- Paperback: 596 pages
- Publisher: Literary Licensing, LLC; 3rd edition (October 15, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1258164132
- ISBN-13: 978-1258164133
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,264,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues about the So-Called Psychopathic Personality 3rd Edition
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The most useful part of Cleckley's book is the 200 pages devoted to case studies of psychopathic patients observed under his care. These portraits form a cohesive profile of the psychopath as an otherwise intelligent individual with a startling inability to pursue long-term goals or act with consequences in mind. They lie on a whim, steal paltry sums of money, drink to excess, pursue frequent sexual encounters without affection and generally have no comprehension that their actions are harmful or troubling to those around them. Cleckley refreshingly refrains from sensationalism in these pages. Despite popular culture's depiction of the conscience-less serial killer, the psychopaths Cleckley encounters may threaten violence, but rarely (if ever) carry out regular acts of serious brutality. The cases described in these pages may have no moral compass, but they also lack the foresight required to pursue any far-reaching act of grave consequence.
At times however, Cleckley's work offers unfortunate reminders of the era in which it was written. Much of his psychological analysis is couched in Freudian interpretations, like the Oedipus complex. A chapter on "Sexual Deviation" is filled with outdated and offensive depictions of homosexuality. And of course, there has been significant progress in psychology in general and the study of psychopathy in particular since The Mask's publication. Yet as a whole, the book offers a thorough depiction of the psychopathic personality that is likely to stand the test of time. For readers like me looking for a basic introduction to the subject, Cleckley's book serves its purpose as a clarification of psychopathic behavior.
The book was written in the 1940s, and so of course when Cleckley’s social and moral descriptions are encountered, readers of today who can’t suspend these features academically will no doubt feel appalled and let down; the 40s was not a progressive time for race relations, sex and gender inequality, or too accepting of homosexuality. However, I find that Cleckley’s approach to these issues is worthy of its own study.
Cleckley is open and honest about his struggles to categorize a poorly understood disorder, and he has done an admirable job in laying the foundation for all the psychopath scholars that followed.
Hervey Cleckley's book goes a long way to illuminating the nature of 'psychopathy' or 'anti social personality disorder(APD)': The term psychopath is used for ease of communicating the many shades and degrees of this complex personality disorder. He presents extreme case examples of people who are disabled by this syndrome as well as cases where the individuals are functioning, even successful members of society. He also illustrates other personality disorders, i.e. schizophrenia, psychoneuroses and their symptoms and other clinical features in juxtaposition as to 'why' these disorders and the people who suffer from them are not necessarily psychopaths, but that many disorders share overlapping features with psychopathy.
It is very readable. Dr. Cleckley's elegant narrative has a 'southern' rhythm and tone mingled with erudition and the warmth of his humanity as he discusses each case: the facets thereof and the patients affected. His message is never obscured by overly esoteric jargon, nor does he lose the reader in overly technical detail. His aim is sincere in understanding this complex issue as well as to communicate to professionals and other interested readers. Also, since this goes back to the forties and early fifties, some of the language regarding sexuality, morality and gender roles is indicative of the cultural attitudes of those times; a kind of sounding board as to how we as an American culture have evolved in our attitudes and awareness of sexuality, mental illness, gender roles etc. To leave off: there is also great humor on the part of Dr. Cleckley as, for example, he attempts in chapter twelve to illustrate the libidonistic mindset of a group of teenage boys relevant to the chapter's presented case history.