CONRAD JARRETT


(Ordinary People)

What’s the Matter with Him?
Conrad’s brother recently died in a boating accident (in the middle of Illinois somehow). Since Conrad was there when older brother, Buck met his demise, he struggles with overwhelming guilt and sadness following the accident.
His emotional state led Conrad to try and kill himself, but fortunately his father and mother were home and were able to save him. Finally deciding to go to a therapist once he is released from the hospital, Conrad is trying to understand himself and to feel better.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A disorder that receives a lot of attention is commonly called PTSD – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Military veterans returning from combat sometimes go through this, but anyone recovering from a traumatic experience can suffer the same condition. Some indications Conrad may have PTSD include the following symptoms:

*Exposure to Actual or Threatened Death
Obviously, Conrad experienced both when Buck (Seriously, who named these children?) died and Conrad almost died.

*Recurrent Distressing Dreams in Which the Content of the Dream is Related to the Traumatic Event
When we first meet Conrad, he wakes up from a disturbing dream about the accident. He continues to have them throughout the movie.

*Avoidance of or Efforts to Avoid People that Arouse Distressing Memories, Thoughts, or Feelings About or Closely Associated with the Traumatic Event
In a conversation with his friend, Joe, Conrad tells him that he doesn’t want to hang around with Joe anymore because it hurts too much. This is after Joe reveals that he, Conrad, and Buck were all close friends.

*Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood
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…This one seems obvious.

*Irritable Behavior and Angry Outbursts (with Little or No Provocation)
This one doesn’t happen a lot in the movie, but it is there. (Mary Tyler Moore brings out the rage).

*Reckless or Self-Destructive Behavior
This one is self-explanatory. Other than his suicide attempt however, Conrad is a pretty careful guy (When he’s not yelling at his mom, of course).

What About Beth?

That’s a tricky one.
She definitely had a hard time with Buck’s death and it’s even implied that he may have been her favorite (Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but even parents are not perfect. I know. I was shocked too). Although her husband does go to see Conrad’s therapist in an effort to help out their remaining son, Beth refuses to go and becomes angry when husband Calvin (One of those kids should have been named Hobbes) tells a friend of theirs about Conrad’s therapy.
Since the focus of the film is on Conrad, it’s not clear what Beth is thinking (Ever), but it may be that her cold demeanor and avoidance of getting in touch with her own mentality are products of her own, normal grieving process. It’s hard to say for sure since she is so closed off from Conrad, but grief does strange things to us all.

Is There Hope for Conrad?

Yes! Going to therapy and opening up to his father (And trying with his mom, but she’s hopeless) are good signs that Conrad is going to be okay. He even gets a second chance with Jeannine. Anxiety disorders like PTSD are not touted as curable, but they can be managed if the person with them makes an effort to do so. It looks as though Conrad is finally willing to make the effort and forgive himself.

What Do You Think?
Conrad 2
Share your thoughts with us!

Ordinary People


1980, Rated R

Conrad (Timothy Hutton) has a hard time relating to his mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and father (Donald Sutherland) after the accidental death of his older brother. Coping with the tragedy forced Conrad close to suicide and he has since been going to a therapist (Judd Hirsch). As the family tries to reconnect with one another following their loss, they struggle to regain a sense of normalcy. They begin to wonder if normal and ordinary might not be as easy as they look.
~This film won the 1980 Academy Award for Best Picture.