Last Updated on August 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1399
Connell is spending his summer traveling through Europe with his friends Niall and Elaine. The whole trip has passed in a blur for Connell, “like a series of short films.” While away, he Skypes Helen, texts Lorraine, and emails Marianne. Seeing Helen on Skype fills Connell with happiness, though when they are surrounded by others, their conversations can become awkward. Connell realizes that he has finally found genuine happiness and love with Helen. For the first time, he feels he can say “I love you” freely: it feels natural and uncomplicated to Connell. He spends time with Helen’s friends and meets her parents. Becoming Helen’s boyfriend, Connell feels, has elevated his status to that of an “acceptable person.”
Connell enjoys drafting regular emails to Marianne, becoming completely absorbed in the process of crafting them. He and Marianne still share much in common and like to discuss the news together, such as the progress of the Edward Snowden story. Marianne shares with him her day-to-day life as she stays in her holiday home near Trieste with Jamie and Peggy, while he writes to her about the vivid sights and sounds of the cities he visits. Connell and his friends decide to go and spend the final days of their trip at Marianne’s house. Among the miscellaneous items in his backpack, Connell has packed a gift for Marianne: Frank O’Hara’s Selected Poems.
Marianne and Connell both secured university scholarships earlier in the year. Connell was in a state of disbelief as it was announced, and Helen and his friends congratulated him. That night Connell attended a formal dinner with the other scholars but felt disconnected from the other students. The scholarship marks a drastic change for Connell, who had previously struggled financially. Connell feels that, for Marianne, the scholarship is a confirmation of “what she has always believed about herself anyway: that she’s special,” whereas for him it represents material freedom. Without the scholarship, Connell reflects, he would have been unable to go traveling through Europe and have culturally enriching experiences.
When they arrive at Marianne’s holiday home, the first person Connell encounters is Peggy. Although he has no absolute proof, he has recently become convinced that Peggy dislikes him. When Connell finally sees Marianne, he is overwhelmed by being in her presence. They kiss each other in greeting, and Connell has the feeling that unsaid things remain between them. Marianne has recently accepted an offer to study in Sweden, meaning she and Connell may not see each other until next June. Seeing Marianne in person again makes Connell realize how much he will miss her. Recently, the two of them have begun to consider their friendship in their email exchanges. While Marianne sees their friendship as mostly grounded in her interest in Connell’s opinions and a shared intellectual curiosity, Connell sees it in terms of the empathy he feels for Marianne.
When Jamie appears, Connell is completely overwhelmed by hatred for him. After Marianne and Jamie started dating, Connell fantasized continually about kicking Jamie in the head, and once, after an exchange with Jamie at a party, Connell punched a wall so hard his hand bled. As Marianne and Peggy prepare lunch, Connell feels compelled to tell Marianne that she looks “like an angel,” but realizing that this is inappropriate, he stops himself.
Helen is similar to Connell in that she was popular at school and has a reputation for being “a nice person.” She had one serious boyfriend before Connell, named Rory, but they broke up during her first year of college. When looking at pictures of Rory, Connell observes that they are physically similar, though Rory appears awkward and “uncool.” When he mentions...
(The entire section contains 1399 words.)
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