A Contemplative Crafter


Monster Matters

The Monstrous Human, 16, Conclusion II

Focusing on the themes of doubling and the monstrous human, my previous post discussed how the Graham-Lecter relationship of Red Dragon relates to the Graham-Lecter relationship presented in NBC’s Hannibal. While there are correlations, the final question to discuss is: What does any of this give us in 2014? Or, rephrased, why resurrect Hannibal Lecter in 2013-14?


Looking back.

Hannibal could have imagined Lecter’s exploits after he escapes from FBI custody and built off of Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal. Instead the show returns to the beginning of our knowledge of Lecter as Lecter, rexamining the Graham-Lecter relationship. With this retro-focus, Hannibal reflects a desire we have to explore the origins of the monster-human relationship. One reason we return to stories in general is because we are trying to explain our own experiences. It’s a very biblical exercise: the Hebrew Bible was composed by a group trying to understand how they ended up conquered and in exile under Babylonian rule. The Gospel narratives were created by groups trying to understand their life years after the Jesus-event and to explain why Jesus had not returned to save them as promised. In both situations, narratives are used to understand tragedies and how those tragedies inform a group’s present and shape their future. The same can be said for our fascination with Lecter.


American society has been trying to understand terrorism and audiences are still working on emotional and psychological consequences of September 11, 2001. Our cannon, our scriptures if you will, are the narratives we place in books, on TV, and in films. The resurrection of Lecter offers a means to continue wrestling with the consequences of terrorism. With continued terrorist events, this need for an explain of the whys, hows, and what nows increase. Part of the problem is that we want enemies that are so obviously evil that they stand apart from the crowd. We want to be able to objectify the enemy, to pick the enemy out in a crowd, to know for certain that that person is THE enemy, without any doubts. Unfortunately, this is far from our current reality. We are coming to terms with the fact that those who most want to cause harm live among us. Not only do they live with us, these beings blend in with us. How do we then catch them?


This is where Chief of Detectives Springfield and Dr. Chilton come in. Both Springfield and Chilton want to rely on methods of objective identification: sight, psychological diagnosis, observable craziness, data collection, etc. Chilton especially wants the notoriety that goes along with unlocking the secrets of the psychopath/sociopath brain. In other words, he wants fame. However, neither of these men’s methods lends itself to understanding or finding the monster. Their desires can actually lead to further harm, especially when we develop beliefs concerning how a monster should act when it is in our “control”. It is much easier to contain our fear of the monster when there is an easy way to identify the monster and if we believe we can control it. Graham shows us that this approach is flawed.



Graham’s approach is entirely human and based on the interrelationship of human beings to truly know and understand each other. This knowledge and understanding is what makes him able to catch Lecter (both in Red Dragon and NBC’s Hannibal). However, this is an uncomfortable concept to swallow: we need to understand the monster? Understanding implies some sense of closeness, a thought we may more often associate with friendship, which creates even more discomfort when thinking about how to approach the monster. We have to become close to the monster, makes friends with the monster, if we have any hope over overcoming the monster. In short, we have to let the monster into our world completely. The monster is already there whether we like it or not, and no amount of ignoring that fact will change it.



Red Dragon and NBC’s Hannibal show us that we also have a high likelihood of becoming the very monster we chase. We begin to share behaviors with him because we operate on the same plane of existence. This likeness make fear of the “other” difficult: how do you fear what you yourself have become? While we rely on monsters to create stability in society, according to scholarship on the monster, we tend to ignore Edward Ingebretsen‘s warning that those who pursue the monster very often become confused with the monster. This idea adds another dimension of disease because we want to believe that we are not, nor will we ever be, like the monster. As long as we try to keep the monstrous human in an objective place (like Springfield and Chilton) we risk more harm.


We have to remember too that the monster is a monstrous human, a double of ourselves. The monstrous human needs us in order to survive just as much as we need him. If this is the case, then what is the monstrous human doubling? What is Lecter reflecting in Graham? This leads to questions of whether or not we can change the monstrous human’s doubling of humanity by changing what humanity desires. If we do, what will the monster double–love or hate, evil or goodness?


