby, begins to depict the internal battle Conrad fights against himself in an effort to achieve self-forgiveness and "normality". "The hammer blows of guilt and remorse. He has no weapons with which to fight them off."(107) Conrad feels regretful for how he has affected everyone around him. Furthermore, he sees the release of emotion as a privilege that he does not feel he deserves. Therefore, he denies himself of his strongest weapon—his ability to articulate and communicate what he is feeling. His thoughts reveal, "[in] bed, he waits for sleep. He cannot get under until he has reviewed the day, counted up his losses. He must learn

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