The Silence of the Lambs (second half)–group 4

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.

4 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (second half)–group 4

  1. Jacob Morton

    Whenever Starling enters the Smithsonian Museum, the novel makes a point of referencing “the stuffed elephant”–constantly describing where she is in relation to it–what floor, etc… The first couple times I simply registered it as a fun, colorful detail rooting the narrative in an architectural reality. By maybe the fifth time I questioned its deeper justification. Sure, it’s a convenient anchor to orient ourselves around–but I couldn’t ignore the thematic relevance of taxidermy. Buffalo Bill “flays” his victims; the skins play a significant role in the text. Taxidermy is an art which requires an expert treatment of animal skins; the stuffed elephant is a skinned dead elephant that’s repurposed. Gumb’s victims could be described similarly–dead humans whose skins are being treated and repurposed. The elephant also reminded me of the hunting theme that runs throughout the book. The Smithsonian’s elephant is an African bush elephant that was donated by a big game hunter in the 1950s. Since then, elephant hunting has been widely illegalized. Starling and the FBI are hunting an even bigger game than that. Taxidermied elephants are somewhat of a rare exhibit at a museum; this made me think of the pride Chilton takes in possessing Lecter as an inmate. “So rare to capture one alive,” he says–almost as if describing an endangered animal.

  2. Alexander Merrill

    In Chapter 49, when describing Mr. Gumb’s tools, the narrator makes a side-comment referencing an additional tool that he never uses. “In addition he had a Strycker autopsy saw, which he hardly ever used and regretted buying.” After looking back through the novel to find a reference, I remembered this one and realized that I don’t recall the saw ever being referenced again, which confused me a bit. It seems like such a throwaway sentence considering its alluding to a tool that Mr. Gumb barely uses and it never comes up again – why do we need to know this information? I think the answer is that we don’t. Harris’ obscure reference to a specific autopsy saw company has absolutely no purpose within the novel other than as a world and character building tool. It brings reality to the novel in that Strycker was a leading autopsy saw manufacturer until 2020 according to this link: It also builds Mr. Gumb’s character. One can imagine when he began his foray into murdering and skinning women, he was maybe a little overzealous and bought an autopsy saw, not realizing it wasn’t the right tool for the job until he had to do it for real. While of course a morbid and strange thought, I think a small detail like this, while seeming so insignificant, adds some padding and fluff to both the novel and characters within.

  3. Gordon Lewis

    A set of references in the opening chapter of the book stood out to me as a fantastic way to frame the focus of the entire book, even though in my opinion they are not nearly the most interesting allusions made throughout the novel. Of course, I’m talking about the scene where Crawford asks what psychological tests Clarice has administered before:

    “Yes, MMPI, never Rorscach…I’ve done Thematic Apperception and I’ve given children Bender-Gestalt” (p.4)

    The tests Clarice describes are all psychological diagnostic tests developed before or during the Second World War, and to me these aren’t just throwaway illusions – they tell us exactly what kind of book “Lambs” is going to be, namely, one that calls to question the system and bureaucracy of modern psychology and psychiatry. Clarice is first introduced to us by way of the different kinds of psychological tests she has administered, rather than her background in school or her upbringing (which as we find out later, is instrumental throughout the book). We first learn of Clarice through her experience in giving these tests and consequently see her through the lens of the bureaucracies that exist around her, whether it’s the FBI Behavioral Science section’s attempts to categorize the serial murderers they have in custody in order to construct a database, or the medieval-style administration of Dr. Chilton’s ward.

    I realize that Harris’ references to famous psychological exams aren’t the most interesting, but I think they did a great job at putting me in the right state of mind to read the novel.

  4. Henry Mooers

    For this discussion, there is a moment in the film that I think is really cool that I would like to share that references the real world. I am not sure whether or not this is what is being asked, but I am going to share anyways.

    One of the interesting real world references That I found was that of Calumet City, Illinois. At one point, the FBI surrounds a house in Calumet City, looking for the killer. Incidentally, Calumet is the name of a brand of baking soda and other ingredients that is based out of Calumet. The logo of this brand is the head of an Indian.
    While the FBI is surrounding the house, Clarice, goes to Belvedere by herself. She notices that one house has a wooden yard ornament in the shape of an Indian on a canoe. If one looks carefully, the head is shaped in the same way as the logo for Calumet.

    This is pretty in depth, but I feel like it is an interesting example.

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