While I haven’t read the book, there are a lot of things about way The Silence of the Lambs is told that are similar to Red Dragon. I can only account that to style of Thomas Harris. While is it easy to want to look at Hannibal Lecter as the psycho, he is really secondary to the whole story, especially when it comes to Clarice. In a way, he serves the exact same purpose as he does in Red Dragon in an almost copy cat fashion.
- Main interview where Lecter meets protagonist and decides how he will play with them.
- Lecter than inserts himself into the case.
- The master plan that Lecter set forth comes to fruition and he makes one last correspondence to the protagonist at the end in the manner of good sportsmanship.
But he does play a part in the overall theme of the story and that is change. While the choice of Clarice to be the one to help in the Buffalo Bill murders seems odd in a realistic sense, it makes perfect sense since bot her and Buffalo Bill are in the midsts of metamorphosis. Lector is too, but we will get to that in a moment. Clarice, as brought forth in her two conversations with Lecter, is trying to change from the little girl that hears the lambs at night to the woman that could be able to save other metaphorical lambs from slaughter. Buffalo Billy is changing from the scared, abused boy into a woman that is loved by those close to him. It because of this similarity that Clarise is needed because, like Will Graham, she mirrors the psycho she needs to catch, which enforces the theme of change through out the story. As we watch Clarice get closer and closer to being a true FBI agent, Bill is depicted more and more like the woman he thinks he is.
But how does Lector fit into this? Since he is more of a recurring element, we have to look at with a mind to Red Dragon. In that book, we see the first stage of Lector, where he is Hannibal the Cannibal when we learn of his past and his attack on Will when he is discovered. His imprisonment, or chrysalis, is a slow period of change where is slowly becoming the person he will be in the end. The whole point of helping with the Buffalo Bill case was to ensure a way to break from his chrysalis. the metaphor gets a bit muddy here since he says he will never be allowed to leave while he is alive, and it takes him, in a sense faking his death that frees him. So, there is a bit of a phoenix vibe flavoring it. But, As the strung up corpse with wings of linen express visually, Lector completes his metamorphosis and flies off. We get hints that he has a little more compassion and humanity now with his phone call to Clarise, but the true depiction of what kind of a killer he became is most likely left to the book and movie Hannibal.