Radical Evil and the Infinite Other in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me
Jim Thompson’s harrowing novel, The Killer Inside Me, in which the psychopathic narrator himself dies at the end of the story, operates as an allegorical embodiment and expression of inexplicable evil resulting in useless suffering. The metaphysical implication and fictive logic of transforming the novel’s horrific and yet materialistically mundane narrative into a posthumous confession transforms this existential life-trap into an ethical indictment of radical evil. The ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, Thompson’s contemporary, which focuses upon the inexpungeable reality of the Other, to which we each individually owe an infinite responsibility that precedes our birth and survives our death, allows us to make metaphysical sense of Thompson’s confounding narrative conclusion, while providing us a critical ethical perspective from which to appreciate and benefit from Thompson’s prophetic cautionary tale.
Robert Politio, Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, New York: Knopf, 1995, 373-3.
Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me, New York: Mulholland Books, 2011, 155.
Emmanuel Levinas, “Useless Suffering,” tran. Richard Cohen, in The Provocation of Levinas, eds. David Wood and Robert Bernasconi, New York: Routledge, 2014, 155-167, 164.
Emmanuel Levinas, “The Paradox of Morality: An Interview with Emmanuel Levinas,” tran. Andrew Benjamin and Tamra Wright, in The Provocation of Levinas, ed. David Wood and Robert Bernasconi, New York: Routledge, 2014, 168-179, 176.
Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, tran. Alphonso Lingis, Pittsburgh, Pa: Duquesne UP, 1998, 129.
Emmanuel Levinas, “Truth of Disclosure and Truth of Testimony,” in Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings, ed. Adriaan T. Perperzak, Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi, Bloomington, In: Indiana UP, 2008, 97-108, 104, 107.
Emmanuel Levinas, “Substitution,” in Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings, ed. Adriaan T. Perperzak, Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi, Bloomington, In: Indiana UP, 2008, 79-96, 93.
Jim Thompson, Now and On Earth, New York: Mulholland Books, 2012, 103.
Stephen King, “Introduction,” The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson, New York: Mulholland Books, 2011, i-xvii, viii.
Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, tran. Alphonso Lingis, Pittsburgh, Pa: Duquesne UP, 1969, 232.
Emmanuel Levinas, Entre Nous, tran. Michael B. Smith, New York: Columbia UP, 2000, 110.