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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dexter Morgan

Dexter Morgan is a fictional character in a series of novels by Jeff Lindsay, including Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005), and Dexter in the Dark (2007).

In 2006, the first novel was adapted into the Showtime TV series Dexter. In the TV series, Dexter is played by Michael C. Hall.

Character overview

Dexter is a forensic blood spatter analyst for the Miami-Metro Police Department but in his own time, Dexter is a serial killer.[1][2] He was taught by his adopted father, Harry, to only kill other killers who have escaped the traditional legal system, or were never suspected in the first place.[3]

Character history

Dexter's backstory is established in the first novel. He begins killing neighborhood pets as a child. His adopted father, Harry, finds the animals' remains and recognizes that young Dexter is a sociopath with an innate need to kill.[4] Harry decides to train Dexter to channel his violent urges in a "positive" direction: he teaches his son to be a cautious, meticulous, and efficient killer and shows him how to leave no clues. Harry also teaches Dexter to live a public life that discourages suspicion, faking emotions and reactions that are expected of him, but which he never actually experiences. Most importantly, Harry gives the boy a system of ethical principles that Dexter comes to call "the Code of Harry." The central tenet of that code is to only kill people who are, themselves, killers.

Dexter claims his first victim at age 19. Harry, who is dying of coronary artery disease in a hospital, gives Dexter "permission" to kill one of the nurses, who is murdering patients with overdoses of morphine.[5]

Also featured in the series are Dexter's adoptive sister, Deborah, a police officer; his girlfriend, Rita; and Rita's two young children, Astor and Cody.[4]

The first novel and final episodes of the show's first season reveal that Dexter has a biological brother, Brian. When Dexter was three years old, he and Brian were left in a shipping container with the dead body of their mother, whose murder they both witnessed, leaving both boys emotionally numb and prone to violence. Brian also grows up to be a serial killer, and leaves clues for Dexter as a form of "friendly competition" between them. When Dexter finally deduces the killer's identity, he allows Brian to escape. (In the TV series, Dexter reluctantly kills him when Brian makes it clear that he will not rest until he has killed Deborah, whom he views as a rival for Dexter's affection.[6])

During a fight with his nemesis, Sgt. James Doakes, Dexter demonstrates considerable skill in hand to hand combat[6]. Later on, Doakes learns that Dexter trained in jujitsu in college. He also learns that Dexter was top of his class in medical school, but gave up a medical career in order to become a forensics scientist[7].

Dexter's personality and sociopathy

Dexter Morgan is driven to kill to satisfy an inner voice he calls "the Dark Passenger." When that voice can no longer be ignored, he "lets the Dark Passenger do the driving." When talking about his 'work' in the TV series he explains the code as, "My intention was never to save lives, but save lives I did."

In Dexter in the Dark, the third novel of the Dexter series, it is implied by a murderous cultist that the Dark Passenger is an independent agent inhabiting Dexter rather than a deviant psychological construction. The Dark Passenger is supposedly the offspring of Moloch, a god worshiped in Biblical times. Dexter is momentarily frightened into researching supernatural explanations for his homicidal urges.

Dexter considers himself emotionally divorced from the rest of humanity; in his narration, he often refers to "humans" as if he is not one of them. Dexter makes frequent references to an internal feeling of emptiness, and says he kills to feel alive. Dexter claims to have no feelings or conscience and that all of his emotional responses are part of a well-rehearsed act to conceal his true nature. He has no interest in romance or sex; he considers his relationship with Rita to be part of his "disguise". In the show he shows considerably more attachment and fondness for Rita than in the books. For example, in the first season he is afraid to have sex with her because he might lose her as a result, and because Rita's ex-husband was abusive to her.[8] In the books, he seems to view her more as a pet.

There are holes in Dexter's emotional armor, however. He acknowledges loyalty to family, particularly his late adopted father: "If I were capable of love, how I would have loved Harry." Since Harry's death, Dexter's only family is his sister, Deborah, Harry's biological daughter. At the end of the first novel, Dexter admits that he cannot hurt Deborah or allow Brian to harm her because he is "fond of her".

