The Analysis of Rebecca Bloomwood’s Dominant Needs in Sophie Kinsella’s The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

The Analysis of Rebecca Bloomwood’s Dominant Needs

in Sophie Kinsella’s The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

Agus Udong Rapiudin,S.S.,M.M

Abstract. Sophie Kinsella’s The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic is considered as one of the contemporary best-sellers in the United Kingdoms. In this research, the writer would like to analyze the character of Rebecca Bloomwood, the protagonist of the story. The analysis will focus on the character’s most dominant needs seen from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory. The writer applied formalistic approach along with library research methodology to study the intrinsic element of the literary work. The result of the study proves that Rebecca Bloomwood shows and tries to fulfill her needs in all five stages of the hierarchy of human needs. Furthermore, the result of the analysis shows that the most dominant level of needs that she displays in the story is the fourth stage, the Esteem.

Keywords: character, dominant, need

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, which was written by Sophie Kinsella in 2000, is categorized as a chick lit, a commercialized novel which mostly addresses issues faced by modern women. Since the novel is considered a best-seller and is adapted into a movie entitled the Confession of a Shopaholic, the writer deems it worthy to be analyzed. And, because the focus of the novel is mostly struggles, revolving around human needs, which are experienced by the main character, the writer decides to analyze the dominant needs experienced by Rebecca Bloomwood, the main character in the novel.

The main theory that the writer will use in the research is the theory of human needs stated by Abraham Maslow. Maslow explains that the basic needs arrange themselves in a fairly definite hierarchy on the basis of the principle of relative potency. Thus the safety need is stronger than the love need because it dominates the organism in various demonstrable ways when both needs are frustrated. In this sense, the physiological needs (which are themselves ordered in a sub-hierarchy) are stronger than the safety needs, which are stronger than the love needs, which in turn are stronger than the esteem needs, which are strong than those idiosyncratic needs we have called the need for self-actualization. (Maslow, 1970:56)

Further, Maslow explains that there are two cognitions of needs which are called the Deficit needs and Being needs or he also calls it in D-needs and B-needs. B cognition is seen as whole, as complete, self-sufficient, as unitary. D cognition is seen as part, as incomplete, not self-sufficient, as dependent upon other things. (Maslow, 1971:249)

Hierarchy of needs itself is a classification of human needs, from the most basic needs to the top most needs which Maslow created using a pyramid-like visual aid. Below is the image of Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchy of needs:

Maslow explains that basic needs are what human really want. As a support to his theory, Boeree explains it in his journal:

For example, if you are hungry and thirsty, you will tend to try to take care of the thirst first. After all, you can do without food for weeks, but you can only do without water for a couple of days! Thirst is the “stronger” need than hunger. Likewise, if you are very very thirsty, but someone has put a choke hold on you and you can’t breathe, which is more important? The need to breathe, of course. On the oh hand, sex is less powerful than any of these. Let’s face it; you won’t die if you don’t get it! (Boeree, 2006).

Thus, the five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, from the lowest to the highest, can be summarized into: Physiological (breathing, food, water, sex, sleeps, etc.), Safety (security of health, employment, property, etc.), Love/Belonging (friendship, family, etc.), Esteem (achievement, confidence, respect from others, etc.), and Self Actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, etc.)

The novel, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, tells about Rebecca Bloomwood who works as a financial journalist for the magazine Successful Saving. Through her column she helps people handle their money. Her own finances, on the other hand, are a mess. Every time she sees a sale sign she cannot stop herself from indulging in shopping. When she sees her Visa bill, she tries to cut back but ends up buying everything she likes by declaring them an investment or a necessity. She also tries to make more money but that fails miserably as well. In the end, she manages to solve her problem by making an auction of all her shopping items.

For her physiological needs, Rebecca’s attempt to fulfill it can be seen from the quotes below:

… I drain my basmati rice, take my ready -made naan breads out of the oven,…I carry the plates through and put one in front of Suze.

“Wow!” she says.

“This looks fantastic!”

I watch as she takes her first forkful-then put a forkful into my own mouth… mmm…!

“It’s wonderful!” says Suze. “Nex you are so clever!” (Kinsella, 2000, 7:104)

The quotation above shows how Rebecca tries to fulfill her physiological needs of food by cooking for herself and her room mate.

