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Why do you love without a care and yet are so hesitant to accept the love you get? 

When I first came across Conell and Marianne in the novel Normal People, I was struck by how cleverly their characteristics contrasted with the title. They are definitely not normal. But the more I delved into the story, the clearer the real message of the novel became. Isn’t the lack of normality what makes them normal? Isn’t that what makes each one of us normal? 

No one is really normal. And when it comes to love, nothing can ever be defined as normal. Reading the insecurities in Connell and Marianne regarding loving and being loved prompted me to reflect on the way love is viewed.

Somehow, our society has labeled love as something that is disposable. I’m nowhere near a conservative person, but certain elements of our generation make me want to scream into a pillow. What do affection and love even mean anymore? The beauty of dating in the age before “break up via text” and “friends with benefits” is that two people who have mutual feelings for each other act on it.

Loving someone was that simple, with no secret agenda. I believe a significant part of the Normal People storyline is about what love has evolved into at the current moment. Rather than asking what is love, people are more inclined to ask, what is not love? I think about the age when people couldn’t text each other after they parted ways, a time when they would “unfollow” people in real life. Perhaps because it is so easy to get intimate with someone today, it is also harder to truly get intimate with someone.

When Connell told Marianne, it is “pretty obvious” that she is very important to him, she said, “who is it obvious to?” The bond we as humans now share is so replaceable and vulnerable. How can you be sure that you are the only one? How can you be secure about your place in someone’s heart? These seem to be the “normal questions” for people of our time. Nothing is normal and nothing is simple. We are the “normal people.” 

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Emily Lin

UC Berkeley '25

Emily Lin is a first-year at UC Berkeley studying Political Science and Gender and Women's Studies. She is passionate about writing and creating social changes. Emily is an infp, a certified original Sagittarius, and in her free time, loves to write poetry and try new food.
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