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Psychoanalytic approach, Criminal behavior, Noncriminals, Fictional characters, Noble bandit, Vigilante


This article explores noncriminals' admiration for the lawbreaker. Drawing on literature, films, history, and psychoanalysis, the article seeks to delineate and explain this paradox. Each part of the article adopts a different approach to the subject of admiration for criminals. Part II, "Reluctant Admiration," sets the stage by presenting evidence that such admiration, and conflict over it, are pervasive. Parts III and IV present two quite different strategies that noncriminals employ to cope with their inner conflict over criminality. Thus, Part III, "Rationalized Admiration," depicts noncriminals who express undisguised enjoyment in, and reverence for, criminals. These noncriminals justify their attraction to the lawbreaker by attributing it to consciously acceptable values, such as justice or freedom.

By contrast, the noncriminals in Part IV, "Repressed Admiration," energetically bar from consciousness their admiration for criminals. These noncriminals deal with their esteem for criminals not only by repression but also by other defense mechanisms: converting admiration to loathing, repudiation, and persecution. As persecutors, noncriminals sometimes step over the line and commit crimes themselves. They are then in the psychological position of "having their cake and eating it too," as they imitate criminal behavior in the service of bringing criminals to justice. As will be apparent by now, this article adopts a psychoanalytic approach to understanding admiration for criminals. It thus takes for granted such axioms of psychoanalysis as the following: the meaningfulness of all mental and emotional manifestations, the existence of an unconscious, the defense mechanisms, infantile sexuality, and the causal significance of early life.

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University of Illinois Law Review