Normal People

by Sally Rooney

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Two Days Later (April 2011) – Three Months Later (February 2012) Summary

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Two Days Later (April 2011)

Connell visits his grandmother, who has recently had a fall, in the hospital. She is a young grandmother at only fifty-eight, the same age as Marianne’s mother. Connell believes that his grandmother “hates him for being alive.” He considers the physical differences between himself and his mother: Lorraine has soft features and is considered attractive by his friends at school, while Connell has a roguish appearance. He finds it strange how his friends often ask about his father, who has never been in his life, when they are drunk. Many of Connell’s friends are obsessed with their fathers, wishing to either emulate them or differentiate themselves from them. Connell’s grandmother questions him about his university choices. Some of Connell’s family are impressed by his choice of Trinity, but he feels secretly embarrassed that he is applying for English, which he feels will lead to no real job prospects.

Connell reflects on the moment he told Marianne he loved her and the agonizing wait for her to say it back. He wishes that he knew more about how others conducted relationships so that he could imitate them. One day, as Marianne is leaving Connell’s house, Lorraine sees her. She teases her son about his relationship with Marianne, but he insists they are not boyfriend and girlfriend. She suggests to Connell the possibility that Marianne’s family considers themselves superior to Connell’s and would be embarrassed by the association, but he believes the idea ludicrous.

Connell’s friends tease him about the night he took Marianne home after the Debs fundraiser, and he begins to regret telling Marianne he loved her. Remembering having done so begins to feel akin to “watching himself commit a terrible crime on CCTV.” As he thinks about what he has done, Connell vomits in the toilet at school. He resolves to ask Rachel, the girl who taunted Marianne, to the Debs, and she says yes. Later, while in the car with Lorraine, Connell confesses to what he has done. Lorraine is outraged at her son, believing Connell has made this decision because Marianne is unpopular. Feeling deeply ashamed of her son, Lorraine leaves the car, too angry to engage with him.

Four Months Later (August 2011)

Marianne and Connell receive their exam results, with Connell receiving the highest score in the school: six A1s. As Marianne sits in the garden, her brother, Alan, speaks to Connell on the phone in a sycophantic way . Believing Marianne to be friendless and pathetic, Alan jokingly asks Connell if he wants to speak to her. Marianne insists she is not interested, but Alan responds by shoving the phone into her chest, hurting her. Marianne hangs up the phone, which outrages Alan.

In a flashback, Marianne relives the moment that Connell told her he had asked Rachel to the Debs. Marianne stopped attending school shortly after and began studying from home, only returning to school to sit exams. Her humiliation at not being able to attend the Debs, despite helping organize their fundraiser, was so acute that she felt she had no option but to leave. During a brief exchange with Lorraine, Marianne requested that Connell no longer enter the Sheridan family home when collecting his mother.

The scene returns to the garden, as Alan aggressively presses Marianne on why she would not speak to Connell. Marianne hints at the intimate nature of their relationship and tells Alan he should ask Connell himself. As Marianne’s mother, Denise, arrives home, Alan warns Marianne to not tell their mother about their bitter exchange. Marianne complies, having accepted this way of...

(This entire section contains 1442 words.)

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living all her life. It is Denise who has instilled in Marianne the idea that she has an “unlovable” personality because she refuses to beg for love from those around her.

Three Months Later (November 2011)

Connell has begun studying at Trinity College and is attending a party alone that evening, having been invited by a boy called Gareth. He feels intensely self-conscious at the party as he looks around at the other students there. Connell dislikes the hypocrisy of many students at Trinity, who seem artificial to him, adopting whichever attitude and personality most suits their purpose.

Gareth takes Connell to meet his girlfriend, who turns out to be Marianne. She appears delighted to see Connell, though she is much changed and now appears to have become both more attractive and more popular, with a large group of friends. As Marianne and Connell exchange pleasantries, Connell realizes that they have experienced a role reversal, with Marianne having become greatly admired and sociable, while Connell has become a loner. Marianne confesses that she has missed Connell. Connell tells her that he had a brief relationship with Rachel in the summer, but they have since broken up.

After Marianne left school in April, Connell entered a period of depression. He began seeing Rachel in July, but their relationship was shallow and unfulfilling, serving only to increase his loneliness. At the Debs, Connell spoke to his friend Eric and discovered that everyone had known about his and Marianne’s sexual relationship, but no one had cared. Connell is then forced to acknowledge that he sacrificed his relationship with Marianne and his happiness for nothing.

As the scene returns to the party, Marianne makes oblique references to their past sexual relationship. Connell still feels close to Marianne and is no longer ashamed of his attraction to her. Since their break-up, Connell has always believed that he would apologize to Marianne for his treatment of her if given the chance, yet he still cannot bring himself to do so.

Three Months Later (February 2012)

Marianne gets into Connell’s car after a party the night before. She apologizes for her actions the previous night, seeming painfully embarrassed.

At the party, Marianne shared a bottle of Cointreau with her close friends Joanna and Peggy, who both study History and Politics alongside Marianne. While Joanna is erudite, Peggy is more of a free spirit and even persuaded Marianne to do a line of cocaine before Christmas. Connell has begun casually dating a mutual friend of theirs, Teresa, and though Teresa is a perfectly nice person, Marianne frequently tries to goad Connell into disparaging her.

As the three women talk about men’s fashion, Peggy makes a comment about Connell wearing tracksuits. Joanna is surprised by this comment, believing it to be a reference to Connell’s working-class background. Although Peggy insists that she was not being prejudiced, the comment causes tension between Joanna and Peggy. Peggy later persuades Marianne, who is now extremely drunk, to share a joint with her. Afterward, Marianne approaches Connell on the staircase and flirts with him, asking if Teresa is better “in bed” than she is. She asks Connell to have sex with her, but he refuses, only giving her a friendly kiss at her insistence.

Back in the car, Marianne worries that she has disrespected Connell with her comments. He insists he is not in a relationship with Teresa, but Marianne remains concerned she has overstepped the boundaries of their friendship. Since reconnecting in Dublin, Marianne and Connell have become good friends, with Connell frequently visiting Marianne in her apartment, where they drink together and share confidences. Connell is open with Marianne about his struggles to fit in, emphasizing that he believes it is a class issue.

One night, when sharing a bed, Connell asks Marianne if her new friends know about their history. She says that they do not and, when pressed by Connell, admits that she would not want them to know, for fear of them judging her for her passivity during her relationship with Connell. Marianne asks if he ever considered asking her to the Debs, and he confesses that he didn’t, before telling her that it wouldn’t have mattered if they had been open about their relationship, as everyone knew. He admits to a deep sense of guilt concerning the way he treated Marianne, which he believes was due to his own sense of insecurity. Marianne forgives him, and Connell says that he believes he has changed for the better because of her. The two fall asleep holding hands.

The narration returns to the scene following the party. Connell takes Marianne to her apartment, and she showers while he eats. Marianne returns from the shower wearing just a bathrobe, which Connell undoes. It has been almost a year since they last slept together. When Connell touches her, he thinks, “she feels holy, like a shrine.” After the two have sex, Marianne declares that intimacy is never like this with other people.

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Two Months Later (April 2012) – Four Months Later (January 2013) Summary