The DSM categorizes a sociopath as having all of the following according to Mcaffee at http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html
- Glibness and Superficial Charm
- Manipulative and Conning
- Grandiose Sense of Self
- Pathological Lying
- Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
- Shallow Emotions
- Incapacity for Love
- Need for Stimulation
- Callousness/Lack of Empathy
- Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
- Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
- Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
- Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
- Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
When I first set out to read Jane Austen to see what it had to teach me about men and dating, I did not expect to find a sociopath within the pages of Northanger Abbey. Yet John Thorpe’s behavior is much like that of my ex-boyfriend.
Pathological Lying: Both Thorpe and my ex were guilty of this. John repeatedly lies to Catherine so much that she “knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing.” He lies to her and tells her he sees the Tilney’s going on an excursion so that he can have her to himself. This is very similar to my ex. Every facet of his life was a carefully constructed lie. He told me he couldn’t drive because he got a DUI (the truth is he didn’t have his driver’s license). He told me he went to Kent State (he got kicked out due to poor grades). He told me he was looking for engagement rings (he was cheating on me). The lies went on and on…much like John Thorpe’s lies.
Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt: When Catherine sees the Tilneys and realizes that Thorpe lied to her, she asks him to stop, but he refuses. He laughs at her and speeds up the carriage so that she cannot get out. He has little remorse for lying and she is completely mortified. My ex on the other hand would pretend to have remorse, but only after he got caught. And even if he got caught, he would lie about the circumstances. When I confronted him about his infidelity, he lied and said it had only been going on a month when in reality, it had been going on almost a year.
Superficial Charm: The reason why Thorpe and my ex can get away with lying is because they are charming. Thorpe endlessly flatters Catherine and calls her “the most charming girl in the world.” My ex told me he would love me forever. She does not know how to reconcile his “endless conceit” with the fact that he is “completely agreeable.” This is because our society has such a distinction between good and bad that when they are blurred, it is hard to reconcile that bad people hide behind good words. My ex told my whole family how much he loved me and didn’t want to lose me, yet at the same time, he was having sex with a girl in my condo. He was good at what he did and so is Thorpe.
Callousness/Lack of Empathy : John shows this on numerous occasions throughout the book. He tells his younger sisters they look ugly. He tells Catherine that her brother’s carriage will break down, and doesn’t understand why she gets upset by this. John does not rest his horse and claims to ride the horse 40 or 50 miles per day showing no empathy for the poor animal. He also tells his sister she has thick ankles and will not go on an excursion with her. This callousness and lack of empathy is very consistent with my ex boyfriend. When he was drunk, he would call me a “fat fuck” or a “whore” and then claim to have no memory. He would criticize my cooking and cleaning and have little to no concern for my feelings whatsoever.
Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature : John exhibits poor behavioral controls when he drives his gig. He swears at the horses and he gets angry. He blames their failure to reach Blaze Castle on James Morland’s driving. Also, when Catherine gets upset and tries to chase after Tilney, John held her so that she could not leave. John also spends a lot of time talking about horse racing and gambling which suggests that he has an addiction. Similarly, my ex I believe had an addiction to gambling, pot and alcohol. Whenever we were at a bar or a party, he had to be the last one to leave.
I think the point that I learned from re-reading Northanger Abbey is that unfortunately sociopaths are everywhere. I wish I could have been smart like Catherine Morland and NOT fallen for my sociopath’s charms. He roped me in so thoroughly with vague lies that I mistakenly filled in the blanks with my own optimistic vision of him. So never again will I fall for the charms of a liar. Catherine is lucky that she escaped John’s grasp because she would never have been happy with him. In all, I am lucky to have escaped my sociopath’s grasp without greater harm.