Normal People

by Sally Rooney

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

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Two Months Later (April 2012)

Connell and Marianne have resumed seeing each other. One evening, Connell arrives at Marianne’s apartment as most of her friends are leaving. Peggy, who is tipsy, asks the two of them if they are sleeping together. Connell is lost for words, but Marianne admits that they are and that they have a history. Connell and Marianne’s relationship is currently going well; they spend their evenings together, cooking, drinking wine, and sleeping together. After sex, they have philosophical discussions, and the intellectual nature of their conversations seems to heighten their sexual relationship.

Connell no longer returns to Carricklea at the weekends, as he now works in the restaurant of their friend’s father in an administrative role. Connell is aware that he has come to partake of the privilege of the middle and upper classes, with his connection with Marianne serving to bolster his status. At university, his intellectual confidence has also grown, and after completing a presentation on LeMorte d’Arthur, a classmate calls him a “genius.” He is equally gratified by Marianne bragging to her high-status friends about his intelligence.

In Marianne’s apartment, Peggy asks Connell if he would be interested in the prospect of multiple partners, before coyly proposing a threesome to him and Marianne. Connell thinks the intimacy between himself and Marianne is too intense to be shared and that a threesome would destroy him. Marianne resolves the situation by saying she is too “self-conscious” to do such a thing.

When Peggy leaves, Connell thanks Marianne for intervening, but Marianne insists that she would have gone ahead with the threesome if that had been what Connell wanted. This makes Connell realize, to his horror, that he could do anything to Marianne, even hit her in the face, and she would accept it. The thought of his power over her causes him to feel nauseous and deeply alarmed, though he does not tell her his thoughts. Marianne asks if she has done something wrong, but Connell laughs the matter off.

Three Months Later (July 2012)

Marianne has returned home to Carricklea and is in the supermarket. As Marianne goes to the checkout, she spots Lorraine, who congratulates her on her achievements so far at university. Connell avoids eye contact with Marianne as she chats with his mother. Lorraine insists on giving Marianne a lift home.

Connell and Marianne have not seen each other since May, when Connell moved home to Carricklea. He had told her he wanted to see other people, which Marianne was forced to accept. As they were never technically boyfriend and girlfriend, Marianne considers herself as not even his ex-girlfriend, but as “nothing.” Connell asks Marianne about her newest relationship with a friend of hers from Trinity, Jamie. Marianne feels like all her energy leaves her whenever she thinks about the “proclivities” that she and Jamie share. After their latest break-up, Marianne had been ignoring any contact from Connell. She had felt mortified by having to relay the details of their break-up to her friends, to whom she had spoken about Connell so admiringly.

Marianne has returned to town for her late father’s anniversary mass. Connell asks her if she would like him to attend the mass, and she politely accepts his offer. She apologizes for ignoring Connell’s messages, and he asks if she still wants to be friends. Marianne insists that she does wish to remain friends, despite what has happened between them. Marianne thinks that Connell will attend the mass looking as “innocent as a lamb” and that their friendship will be revived once more.

Six Weeks Later (September...

(This entire section contains 1564 words.)

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Connell goes to meet Marianne for coffee in Dublin, but he is running late. They have not seen each other since July at the anniversary mass. Marianne appears fatigued and unwell to Connell.

Until spring, Connell had planned to stay in Dublin with Marianne, but his hours were cut at his office job, making it financially impossible. As he stayed at Marianne’s apartment most nights anyway, he considered asking if he could stay with her until September. After an exam, Connell went to Marianne’s apartment and abruptly told her he could not afford his rent that summer. Marianne reacted coldly to this, assuming that Connell wanted to go home to Carricklea. Connell decided that it was now too late to ask Marianne if he could stay with her. Feeling he had no other option, he assumed Marianne would want to date others, which she agreed to. After Connell left, he cried, realizing that his fantasy of them living together, along with their relationship, had now died. Now that Marianne is dating Jamie, Connell believes Marianne had wanted to date others all along.

