Psychological Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "A Rose for Emily" - Mental Health Essay Example

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a person using cunning strategies and deceit to get their way, a failure to conform to social norms (often resulting in criminal behaviour), a lack of compassion for others, an “inflated and arrogant self-appraisal”, “reckless disregard for safety of self or others” (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000) and most importantly, the violation of the rights of others - Psychological Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "A Rose for Emily" introduction. Unwarranted pride, manipulation and callous self-centeredness are among some of the main themes in both William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Both short stories feature female characters who unjustifiably think they are above others and consequently use shrewd and dishonest control tactics to get their way. Emily Grierson, however, has more progressive antisocial personality tendencies than the Grandma (Sophia) in “A Good Man is Hard to Find. ” This is evident in a number of areas. First of all, Emily effectively takes what she thinks is due to her through forceful action while Sophia uses words to manipulate people for her personal gain.


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Also, Emily refuses to “conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest” (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000) and commits the ultimate violation of another’s rights: murder. Sophia, on the other hand, violates the rights of others in a less severe way by telling lies and hiding truths and does not act outside the law to get her way. She indirectly causes death but does not commit the act of murder.

Finally, Emily takes the life of another without apology or conscience and eventually dies without ever having recognized her sinister ways. In contrast, Sophia does not commit murder, comes to some realization of her flaws and shows compassion for someone who she judges to be beneath her. Emily is further along on the spectrum of antisocial personality disorder than Sophia, as seen in her forceful domineering ways. When presented with a visit from officials asking her to pay taxes, she outright rejects, stating, “I have no taxes in Jefferson” (357).

She also refuses to put numbers on her door when the town asks her to. Some argue that the use of the pocket watch she keeps is a symbol of her need to control time by keeping it in her pocket. Symbolically, to have something “in one’s pocket, that is, under one’s personal control, is important here, for by wearing the watch in her pocket rather than say, pinned to her bodice, Emily demonstrates her effort to subjugate the clock to her own will” (Schwab, 1991, p. 216).

For Emily, if something is not in her power to have, she will dominate the situation and take it. This is seen most evidently when her partner, Homer, is found poisoned in a room in her house. Through this disturbing act, she ensures that he will never leave nor show any will of his own that might conflict with hers. She has effectively stopped the progression of time for Homer and for their relationship, controlling “the normal limitations of time” (Schwab, 1991, p. 216).

Sophia, on the other hand, manipulates and influences situations in a more imperceptible and feeble way. Her strategy is to use words and mental manipulation to eventually wear others down, resulting in their eventual agreement to her cause. She “exemplifies [… ] self-focus and self-righteousness [and] initiates every problem in the story from the first sentence: “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida” (137)” (Hooten, 2008. p. 198). Through her verbal direction, she manages to persuade the family to take a trip which results in their untimely death.

It is through her influence that the family heads to a dangerous spot, and travels off their intended trail through her promise of a “secret panel” (312) in a fictional house. Her insistence on having her way by sneaking her cat, Pitty Sing, along on the trip eventually causes an automobile accident, indirectly leading the family into the hands of murderous criminals. In the end, she tries to manoeuvre her way out of being killed but shows her weakness in a moment of compassion for the Misfit by telling him, “Why you’re one of my babies.

You’re one of my own children” (1204). As she reaches out to touch him, he senses her vulnerability and ends her life. Although Sophia shows signs of an antisocial personality disorder in her self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and cunning ways, she does not go to the extreme lengths that Emily does in getting her way so it can be said that she is less mentally compromised. Emily’s more severe mental deterioration is expressed in her outright lack of regard for the rights of others as is seen in her disrespect for the law.

She does not recognize authority and the law’s entitlement to govern the town’s people when she refuses to pay taxes, put numbers on her house, or divulge her intentions for the arsenic she purchases. She regards herself as being an eminent member of the community and only acts in consideration for her own needs and desires. Emily has been described as “a grotesque, southern gothic character whose neurotic or psychotic behavior in her relationships with her father, her lover, and her black servant may elicit many Freudian interpretations” (Spencer, 2006. . 94). This is most evident in her greatest self-serving act: the murder of Homer Barron. In poisoning him with the arsenic, Emily effectively keeps him for herself without any regard for his entitlement to life. Just as her father had guarded and socially isolated her by running off any potential suitors, so too has Emily done to Homer. Mark Spencer compares her to the mentally ill Norman Bates in Robert Bloch’s Psycho, who kills his mother and keeps her in a room upstairs like Emily does with Homer.

He suggests that “by accepting Homer as a substitute for her dead father, Emily in a sense strikes back at him too when she kills Homer, taking revenge against “that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times”(IV)” (Spencer, 2006. p. 95). Sophia, in contrast, has a desire to be seen as a lady and as such, acts within the law when manipulating others. Although she is indirectly responsible for the deaths of her family members and shows relative indifference for their safety, she is not primarily responsible for their deaths.

Given this evidence, it can be supported that Emily’s extreme behaviour and criminal conduct points to a greater degree of illness than what is seen in Sophia. Emily exhibits a more visible lack of compassion than does Sophia, pointing to the conclusion that she has stronger antisocial predispositions. One associated feature of antisocial personality disorder is that “[d]ecisions are made on the spur of the moment, without forethought, and without consideration for the consequences to self or others” (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000). Emily demonstrates this when her father dies and she does not honour his body by burying him.

Instead, she keeps him in the house in what seems like an act of denial of his death. She is unable to think about others and what may be best for them. This is echoed in her murder of Homer and the lack of reasonable judgment she displays by keeping him in her grips: under her roof. She shows no signs of remorse for her act, through to the end of the story, when it finally becomes evident, due only to her death, that she has killed. By keeping the body as her property, she exhibits a severe lack of conscience and a dangerous amount of desire for the control of others.

Sophia also demonstrates a lack of compassion for her family throughout the story, but eventually has a revelation when her life is threatened, that she has been flawed in her thinking. One could argue that her final actions are also an attempt to have power over the situation so her life would be spared but the reader is led to believe differently. She connects with the Misfit’s vulnerability as his voice becomes high and cracked and her “head clear[s] for an instant” (1204). This implies that she has a change of cognition and sees things in a new light.

As she reaches out in her final moments of life to connect with him, she shows a marked change in behaviour as opposed to Emily who is too far along to be reachable. Both Emily and Sophia show multiple signs of mental instability but it is Emily who ultimately appears to be the more severe case. Emily acts as though she is deserving of taking whatever she desires without regard to the law, social norms, or consequences to others. Her inflated ego gives her the excuse to act as she pleases and she lacks the ability to tell right from wrong.

Sophia, on the other hand, is less action oriented, and instead, uses mental manipulation to get her way. She also thinks she is superior to others but acts within the constraints of the law. In contrast to Emily, Sophia appears to have an epiphany in realizing that her thinking has been faulty. She shows a final moment of compassion to someone she judges to be beneath her just before she is murdered. Through her one selfless act in the story, Sophia was able to redeem a small portion of her humanity which is something that Emily could not achieve.

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