Five Months Later (December 2013) & Three Months Later (March 2014)

Summary: Five Months Later (December 2013)

Marianne has started a study year abroad, in Lund, Sweden. When she broke up with Jamie, he managed to get most of their friends to feel sorry for him. Only Joanna, who has always been nicer and more sensible than the others, sided with Marianne and kept in touch. Marianne is in a relationship with Lukas, a photographer who, like Jamie, is a sadist. He says humiliating things to Marianne during sex and requires her to wait for his permission before she showers afterward. Marianne does not enjoy the experience, but it produces a depression she finds tranquilizing.

Throwing away a half-eaten breakfast, Marianne goes up to Lukas’s loft for a photo session. The session begins with her taking her sweater off, then her bra. When Lukas prepares to tie Marianne’s wrists, she protests but submits. A blindfold follows. However, when Lukas declares that he loves Marianne and she loves him, she recoils in horror. She threatens to call the police, gets dressed, and leaves. Lukas is baffled. Outside on the sidewalk, Marianne wonders how someone could think that what Lukas was doing to her was an expression of love.

Summary: Three Months Later (March 2014)

At Trinity, Connell has been sinking into depression. One of Connell’s closest friends from his school days, Rob, committed suicide a few months ago, and Connell feels guilty over not staying in touch. Helen came with him to the funeral in Carricklea, but on seeing that Connell still had feelings for Marianne, who had come back from Sweden for the funeral, Helen grew jealous. Helen and Connell broke up soon after. Even apart from Rob’s suicide and the breakup with Helen, Connell hates his life at Trinity. The students are status-obsessed and generally much worse people than his former schoolmates. He also hears nasty things being said about Marianne, some of them coming from Jamie. Apparently there are kinky pictures of her on the internet, although he has not found them.

On Niall’s suggestion, Connell sees a counselor. After the counselor expresses concern over Connell’s responses on a diagnostic questionnaire, he pretends to her he will follow her recommendations. Connell has a more encouraging conversation after a book reading. The author who gave the reading is sympathetic when Connell admits to finding Trinity a hard place to fit in. Maybe, the author suggests, the experience will produce a story collection. Connell knows the author is joking, but it is a nice thought.

Analysis: Five Months Later (December 2013) & Three Months Later (March 2014)

Though both Marianne and Connell have experienced mental health issues earlier in the story, in these chapters, depression reaches new states of severity and threatens to consume them. Marianne’s depression has many causes, but it manifests in two main ways: self-starvation and continued sadistic abuse. In Sweden, Marianne practices eating her scant daily breakfast slowly as a way to train herself not to feel hungry. Her thinness is an indication of her feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing, and her depreciation of her body is tied to the things she allows Lukas to do to it. Marianne now feels a sinking invisibility, and it is a feeling she has cultivated since childhood as a survival mechanism. In playing “the game” with Lukas, which has punishments for breaking the rules, Marianne is recreating the patterns of abuse she is used to, and the numbness of depression is her reward for surviving them. Connell views his depression as an external rather than internal force. In doing so, he relieves himself any responsibility for his own happiness. Though Connell believes his depression is triggered by his feelings of guilt following Rob’s suicide, he is also suffering from his tendency to conceal the parts of him that are strange and most natural in an effort to be normal and well-liked. In returning to his writing notes, Connell realizes that there is beauty and joy in life’s little details.