Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs is a horror novel with great characters. In fact, one of the reasons why I like this novel is because each character has a completely different personality. Starling is a feminist strong woman, Crawford is a powerful FBI agent, Hannibal Lecter is a cannibal and Buffalo Bill is a transsexual murderer. I’m truly sorry to say this but Hannibal Lecter is definitely my favorite character. Not that I agree with his terrible cannibalistic actions as a free man! I just love his intelligence and the way he controls information as he wants. Thomas Harris must be a brilliant man to actually create such a bright person. As demonstrated in my blog post “My Favorite Passage of The Silence of the Lambs,” Dr. Lecter is willing to give information to Starling as long as she talks to him about her past. In this passage, we can see that he knows Starling’s answer before she even answers them, which is incredible. So no, I do not encourage his actions, but I am completely fascinated by his way of expressing himself and by his high level of intelligence.
Also, I like the way Buffalo Bill is first introduced in the novel: “In the shower was Jame Gump, white male, six feet one inch, 205 pounds, brown and blue, no distinguishing marks. He pronounces his first like James without the s. Jame. He insists on it” (Harris 135). He is presented as a simple and normal guy with the usual characteristics of a human being. The reader does not even know until the end of this chapter (20) that Jame Gump is Buffalo Bill, which I believe is very interesting. It seems like the author wants us to see the human and decent side of his personality before we associate him to a murderer. When reading this chapter, I personally felt some sort of attachment with Gump as he takes very good care of his dog. A feeling that somehow goes away as the story goes on…
However, even though I like this novel for the characters, there are still some aspects of the book I dislike. The Silence of the Lambs is a very good horror novel, but I believe that the beginning of the story focuses too many investigations and lacks horrific elements to attract the reader’s attention. Although there are some interesting passages such as the first time Starling meets Dr. Lecter and when she finds a human head in a car, there are still a lot of explanatory passages with descriptions, which I don’t really like. I personally think that the story becomes way more interesting when Catherine Baker Martin gets kidnapped.
Don’t be afraid to write in the comments whether you agree with me or not! It will be my pleasure to have a discussion with you on this matter.
Source: Harris, T. The Silence of the Lambs. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1989, p. 135.
Now let us look at a real and freaky person which helped for the creation of the antagonist of The Silence of the Lambs. That person was Edward Theodore Gein, mostly known by the name of Ed Gein or The Butcher of Plainfield. This murderer clearly inspired the character of Buffalo Bill from the well-known book and movie of The Silence of the Lambs. Indeed, Ed Gein really existed in the 20th century in Wisconsin, United States. Developing slowly but surely into a weird serial killer who liked to keep body parts of his victims, more specifically the organs and skin of his victims. He also did some clothing and other accessories with those victims’ body parts.
Ed Gein had an oppressed personality, due to his mother’s intense and controlling preaches about religion. Also, he almost never had any contact with the exterior world, meaning outside of his house. His mother was a highly oppressive figure in his life, but she also represented a lot to him as she was almost the only woman he had in his life. As a result, when she died, he lost his mind. Afterward, he started to develop an interest in anatomy literature and he even did some babysitting at one point after the death of his mother. He started the killing a bit after.
We can clearly see the link with the special character of Jame Gump or Buffalo Bill, who took the skin from his victims and manufactured a “woman suit” for himself with it. Also, this character was inspired by Ed Gein in connection with their relationship with women. Clearly, in both cases, they weren’t having great relationships with women and we can see this at first when we look at their childhood with their mother. In the case of Ed Gein’s mom, she was very controlling and oppressive as mentioned above. In the case of Buffalo Bill’s mother, well, to the contrary she was mainly absent from his childhood as she abandoned him at a very young age. He even calls himself mom or mommy at some point when talking to his dog, Precious. He says: “Come here to Mommy. Mommy’s gonna be so beautiful.” (Book, p.283). This quotation is very interesting as it shows how he desperately wishes to be seen as a woman.
In brief, the killer Ed Gein was of a big use in building and crafting this very special and developed character that is Jame Gump or Buffalo Bill, in The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.
In the comments below, tell me what you think about this men influence on Buffalo Bill.
Cannibalism is the act of a human beingeating another human’s flesh. As well, it can be the act of an animal eating another animal of the same kind. In the case of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter was captured and put in the Baltimore State Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane, because he was caught killing humans and eating them afterward.
Cannibalism has existed for a long time and it still does in some countries. Most people think cannibalism is gross and they prefer to avoid this topic, but not anthropologists. They are fascinated by cannibalism and they are constantly trying to find the reason why humans decide to eat other human beings. They first thought that tribes during the Paleolithic period would eat human flesh as a survival method, for the calories the human body can provide. However, they discovered that the calories in a human body are not high enough to last a whole day for an entire tribe. In fact, no human body would be sufficient for three meals. This means that the reason for humans eating other humans is not to survive, but something else.
Another hypothesis is that after murdering someone, it takes less space if the killer eats the flesh than leaving it all there. Anthropologists and scientists have not expended on this theory yet, but they say that we will never know the real reason why cannibalism exists and what goes on in the heads of cannibals.
In The Silence of the Lambs, there are no reasons explaining why Hannibal Lecter is a cannibal. The only deduction we can make is from the fact that Dr. Lecter eats humans because he believes it tastes and smells good.
What do you think the reason for eating human flesh is? What about Hannibal Lecter’s reasons?
Hannibal Lecter is well known and has a powerful presence in the book. Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who copies his crimes, wants to be the same as Hannibal Lecter. From reading the book, we know that Hannibal’s intellectual abilities are exceptional. For example, the examination he does of his victims before committing a crime and the mental power he uses to choose his victims is fascinating. Power is often seen in politics, on a political level or in sports on a physical level.
