Character Spotlight: Paul Sheffield 

Let’s take a moment from our story to concentrate a bit on one particular individual.

A certain adult gentleman who has made several, shall we say, MISGUIDED life choices. I’m speaking of course about Dr. Paul Scott Sheffield. We’ve learned some things about Dr. Paul, and I think this information is supposed to be the thing that makes us start to doubt Paul, but I’ve been here for ages.

I don’t like Paul. I maybe hate Paul? Paul is a predator. I don’t care about Paul’s pain and his loneliness, I care about the wife whom he assaulted (he flat out acknowledges this!) and the traumatized teenager whom he took into his home and groomed. I am obviously not defending Julia’s actions whatsoever, but are we really supposed to pat Paul on the head and say we understand what he did to Julia just because of the terrible thing she did? He did it before she killed Scotty and herself.

Paul treats Chris like a son and a peer, from almost the start. He’s impressed by his intellect and his character, he wants to help him succeed and be a doctor like he’s always dreamed. Paul sees Carrie as a daughter, he falls almost immediately into a parental role with her, and while I think some of his choices (BOARDING SCHOOL) aren’t the best, he actually seems like he’s a pretty good father to Carrie. But. But. Cathy is a teenager who has been through an absolute nightmare when they meet and that’s obvious when Paul first sees them (he knows right away that they’re all sick) and yet his first reaction when he wakes up on that porch is to ogle a young woman who has come to him for help. He later tells Cathy that he loved her from the moment he saw her, and good lord, guy, you were supposed to be helping her.

I suspect that we’re supposed to feel really sorry for Paul. The loss of his child, his tragic first marriage, his devoted love for Cathy while she tears around seeking vengeance, the eventual loss of Carrie, but…nah. I’m good.

What are your thoughts, reader friends? Should I cut Paul a break or are we starting a hate club? Let me know! Also, let me know who else you’d like to see a little Character Spotlight on in the future!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. K says:

    Paul is gross. The worst thing about it I think we’re really supposed to see him as a great guy. Nope. I thought it was sketchy at 12, at 37 the wrongness unable to be denied.

  2. S says:

    When I read this as a teen, I probably thought Paul was romantic in a tragic way. Now at 50 with 2 teen girls? EW EW EW.!

    1. Megan says:

      Oh, I’m sure I thought it was all *so romantic* as a teenager, but now I’m so appalled.

      1. Mairéad says:

        Oh my god yessss! I am re-reading for maybe the 100th time and how the hell did I never realise he is not only a rapist, but a predator of young girls. As for sending Carrie to boarding school…I CANNOT. Gross!!!

  3. Paul is awful and I don’t think we are exactly supposed to feel sorry for him. I think it’s this complicated thing where he is a predator but also Cathy finds a lot of healing from her relationship with him. Both those things can be true, the way she was able to use the relationship to process and shed many of her feelings of shame around sex, is mostly good for her, but it doesn’t remotely excuse anything about Paul. It’s interesting to me, that Andrews can tell that story, where Cathy is victimized, but also has so much agency in many ways. It’s a typical VCA bramble patch smh.

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