What’s Hannibal Lecter Got to Do With Anything?

What’s Hannibal Lecter Got to Do With Anything?

I’ve mentioned on this blog and elsewhere that – in the sense of how the plot is set up (not in any other respect), the first book of the Dream Series, DREAM STUDENT, bears a passing resemblance to the plot of “Silence of the Lambs.”

How?  Well, DREAM STUDENT isn’t really a mystery in the “whodunnit” sense; it’s pretty obvious early on who the killer is.  The mystery portion of the plot centers on learning more about the killer, and how to actually find him.  The same is true in “Silence.”  They know who Buffalo Bill is; they’ve got his name and a three-inch thick file on him.  But they don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing, or, far more importantly, how to find him before he can kill his next victim.

There are really no other points of similarity between my books and Thomas Harris’ novels.  But I did have a revelation about Harris’ books (the three Lecter-centric books that I’ve read, anyway – “Silence,” “Red Dragon” and “Hannibal.”

What I realized is this: in the very nasty world that Harris has created, Hannibal is not only the real protagonist.  He’s also the most moral character in the books, by the warped standards of that world.  Because there is no good and evil in the books of Thomas Harris.  There are only monsters, and victims.  And only the monsters really have any agency, or ability to act meaningfully.

And among the monsters, the measures of morality are honesty in admitting your monsterhood; and manners.  That’s it.  It’s horrifying, but there’s no other way to interpret the books, especially Hannibal, and more especially the ending (if you’ve only seen the movie, the book’s ending is FAR more disturbing).  By those standards, Hannibal is not just the most admirable character, but really the only admirable one.

And if that’s not creepy beyond words, I don’t know what is.

 

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