The Silence of the Lambs Themes

Themes

With the character of Clarice Starling, Harris moves away from his usual emphasis on the similarities between the hunters and the hunted. Unlike Will Graham in Red Dragon, who had a strange identification with those he hunted, Clarice's empathy works differently; she does not see things through the eyes of the serial killer who objectifies his victims. Her connection, instead, is to the victims. She goes through the rooms and possessions of the victims to learn more about the women Bill took, to see things through their eyes, and her ability to see through their eyes proves to be the decisive element in locating Buffalo Bill.

The transactions between Hannibal Lecter and Starling also reflect a continuing concern of Harris, the creation of sympathetic and psychologically complex characters of all sorts. Although Lecter originally greets Clarice Starling with malevolent civility, from their first scene meeting, Starling treats Lecter as an authority and perhaps even a teacher, emphasizing his professional title in each conversation, instead of dealing with him as we know many others have, as a case study or a non (or extra) human aberration. Lecter appreciates and reciprocates this courtesy. Whether unconsciously or consciously, Clarice, who knows what it is to be an object, treats Lecter as human rather than object, and the lesson is not lost on him.

Clarice is most concretely Harris's representation of good in the struggle with evil,...

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