Privacy, Dreams, and the Past
Calvin and Beth drive to their friends’ party, despite the fact that Calvin does not want to go. Party guests make small talk about business, golf, and money. Calvin retreats to a staircase with friend Annie Marshall. The two talk about their kids, and Calvin tells her about Conrad’s therapy with Berger. Beth overhears, and on the drive home lashes out at Calvin for speaking about what she considers a ‘‘very private matter.’’
Conrad asks Berger if he should tell him about his dreams and wonders if he should be taking tranquilizers, because he feels ‘‘jumpy.’’ Berger does not have much faith in dream analysis or tranquilizers. Conrad thinks the hospital was easier because ‘‘nobody hid anything there.’’ In the next scene, Conrad sees Karen, a friend from the psychiatric hospital. They are awkward and tense with each other as they discuss seeing doctors. Before the scene ends, she turns around and, in a loud voice that startles other patrons in the restaurant, says, ‘‘Hey, would you cheer up?’’
The novel includes the scene in which Conrad meets up with Karen. He tells Karen that he is seeing a psychiatrist, and she admits that she once saw one too, but stopped. She tells him that he must help himself, with faith in God. The film omits Karen’s religious commitment. The novel also shows Calvin as drinking more in response to his problems. He tries to connect with Conrad and tells Beth that the family should postpone their vacation until the spring. He and Beth argue about their holiday on the way to a neighbor’s cocktail party, and in the novel, the event is depicted in a much more intimate fashion than the way it is portrayed in the film. In the novel, when the Jarretts’ friends ask Calvin and Beth about Conrad, the situation seems close, claustrophobic, almost as if Calvin and Beth feel they are under a microscope. In contrast, the party portrayed in the film is large, and when Calvin talks to a friend about Conrad, he seems to be divulging their business in a much more public forum.
Furthermore, in the novel, Guest describes Conrad’s upsetting dreams as another way for the reader to see a different level of Conrad’s fear and anxiety. For example, Conrad dreams that he is at the ocean and wanders into a drainage tunnel with walls that close in on him. Dr. Berger, whom he visits the next day, tells him the dream does not mean anything. Berger tells Conrad to lie on the floor for a ‘‘change in perspective.’’ Conrad admits he is nervous all the time and does not want to swim anymore. At the same time, he fears quitting because he does not want to seem like a failure.
Tension in the Family
The film highlights the tension between Beth and Conrad. Conrad is in the backyard staring up at the sky. Beth comes outside to see if he needs a sweater and wonders what he is thinking about. Conrad tries to bond with her by mentioning how Buck once wanted a dog. Beth changes the subject, but to get her attention, he loudly barks. Their conversation ends abruptly. Back inside the house, Beth sets the table and Conrad offers to help. She declines and tells him that he can clean the closet upstairs in his room instead, insisting that it ‘‘really is a mess.’’ The phone rings and Beth answers it, ignoring Conrad to talk with a friend. Her laughter prompts Conrad to remember Buck making his mother laugh. Conrad later talks with Berger about his problems connecting with his mother.
The scene shifts to Calvin and Ray, his law partner of many years, walking down the street. Ray says Calvin is ‘‘losing it’’ and wonders what’s wrong with him. He uggests that he stop worrying about Conrad. Calvin flashes back to a memory of his sons fighting over a sweater, then to a disjointed memory of him pounding on a door, a stretcher, and an ambulance. These flashbacks are not included in the novel, but heighten the drama and emotional development in the film.
At swim practice Coach Salan tells Conrad that he has a bad attitude and is messing up his life. The action moves to Conrad at his school locker, where Lazenby says Salan told the swim team that Conrad quit and presses Conrad for a reason. Conrad avoids him. At a therapy session, Conrad tells Berger that he cannot relate to his mother. He also admits that he wants to keep control and stop feeling ‘‘lousy.’’