The Love Struggles and Confidence Issues of Rob Fleming in High Fidelity

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2737 |

Pages: 6|

14 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2019

Words: 2737|Pages: 6|14 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2019

Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is a novel that discusses the life and love struggle of Rob Fleming who is a thirty-five year old male living in London, England. Rob owns a failing record shop named Championship Vinyl and has a bad history and past with relationships and finding someone to settle down with. Rob has recently been seeing Laura, but as the novel opens, we learn that Laura has just left Rob for another man named Ian. In the beginning of the story, Rob discusses his top five most memorable breakups but Laura does not make the list. We learn that Laura has affected him emotionally and physically due to the fact that Rob states everything that has gone wrong in his past relationships and how it relates to him in present day. Rob feels very insecure with himself and in his relationships with others so much so that he is scrutinizing himself over these past relationships and mistakes. Weather it is with his past girlfriends, or his most recent relationship with Laura, Rob cannot seem to let go of the past and move forward in his life. Rob’s love life can be related to the way his record store is going, often Rob reminisces about his DJ days, just like how he reminisces about his past girlfriends, and he also is unsatisfied with his current performance with his store. He has two coworkers who at first he doesn’t like but doesn’t have the strength to work it out, just like how he has problems with his relationship with Laura, instead of working it out, he takes the cowardly way out and ends it. A very prominent theme throughout this entire novel is Rob’s struggle with self-confidence. His struggle with self-confidence comes from a list of a multitude of items, two of which are the most important, Rob struggles with his self- confidence as a result of being rejected from past girlfriends, having mediocre record store and not being secure with his masculinity.

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Rob Fleming is a man of many characters, one of which however, is not being confident in himself. In High Fidelity, we learn about past relationships and girlfriends that Rob has had. In the beginning, Rob reflects on these relationships which he is then comparing to his most recent break up with his ex-girlfriend, Laura. Each of these five most memorable breakups has left a huge impact on Rob and in his life in general. Throughout the beginning he states why these breakups were so memorable and the impact that the girl had left on him. His struggle with his self-confidence began from the moment he started talking to Penny Hardwick, who was number two on his list of the five most memorable breakups. For the longest time while dating Penny, Rob was just so concerned about touching her chest. He was constantly trying but after a while, he gave up because he realized he would not get anything out of her. Recently after that breakup, Penny had started seeing a boy named Chris Thomson, who had had the most girlfriends out of anyone at the current time. It became known that just after three weeks of Rob being out of the picture that Chris came in and got done what Rob could not. “You never got so much as a bit of tit in three months, and I shagged her in the first week!” (Hornby 14). From this moment forward is when Rob began to feel insecure about himself. I had been humiliated, beaten, outperformed; I felt stupid, and small, and much, much younger than this unpleasant, oversized, big-mouthed moron (Hornby 14). Rob felt embarrassed about what had happened and his whole relationship with Penny. All it took was for one guy, one over-sized moron, to completely ruin his self-confidence. That has affected Rob throughout the entirety of him life thus far. He felt like a failure then, so he then brings all that failure to his current relationships, whether that is a romantic one or not. Mikko Keskinen, author of Single, Long-Playing and Compilation: The Formats of Audio and Amorousness in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, states that being out of sync or in a bad signal-to-noise ratio interferes with Rob’s High Fidelity-in the senses of both commitment and faithfulness to the ideal of sound relationships. He brings all these past emotions into the new ones and therefore he is never able to regain his confidence because he cannot let the past go. He is stuck and is afraid to move because he is scared of rejection because he was already rejected a multitude of times and in a different way each time, thus the five-most memorable breakups. In order for Rob to truly gain his self-confidence back, he will need to find a girl to permanently settle down with, which he cannot because it stuck on the idea of rejection due to his lack of self-confidence. His most current relationship with Laura has also left and huge impact on his issue with self-confidence. According to Joanne Knowles, author of High Fidelity; A Reader’s Guide, She (Laura), is the one who pushes for progress and development in life and their relationship, while Rob remains static. Tellingly, he states on meeting her after she has left him. This proves that Rob cannot be independent and that his confidence comes from being with someone else. He wants to visit Laura and get in contact with her constantly after they breakup. Knowles also mentions that Laura is the one pushing for the progress and development in their life and relationship. Rob remains static because he does not want to change because that would mean letting go of his past and his insecurities that resulted from previous relationships. Rob lets his issue of self-confidence control every aspect of his life, including his job at the record shop, to relationships with friends and especially his relationships with girlfriends. Rob is not able to grow and develop in his character and person because he is so focused on what everyone else had to say about him. He is very sensitive and cannot work with others in the way that he needs to in order to create a long-lasing and healthy relationship. The allusion that Hornby is trying to give based on Rob’s insecurity and lack of self-confidence is that people should not be so worried about what others think of them. They should be focused on bettering themselves and the current relationships that they have and let the relationships of the past go. While we may learn lessons from past relationships, we should not let that affect our current ones to the point of us struggling with our self-confidence that we end up pushing people away, which is what Rob does. He has no self-confidence and when something goes wrong in his relationships, he ends up resorting to the fact that he is a bum and will never succeed in life. He blames his problems on himself which are also causing his lack of self-confidence. According to Robert Christgau, author of Boys will be Men, when Rob is down on himself he believes he “got to adolescence and just stopped dead.” Rob cannot move past this adolescence stage in his life which is affecting him in a traumatic manner. He believes there is nothing good ahead of him in his life because he cannot forget about this stage in his life. Rob believes that this is as good as his life will get.

