The problems of psychopathic behavior are widely discussed by specialists in psychiatry and criminology. The main questions which attract the public’s attention are connected with the issues of the threat of psychopathic behavior for society. Today many open questions are associated with the nature of psychopathy, its symptoms, and its diagnosis. Moreover, criminal and non-criminal psychopaths became a part of social life with the development of the tendency to depict psychopaths in novels and movies.
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The most famous fictional psychopath whose name became well-known in the early 1990s is Hannibal Lecter, the main character of “The Silence of the Lambs” of 1991. This figure is interesting for the discussion in the context of criminal and non-criminal psychopathy because Lecter was portrayed as a person with great charisma and as a prominent specialist in psychiatry. Hannibal Lecter obtains a lot of characteristics that help to speak about him as a criminal psychopath.
Psychiatrists have determined a list of characteristics that can be discussed as typical for the psychopath’s behavior. They accentuated the lack of empathy and remorse, impulsivity, irresponsibility, and poor behavioral control which give psychopaths the opportunity not to feel guilt for their actions (Turvey, 2008). They do not consider their actions as dangerous or unordinary. Moreover, psychopaths often are charming and intelligent people and their everyday behavior can not contain any clues to their psychopathic disorders. Furthermore, psychopaths can hide their characteristics and qualities due to their grandiose sense of self-worth and charisma (Turvey, 2008). Such people are great manipulators in situations when they try to achieve their goals (Patrick, 2007).
However, not all the characteristics are typical for criminal and non-criminal psychopaths. Not all psychopaths can be considered criminals because they do not any crime. Nevertheless, criminal psychopaths can be characterized with a lot of qualities typical for non-criminal psychopaths, but they are intensified because of their criminal intentions and behavior (Patrick, 2007). Criminal psychopaths are often characterized by such intensified qualities as criminal versatility and the highest level of irresponsibility for their actions.
Moreover, psychopathic behavior should be differentiated from an antisocial personality disorder. The question of general characteristics which can help to differentiate strictly between psychopathic behavior and antisocial personality disorders remains open. The researches accentuate the fact that psychopathy can be considered as the most severe form of the antisocial disorder (Felithous & Sass, 2008). However, not all persons with severe forms of antisocial disorders became psychopaths. Genetic disorders and the peculiarities of social surroundings are also meaningful. Furthermore, the examples of severe criminal behavior are more typical for psychopaths than for persons with the antisocial personal disorder (Millon & Birket-Smith, 2002).
Thus, the peculiarities of the character of Hannibal Lecter can be classified as reflections of psychopathic behavior. His personality reveals almost all the typical characteristics of a psychopath. Moreover, his actions supported the idea that his character is of the psychopathic type. “He is egocentric, grandiose, callous, manipulative, and remorseless” (Hare, 1993, p. 74). This description of Lecter’s character represents the main qualities typical for a psychopath. However, Hannibal Lecter also reveals such peculiarities in his behavior as the lack of empathy, criminal versatility, superficial charm, and grandiose sense of self-worth (Turvey, 2008). These characteristics helped them to receive status in society and become a famous psychiatrist who specializes in different types of antisocial disorders.
In addition, we cannot consider Hannibal Lecter as the example of a person with antisocial behavior or as a typical criminal because his psychopathic characteristics were disclosed as the result of his cannibalistic behavior. Thus, Hannibal Lecter is a criminal psychopath who demonstrated his criminal psychopathic behavior as a serial killer. Hannibal Lecter committed his cannibalistic actions as a typical criminal psychopath who is inclined to follow two different styles of living and hide the consequences of his crimes. However, it is rather difficult to speak about Lecter as a typical cannibal or a typical serial killer because all his actions including murders were based on the knowledge of the victims’ psychology which was combined with the knowledge of psychiatry and his practice as a psychiatrist. Lecter’s criminal behavior was characterized by his complex analysis of the victims’ personalities and behavior. He had his system according to which he completed his cannibalistic actions.
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The main peculiarities of Lecter’s behavior in prison are in the fact that his help was used for analyzing the actions of the other criminal psychopath. However, Lecter revealed himself as a manipulative and egocentric person who needs to feel his dominance over other people. Such Lecter’s actions were directed toward Clarice Starling who tried to find the criminal. Hannibal Lecter preferred to play with Starling intellectual and psychological games using his knowledge of people’s psychology. Hannibal Lecter could not admit the sentence and used the opportunity to escape in order to prove his superiority.
Thus, Hannibal Lecter is one of the brightest fictional characters whose behavior reveals all the typical features of a criminal psychopath. His psychopathy is proved because of his cannibalistic actions and his criminal behavior is then supported by the fact of a number of committed murders.
Felithous, A., & Sass, H. (2008). International handbook on psychopathic disorders and the law. USA: John Wiley & Sons.
Hare, R. D. (1993). Without conscience: The disturbing world of psychopaths among us. New York: Guilford Press.
Millon, T., & Birket-Smith, M. (2002). Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior. USA: Guilford Press.
Patrick, C. J. (2007). Handbook of psychopathy. USA: Guilford Press.
Turvey, B. E. (2008). Criminal profiling: An introduction to behavioral evidence analysis. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Academic Press.