Distribution Automatique

Tuesday, October 26

Dreiser's Narcissistic Titan

Dreiser's *Trilogy of Desire* consists of three books: *The Financier*,
*The Titan* and *The Stoic* (1912, 1914; *The Stoic completed
posthumously in 1947). The main character is Frank
Cowperwood (surely a reference to Dickens' David
Copperfield, who is the antithesis to Dreiser's character),
who is a financial speculator with criminal tendencies.
Cowperwood is a depiction of the
classic narcissistic personality disorder-
manipulative, power-driven, lacking in conscience,
or any balance between personal desire and caring for others.
Essentially, Cowperwood’s caring is completely directed towards
his own appetites and needs. Secondly, Cowperwood is depicted
as revealing a form of narcissism that
directs him unconsciously towards the cultivation of a
spectacularly driven personality which longs for, and
must compulsively attain, a great deal of self-sufficiency and
and control over his environment. Since others
are needed for his physical and emotional cravings
he can often be dependent, but he is careful to rotate
his victims.

Dreiser is very apt reading for this current era because
he consistently focuses on manipulativeness, power
and greed. Dreiser demonstrates that power-
driven individuals are action oriented, and are greatly
concerned with how they are viewed in the world, and
therefore are obsessed with personal accomplishment.
There is a Nietzchian side to Dreiser, in that he well
understands the relationship between accomplishment,
the will to power, and the forces of circumstance. Thus:
"The impediments that can arise to baffle a great and
swelling career are strange and various. In some
instances all the cross-waves of life must be cut by the
strong swimmer. With other personalities there is a chance,
or force, that happily allies itself with them; or they quite
unconsciously ally themselves with it, and find that
there is a tide that bears them on. Divine will? Not
necessarily. there is no understanding of it. Guardian
spirits? There are many who so believe, to their
utter undoing. (Witness Macbeth.) An unconscious
drift in the direction of right, virtue, duty? These are
banners of moral manufacture. Nothing is proved;
all is permitted." (from *The Financier*.)

People under the sway of narcissistic personality disorder
are uniquely charismatic, as is Dreiser's Cowperwood
character. Others are ineluctably drawn to their fascinating charm
that is greatly enhanced by their breathtaking tendency
to take risks, to accomplish vast projects (often by shrewdly
exploiting and manipulating others), and by their larger
than life personal profile. While life appears to many, if
not most, as on ongoing struggle against insecurity and
implacable external forces, the narcissistic personality
appears, at most times, to be a supremely confident master
and manipulator of those same universal external forces
that appear to so frequently trouble, overcome or even dwarf less
towering personalities. The ability to fascinate others and
obtain their consistent admiration without appearing to
truly need others, while at the same time using and
exploiting them, is a literally compelling story, a story
of vast compulsions and historic dimensions.