Study Guide

Brooklyn: A Novel Love

By Colm Tóibín


Later, during the week [...] she forgot what she was looking forward to and sometimes she actually believed that she was looking forward to thinking about home. (3.349)

Eilis is crushing on Tony so hard that she almost entirely forgets about her crippling feelings of homesickness. Before she met him, she had nothing to look forward to at the end of the day except for her lonely room. Now that Tony is around, however, she has someone to talk to, to share her feelings with, and, most importantly, to make out with.

He was in such good humor [...] that she felt an immense tenderness for him and wondered if she would ever see a side of him that was disagreeable. (3.442)

These two lovebirds are so firmly planted in the "honeymoon" stage of their relationship that it's nauseating—everything is sunshine and roses and kissie-faces and infuriatingly cute pet names. As with all relationships, however, the true test comes only after this blissful early stage ends.

Recently too he had begun to tell her after he kissed her that he loved her and she knew that he was waiting for a response, a response that, so far, she had not given. (3.464)

And here's the point where the honeymoon period ends. Although Eilis cares about Tony a great deal, she's not quite ready to commit to him in the same way that he does to her. That makes sense, though—he's a lot more experienced in the romantic realm than she is. Regardless, he better not get too pushy or he'll end up shoving her away.

He was delighted by her [...] Yet somehow that delight seemed to come with a shadow, and she wondered [...] if she herself [...] was the shadow and nothing else. (3.470)

Here, Eilis is wondering if her instinctual need to retain her independence is putting a strain on her relationship with Tony. More than that, however, she's wondering if this hard-to-get nature is exactly what makes Tony so interested in her in the first place. This is certainly a valid question, but it seems to us like Tony's feelings are quite real.

Tony came every night to meet her after the classes and she liked how he allowed her to remain silent if she wanted. (3.782)

After Rose's death, Tony shows Eilis a capacity for empathy and understanding that knocks her socks off. He isn't pressuring her about marriage or begging her to tell him that she loves him anymore—he's simply being there for her in her time of need.

As they walked back and sat eating hot dogs at Nathan's, Eilis spotted someone at the next table checking out her wedding ring. She smiled to herself. (3.949)

So, yeah—they get married. Although Eilis will later claim that this whole marriage was a mistake (which we'll get into later), this shows that she is happy about it on some level. Their situation might be complicated, but Tony and Eilis clearly love each other a great deal—at least at this point.

She wondered for a second [...] how she would feel if she learned that Tony had gone to Coney Island on a day like today with a friend and two young women. (4.137)

Well, we think that we could take a guess—she'd probably feel pretty crummy. It's almost as if Eilis was struck with amnesia as soon as she returned to Ireland, picking up her life exactly where she left off and hooking up with the boy she would have ended up with if she had never gone to Brooklyn in the first place.

She tried to think of Tony now as a loving and comforting presence, but she saw instead someone she was allied with whether she liked it or not. (4.193)

Yikes—that's a scary thing to be thinking about your husband. As Eilis becomes closer to Jim, realizing that he represents a completely different type of man than Tony, she realizes that her reasons for marrying her Italian sweetheart weren't as straightforward as she led him (and us) to believe.

It occurred to her, as she walked down the aisle with Jim and her mother [...] that she was sure that she did not love Tony now. (4.226)

Wow, that was quick. While we're not one hundred percent sure that Eilis means this—she's been known to change her mind at the drop of the hat—it shows that her relationship with Tony isn't as perfect as it may seem from the outside looking in.

"I mean if you have to go back, then maybe we could get engaged before you go." (4.264)

Anyone else getting a sense of deja vu? If nothing else, this should show Eilis once and for all that she's a real catch, and deserves real love, not just the affection of the first guy who notices her.

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