dexter-pfwa.jpgDexter_Morgan.jpgby: Marie Rizio
Dexter Morgan
"Blood. Sometimes it sets my teeth on edge. Other times, it helps me control the chaos" -Dexter


Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. He spends his days working for the homicide division examining crimes scenes and working in a laboratory but by night, he doubles as a serial killer.

As a young child, Dexter experienced his mother being violently murdered by a chainsaw. Him and his brother were left physically unharmed but were found days later by the police department sitting in a pool of her blood. Dexter was adopted and raised by Harry Morgan, the officer who found him.

As Dexter reached adolescence, Harry came to notice Dexter’s dark tendencies. He often caught him killing animals and noticed his lack of emotion and social interaction. Having experience with criminals, Harry soon recognized these patterns as tendencies of a serial killer. However, Harry also knew that there was nothing that he could do to change this so he attempted to take him on frequent hunting trips ease his desire to kill. Inevitably, Dexter’s desire to kill remained so Harry instilled in Dexter, a code of rules. With his police experience, he knew that there were many people who deserved to die and escape the justice system. He explained this to Dexter and told him that if he were to kill, he should only kill murderers, people who were undeserving of life. Harry also taught Dexter how to avoid suspicion by blending in and acting normal both socially and emotionally. These rules, along with many ways to prevent leaving evidence and getting caught were referred to as “Harry’s Code”. Dexter lives by this code and never deviates from it.

Dexter has very few real, personal relationships because he doesn't have emotions like most people. He is very close with his sister Deborah, and even admits to caring for her on several occasions, but even she often complains that he is too emotionally distant. His relationship with Rita, started off as a decoy to make himself appear normal. After time, he began to enjoy their time spent together and eventually got married. Dexter adopted her two children and they had a child together. However, Rita was murdered at the end of the fourth season by a serial killer who Dexter got too close to in an attempt to kill. Rita's death left Dexter a single father, raising their child, Harrison alone.

Dexter's life consists of trying to maintain his seemingly normal lifestyle while simultaneously satisfying his urge to kill and keeping his real identity hidden from the world. [Manos, 2006-2010]

Psychoanalytic Theory

The Psychoanalytic approach to personality emphasizes the unconscious processes of the mind. The three parts of the mind that Freud emphasizes is the Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id is characterized by primitive drives and emotions. Its main focus is pleasure and to satisfy desires. The Superego is deals with internalizing social norms. It is the part of the mind that emphasizes ethical guidelines. Lastly, the Ego is the realistic aspect of the mind. It strives to balance the Id, the Superego, and the Ego. (Huntington, 2011) Much of Dexter’s life is devoted to balancing these various aspects. The normal individual doesn’t put much thought into balancing them. It is usually a normal process. However, Dexter’s psychopathic tendencies make it hard to understand social norms. He has spent much of his life trying to apply Harry’s rules and observing other people in an attempt to mimic them. More than anyone, Dexter’s Ego works in overdrive to balance the different parts of the mind. It has to work more than the average individual’s because his primitive drives are violent urges to kill, not just aggressive behavior like most individuals. Being a serial killer, Dexter has to be extra sensitive about societal norms. He strives to appear normal when he admits that much of human interaction is very strange and foreign to him. The anology that the Id and Superego are comparable to an angel versus a devil is especially relevant in Dexter’s case because he is battling with the acts of killing people and maintaining a normal lifestyle.

“freudian theory [also] speculates that we can experience internal arousal that we do not cognitively understand” (Huntingtion, 2011) This aspect of the Psychoanalytic theory is illustrated through Dexter’s relationship with Rita. Dexter had never been in a relationship before and in an attempt to normalize himself, he begins to date. Rita had recently gotten out of an abusive marriage. He saw her as the perfect partner. He described her as being just as damaged as he was. After spending multiple nights together watching TV, Dexter’s inner monologue admits that he doesn’t know how to explain the feeling he has but he thinks he is enjoying it. Dexter has never experienced enjoyment through social interactions so he is not away of how it feels. He experiences it for the first time through Rita. Although he doesn’t understand what exactly it is that he is feeling, he knows that he enjoys it.

