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With Guest's work, I think that personal reflection is going to be critical. It is fairly applicable to everyone because the presence or absence of a family is something that anyone can understand. The fact that the novel takes place within the emotional dynamics of a family is something on which nearly everyone can and will have an opinion. The most appropriate question then is how your emotional reaction to what is going on would be? Take some of the basic elements and assess how you feel about it. For example, the family deals with one major blow and another that results from it. What do you think about how the family dealt with Buck's death? They each have their own experience. Connie doesn't understand it fully and blames himself for it, which is why he tries to hurt himself. Being the youngest, Conrad is the one that manifests in the most demonstrative manner the pain the family feels, but in this light, he also manifests how one must accept the scar and public perception of disfigurement that might result and call out for help. It is interesting to see how the youngest one teaches the adults of the family this lesson. Cal cannot fully articulate the pain he is feeling because he has not fully grasped his own needs nor does he fully understand how his past plays a role in the condition in which he is in now in navigating the challenges between Beth and Con. As for Beth, the harmony and vision of perfection of life that was supposedly present before the trials that besieged the family is something in which she took personal pride. For it to be gone is a reflection of failure. Is this an appropriate emotional reaction to death and the forces of sadness and guilt that result from it. The men in the family are ones that have to undergo the acceptance of imperfection and emotional "messiness" in order to better understand what it means to live in the modern predicament, while Beth, given her own background, is fundamentally incapable of accepting such an emotional reality. This is not a judgment on her, as much as statement of how she appropriates reality. I think that being able to assess how you view these conditions might be a good starting point on constructing your believes on the Jarrett family.
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