46 pages 1 hour read

Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Symbols & Motifs

Communication Breakdowns

The novel’s title indicates the centrality of communication to the story, but much of Conversation with Friends is premised on miscommunication. This motif can most easily be seen in action between Nick and Frances, but on some level it occurs between every pairing of the novel’s four central characters. Nick and Frances’s communication is continuously stunted by the fact that neither of them wants to seem more invested in the relationship than the other. Nick is wary that too much honesty and sincerity will scare Frances off while Frances is wary that honesty and sincerity will give Nick all the power in the relationship. As a result, much of what they say to each other is sarcastic and vague.

To take one of dozens of such examples scattered throughout the novel, in Chapter 9, Frances asks Nick, “So is this just sex, or do you actually like me?” Nick replies, “I think you want me to say it’s just sex.” Then Frances narrates, “I laughed. I was happy he said that, because it was what I wanted him to think, and because I thought he really knew that and was just kidding around” (77).

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