Psychoanalysis emphasizes that unconscious thoughts affect behavior. This idea represents the origin of Dexter’s violent behavior. The whole reason why Dexter has a desire to kill is because of the incident he witnessed as a toddler. At the age of three, he witnessed his mother being violently murdered. Although the memory was repressed for along time, Dexter still had violent desires. They began toward animals but grew toward humans as well. At this point in Dexter’s life, he was very confused because he couldn’t understand why other people seemed to enjoy life so effortlessly and why he was so different. Nonetheless, the memory was unconsciously instilled in him and was responsible for his urge to kill. As an adult, Dexter began to recall bits and pieces of his mother’s death through similar crime scenes that he had to investigate. Soon after, he was able to recall most of the event and it would further haunt him.

Overall, Frued summarized the Psychoanalytic theory by characterizing “humans as a bundle of sexual and aggressive drives contained by civilization” (Huntington, 2011). This statement accurately describes Dexter because he is constantly faced with his dark desires but has to put on a mask for society.

Neo-Analytic Theory

Similar to Freud’s theory, the Neo-Analytic theory emphasizes three parts of the mind as the ego, personal unconsciousness, and collective unconsciousness. The ego is the central core of personality, similar to how Freud described it. The personal unconsciousness contains thoughts that are not currently part of conscious awareness but is not necessarily threatening or unacceptable as Freud described. The collective unconsciousness characterized a deeper level of the unconsciousness. This part of the mind is said to contain archetypes that are common across all people. (Huntington, 2011)

In particular, Dexter can be portrayed as two of the four standard archetypes. He is best characterized by the persona and shadow archetype. This archetype is described as the socially acceptable front versus the dark and unacceptable side of personality. (Huntington, 2011) This archetype describes Dexter perfectly because he constantly has the desire to kill people, which he often ironically refers to as “the dark passenger”. This is the “shadow” portion of this particular archetype. Conversely, although it may be hard to believe, Dexter is not a bad person. He has never harmed an innocent person and would never violate this aspect of the code no matter what the circumstances were. He is simply trying to survive with the hand that he was dealt. The “Persona” aspect of this archetype is portrayed through Dexter’s daytime life. He is a brother, a forensic analyst, a husband, a father, and a friend to many people. His wife, Rita and sister, Deborah constantly express their affection and appreciation for him. Although he does have to normalize himself to avoid suspicion from others, it is not all an act. he truly never has a desire to harm innocent people. Many times, his intelligence and keen sense has solved cases and his coworkers and boss are very happy to have him. Angel Battista, one of Dexter's coworkers even refers to him as his best friend at one point.

Carl Jung believes there to be two major aspects of the mind – extroversion, characterized by direct, psychic things toward things in the external world and introversion, direct psychic energy inward. Each person is believed to have a best fit to one type and this can be determined by the person’s dominant function and dominant attitude (Huntington, 2011). Dexter Morgan is a classic example of an introvert. He avoids social interaction whenever possible and enjoys being alone. Although he often has to visit crime scenes and work with other people in the homicide department, the majority of his time is spent isolated in his laboratory performing extensive DNA testing.


Dexter is a complex character that is not easily described due to his extremely different aspects of personality. The Psychoanalytic perspective to personality captures much of the reason behind why Dexter is the way he is. The psychoanalytic theory emphasizes the effects of the unconscious on behavior. This applies to Dexter because his desire to kill originated before he could recall the repressed memories of his mother being murdered. This shows that his unconscious thoughts has a profound effect on his personality and behavior. The Neo-Analytical perspective to personality is also an efficient way in analyzing Dexter's personality. The archetype aspect of the Neo-analytic perspective is an accurate way to describe Dexter because he is constantly juggling between the persona and the shadow aspect of his personality. By day he lives a relatively normal life but by night he engages in ritualistic killing. In addition, this theory introduces extroversion and introversion as important aspects of personality. Dexter is a classic example of an introvert, as he enjoys social isolation. Dexter's personality is hard to pin point because it can be interpreted in many different ways. However, I believe that these previously mentioned personality perspectives analyze his personality efficiently.

Reference Retrieved: April 23, 2010
Manos, James Jr. (Director/Screenwriter). (1996-2010). [Television series episode]. Dexter. Showtime.
Huntington, A. (2011). Chapter 3: Psychoanalytic Aspects of Personality
Huntington, A. (2011). Chapter 4: Neo-Analytic and Ego Aspects of Personality: Identity