Textuality » 5LSCA Interacting

ICorazza - 5LSCA - Normal People
by ICorazza - (2019-09-24)
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The object of the present text is to provide my personal idea of the narrative function of the first chapter of the novel Normal People written by Sally Rooney.

It is not meant to give definitive answers but I am going to make some possible conjectures supported by textual references.


To start with, the novel was written in 2017 by an Irish writer and it is considered one of the best contemporary novels.

Reading the title the intelligent reader immediately understands it is not an English novel but an Irish one because “normal” is a common Irish word. However it is interesting to know why the writer decided to name the novel Normal People since people are peculiar. But only at the end of the reading people could understand it.

“Normal” is somebody who follows the norms, consequently reading the title the reader may expect the novel to be about somebody who is not strong enough and therefore he/she follows the rules as a form of self protection.


Looking now at the front page the reader can see a man and a girl inside a half-open tin and he ore she could assume people are inside the tin because they are scared about the others but at the same time they want to be looked slowly. Reflecting over the picture the intelligent reader understands the tin gives them protection because they are scared of people’ s prejudices and that is common to search protection in 21th century especially between teenagers.


Moving on with the analysis, a fundamental part is the quotation before the first chapter.

It is a quotation from Daniel Deronda by George Eliot, and it is a map for the whole novel.

There are used words like conversion, revelation, earth, heaven and personality that have a significant role  and they all come from the religious code.

Conversion means a change in making something, revelation means giving one self away to be saved,  the earth stands for the rational and heaven for the irrational. Therefore the intelligent reader may understand the quotation hints at the idea that neither heaven nor earth can tell people something important till  some personality touches their personal one making them receptive. In other words the quotation may mean that people are so important because everyone creates his or her identity in relation to the people they meet.

Now it is important to understand why the quotation is fundamental for the novel.


Analysing the first chapter, the reader notices that there is a particular structure indeed every chapter is a part of the two protagonist ‘s life.(Marianne and Connell)

The first one starts with “January 2011” and it is probably that Sally Rooney decided to start with January to emphasize the idea of beginning.

An other important aspect is that the simple present is used even if habits are not reported. The reason for its use may be because it creates a sense of a concrete situation.

It is clear that the register used is informal and just reading the first chapter the reader knows three characters. They are Marianne and Connell, two guys who attend the high school, and Lorraine, Connell’s mother, who works at Marianne’s house as an housewife. It is immediately clear that Marianne and Connell belong to different social classes. The reader may realise the two guys attend collage because Marianne wears the school uniform and because they are talking about some tests results.

Right from the start the reader understand that Connell is tentative and insecure and that he searches protection because he puts his hands into his pocket, which is an action recurring in boys, because he wants to end immediately the conversation with the girl and because he always asks questions so that it is always his interlocutor who is to make any decision.

Contrary to this, Marianne seems to be more independent, sure of herself and able to manage a situation.


Reading the first chapter the reader understand that Marianne and Connell never speak to each other at school so it is interesting to find the reason why. However you could assume that this is because they belong to different classes, or because Connell is scared of other people's thoughts about them since Marianne is not popular, she has no friends and she always stays alone.


All thins considered I may assume the function of the first chapter is to introduce the main characters to the readers and to foster some questions so that if they want to find an answer to their doubts they must  continue the reading.