In the movie Ordinary People, Conrad Jarrett is a very unstable teenager whose parents seem to be living in an almost artificial relationship. However, I believe that it is very common for husbands and wives to live like that. Some might get divorced or some might stay together ignoring their problems and running away from them. Whatever the situation, it is unfortunate that many relationships are like that and some even worse.
In the case of the Jarrett family, the mother and father, Beth and Calvin would have stayed together had there not been an accident in the family. What the accident did was bring out their true selves and it became very obvious that the family was very dysfunctional. Beth and Cal are nearly complete opposites. Cal is often quite feeble minded, while at other times he stands his grounds. Beth is nearly Cal's double or a yin to the yang, being emotionally and altogether mentally robust.
Calvin is the type of father that wants to do all he can to help his son. In the scene where Conrad storms off to his room after an argument, Cal wants to go upstairs and talk things over with Con but Beth criticizes him for it. Even though she does this, he still goes up to see if things are alright. This is a perfect example showing how Cal is very unselfish and puts other people's interests before his own. He tends to be more of a problem solver type and is very valuable to the family's well being. In the flashback scene where Buck and Conrad were arguing over a sweater as kids, Calvin gets in the middle of them and settles the dispute very justly.
Beth on the other hand is very selfish and self-conscious about...