We need Lecter, not because he is good entertainment, but because he helps us as we try to get a handle on the existence of the monstrous in society. He can, paradoxically, offer us solutions to the very problem we seek to answer. Of course, to discover these solutions we have to get close to the monster. Since we can’t necessarily buddy up with terrorists, we can become engrossed in a television show that offers a way for us to think about the monstrous human through Graham’s story. Graham gives us the trick: to catch the monster, we have to let the monster in.



The Monstrous Human, 15, Conclusion I

My previous post reflected on how the Graham-Lecter relationship fits within scholarship on the monster. This post discusses how the NBC drama Hannibal relates to the doubling relationship and the monstrous human found in Red Dragon.


The first season of Hannibal introduced Graham’s “empathy disorder” (an undiagnosed condition) and the consequences this disorder has for Graham’s existence. The season ended by hinting at Graham’s increasing suspicion that Lecter was the Chesapeake Ripper (a killer the FBI thought it caught in Dr. Abel Gideon). The knowledge that Lecter is the killer manifests through Graham’s continued visualization (or hallucination) of a stag, which, we come to find out references a figurine Lecter keeps in his office. During the first season, the stag imagery appeared primarily in animal form and gradually grew more abstract as the season came to an end. In this second season, the stag imagery is increasingly abstract and more human (i.e., as a man with stag antlers).


Wound Man was introduced early on in the first season as a clue to the disappearance of Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky), an FBI agent working the Ripper case with Lecter before Graham appeared on the scene. Lass disappeared during the investigation and is suspected to have been a victim of the Ripper, particularly when her arm is found in an observatory. Lass was last shown alive in Lecter’s office looking at a drawing of what appeared to be Wound Man. Her expression showed that she made the connection between Lecter and the Ripper…just as Lecter approaches her from behind in an attack that mimics Lecter’s attack on Graham in Red Dragon (with a different outcome). The stag imagery and its pointing to Lecter as a killer retains the function Wound Man serves in Red Dragon. Most importantly, it shows the Graham-Lecter connection through an object rather than a professional diagnosis or formal FBI profile. Credits for the show listed on reveal that the anthropomorphic stag figure is called “Stag Man,” again recalling the Wound Man reference from Red Dragon.


The second season of Hannibal plays on the empathic quality of Graham even more than the first season. The narrative relies heavily on Graham’s ability to intuit Lecter’s involvement in the Ripper/copy cat killings while an inmate/patient at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the very hospital in which Lecter resides during Red Dragon. Much of the empathic commentary Graham gives in Red Dragon appears in the first and second episodes of the current season of Hannibal, although the words are spoken by characters other than Graham. For example, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) tells Lecter that his skin suit hides the truth of what exists within him. Her comments recalls Graham’s statement to Chief of Detectives Springfield that Lecter was a monster who looked normal on the outside so no one could tell what lay underneath.


Hannibal further demonstrates the fluidity of the monster-human’s existence between realms as the narrative depicts the ease with which Lecter slides between killer and psychiatrist/FBI assistant. This ease is particularly noticeable in Lecter’s interaction with Jack Crawford and his cancer-stricken wife, Bella. Lecter operates as Jack’s confidant and Bella’s therapist while at the same time constructing a world in which Jack suspects Graham’s guilt as a killer and Bella makes the decision to die of her own hand rather than succumb to her lung cancer. If not for a literal flip of the coin (a gift from Bella to Lecter), which landed with the right side up, Lecter may not have saved Bella from her morphine overdose. Of course, this is Lecter we’re talking about and the fact that he had to flip a coin suggests that he didn’t care one way or the other if Bella died in his office or not.


