‘Normal People’ is a romance drama that follows the story of two Irish teenagers, Marianne and Connell. Based on Sally Rooney’s book of the same name, it explores the meaning of a relationship through the lens of class divide and power dynamics between them. It also presents an accurate picture of modern love and ends on a note that reverberates with the reality of the viewers. If you haven’t seen the show yet, head over to Hulu. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Connell is popular in school, Marianne is not. They fall in love with each other but keep their affair a secret, which complicates their feelings, eventually ending their relationship. They meet again in college, where they see a flip in their conditions. Marianne is popular; Connell struggles to find his place. Once again, they are pulled back into each other’s lives, only to drift apart again when another problem surfaces.
After breaking up and coming back together again several times, Marianne and Connell finally find themselves in a content relationship with each other. Marianne gets away from her abusive brother and impassive mother, and Connell recovers from his depression. For Christmas, they go back to Sligo, and Marianne stays at Connell’s place. She comes across her mother but is completely ignored. They spend New Year’s together, and it all seems great for a while. However, another turn of fate arrives when it comes to light that Connell has been accepted for a creative writing program in New York. He decides not to go, but Marianne convinces him otherwise.
What does it mean for Marianne and Connell?
Marianne and Connell’s time after school had been full of troubling events that tested both of them mentally. They processed their losses and hurt in different ways. Marianne, who had never received love at home, always tried to find it outside. She found herself toxically dependent on these relationships and the sense of acceptance that she wanted from the people around her. The unhealthy environment at home pushed her on the path that repeatedly threw her in unhappy relationships and made her believe that perhaps, she deserved to be hurt.
Connell, on the other hand, reached the breaking point after Rob’s death. It wasn’t that he had never struggled socially, like Marianne. In fact, unlike her, he had always been more apprehensive of how his peers viewed him. At school, where he was popular, he didn’t want to stain his reputation by being associated with the unpopular Marianne. Despite his feelings for her, his actions were dominated by his fear of how his friends perceived him.
In college, which is an entirely different world from his hometown, he struggles to find the same place. While Marianne flourishes, owing to the change in perception of her behavior, Connell’s unease escalates. For a good part, he keeps it within himself. However, after Rob dies and he suffers from the guilt of not keeping in touch with him, he finds himself trapped under the walls that have collapsed on him.
In the final episode, both of them advance from this chaos into a more stable relationship with each other. They have learned from their mistakes, from the miscommunication and insecurities that pulled them apart previously. On discovering that he has been selected for the program in New York, Connell doesn’t want to leave this behind. He had only recently put himself together, and throwing himself into another unpredictable environment isn’t something he feels encouraged to do. But Marianne understands what a great opportunity it is, and even though he might not feel like going for it at the moment, he would regret it later if he didn’t act upon it.
In the end, it is decided that he would leave, but this also means letting go of their relationship. They have been apart before, and in all of these times, they have grown into other relationships, no matter how good or bad they have been. So, even though Connell would be leaving for just a year, it is a lot of time for their lives to take different turns, allowing them to meet other people. As Marianne says, they can’t promise each other that things would stay the same. They don’t know what it’s going to be like when they meet next. They don’t know what experiences will change them in what way. So, for now, parting ways is the logical thing.
However, they have parted before, and have managed to find their way back to each other. Even if they end up in different places with different people, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be there in one another’s life. Whatever their current situation might be, it is certainly not the end for Marianne and Connell. There came several times when it looked like they were done. But somehow, they always came back to each other, despite their other relationships. Who’s to say they won’t do that again?
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