Rob’s career can also symbolize the way his relationships turn out, for example Rob felt that the career as a DJ was too much for him, he did not feel capable of being a part of a lifestyle that big, this can related to his relationship with Charlie he felt that he could not live up to her standards, I felt as though I was standing on a dangerously narrow ledge. I couldn’t ever get comfortable, if you know what I mean. I worried that I was never going to be able to say anything interesting or amusing to her about anything at all (Hornby23). Another thing that can be connected with his career and his relationships is his failing record store and his failed relationship with Laura, no matter what went on in the relationship, good or bad, Rob seemed to have an approach of whatever happens is out of his control, even if it is. This relates to his coworkers Dick and Barry. Both Dick and Barry were employed to work part-time, three days each, but shortly after I’d taken them on they both started turning up every day, including Saturdays (Hornby 41). Rob did not intend to have two full-time workers and it is completely in his power to enforce the idea upon Dick and Barry to only work three days each, but instead of taking control of the situation he does nothing about it, allowing him to feel sorry for himself, as usual. Rob’s tone towards Laura in the relationship is that he is not willing to put in the effort to resolve any problems that arise, its either his way or he will pout about it, this can reflect on the way he runs his store as manager. For example when Barry drives off a customer by rudely criticizing his daughter’s taste in music and Rob attempts to set Barry straight and instead it ends with Barry telling Rob he has gone soft in old age.

BARRY: “You’re going soft in your old age, Rob. There was a time when you’d have chased him out of the shop and up the road”

ROB: “He’s right; there was. It feels like a long time ago now I just can’t muster that sort of anger anymore” (Hornby 54)

Instead of Rob finishing what he started with enforcing Barry to respect customers he ends up taking criticism from Barry and agreeing with him. This shows how Rob’s insecurity affects his life as a store owner, and his insecurity can also clearly be seen in his relationship with Laura. When Laura comes back to Rob’s flat for the first time since the breakup to pick up some belongings, and Rob is eager to ask pending questions about her new found companion, Ian. There are loads of things I want to ask; have you missed me at all even one bit, do you love me, do you love him, do you want to end up with him, do you want to have babies with him, is it better, is it better, IS IT BETTER? (Hornby 106). These all display how robes insecurity eats away at his mind, and influences his actions.

