Ben Hecht’s Fantazius Mallare: A Mysterious Oath relates the story of the title character, a misanthropic, psychopathic madman who considers himself a superbeing. He strives to be a god and battles against reason and his senses. Mallare, a thirty-five-year-old sculptor, despises reason, sanity, and thought; of these three “vices,” he lacks the first two. The artist, for example, visits an amusement park and returns home with a paralyzed black hunchbacked dwarf. He makes the dwarf his servant and names him Goliath simply because such an appellation is clearly a misnomer. The fact that Mallare gives a name to Goliath manifests the title characters egoism; he names an inferior as does God in the Book of Genesis. This parallel is relevant because throughout the novel, Mallare strives to be, and sometimes considers himself to be, a god.
The sculptor decides that he can become a god by controlling a woman. He discovers a beautiful but stupid eighteen-year-old gypsy girl and brings her home. He insists that Rita never talk, that she merely listen to him. She cannot understand the musings of this madman yet is attracted to him anyway. Mallare intends to gratify his egoism, to become a god by enslaving a woman and by resisting his sensual urges.
After throwing Rita against the wall, Mallare leaves for a walk and encounters a beggar. In a mad reverie, he mistakes the beggar for Rita and strangles him. Thinking that he has killed Rita, the sculptor walks home but finds her waiting for him. She seduces him, and he has sexual intercourse with her regularly. He deems it masturbation because he considers her a hallucination caused by his madness. If she exists, it is only because he has created her in his mind. Goliath watches Mallare have sex with Rita and manifests his jealousy. Mallare sends his paralyzed dwarf servant away because he is ashamed that his senses have enslaved him. He therefore feels compelled to murder this female phantom.
Mallare viciously beats Rita, leaving her bloodied and angry. As he meditates, he wonders how he drew blood from a...
(The entire section is 853 words.)