Circle of Friends has four main characters, Benny Hogan, Eve Malone, Nan Mahon, and Jack Foley. Of these characters, Benny's life is delved into the most. After a sheltered childhood, Benny tries desperately to break away from her parents when she leaves for the University. She resents their firm belief that she should make the round trip from Knockglen to Dublin every day. She wishes to stay with her friends in Dublin and be part of the evening social activities that she is forced to miss by returning home each evening.
Benny meets Jack Foley and Nan Malone when there is an accident on the first day of classes. Benny thinks Jack is very attractive and sweet, but she does not think Jack could ever be interested in a large, plain girl like herself, believing instead that Jack belongs with a beautiful girl like Nan. When Benny and Jack start dating, she begins to deceive her parents. She tells them lies about evening lectures and her desire to stay in town with Eve. Eve is raised by the nuns in the Knockglen convent because her mother's wealthy relatives refuse to take responsibility for the child they consider a product of her mother's irresponsibility.
Eve faces ridicule from the girls at the convent school. They think she is odd because she is an orphan and lives with nuns. Because Eve is not considered normal, Benny never plans on becoming friends with her. Benny's mother makes her invite Eve to her tenth birthday party. After this party Benny and Eve become intimate friends. Benny is envious of Eve for being "fleet and lithe and able to climb walls." At the same time, Eve envies Benny's size for being able to jump on a girl "like a ton of bricks." Eve's life is full of love, even if she does not grow up in a typical family. Mother Francis is like a real mother to Eve, loving Eve so much that it breaks her heart to see Eve leave for Dublin.
Eve's desire to go to University College with Benny drives her to face her mother's family and ask them for money. This request leads to interaction with some of the family members. Her younger cousin Heather Westward is particularly fond of Eve. The relationship between Eve and her older cousin Simon does not start as well, but they become tolerant of each other.
Nan's friendship with Benny and Eve is superficial. She does not let anyone into her life. She only allows people to see the image of herself she wishes to portray. None of her friends is ever invited to the Mahon home. Nan clings to a friendship with Eve because of Eve's cousin Simon. And because of her poor home life, Nan is determined to marry a wealthy man who is able to support her and make her a prominent woman in a town or village. Eve's cousin Simon appears to be that man. No one ever denies Nan's beauty. She is constantly admired and flattered by the college boys; however, she will not allow herself to become serious with any of them because of her goal of marrying-up in society.
Nan's relationship with Simon Westward progresses and she gives herself to him sexually. She expects him to marry her. When she becomes pregnant, Simon turns away from her, and...
(The entire section contains 853 words.)
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