THE ALIENIST BY CALEB CARR

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ASSIGNMENT #6 PART 2

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THE ALIENIST BY CALEB CARR

  1. 1. By Mike Bergamasco<br />t<br />
  2. 2. New York city 1896<br />The <br />Set in the lower East side of Manhattan, this thriller gives insight into the criminal underworld at the turn of the century. The Delmonico Hotel, pictured left, is the scene for many planning sessions attempting to stop a series of murders in the lower East side of the city. The police commissioner is none other than Theodore Roosevelt who enlists two Harvard graduates to use their knowledge of the streets and psychology to labor in secret and find a serial killer. Psychological profiling was not yet viewed as a mainstream technique for catching criminals. The entire investigation is therefore conducted surreptitiously. This is a portrayal of New York in which the Gilded Age collides with tarnished tenement life, gin mills and corruption. <br />
  3. 3. What is an alienist?<br />At the time of this novel, people who suffered from mental illness were considered to be outside the norm of society and were alienated from the mainstream, mostly in institutions. It was a common belief that those afflicted were also alienated from their very own true nature. Those who studied mental illness were called alienists. <br />Pictured is an ambulance transporting patients to New York’s renowned Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital at the turn of the century to a typical ward. ward. <br />
  4. 4. Caleb and Lucien carr<br />Pictured below is the author as a child with his father Lucien and Jack Kerouac a friend of Lucien’s who is accused of helping him commit murder. Caleb’s novel The Alienist is in large part based on his real life understanding of family abuse, violence, and murder. He has a keen understanding of the New York streets and captures every detail of the city. Caleb writes with a personal perspective on mental illness as evidenced by his father’s attempted suicide, murder and prison term. Lucien was an author and reporter who associated with many unsavory and notorious characters. <br />Characters:<br /> John Schuyler Moore is a a N.Y. Times reporter who is asked to help solve a murder of a boy by Psychologist/Alienist Dr. Kreizler. Theodore Roosevelt is the police commissioner in charge who also hires Sarah Howard, a detective, and the Isaacson brothers to employ new fingerprinting techniques to round out the investigation. Together these characters work in tandem and in secret until Roosevelt’s untimely death. The remaining investigators use psychological profiling based on the details of the murder scenes to solve the serial murder mystery. <br />
  5. 5. UNDERLYING THEME<br />Roosevelt brings in Kreizler to discuss the details of the boy’s murder who had his eyes gouged out, Kreizler disagrees that this is a random act and points to 2 other previous killings with similar details. However, Kreizler has a reputation as an Alienist, which is a political football for Roosevelt. Roosevelt chooses the Delmonico Hotel for meetings rather than the police station. Kreizler requests Sarah Howard and the Isaacson brothers who employ the new technique of fingerprinting to help profile the killer. They begin to interview family members of the victims and find much disharmony, even violence. They deduce that the victim knew their killer and because of his physical agility jumping from rooftop to rooftop they also believe the killer is a mountain climber. It is fascinating to see how criminal science is beginning to emerge during this era. The author combines a deep knowledge of the NYC scene, history of the time period in great detail and a portrayal of the dark side of human nature based on his personal experience dealing with domestic violence and abuse. <br />

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