While Rob’s past girlfriends play a major role in affecting his self-confidence, the even bigger issue at hand is the fact that he is not secure with his masculinity. When reading the novel, the reader gets the understanding that Rob is not confident in himself or in his masculinity. There is a complete lack of confidence in his ability to succeed. The first example of this would be Rob’s record store. In society now a days men are considered, most of the time to be the breadwinners of the family meaning that they are the ones bringing home the money to their families. This brings the men a sense of security within their relationships and also brings them a sense of masculinity. However, Rob struggles with this aspect because he has a failing store and cannot make the money he needs to make. Even worse, Laura is the one will all the money seeing as that she is a new lawyer. Rob is failing at this so much so that he has had to borrow money from Laura and still owes her money to this day. This leads to him having a lack of self-confidence because he is not even secure with his masculinity in the terms of his job. According to Barry Faulk, author of Love, Lists and Class in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, these novels serve to compensate for the lack of status of these male experts relative to their roles as tastemakers and symbol managers. Rob could be doing more with his career in the music industry and making more money than he is now but because of his lack of self-confidence, he cannot find the will or desire to do what he is passionate about. Long before Rob had owned the record store, he used to be a DJ out at clubs and such. This was something he was passionate about and that brought him confidence. According to Faulk, She (Laura) encourages the passive record store listener to rejoin the community, to return to his previous work as a club DJ (153). Laura wants Rob to be able to identify with something that he loves which is music and to also grow and develop in his relationship with it. She believes that by Rob going back and becoming a DJ that he will gain a lot of his self-confidence back. He will be making money and doing what he loves at the same time. Aside from having a loss of self-confidence due to his lack of masculinity in his job, Rob has a lack of masculinity when it comes to comparing himself to others. Rob is constantly comparing himself to other people and other males. In the book when Laura leaves Rob for Ian, Rob is furious and does not understand why she would want him. Ian used to be their old neighbor and when Rob figures that out he puts all these doubts into his mind about himself. He starts to wonder if Laura was cheating on him with Ian and then begins to get down on himself. Rob starts to compare every aspect life to Ian’s. “Ian could be better at talking than me, or cooking, or working, or housework, or saving money, or earning money, or spending money, or understanding books and films; he could be nicer than me, better-looking, more intelligent, cleaner, more generous-spirited, more helpful, a better human being in any way you are to mention…and I wouldn’t mind” (Hornby 73). Rob names off all these characteristics that Ian could be better and that him and would give an explanation as to why Laura would want to be with Ian over him. Rob was with Laura for over three years, but when they break up he thinks of every reason he can as to why he wasn’t good enough and compares himself to the new boyfriends she has. Rob cannot accept himself for what he is and what he has to offer to others in life. He is always trying to be something that he is not and that something is never good enough for him. He was a DJ, but then he quit that to work at his record store, Championship Vinyl, which is not happy at either.

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Overall, Rob struggles with his self-confidence due to his past girlfriends, his failing record store and his lack of masculinity. These factors all play a key part in determining who Rob is as a person today. According to Suzanne Moore, author of Slipped Discs, if this book was a record, we would be calling it an instant classic. Because that’s what it is. This book has many underlying themes and lessons. There are many themes throughout the book that young people should know about such as commitment, self-confidence and trust. Rob has a hard time settling down and most people in his age range can relate to that. At some point time, we have to learn to settle down, appreciate and respect ourselves and the relationships we have. We have to have trust and be able to communicate in our relationships as well as enjoy other people’s company. This book is the benchmark for everything that a person could experience during that time and age in their life. It is important that everyone understands what the consequences are for failed relationships and a lack of self-confidence. A lack of self-confidence that Rob has is what leads and causes most of all these other problems in his life and if he could just grasp on to what he has now and let the future go, then he would have a fresh perspective on life.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Love Struggles and Confidence Issues of Rob Fleming in High Fidelity. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“The Love Struggles and Confidence Issues of Rob Fleming in High Fidelity.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019,
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