Mary: Conduct Disorder to Antisocial Disorder- Trajectory of a Psychopath

Mary is a scary character. Her actions are not only those of spoiled child but they indicate a psychological disorder that is far more serious and dangerous. Lillian Hellman hints at the psychological disorder with Rosalie’s comment to Mary: “And who will wait upon you in the insane asylum?” (Act 1, 27).

According to the fourth and current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR)- a Conduct Disorder can be diagnosed using the following criteria (taken from Wikipedia, but also found in the DSM-IV-TR):

A. A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of three (or more) of the following criteria in the past 12 months, with at least one criterion present in the past 6 months:

Aggression to people and animals

(1) often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others

(2) often initiates physical fights

(3) has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun)

(4) has been physically cruel to people

(5) has been physically cruel to animals

(6) has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery)

(7) has forced someone into sexual activity

Destruction of property

(8) has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage

(9) has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire setting)

Deceitfulness or theft

(10) has broken into someone else’s house, building, or car

(11) often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., “cons” others)

(12) has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery)

Serious violations of rules

(13) often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years

(14) has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in parental or parental surrogate home (or once without returning for a lengthy period)

(15) is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years

B. The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

C. If the individual is age 18 years or older, criteria are not met for Antisocial Personality Disorder.


It seems likely that Mary could be diagnosed with a conduct disorder.

1. She often bullies and intimidates others. She intimidates Rosalie into moving her stuff to her new room and she bullies Peggy into giving her all of the money Peggy had saved.

2. She has been physically cruel to her friends Peggy and Evelyn-

“MARY makes a sudden move to her, grabs her L. arm, and jerks it back, hard and expertly. PEGGY screams softly. EVELYN tries to take MARY’s arm away. Without releasing her hold on PEGGY, MARY slaps EVELYN’s face. EVELYN backs away, begins to cry.” (30)

–          The word “expertly” implies that this is not the first time Mary has engaged in such behavior.

3. Mary often lies to get out of obligations. She lies to Lily Mortar about the flowers and she lies to her grandmother about Karen and Martha in order to get out of her punishment for lying about the flowers. Karen asks her, “Why, for example, do you find it necessary to lie to us so much?” (14)

4. Mary ran away from school.

5. Mary is often truant from school. Karen says to her “If you feel you have to take a walk, or you just can’t come to class, or that you’d like to go to the village by yourself, come and tell me—I’ll try and understand” (14) This implies that these are things that Mary does.

6. The disturbance in behavior does cause impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

7. Mary is only fourteen- not old enough to be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a step farther than Conduct Disorder (also from wikipedia but taken from the DSM-IV-TR)

Diagnostic criteria:

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:

  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

B) The individual is at least age 18 years.

C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.

D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.


While not old enough to be diagnosed with Antisocial Disorder (formerly known as Psychopathic or Sociopathic disorder), Mary’s disregard for the feelings of others, and her lack of regret for the damage she causes hint at a chilling future for Mary if her grandmother does not act soon.

“Psychopaths have only a shallow range of emotions and lack guilt, says [expert, Robert Hare. They often see themselves as victims, and lack remorse or the ability to empathize with others.”

This sounds exactly like Mary. Yikes.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 2:30 am Comments (0)

Prospectus Draft Reflections

First of all, I want to clarify that after completing my prospectus draft, I may have actually changed my mind. There are two main ideas circulating in my head right now and I’m not sure which one I’ll pursue.


Topic 1:

I would like to focus on the way novelists portray the effects of what I will term “political gossip” on society. Using Max Gluckman’s discussion of gossip’s role in sustaining and identifying a community, I plan to explore the negative effects political gossip has on the individual and the community. When gossip is given a “higher purpose” in the form of informants and spies, suspicion, betrayal, and alienation are never far behind. Among texts that I plan to use in exploring this idea are Barry Unsworth’s Pascali’s Island, Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, Reza Kahlili’s A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, and perhaps the young adult series by Ally Carter that revolves around a girls spy school including the novel I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.


Topic 2:

I would like to explore the way in which spy and informant novels, as discussing “political gossip,” highlight the narrative drive. The human drive to create a narrative or story arc to otherwise random events and people finds its peak in gossip narratives, especially those of political gossip. I plan to discuss the narrative drive in the terms of Deleuze and Guttari’s essay on the rhizome. The narrative drive represents arborial attempts to create order from otherwise rhizomatic happenings. I hope to show, as well, how the authors play with these ideas in their various styles- for example, presenting information to the reader in a way that will force the reader to come to premature conclusions, highlighting the falsity of arborial assumptions of a story arc. Among texts that I plan to use in exploring this idea are Barry Unsworth’s Pascali’s Island, Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, Reza Kahlili’s A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, and perhaps the young adult series by Ally Carter that revolves around a girls spy school including the novel I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.



1. I found the topic description followed by the research questions to be a good way to organize my ideas.


2. The most frustrating aspect of the assignment was coming up with actual questions. I have ideas, but coming up with specific questions with which to explore them is more challenging.


3. The main question I have right now is- “Which idea actually interesting/innovative and which is more original?”


4. When do I have to actually narrow my focus? If I have two ideas that I’m considering pursuing- can I just continue reading more books and articles for a bit and see which one I have more

Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 8:10 pm Comments (0)

Sin in Salem

What I find fascinating the Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is the punishing power of a belief in sin. While Hester’s community ostracizes her and forces her to wear the scarlet letter A for committing adultery, it is Hester’s belief in her own sin that punishes her. Instead of moving back home to London or to another community in the New World, Hester chooses to stay and bear her alienation. She imagines her daughter, Pearl, to be simultaneously a demon child and a perpetual punishing reminder of her sin. She dresses Pearl in scarlet finery to be the human manifestation of the scarlet letter A. In addition to Hester, Dimmesdale punishes himself because of his belief in his own sin. Unable to speak his sin, he inscribes it in his flesh.


Another interesting point was that while the community will have nothing to do with Hester and she serves as a warning to prospective sinners, Hester’s weaves her sin into the clothing the community buys from her. Hester’s services are in such demand that the community is forced to buy their special-occasion clothes and gloves from Hester. While brides are never allowed to wear her clothes for fear of spreading her sin, babies, the dead, and officials all wear clothes sewn by Hester. Sin is an usnpoken underpinning of their society. Hester sees this also when she encounters sympathetic looks and intuitions that others in her community have sinned.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 7:30 am Comments (0)

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