Obsession takes many forms, and is enacted in many ways. Literature is awash with characters whose lives have been struck down, and diminished by their or someone else’s obsession.
Dorian Gray is obsessed with youthful looks, very apropos today. He sees the portrait of himself …
‘How sad it is!’ murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. ‘How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young … If it were only the other way!
He gets his wish, only for it to be his ultimate downfall.
Mrs Danvers is obsessed by the first Mrs de Winter, the Rebecca of the title. When the second Mrs de Winter appears, she does what she can to drive her to suicide.
She did not hear me, she went on raving like a madwoman, a fanatic, her long fingers twisting and tearing the black stuff of her dress … ‘She’s still mistress here, even if she is dead. She’s the real Mrs de Winter, not you … none of us want you.’
Unlike other stories, the reader doesn’t know what happens to Mrs Danvers in the end. Her fate is left hanging as the narrator says: I wonder what she is doing now
Victor Frankenstein is fascinated by the creation of life, and is consumed by his pursuit to create a human. He realises the toll it hs taken on him.
For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation.
Of course the real victim in this tale is the creature he has created, who receives little other than cruelty and abuse.
Here is a link to ten tales of obsession,
from Stephen King’s avid fan in Misery to Nabokov’s disturbing tale of preteen Lolita, fixation is a powerful pull for authors – especially when it overlaps with desire