Thursday, February 21, 2008

Meet the Malignant Narcissist

I have never been a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe, but one of his stories grabbed me by the guts when I was but a teenager, and I have never forgotten it.

Meet the malignant narcissist in "The Cask of Amontillado."

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. AT LENGTH I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile NOW was at the thought of his immolation.

Read the rest.

Note: The motto "Nemo me impune lacessit" means "No one offends me with impunity."

A note about the reference to the Masons:

The significance is that both men were Catholic, and the Masons are a secret society that the Catholic Church does not permit its members to belong to. Therefore it was dangerous to admit you were a Mason in Italy at the time. Fortunato was thus foolhardy in revealing this about himself. Way too trusting. In addition, notice that he catches the narcissist in a lie about this but doesn't pay heed to his instincts. His tunnel vision for that promised cask of Amontillado makes him blow off this sign of bad faith. And that costs him his life.

Note: "In pace requiescat!" means "May he rest in peace!" an antiphon of the Requiem Mass.

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At 11:03 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

I am a 38 year old man who has only now, FINALLY, figured out what has been wrong with his father and our corresponding relationship.

I feel like I can actually understand the WHY of the choices that he makes. And it has been your blog and site that have helped me the most.

THANK YOU! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for undertaking this project. You have helped me breath for the first time in my life.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thanks for the thanks. I know what a relief it is, and hearing that this project helps others "break their bonds asunder" and cast off that stumbing block is ... well, I don't quite know how to say what that means to me.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to echo (so to speak) what Christopher said. I am 48 and have just spent a month with my father who lives on the other side of the world.

We had built up a reasonably good relationship over recent years (due to lack of proximity no doubt!) but it has just been irrevocably damaged over absolutely nothing. His pettiness, cruelty and control freakery left me reeling and vowing never to have anything to do with him again. I simply cannot and will not take any more of his crass behavior.

I have only read up on this condition since I've been back and like Christopher it all make sense to me now. I had noticed a few things about him. 1. His life is a continuos quest to find what he likes most: from what type of bread to which car. He researches these things continuously. 2. He is preoccupied with his outward image, projecting a charming not to say smarmy persona whilst hiding his true bitter and sadistic nature. 3. He just loves to humiliate at every possible opportunity. The list goes on and I'm sure is familiar to all readers of this blog.

I have realised that I am not his son, I am his victim...if I let him.

This site has helped me to realise that we (the rest of my family) are not alone and that is a tremendous comfort. Your efforts are very much appreciated!

Finally, if I could give these 'people' just one thing to give us all a break it would simply be an ounce of humility. The question is - how?


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