Don’t Get Too CloseOrdinary People by Judith Guest is a well written novel that takes you through the life of a typical upper class American family. The main character in the book is Conrad Jarret. He is the son of Calvin and Beth Jarret. Conrad also had a deceased brother Buck who was killed in a tragic boating accident.
This brings us to the reoccurring theme throughout the book. The lack of intimacy in Conrad’s life is portrayed throughout the book.Bucks tragic death has caused Conrad to be weary of close relationships. He trys not to get too close to anyone through the beginning of the story, but as the story progresses he starts to develop closer relationships and his intimate side is revived.At the beginning of the story we see a depressed and downhearted Conrad, racing through the things that he has to do in the days to come. Our first impression of Conrad’s relationship with his parents is found on Pg 4 when he is thinking about what his parents are talking about downstairs. He says to himself “They certainly would not be talking about anything important.
” The reader gets the impression that he has sour feelings toward his parents. Conrad at this point has just returned from the hospital after trying to kill himself. Ever since the death of Buck he had turned himself into a different person.
He always blamed himself for things and kept his distance from others. The only person who seems to show intimacy is Calvin at the beginning of the book. On pg7 Calvin gives Beth a kiss and tells her that he loves her. In return Beth says, “I love you”, but in the next breath she is telling Calvin to reprimand Conrad about the type of clothes he wears.Ever since Buck’s death, Conrad had disassociated himself with others and tried to keep to himself. He doesn’t do things like: touch football, basketball and group activities. The death of his brother had taken its toll on Conrad.
This is evident through his trying to commit suicide a month earlier. Calvin really tries to talk to Conrad and have a close relationship but Conrad doesn’t want the same. Conrad just doesn’t have the motivation to do anything. His distant relationship with his mother is evident when on pg. 14 Conrad says to himself, “Haul ass Lazenby don’t make me stand here until she comes out.As the novel progresses we see Conrads need for a close relationship with someone. In spite of his negative feelings for physiatrists Conrad decides to call for help.
This is the beginning of a very important relationship in the book. His first session seems to go nowhere with Dr. Burger because of his skepticism Conrad seems to have an attitude and aversion to listen. Conrad seems to think that Burger is only doing this for the money when in fact he really is out for the well being of Conrad. They decide that twice a week would be adequate and at first Conrad doesn’t agree, but after talking they agree. What Conrad did like about Burger is that he didn’t hide anything from him. On pg.
44 it says that Burger was just like the people at the hospital, “Nobody hid anything there”.This line makes me think that Conrad thinks that everyone that is outside the hospital is trying to deceive him, thus the lack of trust in others may cause Conrad not to get to close to them.Slowly through the novel Conrad seems to start to get closer to people but the has his lapses hear and there. On pg. 110 after having a great day going to get the Christmas tree he comes home and is torn apart by his mother. Beth makes such a big deal about Conrad quitting the swim team that a shouting match starts.In response Conrad says,” I would have told you if I thought you gave a damn”.
He then storms upstairs and begins to cry. His cold-hearted mother doesn’t even care that he is crying, but his father goes up to console him.This is a big setback in his recovery and his trying to get closer to others. In the conversation that follows Conrads feelings towards his mother are released. On pg.
114 Conrad says, “She hates me. Theres nothing I can do about it.” But on the other hand we see the positive relationship developing between Burger and Conrad. When Calvin tries to blame the situation on Burger Conrad says, “Don’t blame it on Burger it isn’t his fault.” This shows Conrads respect for Burger, and foreshadows their friendship in the future.
His deep conversations with Burger have made Conrad give him respect because of the control that Burger seems to have over Conrad. Burger doesn’t let Conrad get away with the things that others do. As the relationship between Burger and Conrad develop, we see Conrad begin to try relationships out with others. In one of his next meetings with Burger we see Conrad starting to think about females and what it would be like to be with one. He brings up the fact that he is jerking off and Burger says, “Listen, I told you, it’s a tension- reducer. And its normal, don’t worry about it.
Its also a sign that your waking up, so relax will you.” In this sentence we see that Dr. Burger really thinks that Conrad is improving and is happy for him. Conrad says “I guess I think of you as a friend”. In response Burger says, “Well.
I think of you as mine, too, Kiddo.” “You don’t have to say that.” We see a real friendship developing, which is just the thing that Conrad needs to get him over the hump.
Conrad’s progress is showing not only in Burgers office but also at home. We see him and his father have a real conversation, more than just passing time. They talk about past times and they talk about Calvin seeing Dr.
Burger. Conrad’s feelings towards others are changing over time. We see this when he takes Jeannine out on a date and when he calls up Karen to see how she is. He is putting more effort into his relationships and seems as if he wants to be intimate now.Everything seems to be going well, his relationship with his dad, relationship with Jeannine and his relationship with Burger until one day while reading the newspaper he finds that Karen had killed herself. At that he seems to lose hope.
This makes him think about Buck again and seems to bring him back to the way he was at the beginning of the book. He seems to be on the verge of losing it, but this time he has someone to turn to. This person being doctor Burger. He trusts Dr. Burger enough to call him up in the night and ask for his help.
Who knows, without Dr. Burger Conrad might have tried to kill himself again? In the conversation to follow with Burger we see the feelings that Buck had about the boating accident and Buck. He is mad because he held on but Buck didn’t. He is blaming himself but he is mad at Buck for not holding on. This was a crucial part of the book because it showed that Conrad finally had a good enough friend to talk to in times of trouble. This friend turned out to Dr.
Burger the very person who Conrad really didn’t want anything to do with early in the book.At the end Conrad finally realizes that Bucks death wasn’t his fault and really begins to get close to people. Him and Jeannine wind up getting so close that they have sex and she confides in him and he confides in her. Conrad has changed drastically throughout the book mainly with his relation ships with others and the trust he puts in them. At the end of the story we see a definite change in Conrad but on the other hand Beth doesn’t change at all and she decides to leave the family.
Conrad tries to blame himself but his dad reassures him that it wasn’t his fault. Conrad then has a man to man talk with his dad and tells him that he loves him.This is the first time in the story that the word love comes out of Conrad’s mouth depicting the change in him from the beginning to the end of the book.
The story ends with Conrad going over to Lazenbys house looking for a game of golf. This shows the reader that Conrad is looking to have a close relationship with him again. From beginning till end Conrad had made a complete 360, and his life is filled with intimacy and friendships, where at the beginning it was filled with gloom and depression.