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I think that one of the most impressive ways that Hornby fleshes out Rob's character is through the concept of the "Top 5 Lists." The construction of his Top 5 lists help to bring out his hopes and dreams, the exact elements that he is afraid to display to both other characters in the novel and himself. The challenge for Hornby is a formidable one. Seeing that Rob is a closed off character, one that is afraid of failure and pain. Since he is afraid of getting hurt, he does not believe in opening himself up on an emotional level so that others get to know him. This includes the readers. Hornby's challenge, then, is to find a way so that we, the readers, can understand and feel empathy for Rob in a way that is not cliched and obviously maudlin. He is able to accomplish this in Rob's Top 5 lists. Through his lists, the reader, and in turn characters like Laura, get to know the true essence of Rob in his own words without him having to say anything. In this way, Rob comes across as likable and someone for whom empathy is possible. The Top 5 list then becomes both an element of the plot as well as a stylistic device that enables Rob to become multi- dimensional, even if he, as a character, does not want to be seen in such a light.
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