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Possibly as a joke, Marianne has been put on the planning committee for the annual dance for graduating students (the equivalent of the senior prom). As a result, Marianne has to attend a fundraiser at a nightclub that Connell will be at as well. The girl in charge, Rachel Moran, talks as though she and Connell have a special relationship, but by now, Connell and Marianne have become more serious. Last week, Connell took Marianne on a tour of an abandoned housing estate. She found the filth in the buildings unsettling but used the opportunity to make smutty conversation. When Marianne joked about leaving him for someone else, it was Connell’s turn to feel unsettled.
Marianne arrives at the club in a clingy black dress. Connell arrives a little later with his friends Rob and Eric. Eric once loudly called Marianne flat-chested, but now he compliments her appearance. Not used to alcohol, Marianne gets slightly drunk. At the bar, a man the same age as Marianne’s brother pinches her breast, hard. Angry and in pain, Marianne retreats to a hallway. When the others from her school find her there and Connell shows concern, Rachel reacts with jealousy. Connell snaps at Rachel and offers to take Marianne home, which she accepts. But in the car, Connell invites Marianne to his house, instead. Lorraine is already in bed. In Connell’s room, Marianne talks about her fear of being physically assaulted. When she tells Connell that her father used to hit her mother, Connell assures Marianne that he would never do something like that. He tells her that he loves her and that she is beautiful. In Marianne’s mind, that moment marks the start of her new life. Years, later, she will still think so.
Connell is second-guessing his statement to Marianne that he loved her. He is not sure that he does love her. They fell asleep after sex and awoke the next morning as Lorraine came home from grocery shopping. After Marianne left, Lorraine said she was fond of Marianne but was curious whether Marianne was Connell’s girlfriend. Connell responded evasively. At school the following day, when Connell’s male friends wanted to know whether he had slept with Marianne, he angrily denied doing so. They mockingly urged him to ask Marianne to the dance. In a bathroom, Connell remembered how Marianne told him he was a nice person. The thought made Connell throw up.
Connell and Lorraine visit his grandmother is in the hospital, where she was taken after a fall. During the drive home, Connell tells his mother that he asked Rachel to the dance. When Lorraine learns that he has not yet told Marianne he will not be taking her to the dance, Lorraine is livid and demands to be let out. She takes a bus the rest of the way home.
Emotional inexperience and lack of communication threaten Connell and Marianne’s relationship in the April 2011 chapters. Connell doesn’t allow Marianne access to his personal life but is surprised to learn that she doesn’t understand who he really is. Though Marianne’s questions about his potential love life are meant to be light, he is slow to answer and offers no concrete details. Instead of telling her what he does do, he tells what he does not do: sleep with other girls. Though the answer appears to mollify Marianne, the burden of extracting information from him rests on her shoulders, and because they have not defined their relationship, she is forced to challenge him to communicate any real feelings for her. Connell is overwhelmed by the connection he has with Marianne, and their intimacy has made it difficult for him to understand his feelings. When she is assaulted at the fundraiser, Connell’s inexperience with emotional intimacy leads him to assure Marianne that he loves her. While the moment is significant for Marianne, who is at a level of distinct vulnerability, it becomes a source of shame and dread for Connell. His inexperience and lack of concrete examples of healthy emotional intimacy cause him to falter and fail to follow through on the promises a declaration of love implies.
Though it is apparent that Marianne lives in a large house and that Lorraine works as her family’s cleaner, these chapters uncover a greater tension in the socioeconomic differences between the Sheridan and Waldron families. Reputation is important in Carricklea, and wealth plays a large role in determining a family’s reputation. Though Connell’s working-class family is judged for his uncles’ risky behavior and his mother’s teenage pregnancy and lack of formal education, Connell himself is viewed as a model teen citizen. However, his economic status and modest upbringing shed some light on his desire to fit in and maintain his social status. These chapters reveal moments when Connell stands out as “other” due to his lack of means in comparison with those around him. At the ghost estate, Marianne is embarrassed when Connell comments on the size of the empty four-bedroom house and compares it to his own modest home. Later at the fundraiser, Connell’s informal shirt and regularly worn sneakers stand out in comparison to his classmates’ formalwear and shiny dress shoes. In Lorraine’s inability to understand why Connell and Marianne aren’t a couple, she offers a wounding suggestion: perhaps Marianne’s mother thinks Connell isn’t good enough for her. Connell’s irritation at the idea causes him to question Marianne’s integrity and likely leads to his decision to take Rachel to the Debs. In his perceived notion of the Sheridans’ socioeconomic bias, Connell’s pride overshadows his need for connection with Marianne.