Dexter likes children, finding them to be much more interesting than their parents. The flip side of this affection is that Dexter is particularly wrathful when his victims prey on children. In Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter realizes that Rita's son Cody is showing the same signs of sociopathy as Dexter himself did at that age, and looks forward to providing him with "guidance" similar to that which Harry provided him; in his way, he sees Cody as his own son. This also gives him a reason to continue his relationship with Rita; as of Dearly Devoted Dexter, he is engaged to her because of a misunderstanding (Rita finds a ring that came off a severed finger in Dexter's pocket). In the beginning of the third book it has been shown that Cody is not the only one with violent impulses, as both children pressure Dexter to "teach" them. Dexter has come to accept his role as stepfather to both children very seriously in Dexter in the Dark, albeit in his typical fashion. For example, while on a stakeout, he begins to wonder if Cody had brushed his teeth before bed and if Astor had set out her Easter dress for photo-day at her school. These thoughts distract him while he is waiting for an intended victim, which thoroughly annoys him.
Animals don't like Dexter, which can cause noise problems when Dexter stalks a victim who has pets. He is quoted as once having a dog who barks and growls at Dexter until he is forced to get rid of it, and a turtle, which hides in its shell until it dies of starvation rather than have to deal with Dexter.

Dexter's modus operandi

Dexter's preferred style of killing entails seizing the victim from behind and injecting them with an anesthetic. In the television series this is specified to be an animal tranquilizer called etorphine hydrochloride, or M99, that renders his victims temporarily unconscious[9]. The injection is a tradition established with his first victim, the hospital nurse[5]. He uses the alias Patrick Bateman (the serial killer protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho) to procure these tranquilizers.[9] Other times, Dexter incapacitates his target by using either his arms or a garrote to cut off blood flow to the brain. In the books, as in the opening scene in the television series' pilot episode, he sneaks up on his victim, wraps a fishing line noose around his victim's throat and has him drive to the pre-selected place he intends to kill them. Dexter sometimes uses a combination of the two, garroting to gain control over his victims, leading them to a predetermined location and then drugging them.

When victims wake up, they are naked and secured to a table with plastic wrap. The room around them is also completely swathed in clear plastic tarp to leave no signs of the murder. Dexter confronts them with narrative evidence of their crimes before killing them. In the novels, the method usually involves an extended "exploration" with various sharp knives; in the television series, Dexter's favored method is a battery-powered saw to the neck. He occasionally varies his methods; he kills Brian by cutting his throat with a knife[6]; he stabs gang lord Little Chino in the chest with a machete;[10] and impales Lila West with a knife.[11] In all these cases, however, there is no apparent physical torture beforehand.

Just before the murder, Dexter collects trophies from his victims so he can relive the experience. Dexter's trophy signature is to slice the victim's cheek with a surgical scalpel underneath the victim's right eye and to collect a small blood sample, which he preserves between two laboratory slides. In the TV show, Dexter keeps blood slides from all his victims neatly organized in a wooden filing box he keeps hidden inside an air conditioner in his apartment; in the novels he keeps the box on a bookcase.

He disposes of bodies by dismembering them into several sections and wrapping them in a garbage bag, which he seals with duct tape. He then takes the wrapped bags out on his boat and dumps them overboard into the ocean at a defined location, which is later discovered to be a small oceanic trench just offshore. This happens only in the TV series.

Dexter's biological family

In both the television show and first novel in the series, Dexter and his older brother Brian are trapped as children in a storage container at the docks in Miami, Florida, for two days. They are surrounded by corpses, starving, and sitting in a puddle of blood. One of the corpses is their mother. A small-time criminal had murdered her with a chainsaw, something which both Dexter and Brian had witnessed. Dexter is adopted by the investigating detective, Harry Morgan, while Brian is left to the child welfare system. Dexter does not find this out until he is an adult, when he encounters his brother at the end of a homicide investigation (as portrayed in the first novel and the final episode of the series' first season).

In the novels, Dexter's brother is known simply as Brian; when Dexter was little, he had trouble saying Brian, so he called his brother "Biney". Neither parent's name has so far come up. In the television series, Dexter's mother's name is Laura Moser[12]. She is killed with a chainsaw, along with three other people, in front of her two sons [12][6].

His father's name is given as Joe Driscoll; however, this may be an assumed name as there is no record of Joe Driscoll's existence before 30 years ago[13]. The lone point of contact between father and son comes when a young Dexter sends his father a thank you card for a blood transfusion he received after an accident (it is revealed that Dexter has a rare blood type). As Harry convinced Driscoll to donate the blood secretly, Dexter had no idea where it had come from.[13] It is implied that Brian murdered Driscoll with an injection of insulin to mimic a heart attack, as it is revealed that Driscoll had been visited by a cable repair man prior to his death, and an elderly neighbor recognizes Brian as the repairman.[13] However, the body is cremated before Dexter can obtain proof.[13]


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