Four Months Later (July 2014) – Seven Months Later (February 2015) Summary
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2013
Four Months Later (July 2014)
Marianne and Connell are watching the World Cup semi-finals in Connell’s old bedroom. Marianne has moved home to Carricklea after completing her study abroad program in Sweden, but Connell is working in Trinity’s library over the summer. Still, he has visited Marianne every weekend since she returned to Carricklea, taking the two of them on day trips in his car.
The night before, Marianne and Connell were out at a bar, where a girl named Niamh took a liking to Connell. They also ran into Connell’s old friend Eric, who, considerably inebriated, apologized to Marianne for bullying her in school and told her that Rob would have wanted to apologize as well. Connell says that Eric was probably right about Rob, though he disagrees when Marianne dismisses the bullying as “nothing.” Privately, Marianne considers that “cruelty might not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and permanently,” as it teaches the perpetrator something deeply uncomfortable about themselves and their attitude to others.
Marianne spends most of her time alone in the house, cleaning and drinking coffee while her mother and brother are at work. Sometimes, though, she visits Dublin for the day, and recently she attended a protest against the war in Gaza with Joanna and Evelyn, as well as Connell and Niall. Marianne felt galvanized by the protest, with a deep desire to protect the weak from the violence of the strong. Yet she also recognized that her belief in her ability to change the world had diminished over time, and “at most she could help only a few people.” That night Connell drove her home, and as they listened to the radio, Connell told her he loved her. Marianne replied that she loved him, too.
In Connell’s bedroom, Marianne and Connell discuss the rumors that Jamie spread about Marianne’s sexual preferences after she broke up with him. During the time that the rumors were circulating, Marianne felt deeply ashamed, but the feeling, like the rumors, eventually dissipated. Connell comments that she must be lonely in Carricklea, and Marianne eventually reveals that although she has always been lonely, she is never lonely with Connell. Neither of them, they admit, were ever lonely when they were together during their first year at Trinity; that was the first time Connell ever felt truly happy, and he acknowledges that Marianne has changed him and his life for the better.
Marianne admits that she wanted Connell to kiss her last night in the club. He tells her that he wanted to kiss her, too, but he is concerned about them starting a sexual relationship again and losing the friendship they have now. This causes Marianne to sob, though she tries to hide her tears from Connell. As Marianne stands up to leave, Connell takes her hand and kisses it. They kiss and begin having sex for the first time in years. Marianne thinks about her body as an “item of property” that has been misused by other men in the past but has always truly belonged to Connell. In the middle of sex, she asks Connell to hit her. Connell refuses, resulting in the moment becoming awkward, and they stop. Connell tries to explain that he would feel uncomfortable hitting Marianne, who decides to leave, and the two dress in silence.
Marianne races out Connell’s front door, feeling the same sense of lifelessness she experienced in Sweden. Full of self-loathing and certain that she has repulsed Connell, she reaches the conclusion that while Connell has been developing as a person, she has been helplessly degenerating to the point that he can no longer relate to her. When Marianne returns home, Alan bullies her about spending time with Connell, who Alan believes is “fucked in the head.” He warns her not to go near Connell again, as people in Carricklea are talking about her. When Marianne responds that she doesn’t care what other people think, Alan throws his bottle of beer at her, and it smashes on the floor. Marianne runs to her bedroom and, once inside, grasps the door handle to prevent her brother from entering. Alan follows her, calling her a “freak” and demanding she open the door. Leaning her head against the door, Marianne thinks that, in spite of all her efforts to be good, she has always been an essentially bad person with an “abnormal” life. Finally Alan manages to force open the door, which hits Marianne in the face. As her vision blurs and blood pours from her nose, Alan says, “Are you going to blame me for that now?” Marianne holds her hand to her nose but continues to feel the blood gush down her face and onto the carpet.
Five Minutes Later (July 2014)
After Marianne leaves, Connell sits in the kitchen drinking a beer. Lorraine arrives home and, sensing that Connell is in a low mood, asks him if something has happened with Marianne. Connell has continued to see his therapist, Gillian, and is now on medication. Although he sometimes feels that he is going through the motions, he is able to live a functional life once more, and his suicidal feelings have faded. Lorraine tells Connell that his ex-girlfriend from school, Isa Gleeson, is pregnant. Connell asks Lorraine if she regrets having him when she was only a teenager, which leads to Lorraine asking if Marianne is pregnant. Connell insists that he and Marianne are not together.
That spring, Connell sent one of his short stories to Sadie, the editor of Trinity’s literary magazine, who begged him to allow her to publish it in the May issue. Not feeling that the story was really ready for publication yet, Connell agreed but asked that it be published under a pseudonym. He found the entire experience stressful, as he was unable to find out anyone’s opinion on the story, but he kept copies of the magazine anyway.
