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Marianne likes to read but hates school, with its uniforms and its silly rules, like mandatory attendance at athletic events. At a recent soccer game where Connell was playing, Marianne did not care about the score and instead thought about how beautiful it would be to watch Connell having sex with someone. Marianne knows that these kinds of thoughts make her different from the others at school.
After the kitchen conversation, Connell came to the house more often. Being with him often left Marianne feeling both energized and drained. Last week, when Connell asked what Marianne meant by saying she liked him, she replied, “not just as a friend.” Connell responded by kissing her. When he joked that she acted like she had not kissed anyone before, Marianne replied that she had not. The next time Connell was at her house, he came up to her bedroom and they began kissing. Marianne wanted to undress, but he said they should stop.
Today, as Marianne is about to go out, her older brother, Alan, stops her and grips her arm tightly enough to hurt. Alan demands to know that she has no friends and is not going to see anyone. Marianne says she is just going out for a walk. A little later, however, Marianne is at Connell’s front door, where he lets her in, checking that no one saw her arrive.
While lying in bed beside Marianne, Connell works on his college applications. He was planning to study Law in Galway, even though he cannot imagine being a lawyer. Marianne urges him to study English at Trinity College in Dublin, where she will be studying History and Politics. After all, Marianne says, he, like her, spends all his free time reading.
Connell feels a strange, intimate connection with Marianne. He does not understand his urge to be with her. Marianne is not especially attractive and is despised at school, but Connell finds her fascinating. Her life is free, he thinks, whereas he feels trapped. Studying Law in Galway would preserve the life he has now, whereas studying English in Dublin would mean the end of all his social connections in Carricklea. Connell’s current friends would consider him a failure or just forget about him. He has a sense of being two people but cannot keep both of them alive. Finally, lying next to Marianne, Connell decides on English at Trinity, trying in his mind to pretend that he can keep his life with Marianne separate from his life at school, and can maintain both existences.
These chapters begin to build on the fragility of self-worth. Up to this point, during their final year of secondary school, Marianne’s intelligence is the only social currency she has. She wears her intelligence as a shield and expresses herself with proud indifference. However, as Marianne begins to fantasize about Connell in an intimate way, she senses that her thoughts make her weird. In her willingness to keep their friendship and burgeoning sexual relationship a secret, a lack of self-worth emerges. This suggests that Marianne has likely internalized many of the cruel things her classmates have said about her. Connell’s insistence that they keep their relationship a secret is an indication of his own fragile self-esteem. He views his attraction to Marianne as a perverse desire. Though the connection brings him easy pleasures he hadn’t thought possible, he often finds their emotional bond painful, and he believes that bringing light to their relationship would call for a death of self.
Freedom versus confinement is also a large focus of these chapters. Marianne sees her peers, including Connell, existing easily in an environment she finds oppressive. Connell, however, views Marianne’s rebellion against social norms as a sign of her freedom while he feels trapped by them. In reality, Marianne feels trapped inside a single identity she is unable to change, and she attributes any differences in her personality around Connell to their shared connection rather than to her own ability to be multifaceted. In both hiding and nurturing his relationship with Marianne, Connell feels trapped in two different identities, and he fears the inevitable choice he will have to make in embracing one over the other. As they prepare for college, both enjoy the privacy of their relationship in what they perceive as a safe space in which each has the freedom to grow on their own terms.