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As the literary world becomes increasingly dominated by brevity and instant gratification, one notable casualty seems to be the vanishing act of quotations within novels. As a bibliophile who revels in the immersive experience of literary worlds, I find this trend deeply unsettling. 

Among the myriad casualties of this literary recession, one standout example is Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed novel “Normal People,” a work emblematic of both modern storytelling and the decline of traditional quotation usage.

In “Normal People,” Rooney crafts a compelling narrative that delves into the complex dynamics of human relationships that offers readers a glimpse into the lives of Connell and Marianne as they navigate the tumultuous waters of love, friendship, and identity. Conspicuously absent, are the familiar markers of dialogue: the quotation marks that once served as signposts guiding readers through conversations and interactions.

The absence of quotations disrupts the flow of reading, which pulls me out of the narrative and forces me to backtrack and decipher who is speaking. It’s akin to stumbling through a dimly lit room, groping for clarity amidst the shadows of unattributed speech. This literary sleight of hand, while undoubtedly innovative, sacrifices clarity for the sake of stylistic experimentation.

Moreover, the disappearance of quotations reflects a broader shift in reader expectations and the evolving landscape of literature. In an age where attention spans are dwindling, there’s a palpable pressure to streamline the reading experience to distill complex narratives into easily digestible sound bites. Quotations, with their inherent verbosity, no longer fit neatly into this narrative paradigm.

I can’t help but mourn the loss of quotations as casualties in this literary arms race. They are not merely typographic flourishes but essential tools in the writer’s arsenal that facilitate communication between the author and the reader. Quotations lend voice to characters and infuse them with vitality and dimensionality. The absence of quotations diminishes the immersive power of storytelling.

In the case of “Normal People,” Rooney’s decision to eschew traditional quotation marks may be interpreted as a bold artistic statement. It could be seen as a conscious rejection of literary convention in favor of a more fluid, immersive narrative style. While I applaud her audacity, I continuously feel a pang of nostalgia for the days when quotations held sway over the printed page.

In the end, the disappearance of quotations is symptomatic of a larger cultural shift towards immediacy and efficiency in storytelling. As we embrace the brave new world of literature, we should not forget the humble quotation mark because we would risk losing something essential: voices that breathe life into the stories we hold dear.

Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Emily Hess is a student at the University of Nevada studying English. They can be reached at and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.

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