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Notes on a scandle by zoe heller - How is the theme of obsession presented in the book?

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Notes on a Scandal by Zo� Heller How is the theme of obsession presented in the book? Notes on a scandal, written in the first person by Barbara Covette, a close friend and colleague of Sheba's, is a story about Sheba Hart, a pottery teacher at St Georges school, who allows herself to become engaged in an affair with one of her fifteen year old pupils, Steven Connolly, who is one of her few pupils with an interest in her subject and not just disrupting lessons. This story is very much about obsession, and not that only of Sheba and her lover. In fact a very large proportion of the novel is devoted to showing Barbara's loneliness and obsession with Sheba. It is done in an almost subtle way so that Barbara as the narrator is not aware how clearly she is obsessed, yet we as the audience can see it. With this the plot becomes almost as much about Barbara as it is about Sheba. From very early on in the novel we can see that Barbara has an obsession with Sheba, and that the obsession is likely to get bigger. ...read more.


On page 32 Barbara writes: "Throughout the first half of the winter term, I had been building up my confidence to tackle Sheba on the matter of class discipline." This indicates that Barbara is nervous about talking to Sheba for some reason; however we are almost certain by this stage in the novel that if it had been another one of the teachers at St George, Barbara would not have had a problem with it. Also on page 32 is the realisation on Barbara's part that Sheba had befriended Sue Hodge. Barbara was very envious of this friendship and begins to take a lot of interest in this friendship. Barbara continuously slags off Sue Hodge and calls her, "The most awful prig." This suggests an element of obsession is here, as if Barbara was not interested in Sheba then she would not care who she was "chumming up with." At the beginning of chapter three, it is made very clear that Barbara was jealous of Sheba's friendship with Sue. ...read more.


However it turns out to be Barbara who is the one who can't stick it, she becomes rather depressed and confused. Here Barbara is acting more the way a lover would after a break up than a friend. In Barbara's lunch date with Bangs in chapter thirteen when Barbara realises someone else is interested in Sheba, she instantly tells him about her and Connolly's relationship. Barbara may have done this as she doesn't want anyone to come between her and Sheba's friendship, and she feels threatened by others in Sheba's life. Towards the end of the book Barbara takes great joy in destroying the model of Sheba and Connolly, she begins by destroying the boy though; this shows that Barbara is trying to get rid of everything from Sheba's life that is not centred on her. All of these things suggest that Barbara is slowly becoming more and more obsessed with Sheba throughout the novel, and that she wants to take everything that is not centred around her away. She may even have been satisfied that Sheba has lost her family and now must depend on Barbara as she is her only remaining friend. Paul Gilbert ...read more.

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  1. Notes on a scandle

    Barbara thinks, after the loss of Jennifer, that she has got a kindred spirit in Sheba. Barbara and her diary are inseparable; even when visiting her sister she spends more time with her diary than with the family; suggesting the diary itself has become an obsession.

  2. Notes on a Scandal

    She also describes her relationships to other people in her diary, so that the reader of the diary has really got a view of her mind. This is a device Heller uses to good effect. Barbara is describing Sheba's character "Sheba was so pitifully alone", but she was really describing herself and her character, so here Zo� Heller uses irony.

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