The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People Essay

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The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People   Ordinary People by Judith Guest is the story of a dysfunctional family who relate to one another through a series of extensive defense mechanisms, i.e. an unconscious process whereby reality is distorted to reduce or prevent anxiety. The book opens with seventeen year old Conrad, son of upper middle-class Beth and Calvin Jarrett, home after eight months in a psychiatric hospital, there because he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. His mother is a meticulously orderly person who, Jared, through projection, feels despises him. She does all the right things; attending to Jared's physical needs, keeping a spotless home, plays golf and bridge with other women in her social…show more content…
It keeps resurfacing. Won't leave you alone." Conrad's slow but steady journey towards healing seems partially the result of cathartic revelations which purge guilt feelings regarding his brother's death and his family's denial of that death, plus the "love of a good woman. Jeannine, who sings soprano to Conrad's tenor..." There is no doubt that Conrad is consumed with guilt, "the feeling one has when one acts contrary to a role he has assumed while interacting with a significant person in his life," This guilt engenders in Conrad feelings of low self esteem. Survivors of horrible tragedies, such as the Holocaust, frequently express similar feelings of worthlessness. In his book, "Against All Odds", William Helmreich relates how one survivor articulates a feeling of abandonment. "Did I abandon them, or did they abandon me?" Conrad expresses a similar thought in remembering the sequence of events when the sailboat they were on turned over. Buck soothes Conrad saying, "Okay, okay. They'll be looking now, for sure, just hang on, don't get tired, promise? In an imagined conversation with his dead brother, Conrad asks, "'Man, why'd you let go?' 'Because I got tired.' 'The hell! You never get tired, not before me, you don't! You tell me not to get tired, you tell me to hang on, and then you let go!' 'I couldn't help it. Well, screw you, then!'" Conrad feels terrible anger
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