Normal People Characters
The main characters in Normal People are Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron.
- Marianne Sheridan begins the novel as a loner but goes on to become popular at Trinity College, where she studies History and Politics. Intelligent and sensitive, she suffers abuse from her partners and wealthy family before ultimately gaining a sense of self-worth through her relationship with Connell.
- Connell Waldron is a popular, working-class student who begins seeing Marianne in secret during high school. He studies English at Trinity, where he feels alienated and suffers from depression. Connell’s relationship with Marianne allows him to overcome his deep-seated insecurities.
Last Updated on August 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1299
Marianne Sheridan is one of the two central characters in Normal People. As an outcast and loner, she spends much of her formative years imagining a better and more fulfilling existence.
Her home life is characterized by an abusive relationship with her family, which arguably goes on to influence some of the more toxic relationships she forms as a young adult. Marianne had a violent father, and her older brother, Alan, frequently abuses her physically and mentally. At first, Connell’s relationship with Marianne seems to offer a fresh start, as she believes that her life is starting anew. But although Connell never physically abuses Marianne, his insistence on keeping the relationship secret and him likening himself to a “deviant” and “serial killer” for conducting a sexual relationship with her contributes to Marianne further internalizing the idea that her family has already instilled in her: that she is unworthy and unlovable.
Although the course of Marianne’s life changes when she secures a place at Trinity College—where she becomes popular, cultivating a wide circle of friends—she is ultimately being supported by a social hierarchy that she previously deplored. Yet Marianne’s abusive upbringing continues to influence the relationships she chooses throughout university. When she becomes involved with a friend called Jamie, who she practices sadomasochism with, her feelings of inferiority and depression also return. In thinking about their “shared proclivities,” she observes that “her body feels like a carcass, something immensely heavy and awful that she must carry around.” This simile gestures toward Marianne’s sense of detachment from her body and the emptiness she feels inside. In another abusive relationship with a photographer called Lukas, she also refers to her body as comparable to “litter,” implying her low self-worth.
Despite Marianne’s struggles to overcome her demons, a turning point occurs when, while in a sexually exploitive relationship with Lukas, she finally overpowers Lukas by refusing to tolerate his treatment of her. The “tranquilizing” mental effect that Lukas induces in her is akin to a slow, mechanical suicide. But in rejecting his advances, she finally embraces her autonomy and ownership over her body. As Normal People reaches its conclusion, Marianne and Connell now experience a mutually supportive relationship, with Marianne’s influence having drastically impacted Connell’s identity and the trajectory of his life. In encouraging Connell to continue his personal development independently of her by pursuing an MFA in New York, she is able to let Connell go while remaining confident that they will always remain part of each other’s lives.
Connell Waldron is the co-protagonist of Normal People. Connell arguably undergoes the most radical personal growth of any character, transforming from an individual desperate for the approval of other people to someone who is fearless in pursuing his ambition and standing up for what he believes in. Connell’s intense anxiety is manifested in his relationship with...
(The entire section contains 1299 words.)
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