Diary of an Oxygen Thief Summary


Diary of an Oxygen Thief

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Diary of an Oxygen Thief Summary

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Diary of an Oxygen Thief is a Dutch novel that was first published in 2006. The novel’s author is anonymous, though this has not stopped the book from receiving critical acclaim as both heartbreaking and refreshing in its approach. The narrative is purportedly an autobiography, and chronicles the events of an Irish advertising executive during a period of time in London and New York. The narrative is given in diary/journal format, and details the narrator’s life of deception, self-destruction and, perhaps ironically, self-discovery.

The main character explains in shocking detail that he used to derive intense pleasure from abusing women emotionally. He likens himself to a serial killer who feels no remorse after committing a crime. He never abuses women physically, but destroys them mentally in an attempt to “capture their souls.” He does this by dating women and then breaking up with them right when they fall in love with him, and outlines his history of abuse in this way. Though the character is telling this story after having changed his life, a change that came about from his own “soul” being stolen by a woman, he retells his past in vivid, candid detail.

The “protagonist” enters into these doomed relationships on the pretense of love. The relationships usually last about three or four dates, and then when the woman is vulnerable due to her infatuation with him, he looks her in the eyes and breaks the news that he does not love her. The look on her face, first the confusion, then the anger and hurt, is what drives the so-called protagonist in his quest of breaking these women’s hearts. He admits that it is entirely methodical, and that he always has a number of women lined up so that, when he breaks one woman’s heart, another is ready to take her place.

The protagonist also mentions that he is an alcoholic, and that before he began abusing women emotionally, he used to pick fights with the biggest men in bars, even when he knew he could not possibly win. He would do so just to spit verbal abuse, but always ended up beaten up from the encounters. To change the balance of the abuser/abused relationship, he then began dating women with the sole purpose of breaking up with them for the thrill of it.

His alcoholism and method of abuse never stopped him from managing to land a job. As a freelance art director, he had the ability to make his own schedule, so formed his time around these heartbreaking events of ruining people’s lives through false love. The protagonist reveals that he still works in advertising, even after he managed to get his life together and enter into Alcoholics Anonymous. It is actually when he begins sobering up and attending AA meetings that he is able to look back on his life and feel a sense of remorse concerning his behavior towards women.

The narrator eventually moves to the United States and takes a job in New York. He deals with culture shock and feelings of self-loathing, coupled with inadequacy. He is also annoyed by the pretense of corporate America, but finds himself a part of the mechanism he despises. His change from lower-class status to upper-middle class also unhinges him, thus causing him to try and deal with all of these exterior changes internally.

While in New York, he meets an aspiring photographer and falls in love. Though he is seemingly happy and over his emotional abuse of women, the relationship lags, and then explodes, finally ending with the photographer publicly humiliating him. This humiliation is later seen as a sort of karma to the protagonist, and he is able to tell his sordid past of abusing women emotionally because he has been made to suffer through this New York relationship.

Diary of an Oxygen Thief is an intense journey into the mind of a self-destructive individual. From the very beginning of the narrative, the reader finds that the protagonist feels a need to emotionally abuse others. In this way, he finds purpose and continued interest in this abuse. He is able to lead a “normal” life despite being an alcoholic and an abusive person. His rationalization of abuse, and the ability to function while imposing it, are true symptoms of an internal struggle that eventually manifests externally within the narrative. Though the subject material is at times shocking in the depths it shows a person willing to go, the narrative itself is told beautifully, and even includes instances of genuine pathos and poignancy on the part of the narrator.

This haunting look into the self-destruction of an individual who seemingly deserves his pain is double-edged as well. The reader wants the protagonist to “get what he deserves” by having someone break up with him and abuse him emotionally. Yet this desire to see him abused is exactly the dark drive the narrator speaks of. If the reader seeks for him to be abused, does that not make the reader similar to the narrator? By showing just how despicable he allowed himself to be in his past, the narrator shows how easy it is for people to succumb to their darkest desires, and how people try to rationalize these desires as well. It highlights what is considered normal in society, and how people are willing to abuse others, and allow themselves to be abused, to achieve some sense of normalcy.