January 2011 – Six Weeks Later (April 2011) Summary

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1430

January 2011

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 (March 2011)

Connell and Marianne have continued sleeping together in secret. It is revealed that Marianne has applied for History and Politics at Trinity College. Connell is considering studying Law at Galway, but Marianne encourages him to pursue his true passion and apply for English at Trinity. Connell considers how different it feels to have sex with Marianne, who was a virgin before they slept together, compared to the girls he has been intimate with before, who have routinely gossiped about his sexual performance to the whole school.

Connell continues to ignore Marianne at school and is uncomfortable when his friend Rob questions him about his mother’s work at Marianne’s house. Worried that people are becoming suspicious, he vows never to sleep with Marianne again, despite a voice inside his head telling him that he will. He feels a sexual connection with Marianne unlike any he has experienced before. Connell drives to Marianne’s house that same afternoon, and the two have sex again. Marianne confesses her feelings for him once more, but Connell becomes occupied with a “pleasurable sorrow” as he continues to agonize over what others think of him.

As Connell considers his degree options, he thinks about how each choice could set him on a different life path. If he went to Galway, he would have the familiarity of the same friend group and surroundings, while Trinity would expose him to a new intellectual and social world, and possibly ultimately uproot him from Sligo for good. He mentions to Marianne that if he opts for Trinity, they would both be living in Dublin, before joking that she would ignore him if they bumped into each other. Marianne says she would never ignore him, obliquely referencing the way he treats her. This forces Connell to again confront the possibility of people finding out about his double life, and the way he would be ostracized by his schoolmates. Nevertheless, he decides to apply for English at Trinity.

Six Weeks Later (April 2011)

Marianne has been appointed one of the organizers of the Debs fundraiser committee, alongside three other girls: Lisa, Karen, and Rachel. They meet at the club where the event is taking place. It is anticipated that Connell, along with his friends Eric and Jack, will be attending the event. They are running late, so Marianne texts Connell to see if they are still coming. When she receives a text back from him telling her they are on their way, she fantasizes about being able to share this private information with the other girls. Marianne knows the Waldrons are viewed as a “bad” family, with Connell’s uncle having been in prison, and his mother, Lorraine, becoming pregnant with Connell at just seventeen. Connell, on the other hand, seems to have broken the mold, and even Marianne’s haughty mother considers him different from the rest of the Waldrons.

Marianne thinks back to the previous week when Connell mentioned something called “the Ghost Estate.” Connell said that he wished he could take her there, but there were always people around. Nevertheless, they ended up driving there one afternoon. Connell ensured that nobody was around to see them before they entered the Ghost, a dilapidated house. Marianne and Connell delved into politics, with Connell proposing the Marxist view that abandoned housing should be given away. Marianne reflected on her complete submission to Connell and how she would let him do anything he wished to her.

The story returns to the night at the Debs fundraiser as Connell and his friends arrive. Eric looks at Marianne lasciviously, and Karen encourages Marianne to come and dance with her and Rachel. Connell stares at Marianne as she dances. Feeling increasingly intoxicated, Marianne dances provocatively in front of him. Eric later introduces Marianne to one of his older friends, who makes sexual overtures to her, grabbing her arm tightly and then squeezing her breast. Marianne is horrified and moves away from the man, while Rachel merely laughs. Upset, Marianne goes outside and is followed by Karen, Rachel, Connell, and Eric. Karen is sympathetic, but Rachel makes fun of the situation. Connell defends Marianne, much to the surprise of everyone there, as he normally never stands up for her. He insists on taking her home, and the two go to Connell’s house. In bed, he tells her that she is beautiful, and Marianne confesses her troubled home life to him, revealing that her father, now dead, used to hit her and her mother. Connell insists he would never hurt her and tells her that he loves her for the first time. As the two drift off to sleep, Marianne is overcome with emotion, believing that Connell’s love for her marks the beginning of her “new life.”

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