The night Marianne left Carricklea for Dublin again, Connell went out drinking with some old classmates and purposefully drank as much as he could stand. At a nightclub, he ran into Paula Neary, his old economics teacher, who it was rumored had a crush on Connell and had always made him uncomfortable in school. They went back to Paula’s house, where she tried to force herself on him sexually. Panicked, Connell felt he was going to be sick and took the opportunity to stand up and button his trousers, which Paula had unbuttoned. The next morning, he woke up fully clothed in his living room, with no memory of how he had gotten there.

In the coffee shop, Marianne confesses that Jamie is a “sadist” and enjoys beating her during sex. Connell is shocked by this admission, especially when Marianne admits that the sadism was her idea. She explains that although she doesn’t really enjoy it, she wanted to know that she could degrade herself for someone if she had to and that she sometimes feels she deserves to be treated badly. This explanation makes Connell deeply uncomfortable. When he asks why she never mentioned her interest in sadism when they were together, Marianne explains that things were “real” with Connell, while with Jamie she is simply “acting a part.” Connell, unlike Jamie, has complete power over her.

Four Months Later (January 2013)

Scholarship exams have just finished, and Marianne is in her apartment, smoking cigarettes with friends. Peggy has recently started spending more time with Marianne, but she also frequently makes fun of Marianne in front of others and then apologizes when they’re alone.

Marianne reflects that early in her relationship with Jamie, she had asked him to hurt her, so he had begun tying her up and hitting her. Deep down, she feels no respect for Jamie, but she hates herself for admitting this. Peggy, who has low expectations of men, likes Jamie and becomes actively hostile when Marianne hints that their relationship could end.

That night, Marianne receives a phone call from Connell, who has just been mugged while out drinking in Dun Laoghaire. Marianne suggests that he take a taxi to her place so that she can pay the driver for him.

In September, Connell told Marianne about what had happened between himself and Paula Neary. This caused Marianne to feel an uncharacteristic rage, and she expressed a desire to “slit” Paula’s throat.

At Christmastime, when Marianne returned home, Alan was as aggressive as ever toward her, accusing her of bragging about her academic prowess during dinner with their aunt and uncle. Although Marianne insisted it was them who brought up her exams, Alan continued to verbally abuse her before grabbing her by the arm and spitting on her—an incident their mother, Denise, dismissed as “sibling rivalry.” On Christmas, Denise gave Marianne money yet questioned her ability to survive in the real world, asking Marianne if Marianne thought of herself as “special.” Marianne answered that she did not.

At one in the morning, Connell arrives with a split lip and blood on his face. Marianne comments that his pupils are huge, and Connell flirts with her by saying that they’re always like that when he sees her. When Marianne states that he must be drunk, Connell becomes increasingly irritated. After Jamie enters the room, Connell is petty and confrontational with him. Jamie moves close to Marianne, who is suddenly extremely conscious of his looks, noticing that he has a receding hairline and a “weak, jawless face.” The contrast between Jamie’s ugliness and Connell’s charisma is striking to her. Once everyone else has gone home, Connell questions Marianne about why she is with Jamie, pointing out that she receives plenty of male attention and could be with someone else.

After Connell asks Marianne if she is in love with Jamie, he confesses that he is in a relationship himself, with a medical student named Helen Brophy. When Connell confirms that he loves Helen, Marianne breaks down in tears. Connell tries to comfort her, but she rejects his affection and demands that he leave. Once Marianne has calmed down, Connell says that he is unsure what happened between them last summer and confesses that he had wanted to stay with Marianne in her apartment. Shocked, Marianne says she had thought he was breaking up with her and that he would have been welcome to stay.

The next day, Jamie kisses Marianne “in front of everyone” and asks what happened to Connell the previous night. Marianne laughs, saying that Connell was completely “out of it” from drinking.


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