I will begin my post by admitting that my title sounds like a dramatic CNN bulletpoint summarizing some recent criminal’s descent into madness. We should probably talk about the ridiculousness of Linus’s name at some point; it just sounds so evil. Moving on.
I think the psychology of the characters in Kind One is a major strength of the book. Ginny’s post-traumatic self-harm and the way she handles her own guilt are very interesting and, I think, believable, considering the severity of what she endured.
Linus Lancaster’s mental stability is another matter, however. His interest in playing Lear brought this question to the front of my mind: is Linus actually insane, or simply a britches-wearing, tree-climbing southern bastard who is drunk on white male privilege and has a flair for sadism? I’ve found no hints in the text of any recognizable disorder for Linus. I find this to be a bit of a hole in the text: how did Linus get to be so cruel? It is simply accepted by Ginny and his slaves that he’s violent and controlling. We are left to wonder how a man with clear intelligence could exist with no conscience whatsoever.
I’m thinking Linus is supposed to be suffering from some form of extreme narcissism. He has “prophetic” dreams, sees himself as a sort of southern singing hero, and constructs his family life as if he is the only one who should have a say in the matter. He has no problem inflicting pain on others, as evidenced by his furious whipping of Alcofibras, until the slave’s death. This could reflect an inability to sympathize with others’ emotional experiences. In an extreme expression of this, he also rapes his own daughters with no detectable remorse.
Whatever it is, Linus’ affliction is an unfortunate (even deadly) one.