Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The Talented Mr. Ripley

From: Patrick King (
Date: 07 Apr 2007

Jim, "evil" is too metaphysical a term for me. One person's "evil" is often the perpetrator's self-preservation, patriotism, or expedience. If a person makes the determination that "justice" (another word I have problems with) is impossible through "the system," (not exactly a stretch of imagination to decide that!) one may take it upon one's self to meet out discipline personally. For example, was it "evil" for the US Government to forge documents about nuclear arms to back up their decision to go to war in Iraq and to impose this fraudlent information on the US Senate at a time when the country was in a mind-set of abject terror? My argument is that it's insane to do this, but evil? No, they believed the end justified the means. As it turns out, they were wrong even about that! Just as the perpatrators of the 9/11 attacks, whoever they were, were "evil." They apparently believed that The United States was imposing on their governments and who's to say? The word "evil" belongs in horror stories and theological texts, not in reasonable discussions of real-life problems. It's too prejudicial; an absolute negative. No one, however bad they may seem, actually starts their action to do
"bad," because inevitably the bad returns to them, and they know it however crazy they may be. They reason they're doing "good," but come up against a problem in which they feel justified in making an extreme act. Like the bankrobber who appologizes politely while holding the teller at gun point, "I've never done anything like this before, but I'm so strapped for cash." That's why Ripley, Hannibel Lechter and most of the fictional villians become more and more the protagonist as we get to know them better and understand their motives.

Patrick King
--- jimdohertyjr <> wrote:

> Patrick,
> Re your comments below:
> > Jim, with all due respect: evil? What does that
> mean?
> > Are foxes "evil" for stealing chichens?
> Foxes are not capable of making moral judgments.
> People are.
> As for the definition of evil, I would have thought
> that was self-
> evident, but since you're apparently hazy on the
> concept, one who is
> evil is one who continually, willfully, and
> deliberately chooses to
> act immorally.
> Murdering people, just in case it's not clear, is an
> immoral act.
> > Ripley is not
> > able to control himself when he becomes enraged.
> His
> > first 3 murders are all rage killings. After a
> while
> > he gets to enjoy murder. It's a challenge for him.
> Rage is not the same as an inability to control
> oneself. It's
> failing to exert control, not an inability to exert
> control. And
> it's not a legal defense against a criminal
> homicide. You MIGHT, I
> say MIGHT, be able to argue that a homicide
> committed in an act of
> rage was manslaughter, but not that it was insanity.
> And if he's committing his subsequent murders
> primarily because he
> enjoys it, that's a textbook example of deliberate
> evil.
> > You mention that insanity is a legal concept.
> Under the
> > legal definition, the lawyer that Ripley can
> afford
> > can certainly make an insanity argument for him if
> he
> > ever gets caught, which, of course, he never will
> be
> > now. I doubt that that's the tact that lawyer
> would
> > take, however. He'd argue innocent and make the
> > prosecution prove it's case which he would riddle
> with
> > holes.
> Whether or not a prosecutor could prove he's a
> murderer or not
> doesn't make him any less a murderer.
> We KNOW he's a murder. We're "eyewitnesses," so to
> speak. Highsmith
> lets us "see" the murders "on-stage," so we know,
> without question,
> that Ripley's a murderer. Whether or not a
> prosecutor could prove
> it, given the chance, is irrelevant. We already
> know the objective
> truth.
> Your original assertion wasn't that he could get
> away with it even if
> he was brought to trial. It was that he was insane.
> And, based on
> the evidence of the books, that's just not what he
> is. He knows what
> he's doing and he knows the nature and gravity of
> his actions.
> Moreover, he's not in some kind of fugue state where
> he's not
> cognizant of his actions at the time he commits them
> and is therefore
> powerless to resist the impulse that causes him to
> kill. And if he's
> not either of those, he's not insane. He may not be
> normal, but he's
> not insane.
> He's just a guy who likes to murder people.
> Which means he's evil.

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