In the Silence of the Lambs we see many types of power, that are connected to FBI trainee Clarice Starling. In fact, Jack Crawford uses his power as head of the Behavioural Science department at the FBI to use Clarice Starling to get information out of Hannibal Lecter. The FBI agent quickly realized that not only is Clarice Starling a young and good-looking trainee, she is also very wise. Jack Crawford uses her in a case where she is split between working for him or going to the academy. Crawford’s power is used to catch serial killers, but at the same time he uses Clarice Starling so much and so hard that she must miss a lot of school time to make sure she follows the investigation.
For Hannibal, I’d like to start off with a quote: “A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone. Go back to school, little Starling” (Harris, p.24). Hannibal Lecter has a different type of power than Jack Crawford. He knows that the FBI wants to examine him and get information, which he has, about the Buffalo Bill case. He leads them to believe that he will talk on certain, specific terms, but instead, he lies to the FBI and he gives them wrongful information about the case. The thing this prisoner wants the most is attention from the outside world.
Hannibal Lecter will never give the FBI exactly what they want because he knows that afterward, he will be useless. The quote is interesting for me because Thomas Harris’s choices of words is precise. In other words, they mean that treating officer Starling as a child makes her want to prove to Hannibal Lecter that she is as capable as anyone else of solving the case. Hannibal Lecter’s intellectual power is what is entertaining about this book for me. He is able to manipulate people in extreme ways. For example, as a revenge for what Miggs told Clarice Starling during her first visit, he convinced him, with only the power of his words, to swallow his own tongue, which was followed by his death.
Hannibal Lecter is a gentleman, but not the type of gentleman we see on tv. His first encounter with Clarice Starling is nothing less than an intellectual analysis of one another. When Clarice went at the Institute for the first time, Miggs, another patient, insulted her with a sexual comment. Being a gentleman, Dr Lecter convinces Miggs to swallow his own tongue, which led to his death. Not only is Hannibal Lecter a gentleman, but he also is a man with great power. Since he is in prison for the rest life, he has nothing to gain from helping the FBI finding Buffalo Bill. This begs the question: Why does he help? It’s simple really. He is a highly intelligent individual who likes to play with people’s mind, which explains his decision to help the FBI, a very powerful organization. Even though he was aware of Buffalo Bill’s identity from the start, he is reluctant to give this information away, as he is very much aware of the attention this kind of information brings him.
Hannibal has a way with people that tend to fall in his favor. At the end of the book, we see the difference between an intelligent mind and a dangerous one. Buffalo Bill is not nearly as brilliant as Hannibal, as he merely copycats his crimes. One does not need to possess a high level of intelligence to copy someone’s actions, but it takes a truly sick and twisted mind to commit such crimes. Buffalo bill gets shot at the end, whereas Hannibal does not get caught. Therefore, the madman gets killed and the highly intelligent but psychopathic character gets away, which makes Hannibal Lecter the most interesting character in my opinion. He controls people recklessly knowing that events will unfold exactly as he planned. Hannibal Lecter is a powerful gentleman.
Clarice Starling a brilliant young FBI trainee is recruited by Jack Crawford head of the Behavioural Science Department to consult on a case. One of the main reasons she is recruited for the case is because she must interact with the brilliant, but twisted psychopath, Hannibal Lecter, guilty of many cannibalistic crimes. The consultation was part of an investigation on another serial killer named Buffalo Bill who is a copycat killer of Hannibal Lecter. At first, Crawford uses Clarice not only because is she a highly intelligent trainee, but also because she is good looking. This is a spark he was wishing to get when he had her go and analyze Hannibal. Then, the story goes on with Starling and Crawford who try to figure out who is Buffalo Bill through the investigation of the victims.
One of the main theme Thomas Harris is revealing in this book is that power is everything. Clarice Starling is stuck between the power of Jack Crawford, which disrupts her busy school schedule to the point where it could backlash on her in the future, and the power Hannibal holds over her and the entire FBI with only the knowledge of who Buffalo Bill is. SPOILER: The book finishes off in a gothic literature way in which we see the villain win. Indeed, Buffalo Bill is killed and Hannibal escapes. There, we can see the contrast between a copycat serial killer and a serial killer.
Now, let us talk about Jame Gump mostly known by the nickname of Buffalo Bill, an interesting, but a very deranged character of the famous novel The Silence of the Lambs written by Thomas Harris in 1988. Indeed, this strange character in the story of Harris is the main protagonist and illustrates himself by doing horrible and bloody crimes. Those crimes rely mostly on a strange action he poses, which consists of ripping his victims’ skin off their corpse to make a “wonderful” women suit for himself, hence his nickname “Buffalo Bill”. Taking into consideration that all the victims of this special antagonist are overweight women.
As a little background history, he was abused during multiple years in his childhood. Also, he was left alone by his alcoholic mother, and he was adopted by his grandparents after many years passed at the orphanage. Jame Gump, slowly but surely transformed into a complete psychopath and serial killer. Although, after killing his first victims which were his own grandparents, Jame Gump went to a psychiatric hospital where he learned to be a sort of fashion designer or tailor.
Later, he started a relationship with Benjamin Raspail who dropped him for another guy. That’s exactly where he went berserk for good and started killing. Being unable to apply for a genital reconstruction surgery he decided to start killing women to skin them and to design his own women suit.
In brief, this sick and crazy character is illustrated and described at many occasions in the book, frequently doing disgusting and shocking things. All this considered, this character who developed through the years into a complete psychopath was at first an ordinary person as you and me.
I am curious, tell me what you think of this character in the comments below!