Connell reflects on his relationship with Marianne and his sense that there is “some huge emptiness in the pit of her being.” Despite this, Connell knows that he would die for her without hesitation. Thinking about the incident that just occurred between them in his bedroom, he realizes that his deep discomfort about hitting Marianne comes from the fact that he knows he has an unspoken “tyranny” over her. Their relationship seems to have no future, yet Connell cannot imagine his life without her.
As Lorraine stands up to go to bed, she answers Connell’s earlier question: she loves him and has never regretted having him; on the contrary, she considers it to be the best decision she ever made. Connell tells his mother he loves her, too. After Lorraine goes upstairs, Connell notices that his phone is vibrating on the kitchen table. It is Marianne calling him. She tells Connell that she has “a small injury” and, after apologizing for bothering him, agrees to let him come pick her up in his car. When he arrives at the Sheridans’ house, Marianne answers the door with blood on her clothing, holding a tissue to her face. She tells him that her nose is probably broken. Connell quickly realizes that Alan is likely responsible, and when he quietly asks Marianne if Alan did this to her, she nods. After ensuring that Marianne has gone outside and gotten into his car, Connell, who is dizzy with emotion, backs Alan against a banister and tells him he will kill him if he ever harms Marianne again. Alan seems to be crying, and when Connell asks him if he understands, he says yes.
In the car, Connell tells Marianne that he loves her and is never going to allow her to be hurt again.
Seven Months Later (February 2015)
Marianne has returned to study at Trinity. She feels that she has become “a normal person,” someone who moves through campus without attracting undue notice. She has also begun a job, answering emails for a man whose business is unclear to her but that she thinks might be property development. At her apartment, she makes two cups of coffee and walks into the bedroom, where Connell has just woken up with a hangover. As they drink their coffee, Connell apologizes for the previous night. Marianne tells him that Sadie likes him, and Connell assures her that Sadie isn’t his type. From there, they briefly discuss human nature, with Marianne positing that people are mysterious and Connell arguing that people are easier to know than they think.
Connell recently became the editor of the college literary magazine, and it was at the new edition’s launch party, the previous night, that Connell had too much to drink. Marianne had read one of Connell’s short stories the previous summer, an experience that lent her the paradoxical feeling of being closer to Connell and understanding him more intimately while also being distanced from him somehow, as it revealed a private “inner life” belonging to Connell alone.
Since the summer, Marianne has cut ties with her family. Alan sent her a few text messages stating that their mother thought Marianne a “disgrace,” but neither he nor Denise contacted Marianne on her birthday. When Christmas came, Connell and Lorraine invited Marianne to spend Christmas with them in Carricklea. At Connell’s house, Marianne was struck by the relaxed and cozy atmosphere, as well as the constant stream of relatives who stopped by with gifts.
On New Year’s Eve, Marianne, Connell, and Lorraine passed Marianne’s mother in the supermarket. Lorraine said hello, but Denise walked past without even looking at them. Afterward, Marianne asked Lorraine what people in Carricklea thought of Denise; Lorraine admitted that Marianne’s mother was thought of as “a bit odd,” something Marianne had never considered before.
That night Connell wants to go out to Kelleher’s, where “everyone from school” will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. Marianne is reluctant but agrees to go, and when they arrive, the atmosphere is undeniably festive. As Connell promised, all their old classmates seem to be packed into the pub, including Karen, Eric, and Rachel. At midnight, Connell pulls Marianne into his arms and kisses her. Marianne senses that people are watching curiously, as no one from school has ever seen her and Connell be physically affectionate with each other before. At this moment, Connell tells Marianne that he loves her. She feels that his love has “redeemed” her, allowing her to see that being dependent on others isn’t something to be avoided, but something entirely “ordinary.”
In their bedroom in Dublin, Marianne finds Connell checking his email. He confesses that he has just received an email from a university in New York, confirming that he has received a place in their MFA program in creative writing. Marianne congratulates him but asks why he didn’t tell her he was applying. Connell says he never believed he would get in, and besides, he is not planning to accept. Marianne tells Connell that he should go to New York. She thinks about what a significant influence their relationship has had on the course of their lives; they have spent years living like two plants “growing around one another” but never entirely separating. Connell, however, remains hesitant about the idea of leaving Marianne behind in Dublin for a year. He admits that he will never feel for anyone else what he feels for Marianne and tells her that if she wants him to stay, he will.
Marianne considers that Connell may never return from New York and that if he does, he will be different. Although Marianne will miss their life as it is now, she knows that the sense of self-worth she has gained through their relationship outweighs any loneliness she will feel when he leaves. “People can really change one another,” she thinks, and she and Connell have changed one another for the better. Marianne tells Connell that he should go, adding, “I’ll always be here. . . . You know that.”