Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

High Fidelity was the first work of fiction by author Nick Hornby, published soon after his first, successfully received book, a collection of autobiographical essays about soccer called Fever Pitch (1992). The novel became an international best seller. In each of Hornby’s early works, including About a Boy (1998), the protagonist is a contemporary British male. Each novel loosely reflects Hornby’s life and neuroses. Unlike some of his male peers, who often keep readers at a distance, Hornby uses comedy and emotion to connect with readers on a personal level. Also unique to Hornby is his representation of the male perspective. Admitting that he identifies more with female writers and domestic plots, Hornby writes about what goes on in his characters’ heads, often placing them in seemingly mundane plots that some critics have called bland and boring. This realism, however, is the reason Hornby’s books have received such acclaim.

While High Fidelity is a realist depiction of contemporary adult males, some critics suggest it can be classified as a bildungsroman (from the German for “novel of development”). In a bildungsroman, the hero, or major character, goes through a period of personal growth and maturation, eventually becoming able to relate to the outside world rather than being stuck inside his or her subjective consciousness. A classic example of this literary subgenre is Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield (1849-1850, serial; 1850, book). This model describes well Rob’s progression through the novel; he moves from exhibiting childish behavior—avoiding and at times retreating from adulthood and maturity—to being a man in a relationship with prospects for career advancement.

Rob falters in his maturation at various points in the novel. For example, he christens himself a new man when he finds out that Laura and Ray have not made love, yet in the very next sentence he proclaims that he almost immediately sleeps with Marie LaSalle. Additionally, he wavers back and forth between wanting to forget his relationship with Laura and wanting to win her back. His childish behavior is especially evident in his numerous prank calls to Ray’s apartment. These instances illustrate Rob’s struggle between denying reality and maturely accepting that...

(The entire section is 952 words.)