Thursday, April 29, 2010

Let's Psychoanalyze Parker!


Some time ago, I tried to get at the reason why Donald Westlake's enduring thief Parker, who's been going through a bit of a renaissance recently, is so appealing. I concluded it was his tenacity, and his ability to work through even the most difficult problems to come out on top. I have been recently working my way through the latest set of reprints from the University of Chicago, and, coincidentally, I've been reading up on the Myers-Briggs personality test or the Keirsey Temperament sorter, or whatever they're calling it these days. I'm sure you're probably familiar with the test, which is based on the work of Carl Jung. Psychoanalysis is, at best, a dubious endeavor, and I've always been skeptical of it in general, but I've taken the Myers-Briggs test several times throughout my life, and I've always found it to be uncannily accurate.

I always test as an
INTJ. INTJs are long range thinkers and planners, who tend to be pragmatic. They hate small talk, and always (well, almost always) think in pragmatic terms. This often leads to a rather, shall we say, amoral outlook on life. Rules that are good are followed. Rules that aren't are ignored, especially if there's something to be gained.

The more I read the Parker stories, the more I see a lot of myself in him. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cold blooded killer or a thief, but like him, I tend to be cautious and research all the risks before I take action, and I tend to have very little time for small talk, which is one of Parker's defining traits. I also value staying cool under pressure, and if anyone's the embodiment of that quality it's Parker. When things don't go as planned he switches plans, just like that. He never panics. He never stops thinking. He does what has to be done.
All of this makes me wonder if Parker isn't so enduring because he's a modern day Jungian Archetype. Jung had story archetypes like the Hero, The Trickster and the Earth Mother, all drawn from myth. Parker isn't exactly believable as a real person, but he does represent something, unique to our culture. He is the ultimate businessman. His work is his life and his life is his work. It's almost like he's some monster representation of the negative elements of American society. He's a myth, just like Chandler's man who walks down the mean streets who is not himself mean.

1 comment:

Mohammed said...

I like your thoughts about Parker specially how he never stops thinking.

That and his tenacity is what makes him stand as great character.

Although i dont agree He is the ultimate businessman. In many of the books he thinks he does jobs just because he enjoys the work,specially about thinking,planing the job.

The Money is only the tool to take it easy beteween him finding interesting heist job.

He is the ultimate worker, not businessman imo. He needs the work but not the money.