Normal People - A Millennial Love Story which Addresses Modern Day Depression

The highlights of the last seven weeks of lockdown are few and far between. We’ve had the unbelievable frontline effort from NHS staff, the weekly shows of appreciation with our pots and pans, and the magnanimity of Captain Tom who raised a gargantuan sum for the NHS.

We now have another to add to the list with the adaptation of the second book by the acclaimed writer, Sarah Rooney. The nation is fast becoming utterly engrossed by the majestic, modern masterpiece that is Normal People.

Normal People is a tale between two star-crossed lovers, the Irish teenagers, Marianne and Connell, who navigate a thoroughly immersive on-off relationship spanning high school and university. 

Man Behind The Mirror - Situational Anxiety - Normal People

The story addresses the euphoria and perils of first love; the first kiss, the unchartered physical and emotional closeness, the feeling that you can be with all of your best friends, yet yearn to share the laugh only with one another. It also shows the naivety of first love, and the brutality, and longstanding and irreparable damage, of the first betrayal.

The love-story is defined by issues such as social class and depression. Social class is the most significant, serving as a road-block to even the strongest forces of gravitational attraction.

However, it is Connell's portrayal of suffering from depression that is perhaps the most absorbing. Whilst at university, one of his friends from home, in Country Sligo, commits suicide. The event has a deep and longstanding effect on him. He partly blames himself for the tragedy, having been away from home at university, and not being quick enough to respond when his friend tried to get in touch.

The feeling of guilt over his friend's death combines with other underlying factors to morph into depression. Connell is already feeling deeply lonely at university, as he struggles to fit in with his peers who are vastly different to his friends back home. This is in stark contrast to high school where he was popular amongst his friends and excelled in Gaelic football.

Connell’s living situation is also far away from the comforts of being back at home. Connell lives in a house with strangers, and shares a room, albeit with a friend. Money issues make matters worse, as when he is furloughed by the restaurant he works at, he must rent out his room and return home for the Summer. This has a detrimental effect on his relationship with Marianne, who mistakenly takes it at a slant towards her.

One of the most compelling scenes of the series is when Connell visits a psychiatrist who asks how he is feeling. He eventually opens-up, revealing the source of his angst, and the tears flow. It is a vivid and useful reminder as to the strains that we can all feel as emotional beings, and how even the strongest-looking amongst us can all be internally haemorrhaged by events such feeling lonely or losing a loved one.

In the story, Connell and Marianne oscillate into, and out, of each others lives through a series of mishaps and miscommunications. The beauty of the story is that Connell's depression brings them together once more. By just being there, listening and counselling, Marianne helps Connell through his depression, safely to the other side.

The series eloquently shows the importance and value of reaching out for help and sharing troubles with other people. A problem shared is certainly a problem halved. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Written by Christopher Bolland, Man Behind The Mirror