The Silence of the Lambs 2

Last time, we just started to think about the ways in which Lecter offers us a particular imagining of the Psychiatrist born, in part, from the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s and 70s.  Chilton also offers a portrait of the professionally trained therapist.  How would you say one or both of these doctors  presents the profession to readers of the novel?

5 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs 2

  1. Sydney Warren

    Both Dr. Lecter and Chilton can be read as vehicles for supporting the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The two doctors are united by their hubris. Both characters believe themselves to be geniuses, and specifically in the case of Chilton, they act on this belief in an incredibly performative way. Chilton’s hyperbolized presentation of “a professional” leads me to believe that Harris, like many members of the anti-psychiatry movement, thinks that these sorts of therapists try to over-represent themselves in order to give weight to their profession. Chilton’s comment about Dr. Lecter when he says, “[h]e’s impenetrable, much too sophisticated for the standard tests” shares this connotation (10).

    However, Chilton’s true colors emerge through his treatment of women. He is dismissive of Clarice’s intellect and treats her like an object to be looked at, hitting on her and complimenting her appearance. This sort of behavior actually mirrors the behavior of the prisoners/patients, which suggests a mockery or scorning of the profession. Additionally, it is Chilton’s arrogance and carelessness that allows Lecter to escape, showing once more how he is a quack. In the end, Chilton is first on Lecter’s list to kill. He, unlike Clarice, does not make the world more interesting, adding to the overarching critique of psychiatry.

  2. Elizabeth Vinton

    The way that Dr. Hannibal Lecter goes about presenting the psychiatry profession in the novel is particularly interesting—given that he, himself, is clearly mentally unwell. While Dr. Lecter himself presents an interesting psychiatric case himself, his relationship with the profession is equally fascinating. In Clarice’s first encounter with Dr. Lecter, they discuss how he’s published literature and still continues to read up on developments in the field (20). Dr. Lecter offers a seething critique of the findings in one of the journals: “simplistic is the word you want, Officer Starling, and that practiced Behavioral Science is on a level with phrenology” (20) and in making his animosity towards newer aspects of the field, including the classifications of serial killers, known, it’s arguable that Dr. Lecter perpetuates an anti-psychiatric view of the field in which he doesn’t approve of traditional practices. However, this outward view becomes conflated when Dr. Lecter moves to analyze Clarice: “desperate not to be like your mother. Good nutrition has given you length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation out of the mines” (22). Clearly, Dr. Lecter is incredibly observant in the way only a psychiatrist usually is. In this sense, there are elements of Dr. Lecter’s acceptance of the psychiatric profession as is—he’s using deductive techniques associated with traditional therapeutic models to understand Clarice’s underlying motivations. Furthermore, Dr. Lecter’s publishing in psychiatric journals also seems to point to him embracing the profession as is. Yet, we see further evidence of anti-psychiatric tendencies in Dr. Lecter’s behavior: clearly he moved away from treating his patients and more towards ingesting them, he is unwilling to partake in Clarice’s questionnaire, and he seems resistant to any form of treatment (considering he attacks any nurse who gets close to him) as he also fails to recognize himself as being mentally ill (10-25). Thus, Dr. Lecter embodies many elements of the anti-psychiatric movement of the late 60’s with his dislike for modern proposals of psychiatric theory and his resistance to current treatment and study methods of the time.

    1. Isaac Feldman

      I think that Lizzie really hits the nail on the head here. Lecter is a more nuanced critique of professional therapy than Chilton, in that he constantly seeks to subvert the norm of the profession while ironically engaging in it. I am especially interested in her comment about Lecter’s insistence on using traditional therapeutic models to understand Clarice. Part of what makes Lecter such a compelling anti-psychiatric character is his motivation for understanding Clarice. To him, prying open a psyche is entertainment — like Buffalo Bill “covets being the very thing [Clarise is]” (227), Hannibal covets emotion. He is gluttonous not just for human flesh, but for human feeling. When Clarice visits Lecter in his Tennessee prison, he hands her a case file between the bars. As their fingers touch, “the touch crackled in his eyes” (231). Lecter’s abuse of his connection to his patients is the antithesis of the purpose of psychiatry. Through this abuse, Harris exposes the dangers of psychiatry — the willingness to put oneself into the hands of another, who no matter how intelligent, may use that power to malicious ends.

      1. Gemma Laurence

        Really interesting points here, Lizzy and Isaac. I was also struck by Dr. Lecter’s own “coveting” for emotional connection throughout the text. Despite being labeled as a “monster” (6) by the majority of the characters, we as the readers see glimpses into his emotional disposition and his desires for human interaction through his conversations with Clarice. He manipulates the people he doesn’t like, such as Chilton and Crawford, but he has moments of astonishing honesty and sincerity with Clarice simply because she shares her own story with him. “Quid pro quo,” he repeats throughout the text, offering his own insights into the Buffalo Bill case in exchange for snippets of Clarice’s childhood and her past trauma. In many ways, Clarice seems to be the only character who is immune to Lecter’s dangers, simply because she refuses to follow Crawford’s warning (“Do your job, just don’t ever forget what he is” (6)) and allows herself to be vulnerable. Although Lecter uses his background in psychiatry to pry into the secrets of Clarice’s past, the relationship between Lecter and Clarice seems to push the boundaries of a typical psychiatric-patient relationship in its emotional intimacy on both ends. Their relationship is symbiotic in the sense that Clarice shares with him her trauma and gains knowledge for her job, and he feels fulfilled from receiving some semblance of emotional intimacy. The touch between the bars of Lecter’s prison cell that “crackled in his eyes” (231) seems to evoke not violence, but a displaced longing for emotional (bordering on sexual) intimacy. Yet, although both characters benefit somewhat from this relationship, it is obviously extremely toxic as well. By creating this toxic codependent relationship between psychiatrist and patient, Harris reveals not only the failings of psychiatry as a practice, but also the slippery slope of a psychiatric-patient relationship when somebody oversteps that “professional” boundary.

  3. Jessie Kuzmicki

    Dr. Chilton embodies all the things that the anti-psychiatry movement sought to combat. For one, as Lecter savagely reveals to Clarice, “Dr. Chilton has no medical degree” (231). This reminds me of the ineptitude we’ve seen from “medical professionals” throughout this class when it comes to the treatment of patients (ex. the “Titticutt Follies” doctor panel.) Chilton, like many ‘doctors’ we’ve seen, abuses the power he receives from being the administrator of the Baltimore State Hospital and specifically, the power he has being the “doctor” over Dr. Lecter’s role as “patient.” He resents on a deep level Dr. Lecter’s superior mind and intelligence to his own, so he goes above and beyond to instill Lecter’s identity as an inmate and his own as a man in power. For instance, he bitterly says to Lecter, “I hadn’t heard your voice in years—I suppose the last time was when you gave me all the misleading answers in my interviews and then ridiculed my in your Journal articles. It’s hard to believe an inmate’s opinions could count for anything in the professional community, isn’t it? But I’m still here. And so are you” (176). When Chilton interferes with Starling and Crawford’s plan to interrogate Lecter, readers are struck by his hubris as he smugly explains how Lecter was fooled by the FBI and tries to torment Lecter: “Do you feel smart now? Do you still think you’re going someplace with a window?” (177). In his attempts to assert his singular ability to psychoanalyze Lecter, as opposed to Crawford — “I know what you’re afraid of….It’s indignity you can’t stand, Hannibal” — and his attempts to gain superiority — “I’m going to tell you the first condition: you speak only through me. I alone publish a professional account of this, my successful interviews with you. You publish nothing” — he is seen only as an arrogant, dangerous quack to the readers.

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