Doubling abounds throughout Hannibal, not only between Graham and Lecter, but also between Lecter and other serial killers whose style he imitates as a means of hiding his crime. This imitation of crimes draws attention to Lecter’s operation within the same plane as other killers. In another doubling instance, Lecter steps into Graham’s consulting role once Graham is confined at the Baltimore State Hospital. However, Lecter seems not to fill those shoes quite as well as his predecessor and rival. Being in Graham’s shoes does not seem to give Lecter the same thrill as his relationship with Graham does. Lecter, it seems, thrives on the doubling existence they share and likes the chummy rapport (that only the monstrous-human and his double might enjoy). Lecter refers to he and Graham as friends and, perhaps, in his way, the bond they share demonstrates the only type of friendship Lecter is capable of showing. Lecter could kill Graham at any time, and has had plenty of opportunity to do so. This seems to suggest that the monstrous-human needs the human to survive, more than the human needs its monstrous version.


Hannibal emphasizes the truly monstrous nature of Lecter, who comes across as the mannered, cultured doctor from Harris’ novels with a side of despicable that makes you wonder if there is anything human about him, save for his courtesy and his cooking ability. The show expertly illustrates the “evil genius” quality of the monster-human in its portrayal of Lecter, which makes the fact that he is “at-large” in society all the more frightening. Hannibal shows in part that Lecter is not the only figure to exist within the category scholars use for the monster. Graham fits within these boundaries as well. We should not be surprised to see Graham incarcerated since, according to Edward Ingebretsen, “monsters and those who pursue them can be mistaken for each other.”[1]


Although this discussion is brief, the narrative of NBC’s Hannibal maintains the nature of the monstrous-human, the Graham-Lecter doubling relationship, and the fluidity with which the monstrous becomes human and vice versa. The creators of Hannibal could have chosen to pursue a series of Lecter’s exploits after he escapes from FBI custody and seduces Clarice Starling in Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal. But they did not. Instead they chose to start at the beginning of the Graham-Lecter relationship, even though Clarice Starling might be the more well-known of the two characters. What might this mean for us in 2014? That’s for next time.


Next time: What does this doubling/monstrous-human relationship give us in 2014?




[1] Edward J. Ingebretsen, “Monster-Making: A Politics of Persuasion,” Journal of American Culture 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 32.


The Monstrous Human, 14: Letting the Monster In, III

My previous post described Graham’s visit to Lecter and the collapse of their separate worlds, which Lecter indicated in his comment that he and Graham are alike. Lecter’s observation reveals the truth of how Graham caught Lecter, and why Atlanta Chief of Detectives Springfield and Dr. Chilton fail to understand Lecter.


Likeness between Graham and Lecter is important because of how it sets up the action to come in Red Dragon, demonstrates views scholarship on the monster have presented, informs our view of the Graham-Lecter relationship in NBC’s Hannibal, and gives us information on how we understand the monstrous human in 2014. This post reflects on the Graham-Lecter relationship and scholarship on the monster. My two following posts will discuss Hannibal and the monstrous human in 2014.


In my post on scholars and the monstrous, I noted that Lecter represents the monstrous because:

  1. Although he is foreign born and operates outside the ordered bounds of social morality (as a serial killer), Lecter blends in with society because of similar features, which masks his identity as a monster.
  2. He falls into Grixti‘s “evil genius” category of monster. He is more in tune with the people around him than they are of themselves and uses this to his advantage.
  3. He lives in an in-between space as killer and psychiatrist, or on both sides of the social order.
  4. Because he lives in this in-between space, he remains ‘at large’ in society.


How do these previously expressed views fit with the Graham-Lecter relationship that develops within the first act of Red Dragon?

  • Graham recognizes Lecter’s ability to blend in with society, not only as a foreigner, but also as the monster who “looks normal [on the outside] and nobody could tell.”[1] Springfield’s continued questions about how Graham spotted Lecter shows just how well Lecter blends in, how catching Lecter depended on recognition of the monstrous nature beneath not on visual identification of a person who “looked like” a serial killer.


