Six Months Later (July 2013) Summary

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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 this to Helen, she is amused, as she thinks Connell, too, is “uncool.” Connell is surprised by this, but Helen assures him it’s a positive thing and affectionately teases him about his heavy Sligo accent.

Helen met Marianne in Dublin back in February. Connell considered dropping Helen’s hand when they encountered Marianne but could not bring himself to do so. Afterward, Helen correctly guessed that he and Marianne had a sexual history, and Connell is forced to admit they slept together during school and in their first year at Trinity. Although Helen initially tries to be friends with Marianne, she turns against her when she discovers Marianne’s opinionated nature. She accuses Marianne of being “self-absorbed” and acting “slutty.” Helen’s disdain unsettles Connell, and he regularly defends Marianne.

Connell believes that the aspects of his personality that connect him to Helen are the parts that are fundamentally real, normal, and good, while his connection with Marianne was based on a false idea that he shared her “damaged” nature and inability to fit in. One night while waiting for Helen to return from the gym, Connell ran into Marianne in the street and realized that the way he felt about her was completely different from how he felt about other people. As Helen arrived, Connell noted the contrast between the healthy relationship he enjoyed with Helen and the dysfunctional one he had with Marianne.

In Trieste, the group sits down to dinner in the garden, but tension rises between Jamie and Marianne when Jamie begins complaining about the champagne glasses. Marianne mentions that they belonged to her father, to which Jamie responds ironically, “I didn’t realize it was such an emotional issue for you.” After a pause in the conversation, Jamie begins talking about a friend of his, and Connell feels Marianne’s hand hover over his own as she refills his glass.

The morning after the swearing-in ceremony for their scholarships, Connell and Marianne went to breakfast together and discussed the politics of scholarships. Marianne contended that Connell was more deserving of the scholarship, by which he assumed she meant that he was more financially deserving. Marianne wondered if Connell resented her due to Lorraine working for the Sheridans, and Connell assured her that he didn’t. He confessed that he still felt uncomfortable with the class dynamics at Trinity, but this was partly because he was self-conscious about how people in Sligo would react to him receiving a scholarship and attending black-tie events with student servers. Marianne reminded him that he had always been overly concerned with what people at school thought. At that moment, Connell realized the dynamic of their relationship had shifted: it was now happening on Marianne’s terms, but Marianne was “more generous” and “a better person” than himself.

In Trieste, the group continues drinking outside, and Connell imagines himself and Marianne spending time in Italy together in the future. Marianne would complain to Connell about her dull, intellectual husband, and the two would laugh together. He can imagine her becoming a successful international journalist, but he struggles to picture what he will do with his life.

After Jamie makes a racist comment at the table, the atmosphere becomes increasingly strained. Jamie follows Marianne inside the house, and the two have an explosive argument. Connell goes into the kitchen after hearing a raised voice, and Jamie, who is extremely inebriated, purposely shatters one of Marianne’s father’s champagne glasses on the floor.

Marianne screams and moves as if to attack Jamie, but Connell intervenes by standing in between the two of them. He leads Marianne outside, to a secluded part of the garden, and comforts her. They smoke together in silence and agree that Marianne will sleep in Connell’s room that night.

As they lie side by side in Connell’s bed, Connell briefly thinks about having sex with Marianne, aware that she would comply with whatever he wished. Marianne begins to question why she cannot be like “normal people” and find love. For the first time, she confesses to Connell the extent of her family’s abuse, telling him that Alan said she should commit suicide the last time she visited Sligo. She feels that Alan’s psychological abuse affects her more than anything. The fact that Marianne never mentioned this when they were together shocks Connell. He finds himself in tears, and as he holds her close, they begin to kiss. They are about to have sex, but Marianne stops Connell. Connell is alarmed at what has nearly happened between them and apologizes to Marianne, but she merely squeezes his hand and turns away.

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