Study Guide

Ordinary People The TV Dinner

By Judith Guest

The TV Dinner

Hungry Man

The Jarretts seem to have a country club membership, yet they eat frozen meals for dinner. We hope they at least spring for a fancy TV dinner and not a Banquet, which looks like someone flash-froze a cat-litter box.

What this shows us isn't surprising, considering all we know about the Jarretts. Beth doesn't stay home to cook, because that would mean doing something she is adamantly opposed to: actually caring for her children. We'd be shocked if she did cook dinner.

Even though Beth isn't cooking dinner, the TV dinner reminds us of her in a weird way. Everything in a TV dinner is supposed to be uniform and perfect, inside its own little compartment, cold and impenetrable—just like Beth's emotions. But the reality is that the meat is tough. The temperature is uneven. And there is no way that brownie actually has chocolate in it.

When Conrad reads the instructions on his TV dinner, it says, "Obey all rules and do as directed, punishment may be lessened" (22.61). Controlling and flavorless. Ah, just like Mom used to make.