  • Lecter’s ability to be more in tune with those around allows him to dupe everyone. Dr. Chilton, without realizing it, points this out when he tells Graham about Lecter’s infirmary attack. Dr. Chilton, it seems, believed that Lecter’s outward behavior reflected inner workings of acceptance and cooperation. What Lecter’s behavior shows was that he knew what Dr. Chilton wanted: cooperation, affability, and the model patient. Dr. Chilton calls Lecter “disarming” when he speaks to Graham, which reflects Dr. Chilton’s gullible nature. Dr. Chilton believed Lecter’s deceptive behavior because he wanted Lecter to be docile. Chilton doesn’t seem to recognize this, and blames Lecter for the duplicity when Lecter was really being Lecter–duping people into believing he is harmless so that he can attack. Lecter’s calculated behavior shows him as an empath, a person in tune with the emotional needs of those around him, a person who can mimic those emotional needs. Lecter’s monstrous nature appears when he manipulates the needs of those around him to his own ends. Lecter shows who really has the power, and it isn’t Chilton. Graham also displays characteristics of an empath, another point of likeness between himself and Lecter. However, Graham uses his empath nature to help, not harm, people.


  • Because of their likeness, both Lecter and Graham occupy an in-between status and it seems that this residency makes them the only two who can completely understand the other. Springfield questions Graham as to how Graham spotted Lecter and Dr. Chilton repeatedly tries to place Lecter in the “object of study” category. While both figures see Lecter from a distance, they inadvertently acknowledge that Lecter is one of them (and part of society) as well: Springfield couldn’t identify Lecter as a serial killer, and Dr. Chilton notes that Lecter publishes articles in top psychiatric journals. As an empath, Graham regularly resides in this in-between state and, judging by his desire to visit Lecter, needs to occupy the in-between in order to do his job. Whether he wants to be there or not, is another question. Crawford and Springfield recognize that Graham is not fully part of their world, and this sets him apart. Graham’s transition at the end of his visit to Lecter signals the ease with which he moves into the in-between.


  • Like Lecter, Graham remains ‘at large’. His association with the criminally insane, via Lound’s article and photo, makes his status questionable. Edward Ingebretsen‘s comment that “monsters and those who pursue them can be mistaken for each other”[2] reveals the danger this likeness poses to greater society. If the monsters and their pursuers can be mistaken for one another, who should we fear more? The monster or his pursuer? Lecter or Graham? While Lecter remains the monstrous double of Graham’s empathic human being, Graham reflects the dangerous quality of the monster. Perhaps he even knows better than others (i.e., Crawford, Springfield, and Chilton) the true danger that lies within the monster.


Likeness sets Graham and Lecter apart from society while it simultaneously draws them in. Thus, both Graham and Lecter (as monster-pursuer and monster) occupy the in-between world in which scholars have allocated to the monster, and highlights Ingebretsen’s observation on the interchangeable position of monster and their pursuers. In Girardian terms, the doubling between Graham and Lecter (as the monstrous double) points out the ease of overlap between two different individuals, and the danger (in the form of rivalry) that appears when this overlap between worlds/personalities occurs. Girard’s theory of imitation adds a concern with the consequences of the monster-pursuer relationship to the already existing scholarship, and emphasizes the doubling aspect of the monster’s nature in the conversation.



Next time: How does the Graham-Lecter relationship in NBC’s Hannibal fit with this theme of doubling/monstrous-human relationship in Red Dragon?




[1] Thomas Harris, Red Dragon (New York: Dell Publishing, 1990), 69.

[2] Edward J. Ingebretsen, “Monster-Making: A Politics of Persuasion,” Journal of American Culture 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 32.

The Monstrous Human, 13: Letting the Monster In, II

My previous post discussed Graham’s need to visit Lecter at the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and Graham’s conversation with Chilton, create another contrast between seeing Lecter as a helpmate as opposed to an object of study. The different highlights why Chilton has not been able to understand Lecter and why Graham does: Graham has a human connection with Lecter. The reunion of Graham and Lecter (subject of this post) plays on this sense of shared humanity.


