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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the description of Conrad is going to seem cliched by today's standards.  Yet, at the time of Guest's writing, Conrad was seen as a very unique character.  Conrad is a high achieving adolescent in a high achieving family.  Failure is not something that Conrad's family has had to accept and, thus, is incapable of understanding how to adapt to a life that has been hit with the death of Conrad's brother.  Conrad undergoes an intense period of institutionalization in his inability to cope with or to fully understand his life after his brother's death.  The entire family lacks the psychological vocabulary or pattern of recognition to make sense of it, and Conrad, given his age, is hit the worst by it.  His character is one that must emerge with having made peace with his own psychological disfiguring and not see it as a source of shame, but rather as a statement of his place in the world.  Conrad's psychological and emotional journey is one where he has to understand his own limitations and recognize that the forces of nature such as death and the pain caused by it are elements that he can not avoid nor control, but rather seek to understand these forces' imprints on his own presence in the world.  In this light, Conrad is a force that ends up emerging stronger through his ordeals, a testament to the level of strength that lies within the human psyche.