The Right Man

In A Criminal History of Mankind, Colin Wilson recounts what happened when Sergei Aksakov’s grandfather (“this noble, magnanimous, often-self restrained man”) became enraged at his daughter. His elderly wife threw herself at his feet and begged for pity on the girl. He grabbed his wife by the hair and dragged her around the house until he was too exhausted to continue. He fell into a deep sleep and the next morning woke up in a good mood, asking for his tea.

Wilson writes, “In this one area of his life, his control over his family, he has made the decision to be out of control. It is provoked by his daughter persisting in a lie. This infuriates him; he feels she is treating him with lack of respect in assuming he can be duped. So he explodes and drags his wife around by the hair. He feels no shame later about his behavior; his merriness the next morning shows that his good opinion of himself is unaffected. He feels he was justified in exploding, like an angry god.”

Wilson calls him The Right Man.


Duane has a free temper. In other words, he has a temper three or four minutes and then all of a sudden everything is fine, you know. But yet he is a very very non-emotional type of individual. “I put up with it for eight or ten years,” he said. “I had no reason to kill her.” Bob Sendle, 1973 Grand Jury Transcript.


Doug and his sister remember the night their dad threw a glass of milk at the wall. Betty had served beans for dinner, and beans made Duane fart. Duane got so angry at other drivers that his sister Cherrie wouldn’t ride in his car. Cherrie’s ex-husband Hank recalled Duane exploding at a party and berating Betty in front of a roomful of guests. These are my guests, he said, you will treat them right! Duane was the only relative Betty’s nephews feared. But kids are impressionable, and everyone loses his temper.

One of the last times I saw Betty was Mother’s Day 1973. At dinner she was cold and distant. I was surprised when, doing the dishes later, she confided in me. Duane had exploded at a woman from the telephone company. Betty was worried for him, not herself. Three weeks later she was dead.

The court files tell what happened, but not why. DSM-5 lays out a smorgasbord of intermittent explosive disorder, repressed rage, pathological narcissism, and narcissistic personality disorder. They seem generic, incomplete. They catch the rage but miss the aftereffect, the everything-being-fine-later, that losing control can be a conscious and selective choice. And that the Right Man’s flashpoint is his wife.

Do you know a Right Man?


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