The Silence of the Lambs (group 3)–second half

Silence of the Lambs is an almost intfinitely allusive novel, persistently referencing known people, places, and things to tell its story.  In the slides, I talked about Florence, Belvedere, Orvietto, Threave, and several other prisons, dungeons and forts.  Find a reference to a real world person, place or thing not already discussed in the slides and explain how the book’s reference to it works in the novel as a whole or simply in the paragraph where it appears.  Don’t choose a reference that someone else has posted about in your group.  There are many, many possibilities available: Picasso, expressway overpasses and rivers that you could probably find on Google maps, buildings, insect life, food, TV shows, and dozens more.    

It would be helpful to include paste in a link to an image of the person, place, or think you’re writing about.

6 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (group 3)–second half

  1. William Koch

    Part of what makes Silence such an immersive reading experiences is the abundance of allusions throughout, but they’re so present that so many of them go over our head. The link I’ve included is to the website for Hungry Man dinners, the same that Jame Gumb makes for himself and feeds the scraps to Catherine Martin. I think it’s interesting that these are the frozen dinners of choice in that I think that they might be seen as a representation of his lack of solidified identity. For one, the frozen dinner is an extremely modern concept. For the scraps of it to be lowered into a medieval style torture dungeon is a pointed juxtaposition between the antiquated and the contemporary. In both reading the novel and watching the film it’s a jarring image. There is something so normal and mundane and even harmless about frozen TV dinners that for them to be associated with kidnapping and brutally murdering is pretty uncomfortable. I also think the slogan of Hungry Man dinners (“Eat like a man”) is interesting given the identity crisis that Jame is portrayed as having. He is, of course, a cis man, but the motivation behind his killings and Starling/Crawford’s pursuit of the transsexual lead assigns a certain level of significance to the slogan in Gumb’s reveal.

  2. Alexandra Lawson

    The Pinto that Starling drives is an interesting detail to add in the novel. The car itself is famous for bursting into flames in collision, if its gas tank was ruptured and is generally thought to be an inexpensive small vehicle. Certainly, in the context of the entire book, it doesn’t take a huge role, but I think that Harris was tactical in his choice for it to be Starling’s car. Driving to the Smithsonian to meet Crawford the vehicle is described as moving at a “steady lope, one mile an hour below the speed where the shimmy sets in… the transmission’s whine resonated faintly with memories of her father’s pickup truck” (122). Starling is portrayed as quite humble throughout the novel, often being pushed around by superiors who are seemingly less astute than she is. I think that this car speaks towards this status. It isn’t a flashy car, but relatively inexpensive. Starling’s efforts are not directed towards being flashy or getting credit, as other characters such as Dr. Chilton’s are. In the context of this scene, I think the car is meant to reflect her humble beginnings; she is driving into a series of events that are much more intense than she can even imagine at this point. Maybe the underlying danger of the car is meant to reflect this is well, revealing what is only to come. Either way, I think that this choice in vehicle serves an important mirror of her character.

  3. Haley Glover

    In the early days of their relationship, Clarice refers to Jack Crawford stating, “Sometimes Crawford’s tone reminded Starling of the know-it-all caterpillar in Lewis Carroll” (22). Such a comparison acts as comedic relief for the reader in the serious exchange and semi-interrogation of Clarice by Crawford. As a novel defined by surrealism and the literary nonsense genre, such a reference to “Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland” disrupts the clear cut and defined rhetoric of Jack Crawford and the FBI Behavioral Science Department. In comparing Crawford to the surreal caterpillar, Clarice questions his and the FBI’s authority. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” throws rules out the window and is rooted in nothing but nonsense and begs the question of what is normal, while offering no explanations in return– actively refusing ‘the normal.’ Placing Crawford in this world questions the perceived normalcy of the FBI and mental health authorities in light of the defined mental instability of their patients.

  4. Joseph Levine

    On page 61, Lecter remarks, “Officer Starling, that was a lie. The first one you’ve told me. A triste occasion, Truman would say.” Based on what I read online, I believe this is an allusion to famous true crime novelist Truman Capote. When Lecter mentions the author, it feels like a meta reference indicating that Lecter is aware he is part of a crime novel. Although it is more likely that Harris uses it as a subtle homage to one of his literary inspirations, the reference reinforces the feeling that Lecter is omniscient and fully aware of the impending events of the novel. As mentioned in the slides, this is one of Lecter’s many allusions that are meant to hint to Starling what is to come and illustrate his powerful hold over the characters he comes in contact with. It is not surprising that Lecter would be well-read in crime fiction, as he would likely enjoy identifying with and critiquing the deconstruction of killers’ motives. It may be worth noting that this is one of the most modern allusions made in the book.

  5. Michael Frank

    Harris’s meticulous knowledge of and appreciation for artisan trades makes his own work profoundly realistic and rich. I particularly enjoyed his attention to detail in his dressmaking descriptions. The tenderly precise account of Jame’s skinning and tanning process was particularly haunting as each small touch brought us further into the inner-workings of his mind. The narrative payoff of the dress darts gave these macabre illustrations value beyond their tonal influence.

    Most writers tend to know more about writing than any other crafts, but Harris clearly takes great interest in the trades he discusses. The human experience he captures in Silence of the Lambs is made more valuable for it and thus any loss of life is made more painful as a consequence. It’s somewhat ironic that a writer that has such great understanding of people would turn it against his readers in such a disturbing way, but it is undoubtedly powerful.

  6. Dan Cielak

    Above, I attached a link to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA that is consistently referred to throughout the novel. This location is known as The FBI Academy and we are first introduced to Clarice at Quantico. Harris begins the novel, “[b]ehavioral Science, the FBI section that deals with serial murder, is on the bottom floor of the Academy building at Quantico, half-buried in the earth. Clarice Starling reached it flushed after a fast walk from Hogan’s Alley on the firing range” (1). Here, Harris preempts the novel by mentioning Quantico in the very first sentence of the book to overscore the fact that Clarice is very young and a rather unlikely hero. And, throughout the novel, Quantico and The FBI Academy are constantly mentioned to reinforce this idea. Notably, Crawford and other authorities consistently suggests to Clarice that while she is very competent at her job and deserves to be an FBI Special Agent one day, she is merely just a candidate and her distractions with the Buffalo Bill case are simply impeding her training. Having Clarice balance her role as a trainee at the Academy and as an agent bolsters the realism of this novel because it allows the reader to attach a specific point of reference the events that occur.

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