What are the themes in Ordinary People?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my mind, the driving messages or themes of Guest's work relate to psychological approaches to pain, suffering, and guilt.  These themes seem to be concurrent with the time period, where there was a great deal of emphasis on what constitutes healing and how psychology plays a role in how individuals understand reality and consciousness.  In a time period where social change, such as the feminist movement, took hold of the social fabric of America, Guest's work internalizes the notion of change to make it much more subjective, based on one's own psychology.  This dimension is what makes the work so introspective.  The Jarrett's own psychological profile is something that is seen within the family, but is also something that readers are able to apply to themselves and how they approach issues of death, surviving, and forgiveness.  These types of explorations are psychological in nature, and represent the base messages of the work.