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Ordinary People Case

Essay by   •  June 2, 2013  •  Case Study  •  2,230 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,349 Views

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Ordinary People: A Movie Analysis

Trauma has been defined as a "sudden and extreme threat to survival which is associated with the sense of helplessness, disruption, destruction, and loss." (McCubbin and Figley (1983)). Clearly, the Jarrett family has suffered a trauma with the death of their son and brother. Conrad is devastated and blames himself for the accident. Beth Jarrett tries to pretend like the accident never happened. In one of the final scenes of the movie, Calvin questions if she ever loved him. Beth hesitates and did not answer yes. Calvin then tells her the felt like "when Buck died, it's like you buried all of your love with him," and he doesn't understand. Shortly after this conversation, Beth goes upstairs and packs her suitcases and leaves the family, leaving Calvin and Conrad to deal with life on their own.

Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton)

In the beginning of the film, Conrad has just returned home after a four month stay in a psychiatric hospital for attempting suicide. He cut his wrists in the family bathroom and was found by his father. His transition back home to try to resume a "normal" life proves difficult. He is suffering from depression, an inability to sleep, a lack of appetite, and anxiety attacks. He also does not want to continue participating on the swim team. He eventually quits the swim team, which draws ire from his mother, and sympathy from his father. His mother also shows a lack of interest in him.

Despite being released from the hospital, Conrad continues to suffer from depression. In a scene with his father, Conrad admits he has trouble sleeping. In a later scene involving the breakfast table, he states he isn't hungry. His mother made him French toast, which was one of his favorite dishes. When he said he wasn't hungry, his mother takes the plate from him, and tosses it down the garbage disposal, stating that you can't keep French toast warm. He also suffers from anxiety. He wakes up from a nightmare in a cold sweat. When he is riding to school with his friends from the swim team, the car stops to wait for a train. While the car is stopped, Conrad has a panic attack. His breathing becomes labored, he starts to sweat, and at one point, he looks like he is going to vomit.

Symptoms of a panic attack are "raging heartbeat, difficulty breathing, feeling as though you can't get enough air, terror that is almost paralyzing, nervous, shaking, stress, heart palpitation, feeling of dread, dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea, trembling, sweating, shaking, choking, chest pains, distress, fear, fright, afraid, anxious, hot flashes, sudden chills, tingling in fingers or toes('pins and needles'), fearful that you're going to go crazy or about to die."

Conrad also has another panic attack when he finds out his friend Karen has committed suicide. He runs from his grandparent's home to a phone booth and places a panicked phone call to his Psychiatrist, Dr. Berger. Dr. Berger agrees to meet with him in his office in an emergent appointment.

During the emergent appointment with Dr. Berger, Conrad gets angry and begins to yell. He is angry at Buck for dying, and feels responsible for his death. He is angry because he and his mother "don't connect."

Beth Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore)

Beth Jarrett is Buck and Conrad Jarrett's mother and Calvin Jarrett's wife. She is grieving for the loss of her favorite and firstborn son, Jordan ("Buck"). Throughout the film, Beth tries desperately to maintain a normal life in the face of tragedy. She is unsuccessful in this attempt. She is cold, remote, and distant toward Conrad, who only seeks her approval. She blames him for Buck's death. Her conversations with Conrad are stilted and awkward. In one scene, it is nearing Christmas. Beth's parents are visiting, and are taking family pictures. Beth's mother wants a picture of Beth and Conrad. Beth does not want her picture taken with Conrad. She makes an excuse that she wanted to take a picture of the men. Beth's mother insists that she wants a picture of Beth and Conrad together. Beth continues to fuss and steps toward her mother to grab the camera away from her. She is bound and determined to get a picture of her father, her husband, and her son together. She is making such a fuss that it angers Conrad, and he has an outburst of temper. After dinner, Beth confides to her mother "I don't know how to deal with him," and she wishes he would go away to school.

Scenes between Conrad and his mother are very awkward. Both appear ill at ease with each other and look like they would like to be anywhere else except dealing with each other. When Beth returns home after finding out that Conrad has quit the swim team, and she is angry about it. Conrad tells her she is only angry because she found out from a friend of hers and not because Conrad didn't tell her he quit the team. During the argument, Conrad yells at her "You never came to see me in the hospital. You would have come if Buck would have been in the hospital." Beth angrily retorts "Buck never would have been in a hospital." In another scene, Conrad hugs her, and she doesn't respond back to him, leaving Conrad awkwardly hugging her before breaking the embrace and going upstairs to his room to go to bed.

Beth is having trouble coping with life after Buck's death. She is in denial. She still believes her family is normal and perfect. She does not believe that the problems need to be handled outside of the family. She is angry that Conrad is seeking the help of Dr. Berger, a Psychiatrist. She is also angry that Calvin told a

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