Monday, 16 September 2013

Cathy Ames: Steinbeck's Archetypal Female Psychopath

"I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies. . . . And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?"

In John Steinbeck 1952 novel East of Eden we are presented with what must be the most perfect description of a female psychopath in modern literature. The description of Cathy Ames' pathology - even down to her high-testosterone physiology - leaves the reader in no doubt that Steinbeck, or someone he was closely associated with, must of crossed paths with a female psychopath who served as the real life inspiration for this literary 'monster'.

 “the eyes of Cathy had no message, no communication…they were not human eyes”

Steinbeck depicts her as small-breasted, delicate and a sense of strange, if not dangerous allurement to both men and women. Her attractiveness fools most whom she encounters, although some characters in the novel detect her true nature from her emotionless eyes. Even at a young age her father is aware she is not a typical child. Approaching puberty, she becomes aware of the power of human sexuality over others. As the novel nears conclusion, Cathy develops crippling arthritis in her hands, and by middle age is described as “a sick ghost”

Parasitic and manipulative, Cathy is the embodiment of what we have come to recognise as possessing the traits of the female psychopath. She embraces wickedness and depravity wholeheartedly and indulges evil simply for its own sake; the psychopathic 'rush'.


  1. Sounds like my old boss.

    1. My old boss was very much like this as well. I've worked on my own ever since.

  2. Sounds like my old boss too.
    The truly frightening thing with this is that we worked in child protection (her nickname amongst the staff was The Grim Reaper). I know she was directly responsible for the suicide of a young teen in foster care plus causing incredible trauma to many other children in care because of her totally malevolent decisions .
    She had eyes like dead shark.
    Says it all.

  3. Another psychopath in literature would be the character of George du Broy in Bel-Ami.

  4. The eyes are always a tell ... if there is no light in the eyes, its pretty clear, there is no light in the soul.

  5. The eyes are very telling of the light within the soul of a human being. If there is no light in the eyes, its highly likely there is no light in the soul. The eyes whether, sad, mad or glad should always reflect a sense of spirit or soul.

  6. We've all come across these vile creatures and unfortunately they are always promoted because their characteristics are viewed as strength by the people higher up!