Themes

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Revenge is the primary theme of Hannibal. The plot turns on the revenge motive of wealthy recluse Mason Verger, who seeks to avenge the fact that he now fits the words of the Christmas carol that children once sang outside his bedroom window: "How still we see thee lie." When he heard these words he realized that he must make Hannibal Lecter, the man who did this to him, suffer excruciatingly and for as long as possible.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Hannibal Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Paul Krendler, a government official, also burns with the desire for revenge. His target is FBI agent Clarice Starling, who has outsmarted and outperformed him at every turn. Not content to scathe her with vulgar deprecations, he must also ruin her career and in the process possibly get her killed. Chief Investigator Rinaldo Pazzi of the Florence police wants revenge for the humiliation he has suffered at the hands of his jealous coworkers who resented his success in capturing a serial killer known as "II Mostro." He seeks his revenge with the capture of Hannibal Lecter so that he can use the reward money offered by Mason Verger to leave Italy and live in comfort in the United States.

Margot carries out her vengeance on Mason who raped and tortured her when they were children, and who has continued to torture other children. She provides him with a death symbolic of his crimes.

Revenge is not in Clarice's character, but Hannibal balances the scales of justice with a two-part scenario that begins with an exquisite dinner party and ends with a move to South America and a beautiful new life.

Memory is also a strong theme in Hannibal. When things become unpleasant for Lecter, he retires to his memory palace, a mental construct of a thousand beautiful rooms connected by miles of corridors. The rooms are filled with the world's most beautiful things and associated with these are hundreds of facts that Lecter needs to retain in his memory. However, there are dungeons at the bottom of the palace where bad memories lurk, threatening to surface when Lecter traverses the upper regions. It is in these dungeons that he encounters the memory of his family, killed in Lithuania in 1944 by army deserters. His beloved little sister, Mischa, was killed and eaten, foreshadowing Lecter's later aberrant behavior.

Clarice, too, is troubled by memories of her childhood—the poverty, the early death of her father who was shot while on nightmarshall duty. She subconsciously blames him for abandoning her and her mother, who then had to scrounge for a living. Clarice has a belief that because she has failed in her career, people will think that her parents were "trailer camp tornado bait white trash." Lecter teaches her to correct her memories, to accept that the values her parents lived by are superior to the values of the people who are harassing her at work.

It is the vulnerability of Lecter and Clarice,...

(The entire section contains 742 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Hannibal study guide. You'll get access to all of the Hannibal content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Teaching Guide
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Next

Characters