Luke orders a bottle of chilled white wine, and raises his glass in a toast. …

“I think I’ll just have… erm … fishcakes. And rocket salad.” (Kinsella, 2000, 11:166)

The conversation between Luke and Rebecca above gives another show how Rebecca tries and does not experience any difficulty in fulfilling her most basic need in physiological aspect… hunger and thirst.

For her safety needs, Rebecca’s concern for this type of needs can be seen from the quotes below:

“Erica Parnell from Endwich Bank. Can you call her?”

I stare at Suze, frozen in horror.

“She called here? She called this number?”

“Yes, this afternoon…”

“Did she ask about my leg? Anything about my health at all?”

“No! She just said where were you?” (Kinsella, 2000, 3:40-41)

The quoted conversation above shows Rebecca’s concern for her safety related to the debt collector that keeps trying to contact her. Her roommate, Suze, talks to Rebecca’s debt collector and lies about her presence. Rebecca’s attempt to fulfill her needs of safety here is not really well-thought, because she chooses to run away rather than finding the solution, but it still shows her needs of safety.

The same concern appears again in the quote below:

“Hello, may I speak to Rebecca Bloomwood?”

“Yes,” I say idly.

“Ms Bloomwood, this is Erica Parnell from Endwich Bank.” (Kinsella, 2000, 6:85)

The situation from the quotation above is that Rebecca always overdraws her credit card due to her shopaholic obsession, so she gets a warning from the bank. Here, she starts to realize that the shopping spree she thinks is part of investing actually threatens her needs of safety.

The fulfillment of Rebecca’s needs for safety appears in:

“Everything’s done by transfer these days,” he’s saying.

Four hundred quid… oh my God, he’s going to pay me… I think dazedly as I scrabble for my cheque-book. Just like that I can’t quite believe it.

“Excellent,” says Eric Forman, writing the details down. (Kinsella, 2000, 18:249)

Rebecca’s concern of the safety of her financial situation is solved after Eric Forman transfers four hundred quid to her for his purchase on her auction. This transfer saves her from her debts.

The needs for love and belonging that Rebecca experiences can be seen from the quote below:

“You know, there are two solutions to money troubles?”

Oh God. Not this again. Dad’s aphorisms.

“Cut Back,” says my dad, “or Make More Money. One or the other. Which is to be, Becky?”

“Oh both, I expect,” I say airily… I almost feel sorry for my Dad. (Kinsella, 2000, 4;51)

Here, Rebecca Bloomwood actually receives fulfillment of her love and belonging needs from her parents. However, she has not realized it yet here. She even prefers to hide her financial problems from her parents and considers what her father says to be nothing but just talks.

“I think you might have chosen the wrong option, Becky. I think you should go for Make More Money instead. Make More Money is much better option.”

“Yes, maybe you are right. Maybe that’s what I should I do. How shall I make more money?” (Kinsella, 2000, 7:106)

In the quote above, Rebecca receives another fulfillment of her love and belonging needs. This time, the one that provides care and suggestion to her financial problem is her best friend, Suze. When Rebecca tells her problems to Suze, the latter is willing to listen, show concern, and give suggestion. At this point, Suze satisfies Rebecca’s needs for love and belonging.

Luke’s gazing at me with an unsmiling expression which makes my heart starts to thud. “Rebecca,” he says quietly. He holds my eyes for a few seconds while I stare back. It’s so comfortable, and I’m so warm and cozy, and it’s all so pretty. I don’t want the evening to end. (Kinsella, 2000, 23:309-310)

Rebecca also receives fulfillment for her love and belonging needs from her love interest, Luke. The quote above happens when Luke invites Rebecca out for what seems to be business dinner at the Ritz hotel. However, when Rebecca arrives at the meeting, it turns out that business is the real agenda. The business meeting is only a façade from Luke to meet her. The romantic atmosphere satisfies Rebecca’s needs for love and belonging.

The next stage of needs, the needs for esteem, is also experienced by Rebecca. What she experiences can be seen from the quote below:

… Visa, my Harvey Nichols card, my Debenhams card, my Fenwicks card… (Kinsella, 2000, 3:41)

As a shopaholic, Rebecca always spends her leisure time for shopping. She likes to shops at fancy place because it supports her esteem needs for appearance and beauty. She feels that her needs for esteem are satisfied by possessing many items, clothes, shoes and cosmetics from famous brands. She seems to get self gratification from coming to the store and buy things around.

