In the novel The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin develops an intriguing protagonist who goes through dynamic changes from the cause of a heartbreaking incident.
In Suzanne’s life, she has gone through myriad obstacles dealing with friendship. Franny was Suzanne’s only friend at school who truly understood her, they shared a close bond for years. However, as they entered the 7th grade, their friendship between them began to shift. Franny got pulled into a different crowd, a crowd she used to despise. As time passed, Suzanne and Franny began to drift apart as if they were strangers. During one summer, Franny went on vacation in Maryland, Suzanne heard the news of Franny drowning days after. Suzanne never truly understood how she could’ve drowned. *spoiler alert. From that day on, Suzanne spends countless hours on the web researching, convinced that her best friend’s death was caused from the “ghostly and transparent, [Irukandji]” (Benjamin 180).
Many of these situations changed the way Suzanne faced her classmates, and in life in general. However, before all of the conflicts began, Suzanne’s personality was entirely different. She was a loquacious character, who enjoyed communicating and sharing her knowledge with others, especially Franny. Suzanne’s mother would constantly need to remind her that “‘It’s not a conversation if you’re constant-talking’” (51). Suzanne is filled with random information and energy; she knows that “rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, […] and that the longest rabbit ears ever seen were thirty-one inches” (51). Not many people know these facts, or even care, but Suzanne does. Suzanne’s curiosity and loquaciousness makes her stand out.
Being different than others don’t necessarily help Suzanne with her situation. When her best friend Franny said, “‘You’re just. So. Weird’” (132). Commenting, saying how Suzanne’s interest in facts is a strange hobby, where Franny was the one who loved hearing them the most. Overtime, people do truly change. After reminiscing about the memories they shared, there was a question that stood out to Suzanne. It made her wonder, “if [Franny cared] about the things I don’t understand, and [she doesn’t] care about the things I do understand, what will we have to talk about anymore?” (115). If there’s nothing to talk about or relate to in friendships, then why does it still exist? This began to make Suzanne truly understand that their friendship won’t ever go back to the way it was. Even after all the reminders Suzanne gave, nothing had changed.
Suzanne is obsessed about finding out the verified reason behind Franny’s death; unconvinced that she just drowned. After weeks of research, Suzanne was certain that the cause was from the Irukandji jellyfish. Days after Franny’s death, Suzanne began to be more detached to her school life. After a presentation about the Irukandji jellyfish, her classmates started calling her ‘medusa’. Suzanne was very passionate about the subject and all the events that happened in her life made her go a little derange, which was part of the reason why the nickname was made. After what everything had happened, Suzanne “had already decided: [she] wasn’t going to make conversation. Not that night, and maybe never again” (70). The loss of her best friend caused depression and made her close off the whole outside world. This was such a big problem even her parents started to lose hope. They brought Suzanne to “Dr. M. Legler, child physiologist” (54). Even these sessions couldn’t help Suzanne, she still refused to speak. Each session was exactly the same, silence.
A devastating incident will change the way people act. Suzanne used to be a bright, bubbly character, but she had become depressed and deranged, too determined to find out truth. The fact that Suzanne decided to not speak isn’t that big of a problem, she is still the same person she used to be on the inside. The only difference is that she is obsessed with the death of her best friend, Suzanne is not able to let go of the reality of what had happened. “They are moving silently, endlessly, all of them, through the darkness of the sea” (111) The incident changed Suzanne’s life, and so did the new discovery of the Irukandji.