“The tragedy is not to die, but to be wasted.” ‘The Silence Of The lambs’ was written by Thomas Harris and was first published in 1988. The storyline of ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ follows Clarice Starling as she attempts to find out who the Buffalo Bill serial killer is. In doing this her only lead is through a cannibalistic serial killer known as Hannibal Lecter. The text is narrated by both Clarice and Lecter in narration that continuously switches between the two. Harris was able to portray the traits of a gothic protagonist in Lecter as he was surrounded by an immense amount of mystery and had a major need to know curiosity, mainly surrounding Clarice and her past.
I believe that Harris’ purpose of his text ‘The Silence Of the Lambs’ was to gain an understanding of evil, and how it is all around us. Evil can be defined as being profoundly immoral and wicked. The text itself exclaims that, “Evil’s just destructive? Then storms are evil, if it’s that simple. And we have fire, and then there’s hail. Underwriter all lump it under ‘Acts of God.'” Which is true in many ways, and proves the point of how wickedness and evil is all around us, it’s unavoidable and unstoppable.
There are four main classifications of evil. Moral, natural, physical and metaphysical. Moral evil includes wilful acts committed by human beings, this includes murder, rape and assault. Natural evil consists of destructive disasters created by natures such as floods, earthquakes and storms. If a person was to commit physical evil it causes direct bodily damage or mental anguish, installing fear, grief or war in an individual. When metaphysical evil occurs, it means an outcome has occurred due to imperfection or chance. An example of this being, a guilty person/criminal not being punished for their actions.
Prior to Lecters conviction into the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, he was a clinical psychiatrist and surgeon. He had an innate curiosity towards Clarice from their first meeting. Clarice had only chosen to speak to Lecter as he was her only hope for uncovering who the Buffalo Bill serial killer was, as Lecter was the only one who knew anything about them. Lecter’s need to know grows as he begins to manipulate Clarice into telling him personal information from her child, she goes on to tell him about her fathers murder, and about how one night when she was living with her cousins she awoke to the sound of screaming lambs as they were being slaughtered. These memorises have left Clarice traumatised and Clarice is simply using them against her for his own benefit. Lector begins to question Clarice further by asking, “Do you think if you caught Buffalo Bill yourself and it made Catherine alright, you could make the lambs stop screaming, do you think they’d be all right too and you wouldn’t wake up again in the dark and hear the lambs screaming? Clarice.” To which she responded with, “Yes. I don’t know. Maybe.” Lecter seemed oddly at peace as he replied with “Thank you Clarice.” Lecter’s need to know was based on his own greed and selfish need to know. In this context I believe that the lambs screaming may be symbolic to the grief that Clarice holds over her fathers murder. Lecter also once stated that, “Nothing makes us more vulnerable than loneliness except greed.” Lecter’s weakness came from his desire to know as much as he could about Clarice, that’s where the cracks began to form.
Lecter was surrounded by an air of mystery, as no one really had a clear understanding of why he was the way he was. And as he was already educated highly in the field of psychology it made it exceedingly difficult for anyone to fully psycho analyse him, He was able to answer questions in a way that perplexed the person whom asked and the audience who read along. This once added to his general secretiveness about the knowledge he holds creates a trait of a gothic protagonist. He states, “I’m not sure that you get wiser as you get older, Starling, but you do learn to dodge a certain amount of hell.” Which is interesting. It may show that the beliefs that Lecter has currently, are ones he’s held since he was in his youth. Which could say that although he is a genius, he also has the morals of a preteen. Which although could never explain his actions, it would add a little to why he thinks that it is fine. This may be the only insight we really get on Lecter at all. In addition to the idea surrounding Lecter’s general secretiveness, this can be linked to what I had discussed above regarding how he would only exchange information on the killer, for information on Clarice. Which is not only odd, but a good technique for prolonging an unavoidable task.
The text ‘The silence of the lambs’ includes many developed gothic elements, especially surrounding the character Hannibal Lecter. The main two traits that he possessed to the highest recognisable degree, was a need to know and a secretive persona. Overall this text delve into the topic of evil, and how it is all around us. What I found most disturbing about this text was that there were many forms of evil shown, and there was at least one that we would be able to relate to in some way. Perhaps not to the extent of being a serial killer, but in a minor way. Such as the storms that Lecter had described. Evil is all around us, it is something inside us and something we will fall victim to at least once in our life times. Which is terrifying, which is the purpose of gothic fiction, to install fear and doubt in its audience.