Last Updated on August 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1430
Normal People opens with Connell, a popular boy at school, and Marianne, an outsider, meeting at Marianne’s house. Connell’s mother, Lorraine, is a cleaner for Marianne’s family, but Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other at school. Marianne is viewed as an “object of disgust” by her classmates due to her supposedly homely appearance and her dislike of other students. One of the most popular stories surrounding Marianne is that she once spilled chocolate ice cream on her blouse and then took her blouse off to wash it in the girls’ bathroom. The two talk while Lorraine finishes her cleaning, discussing their high school mock results and the fact that most of the school believes Connell and his economics teacher, Miss Neary, share a mutual attraction. Connell thinks to himself that he does not know what desire is supposed to feel like, as every time he has had sex in real life it has made him feel detached and sickened. He wonders if he is incapable of intimacy and if the nausea he experiences around Miss Neary is a depraved form of attraction.
He wonders if the story about Marianne washing her blouse became popular because Marianne is so inaccessible: no one has ever seen her naked, and she refuses to reveal anything about her own life in public. Marianne is surprised to hear that, unlike others in school, Connell does not hate her. Although Connell and Marianne are not close, Connell observes a “sense of total privacy between them” when they talk. He experiences an emotional intimacy with her that he has never felt with anyone else. Marianne tells Connell that she likes him, but just as he is about to respond, Lorraine returns.
Three Weeks Later (February 2011)
Marianne stares at herself in a mirror, observing that her own face is “like a piece of technology, and her eyes two cursors blinking.” She contemplates putting on makeup but concludes that it would be ridiculous. As Marianne attempts to leave the house, her older brother, Alan, taunts her about her friendless existence. She smiles at Alan, which seems to provoke him further, and he roughly grabs her upper arm, causing her pain.
It transpires that Marianne is attending the final of the school soccer game, where Connell is playing the center-forward position. When Connell scores, Marianne briefly bonds with another girl, named Karen, with whom she doesn’t normally associate. Marianne thinks she would like to watch Connell having sex, even with someone else, before realizing that it is such thoughts that make her so unlike anybody else.
Marianne and Connell start spending more time together at Connell’s house, where they bond over a mutual interest in books, something Connell can’t share with his friends. Connell returns to the day that Marianne revealed that she liked him and questions whether this was “just as a friend.” Marianne admits that she likes him as more than a friend, and the two share a kiss. Afterward, Connell appears uncomfortable once more and asks Marianne not to mention this at school. When the two return to school, Connell ignores Marianne, and the two behave as though the kiss never happened.
A few days later, Connell returns to Marianne’s house to pick up his mother. Marianne feels self-conscious after what occurred between them and retreats to her bedroom. Connell knocks on her bedroom door, concerned that she is angry with him. They share another kiss, and Marianne suggests that they become sexually intimate. Connell rejects her, worrying about his mother hearing them downstairs. However, later that day Connell texts Marianne his address, and Marianne goes to his house. After closing the door behind her, Connell looks over his shoulder to check that nobody has seen her come in.
One Month Later...
(The entire section contains 1430 words.)
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