Study Guide

Ordinary People Friendship

By Judith Guest


In 1967, the Beatles sang about getting by with a little help from their friends. Conrad Jarrett in Ordinary People must not be a Beatles fan, or maybe he's just listening to "Bohemian Rhapsody" on loop. Either way, he thinks he can get by without any help from his friends. In fact, after the death of his brother, Conrad deliberately distances himself from his friends. But all that does is creates a vacuum that he fills with his own negative thoughts. In order to get out of his depression, Conrad finds he has to reach out to his friends. He can't do it by himself; it's a team effort.

Questions About Friendship

  1. What reason does Conrad give for distancing himself from his friends?
  2. Should Conrad attempt to make new friends? Or should he try to make up with his old friends?
  3. What do Calvin and Beth's friends think about them? Do they make accurate assessments?
  4. Why does Conrad decide to rebuild bridges with Lazenby at the end? Will he be successful?

Chew on This

Conrad learns that he must leave some of his friends behind because they have different interests, but he doesn't want to abandon all of them. He eventually decides to make up with his best friend because their friendship runs deeper than just a common interest in extracurricular activities.

Conrad's relationship with Jeannine is built on friendship first. The romance comes after. The friendship might be more important to Conrad than any potential sexy time.

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