A Dark Meditation on God & Hannibal Lecter
Although this, for understandable reasons, is muted in the films, the overriding theme of Thomas Harris’s masterly Lecter novels is the cruelty and unworthiness of God. These are not atheistic, but anti-theistic books, in which the Creator is unfavorably compared to one of the bloodiest monsters ever contrived by the literary imagination, a surpassingly brilliant physician who, like God, kills and eats his victims.
As the novels progress, one discovers the reasons for Dr. Lecter’s behavior, so is able not only to sympathize, but even to cheer him on, to laugh when he tells Clarice that he is having a friend, the disgusting Dr. Chilton, for dinner. There is reason here, even if it is the primitive reason of the trapped beast that springs at his captors (as when he attacks innocent people, like the detective who first apprehended him, the nurse attempting to treat him in prison, or the police officers in Memphis). The people Dr. Lecter kills calculatedly are evil themselves, or at least hopeless, people whom the world would be better without or whom he believes would be better off without themselves.
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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.
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