Arnold Wesker: The Devil Inside
by Scott Summers
Anybody who’s seen Psycho can diagnose the flagrantly ill Arnold Wesker. Two voices, two motivations, even two faces (with apologies to Harvey Dent): easy peasy, Wesker has multiple personalities. In the current parlance, he suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), with one self completely split off from the other. Scary as the Dark Knight can be, Batman will never get Scarface’s plans out of Wesker—because he doesn’t know them, even though his own brain thought them up! His two personalities are so distinct, so alien to each other, that even Batman can be forgiven for suspecting (as he creeps up on Scarface while he “sleeps”) that in some fantastic way the wooden dummy into which Wesker dissociates his alternate personality might actually be alive.
And these two personalities don’t play nice. Wesker is terrified of the pint-sized bully who borrows his voice. Scarface hectors and manipulates Wesker, turning the concept of dummy and ventriloquist inside out; he dominates Wesker’s nightmares, cutting a more frightening figure than Batman. (Armchair psychoanalysts might wryly suggest that Scarface is overcompensating for his small stature.) Wesker’s years at Arkham don’t do the trick, either, as he emerges still petrified at the thought of Scarface’s return. In fact, Wesker’s years as a guest of Gotham make things worse by providing Scarface a chance to go to ground.
As a hiding place, Wesker’s dominant personality is deep cover indeed. His abject fear, social isolation, extreme sensitivity to criticism, and apparent sense of helplessness earn him the distinction of a personality disorder all his own: he’s avoidant. To watch the poor fella is to cringe at his timidity; no one would guess he could pose a threat. But inside this neurasthenic little wretch, in just about the least likely place on Earth, Scarface lurks. It’s cunning to the point of brilliance: he’s using harmless, innocent Wesker both as a human shield and for plausible deniability.
At another level below this, Wesker—that is, the original personality called Arnold Wesker—is using Scarface, too. His worry and unease are too much for him to process, so he’s generated a second personality, a terrifying object of fear (are you listening, Dr. Crane?) as a way of transcending the anxiety. Wesker’s desperately needed help comes from within, from a separate identity, so dangerous to his meek surface character that it split off and consolidated itself. At the heart of this issue is the question of how Wesker learned to throw his voice—and, more specifically, who learned to do it. Did the hours of practice with a ventriloquist’s dummy emerge from Arnold’s knowledge of the alienation within his own psyche, and did it facilitate his first split? Or was it Scarface who picked up the talent as a means of differentiating himself from his host personality and striking out on his own?
The smart money is on Scarface. This vicious little puppet spews out all the rot and contempt that built up throughout Arnold Wesker’s sad, downtrodden childhood. When confronted by the Dark Knight, Wesker all but wets his pants, but deep inside he wants to cut Batman’s eyes out of his cowl. No one who meets Wesker knows what menace he shelters; he’d give even the Joker a run for his money.
So for DID, let’s forget about Two-Face; the only thing he and the Ventriloquist share is a fondness for Thompson submachine guns. For that matter, we can look past the Riddler for smarts and the Joker for a pure nasty love of crime. Here, hiding in plain sight, all but immune to physical harm, able to conceal his plans even from the man who thinks them up, and pulling the strings from the shadows until the perfect moment, is perhaps Batman’s most lethal foe.
DSM-IV-TR Diagnoses: 300.14 Dissociative Identity Disorder; 301.82 Avoidant Personality Disorder (as Arnold Wesker); 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder (as Scarface)