Psychological Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "A Rose for Emily"

Psychological Diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "A Rose For Emily"

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. 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. 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...
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