Study Guide

Ordinary People Friendship

By Judith Guest


Conrad feels the slow, rolling pressure of panic building inside himself. (3.18)

You'd think Conrad would be happy to be with his friends after not seeing them for so long, but clearly he isn't. However, at this point, we don't yet understand why he feels this way. Did he ever feel comfortable with his friends?

[Conrad] forces a laugh from the back of his throat; turns his attention outside the window Forget it forget it he was never a friend sends him a mental message Screw you he will not get it does not operate on the same frequency never will so f*** it. (3.30)

This stream-of-consciousness sentence shows Conrad's frustration with his false friendships. He feels like he's short-circuiting by just pretending to be friends with a jerk like Stillman.

"Yeah. About friends. I don't have any. I got sort of out of touch before I left." (5.83)

This line shows us that it isn't Conrad's suicide attempt that pulled him away from his friends. They are not so shallow that they'd abandon him after he attempted to take his own life. Really, it seems like Conrad just wasn't that close to many of them in the first place.

When [Conrad] was in the hospital, Lazenby wrote him his only letter […] at the bottom of the page, "I miss you, man." He had read it a million times before he finally threw it away. (12.11)

On the surface, it seems like this sentence is about Conrad throwing the letter away, which he did. But as we see from Conrad's strained relationship with Lazenby, he threw the friendship away, too.

Needing new friends. But how? (16.7)

This is number three on Conrad's list of unofficial New Year's resolutions: Friends. However, he doesn't try to make new friends; what he does eventually do is make up with certain old ones.

"I guess I think of you has a friend." (16.59)

Conrad thinks of Dr. Berger as a friend. Berger says he feels the same. Either these two are invalidating some sort of medical code that demands doctors and patients remain emotionally distant, or Berger is helping Conrad by giving him what he truly needs in his time of crisis: friendship.

"Laze," he says, "we're still friends." "Are we?" Lazenby's voice is flat, strained. (22.49)

If we could see Lazenby's perspective, we would see how hurt he is by Conrad not talking to him. Conrad lost a brother, and Lazenby lost not one but two friends as a result.

It is Lazenby holding him up. (22.37)

This short line refers to Lazenby literally supporting Conrad after a fight. But it is here that Conrad realizes that Lazenby can be an emotional support, too, since he is a good friend—unlike the other boys Conrad hangs out with.

"What, visit friends? Yeah, I do it occasionally. Hey, you can do the same, you know." (Epilogue.8)

Berger has a sly way of giving advice to Conrad, even outside the office. He has to gently push Conrad in Lazenby's direction because he knows it would be good for him, even if making up is hard to do.

Now, standing on Lazenby's front porch, he has that same, funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. He half-hopes he won't be home. (Epilogue.10)

Good friendships are fantastic, but like marriages, they can be work. Conrad knows that the easy way out is to continue ignoring his friends. But he also knows that the work will be rewarding, and he has to take steps toward Lazenby to rebuild their friendship.

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