Normal People

This study guide will help you analyze the novel Normal People (2018) by Sally Rooney. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective. The quotes from the study guide are taken from the 2019 paperback edition published by Faber & Faber.

Sally Rooney (b. 1991) is an Irish author and screenwriter. Normal People (2018) was Rooney’s greatest success yet, having been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The novel has also been adapted into a television series in 2020, which was nominated for two Emmy Awards. Rooney’s other published novels are Conversations with Friends (2017) and Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021). 

Excerpt from the study guide:

The novel also explores the theme of modern relationships, by looking at the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Throughout the novel, their relationship is complex and tumultuous and changes frequently. They start out by having a secret relationship that is primarily based on physical attraction and sex, as they do not discuss their feelings for each other. After breaking up unexpectedly, they then get back together in university in a similar kind of relationship:

You actually make a very cute couple, says Peggy.

 Thanks, Connell says. 

I didn’t say couple, says Marianne. 

Oh, says Peggy. You mean like, you’re not exclusive? That’s cool. (p. 95)

Connell and Marianne continue to break up, date other people, and then get together again. Throughout the novel, they never have a traditional relationship where they are boyfriend and girlfriend and at the end of the novel their relationship status remains vague. 

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Normal People

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