Five Months Later (December 2013) – Three Months Later (March 2014) Summary
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1708
Five Months Later (December 2013)
Marianne is studying abroad in Lund, Sweden, where she sits reading her emails at the university. Joanna has written, asking about Marianne’s new friend Lukas, who will be photographing Marianne later that day. Connell has also written her an email suggesting that Lukas may become Marianne’s new boyfriend.
Marianne emerges into the streets of Lund, where snow is falling, and walks to Lukas’s photography studio. Lukas has white-blond hair and dresses all in black. When Marianne first met him, she lied to him, telling him she was a writer. Realizing her mistake, she has avoided the subject ever since. As she arrives at the studio and follows Lukas upstairs, Marianne finds that she doesn’t care where she is; in recent weeks, she has begun feeling disassociated from reality, as though the world can’t truly touch her.
Whenever Marianne comes over, Lukas immediately begins talking about himself, never so much as offering his guest a drink of water, and he seems confused when Marianne responds to what he says. Despite this, Lukas is extremely perceptive when it comes to art of all kinds: he has the ability to notice and criticize minute aesthetic details, yet he seems morally vacant. Marianne finds this disturbing, as it suggests to her that art might be “pointless.”
Marianne explains that at Lukas’s apartment, the two of them play “the game”: they have sex, and if Marianne doesn’t remain completely silent and avoid looking Lukas in the eye, Lukas punishes her afterward. After sex and before allowing her to shower, which ends the game, Lukas verbally abuses Marianne. This both sickens and relieves her, and once she has showered, Marianne enters a state of depression so “tranquilizing” that she feels she possesses no autonomy over her own body. Lately, she has ceased to feel even the most basic of desires, such as hunger and thirst, except in the brief moments when she makes unexpected eye contact with strangers.
Marianne is no longer close to the majority of her friends. After she broke up with Jamie, most of them, including Peggy, took Jamie’s side. Marianne believes deep down that her whole life has been defined by men dominating her, whether her father, Alan, Jamie, Lukas, or even Connell. Peggy reacted particularly badly to the break-up, stating that she was Marianne’s “best friend” yet refusing to take her side. Marianne’s only remaining friend aside from Connell is Joanna, who now has a girlfriend named Evelyn. Joanna no longer speaks to Peggy, and she tells Marianne that she never particularly liked Peggy or Jamie. Marianne is surprised by this but realizes that the main reason she liked them herself was that they made her feel popular. She realizes that the only reason she did not accept friendships with “bad people” at school was because no one offered her their friendship then.
Marianne has decided not to go home for Christmas this year, as she wishes to distance herself from her family. Yet thinking back to the beauty of Carricklea at Christmas, she is consumed by feelings of nostalgia and grief for the person she used to be.
Lukas readies his camera and asks Marianne to remove her sweater and then her bra, which she does. She reluctantly allows Lukas to bind her wrists with ribbon, but when he wants to blindfold her, she recoils and tells him no. Ignoring her protests, Lukas squeezes her throat and says that they love each other, which horrifies Marianne. It is only when she threatens to call the police that he agrees to untie her. Lukas asks her what he did wrong and if she returns his feelings, but Marianne tells him she feels “nothing” for him. He turns his back to her, and Marianne wonders if he is laughing or if his feelings are genuinely hurt. As she leaves, she wonders how love and “the basest and most abusive forms of violence” could ever be conflated.
Three Months Later (March 2014)
Connell sits in the waiting room at Trinity’s mental health service, filling out a questionnaire. Niall suggested the service to Connell, who has become increasingly depressed. When answering a question about suicidal thoughts, Connell thinks that “he would like to kill himself”: he fantasizes about simply lying on the floor of his bedroom until he dies of dehydration. Spending most of his time alone in his scholarship accommodation and eating formal dinners in the Dining Hall, surrounded by people he feels unable to speak to, has increased Connell’s feelings of isolation.
