Depression and Trauma Manifested on a Relationship in Normal People

Hands down, I consider this novel to be one of my favourites for a while. Its plot will have you overwhelmed, and at the same time it’ll slap in your face the unfolding of life problems, uncovering the mess and confusion one feels while growing up. You may shed a tear, or two while reading Normal People.

Sally Rooney wrote Normal People originally in 2018, a year later she won the British Book Award for Book of the year. No wonder she deserves the award; this novel has been a bestseller since it got published.

Normal People is a story that involves two characters, Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron. They will test your patience with their relationship, but oh how you will love these two! They both happen to go to the same school in Ireland.

They both happen to be excellent students. However, when it comes down to their lives, everything seems different and things do not go as excellent in that aspect. 

Marianne is raised in a wealthy family, but most importantly, she is raised by her widowed mother who apparently considers violent behaviour from men acceptable. 

Including her abusive husband and son who is privileged and is allowed to do anything – to his sister as well. Whereas Conell is raised by his single mother, who had him when she was a teenager and who works as a cleaning lady for the Sheridan’s, Marianne’s family. 

On the contrary, Conell’s mother is a wonderful woman who has done everything for Conell to be raised and educated in the best way possible. 


Hiding Secrets

Marianne and Connell fall into a very complicated and very secret relationship. Wondering why this relationship is held as a secret at first? Well Marianne is rude with teachers, doesn’t have any friends and the others at school think that she hasn’t even shaved her legs since forever! 

How they are treated in the school, their place, and social hierarchy is what complicates this relationship even more.  This novel observes these two for four years, between 2011 and 2015. Everything changes when they both get accepted at Trinity College in Dublin. 

While in high school, Conell worries that his friends might know about their relationship, Connell now gets to stay with the ‘cool guys’ only through Marianne’s connections. 


Pain and Troubles

A year passes by, Marianne is doing okay within her place in society. Connell is now the one who is shy and unsure of everything. Somehow, they are both out there trying to get on with their lives, taking new possibilities but irresistibly, magnetically they are always drawn back to each other. 

How far are they willing to go the save their unique relationship, despite its toxicity which you can pretty much absorb throughout the whole novel? 

Sally Rooney
Sharp Contrast: Sally Rooney develops two characters from very different backgrounds

And as we read along, the plot becomes even more painful as Marianne decides to pursue a self-destructive path. She considers herself abnormal and unworthy of love. In their on-again-of-again relationship, Marianne slowly decides to confess to Connell how she was afraid of telling him about her miserable life at home, as she was scared, he would think that she is damaged. Little does she know, that Connell already knows she is damaged, but he chooses to love her either way.

The troubled couple are constantly wondering about their flaws, what is wrong with life, dealing with so much insecurity and trauma that absorbs the reader too, making the book a bit overwhelming.

What is Considered Normal?

In the final part of the novel, Mariane thinks that she is finally achieving the so-called ‘normal life’. She feels like a normal person now, finally, being able to walk on campus, live her life without being judged by others. 

Most importantly, she doesn’t feel the need to punish herself for being weird, evil or abnormal – 

All these things she once thought for herself, as she even reaches to a point in the story where she has a sadomasochistic relationship with Jamie and Lukas, her ‘casual’ boyfriends of no relevance.  

Issues such as, emotional and physical pain, submission, working class, privilege, passivity, kindness, anxiety and depression all come into play. Marianne and Connell, aren’t sure about their future, what will they do to further their lives?


Speaking To The Reader

The book speaks to us profoundly, of just how much we struggle and strive to keep our ‘weirdness’ and real feelings deep, deep within ourselves. It talks about shame and how we are too scared to open up to other people about our deepest wounds, thinking that they may use this as a tool against us, at some point. 

Not all of us know how to cope properly with feelings of weirdness within us. Marianne, for instance, seeks physical pain, to condemn her bizarre feelings which she considers abnormal.

The couple struggles to find the true meaning of ‘normal’ as they go through different and difficult stages of their lives.

By the end of this novel, Marianne and Connell do seem to achieve a sort of balance in their troubled lives and their one-of-a-kind relationship. They understand what’s best for each other, and they cherish each other’s accomplishments, finally being able to speak openly about their past. 

There’s also one interesting thing that finalizes this novel, which shows how matured they manage to become. But I’ll leave that up to you to find out, as this novel is certainly worth the read!

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