Although Beth is not a main character, what are some parts of the story she helps to create?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I actually think that Beth can be seen as a main character in Guest's work.  Beth helps to establish the emotional dynamic of conformity and of perfectability that makes Conrad's therapy so vitally important.  Beth is part and is a reflection of the world that stresses external reality as the only reality that is worth sustaining.  In this, she becomes a principal in her inability to accept her Buck's death, Conrad's attempt at suicide, and the fragmentation of her marriage and her domestic world.  Beth's characterization is one in which she does not see moments of crisis and challenge as opportunities for growth and for emotional happiness, but rather as failure and something not to be tolerated.  Being so driven by control, Beth represents the external world and how being so driven by perfection can lead to personal destruction for the individual and those who are cursed to care for that individual.  Beth's inability to understand the therapeutic value and difficulty for happiness in being in the world is repudiated by the end of the novel.  In doing so, she occupies central importance as a representation of what reality is and, in the process, a very persuasive case as to what reality should be.


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