In the book, The Stranger, Merseault is convicted of first degree murder. During the questioning Merseault is indifferent about the murder. Lawyers note that Merseault feels no remorse towards his violent action and as a result of this, the jury finds Merseault guilty; the penalty is execution. The jury believes he is a danger to society and calls him a monster. Merseault lacks empathy; he is unable to recognize and respond to other people’s feelings (Baron-Cohen). However, this is not enough to state that Merseault is a danger to society. Does Merseault lack more than just empathy? Is he a psychopath?
Empathy is a skill children learn from their parents (Kutner). The way a parent shows empathy is crucial to the development of their child’s empathic skills. Infants and toddlers learn empathy by the way their parents treat them when they are sad, angry, or frightened. Children learn these basic survival skills long before they enter the world of formal education. According to findarticles.com, children are educated by identifying with and imitating their parents, which Dr. Benjamin Spock calls, incidental learning. Young children identify more closely with the parent of the same gender, absorbing important lessons about social and moral conduct (“Children Learn through Imitating Behavior of Parents”).
The first six years of a child’s life is a window of opportunity when a child unquestionably accepts the virtues modeled by his or her parents (“8 Ways to Raise a Moral Child | Ask Dr. Sears”). In their first few years, children believe that their behaviors are right or wrong according to what a parent tells them. By five years old, a child begins to adopt their parent’s values, whether they are noble or not. Merseault’s childhood might be the primary cause for his lack of empathy, which has led him to behave and think without sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Another factor that plays a very important role in a child’s development of empathy is their parent’s emotional stability. When a parent expresses too much sadness, because of depression, or too much anger, a child becomes overwhelmed. Children that are overwhelmed cannot develop empathy. Since they cannot manage all of these emotions, they learn to ignore them. (“Child Development of Empathy, a Skill You Can Teach, Train and Encourage”). Is this what Merseault learned to do? It is possible, that Mersealt was overwhelmed as a child, and because of that, was unable to learn empathy. In the book, it seems as though Merseault ignores all of his emotions, but is that all he did?
Not only is Merseault unable to empathize with others, but when he kills the innocent man he feels no remorse. In the public eye, a “psychopath” is deemed to be a serial killer or a dangerous villain. However, a psychopath is far more common than one can imagine. In modern terms, the word psychopathy is generally used in reference to the works of Canadian psychologist, Robert Hare. Hare’s, Psychopathy Checklist...