In English class, Conrad’s teacher asks him for his theory on Thomas Hardy’s ‘‘Jude Frawley,’’ and inquires if Conrad thinks he is a ‘‘powerless’’ character. Conrad eats lunch alone on the bleachers outside and later nervously calls Dr. Berger to set up a meeting. At swim practice, Coach Salan pushes Conrad to perform better. Later, Beth, Calvin, and Conrad have dinner together. The mood is tense and quiet. Beth talks only about superficial things, and does not address the tension in the room. She tells Calvin about a party they have to attend, but Calvin doesn’s want to go.
The film illustrates the internal conflict Guest portrays in the novel through visuals, while the novel strives for a balance of ‘‘showing and telling.’’ Similar to the film, the novel demonstrates Conrad’s uncertainty and unease with his life through tense conversations with his parents, his swimming coach, and his old friends. But the novel also allows the reader inside Conrad’s emotional state. For example, in the novel, as Conrad waits for his friend Lazenby to pick him up for school, the reader is privy to Conrad’s anxiety. He fears his mental instability is creeping back and feels guilty about worrying his parents. The reader also gets an inside view of Conrad’s crush on a new girl at school, Jeannine Pratt, as well as his insecurities about swimming.
Flashbacks and Therapy
Conrad dreams about being caught with his brother Buck in a storm. The film cuts to Conrad standing in front of a building and contemplating whether to go inside. In the elevator Conrad looks nervous and practices small talk aloud. He enters the office; Dr. Berger tells him to sit. Conrad does not. Berger asks why he was in the hospital. Conrad says, ‘‘I tried to off myself.’’ Berger inquires about the method and begins questioning him about his feelings. Conrad admits he wants to be more in control. He also confesses he does not like the idea of seeing a psychiatrist. Berger says he knows Conrad had a brother who died in a boating accident. Berger also says he is ‘‘not big on control.’’ Conrad decides to see Berger instead of attending swimming practice.
The scene cuts to Beth and shows how extremely organized her kitchen drawers are. Conrad tells Calvin that he went to see Dr. Berger, and an encouraging Calvin asks how the therapy went. The scene then jumps to Conrad at swim practice, where Salan dresses him down and grills him about the therapy methods used in the psychiatric hospital. The scene changes again to Conrad in the school hallway with friends. He meets Jeannine, who compliments him on his singing in choir.
The film omits a detail about Berger that the novel uses as a form of character development. When Conrad meets Berger, the doctor’s office has just been robbed. Despite the incident, however, Berger is unconcerned. He seems rather indifferent to the fact that someone broke in, but wonders what to do about the mess left behind. Conrad asks if Berger is going to call the police, but the doctor dismisses the idea because he is certain that calling them would not do any good. This scene between Conrad and Berger establishes Berger as a man who doesn’t think too highly of doing things the conventional way. In contrast, the film version of Berger comes across in a more serious, straightforward manner.
In the film, Beth answers the door to greet trickor-treaters with homemade treats. She mentions spending Christmas in London, but Calvin does not think a holiday is a good idea. Beth wants to get back to normal. The scene jumps to Beth coming home to an empty house. She opens a closed bedroom door and goes inside. She sits on the bed and gazes at her deceased son’s belongings. The camera pans around the room to the awards and trophies. Conrad pokes his head in the room, startling his mother. Beth gasps and Conrad apologizes profusely. He tries to make small talk and reaches out to her, but she avoids him.
Rather than focusing on Beth, the novel reaches deeper into Calvin’s psychological conflicts as he thinks about the argument with his wife and why he feels tempted by his attractive secretary, Cherry. For example, he wonders who he really is, and recalls his youthful dreams of becoming a soldier or an athlete. He questions his career choice, remembering how he took up a law career after his mentor, the famous tax attorney Arnold Bacon, offered him advice and a clerkship. Calvin also realizes that he never learned how to deal with grief.