The therapist, Gillian, comes into the waiting room and leads Connell to her office. Connell tells her he has been feeling depressed since January, when he discovered that his old school friend Rob Hegarty had committed suicide. On New Year’s Eve, as Connell was out celebrating with Helen, he received a text from Rachel Moran to their old friend group asking if anybody had seen Rob. Rob’s body was discovered in the River Corrib the next day. Connell feels guilty, realizing that Rob last sent him a message in early 2012, which he had never responded to. After Rob’s death and his classmates’ subsequent posts about suicide awareness on social media, Connell’s previously manageable anxiety has severely worsened.
Connell speaks to Gillian about Rob’s death, expressing his guilt over losing contact with Rob. Gillian tells Connell that his answers to the questionnaire are deeply concerning, as they reveal that he is suffering from a severe depressive episode. When Gillian asks about Connell’s family and relationships, it is revealed that he and Helen have broken up. Helen traveled with Connell to Carricklea for the funeral, but he found himself becoming irritated with her when she complimented him on his looks before the funeral. Marianne had returned from Sweden for the funeral as well, and in the church, she and Connell embraced tenderly in front of Helen. As Connell and Helen paid their respects to Rob’s family, Connell wished his mother were standing beside him instead.
At Rob’s wake, Connell’s old friend Eric approached Connell and Helen as they drank tea, but Connell had to be prompted by Eric to introduce Helen. Eric commented that it was kind of Marianne to come from Sweden for the funeral and referenced her frail appearance. When Marianne herself appeared, Connell was amazed by the “easy” way she chatted to his friends, which was something she would never have been capable of in school. Connell remembered a time he had scored a goal for their football team and Rob had kissed him on the head in congratulations. So much of the persona they put on at school was artificial, and it was only in moments like this that they could let the façade slide. Rob, much like Connell, had needed the approval of others. But Connell’s relationship with Marianne had shown him another way to live, one that didn’t revolve around attempting to hide his perceived abnormalities, and “Life had been different after that.”
Later that night, Connell and Helen argued when she asked why he hadn’t introduced her to any of his friends at the funeral. The tension between them built and culminated in Helen jealously accusing Connell of admiring Marianne. Two weeks later, Helen broke up with Connell, but by this time he was so depressed that he was unable to even reply. Lately, despite the panic attacks and uncontrollable crying that have been assailing him, Connell finds that he feels nothing at all.
Gillian asks if Connell has made any close friends at Trinity. He says that Niall is a good friend, as is Marianne. Connell speaks to Marianne most nights on Skype, though they avoid discussing their near-intimacy in Italy. The gossip that began circling around Marianne after she broke up with Jamie has continued, and Connell has heard rumors that there are pictures of her on the internet. Connell confides in Gillian that he has found it difficult to be separated from Marianne, as she is one of the only people with whom he feels a connection. Connell’s friendship with Rob was superficial, given that they didn’t share interests or values, but that hadn’t mattered during their high school years. Connell feels disillusioned by his experience at Trinity. He had expected to find likeminded people at university but finds most of his classmates elitist and shallow. As he mourns the life and friendships that had defined his formative years and are now gone forever, Connell is surprised to discover that he is crying. Gillian assures him that they can work together to help him manage his mental health. Although he has no intention of reading or filling out the printouts the therapist gives him, Connell agrees to return in two weeks.
A couple of weeks before meeting with the therapist, Connell attended a reading by a writer visiting Trinity, whose collection of short stories he had read and liked. Connell regretted attending the event at first, finding the evening predictable and pointless. As he was leaving, however, he ran into a girl named Sadie, who had called him a “genius” after his presentation in first year. He was open with Sadie that he didn’t “really get the point” of readings but embarrassed when he discovered that Sadie knew the writer. Sadie told the writer what Connell had said, and the writer surprised Connell by agreeing with him. Connell then joined the writer, Sadie, and her friends at a pub, where they debated about literature until closing time. Connell confessed to the writer that he was having a hard time fitting in at Trinity, andt the writer suggested that rather than being a “bad thing,” the experience could inspire Connell’s writing. At one point, Sadie curtailed a discussion of recent protests by saying “Not politics, please!” This confirmed for Connell that readings were essentially “culture as class performance,” marketing ploys that left literature with “no potential for resistance to anything.” But when he got home that night, Connell looked over the notes he had made for a new short story, feeling a rare sense of joy and excitement.