The primary theme shaping The Killer Inside Me is perversion. The dominant perversion is, of course, Lou Ford’s need to kill and how much he enjoys violence. This is made more disturbing by the smooth ease with which he maintains his folksy exterior. Lou speaks in clichés, trotting out familiar wisdom until people are bored. This too is a way of torturing them. Although Lou enjoys normal sex, he is addicted to—and driven by—pain. The pain can be fatal (as when he kills Elmer), casual (as when he burns the bum’s hand), verbal/social (as when he torments people with his words), or sexual (as when he beats Joyce and Amy). While extreme pain is clearly more pleasing, awaking more of Lou’s “sickness,” all of them work, and all show how sadism is his true nature.

Joyce and Amy display the more disturbing faces of perversion. Joyce seems a strong-willed woman—a prostitute, yes, but a business woman who knows her own mind. However, what excites her most is when Lou beats her unconscious. Amy is from a good family. She has a good and respectable job as a schoolteacher, and she is very pretty. She could have any man in Central City. However, she wants Lou, and she teases him into beating her until she cannot sit down. It is not just Lou who is sick in The Killer Inside Me. Everyone is twisted in Central City.

The theme of corruption is closely tied to the perversion. On the surface, Lou is a good man, and Central City is a good place. Lou’s surface attitude is articulated on the novel’s first page: “Anyway, people are people, even when they’re a little misguided. You don’t hurt them, they won’t hurt you. They’ll listen to reason.” As a speech from an unarmed town deputy about to face an unknown danger (a bum), this strikes a decidedly noble note. Lou sounds ideal—and it is all a lie. It is a false front, kept up to half get...

(The entire section is 582 words.)