Another quotation that shows Rebecca’s attempt to fulfill her needs for esteem can be seen when Rebecca goes to shop for a scarf.

There is no question. I have to have this scarf. (Kinsella, 2000, 2:13)

Here, she again tries to satisfy her needs for esteem through purchase of luxurious items. When she into the mirror, wearing the scarf, she feels longing and half fulfilled satisfaction. She thinks that her esteem needs will be satisfied if she possess it. Thus, she purchases the scarf despite her diminishing fund.

I have to have this scarf… It makes my eyes looks bigger it makes my haircut look more expensive, it makes me look like a different persons. I’ll be able to wear it with everything. People will refer to me as the girl in the Denny and George scarf. (Kinsella, 2000, 2:22)

Again, to boost her self confidence and satisfy her needs of esteem, Rebecca falls to the same hole, a temptation of the same item, a scarf. Rebecca leads her way of thinking to justify that buying the scarf will benefits her more than the sacrifices she has to do to purchase it. Here, she tries to satisfy her esteem needs for appearance and reputation through luxurious item.

To fulfill what she thinks is her necessary esteem needs, Rebecca is willing to go further than what is sensible.

“How would you pay?” she says pleasantly.

“I’ve just realized I’ve left my credit card at the office,” I stutter. “Can you hold it for me?” The girl looks dubious. “For how long?”

“Until tomorrow.”

“I’m afraid not,” she says. “We’re not supposed to reserve stock.” (Kinsella, 2000, 1:23)

From the quoted dialogue above, it can be seen that Rebecca goes further than normal to buy what she thinks will boost her esteem needs. When she realizes that she forgets to bring the credit card, she asks the salesgirl to hold selling the item until the next day. She is willing to return and does unreasonable bargain for buying the item that she thinks will satisfy her needs for esteem.

Rebecca’s needs for esteem do not just manifest in purchasing luxurious items. She also does other things to get appreciations from people around her.

“It’s wonderful!” says Suze. “Bex, you’re so clever! I could never make this in a million years!” (Kinsella, 2000, 7:104)

The background situation of the quote above is Rebecca’s attempt to cook Indian food. She cooks the food based on the recipe she just gets from a book. She does that not just to satisfy her hunger, but to get compliment from her best friend, Suze. She wants to be seen by her best friend as a great person who is able to cook really well. She does this to fulfill her needs for esteem.

The next manifestation of her needs for esteem appears when she is going to a dinner with Tarquin in Pizza Express.

“Hi, Becky,” he says. “You look wonderful.” (Kinsella, 2000, 13:195)

Here, Rebecca receives a compliment from Tarquin because she does prepare herself well for the occasion. She wears classy clothing and applies tasteful make-up. She does that to impress Tarquin and receives his compliment. Here, she tries to satisfy her needs for esteem by trying to make a great impression in front of the person she cares about.

For the final stage of needs, the needs for self actualization, Rebecca experiences it right before the story ends.

It’s that I feel like a completely new person. I feel as though I’ve … I’ve grown up. I’ve matured. I’m moving on to a new stage in life – with a different outlook, and different priorities. The new Rebecca is so much more serious and level-headed. So much more responsible. (Kinsella, 2000, 23:314)

In the end of the story, Rebecca realizes all her mistakes and she feels happier with her decision of abandoning her shopaholic habit. She realizes that at first, she thinks she can get happiness from shopping, but finally she realizes that what she really needs is love, acceptance, and how she can be useful for people around her. The latter part basically describes how she can actualize herself in her community. Therefore, this change of mindset represents her way of manifesting her needs for self actualization.

From the analysis, it can be concluded that out of the five levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, the main character of the novel, Rebecca Bloomwood, shows and tries to fulfill her needs in all five stages of the hierarchy of human needs. However, it can be seen from the quantity of the needs’ manifestation that the most dominant level of needs she experiences in the story is the fourth stage, the needs for esteem.

The result of the research confirms the logically acceptable assumption that a shopaholic person, as what Rebecca Bloomwood represents, struggles mostly to satisfy her needs for esteem rather than any other needs.

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