The relationship between Graham and Lecter is an established one, since Graham and Lecter once worked together consulting on murder cases with the FBI. (This relationship is re-imagined in NBC’s Hannibal.) Graham knows Lecter well and wants to arrive at the cell while Lecter is sleeping, so that he may prepare to contain Lecter’s presence in his head, “like a spill.” [1] While Graham visits Lecter precisely to recapture the killer’s mindset, this is a dangerous undertaking since Lecter, a trained psychiatrist, can invade an individual’s the psyche, and like a spill, seep into cracks and damage the individual from the inside out.


Graham has five seconds from the time he arrives until Lecter wakes and comments on Graham’s “atrocious aftershave.”[2]


After a few moments of conversation (that oddly resembles two old friends catching up ), “Graham felt that Lecter was looking through to the back of his skull. His attention felt like a fly walking around in there.”[3] The ease with which Lecter penetrates Graham’s psyche (which Graham allows) shows the fluidity between boundaries that we believe separates “good” from “evil.” In relation to Rene Girard’s theory of imitation, Lecter’s poking around Graham’s skull collapses the difference between their two separate worlds (i.e., that of the subject and the mediator respectively). According to Girard, this move leads to conflict and violence because two separate beings now exist on the same plane. Eventually, the mediator becomes a rival for the subject.


The themes of difference and connection continue in Lecter and Graham’s conversation. Lecter complains about his visitors, calling them “Banal clinical psychiatrists and grasping second-rate doctors of psychology from silo colleges somewhere.” Graham tells Lecter that, as a layman, he found the doctor’s article on surgical addiction interesting. Lecter observes that it was Graham, the layman, not the psychiatric experts, who caught him. Lecter’s observation points to Grahams’ specialness, the same quality Springfield and Chilton detect in Graham as well. Lecter then asks Graham: “Do you know how you did it [caught me]?” Graham deflects the question, deferring to the court transcripts, and asks for Lecter’s assistance with the Tooth Fairy murders.[4]


Graham promises Lecter access to the case file and suggests that Lecter might want to find out whether he is smarter than the Tooth Fairy. Lecter infers that Graham believes he is smarter than Lecter, which Graham denies. “Then how did you catch me, Will?” Lecter asks again. While Lecter’s question is similar to that Chief of Detectives Springfield asked Graham earlier, Lecter knows how Graham caught him, yet he wants to hear if Graham knows. Or perhaps, he wants to tell Graham the truth himself.


Graham says he caught Lecter because the doctor had disadvantages: passion and insanity. According to Girard, passion drives the collapse of difference between subject and mediator, which then leads to rivalry and violence. Graham’s earlier mention of Wound Man (which he excludes from this conversation with Lecter) plus his mention of passion emphasizes the doubling nature of the relationship between Lecter and Graham. Their closeness leads them to into an area of vagueness, where Lecter is revealed as a monstrous double in which good and evil merge.


In discussing Lecter’s initial views of the Tooth Fairy, Lecter speculates that the reason for Graham’s visit was “to get the old scent again,” and suggests that Graham “just smell” himself.[5] Lecter’s suggestion that the scent already lies on Graham indicates their relationship as doubles and touches on Graham’s previously expressed need to recover the mindset of a serial killer to help the FBI.


Graham leaves the case file with Lecter, and as he towards the exit, Lecter asks him twice more: “Do you know how you caught me?” Though Graham never responds, Lecter provides the answer:


“The reason you caught me is that we’re just alike.”[6]


Lecter’s suggestion that Graham already has the scent of a killer and his statement that Graham caught him because of their likeness highlights the central reason that Springfield and Chilton have difficulty understanding Lecter. Springfield and Chilton seek to find something different from themselves when they look at Lecter, and refuse to see Lecter any between the serial killer and themselves. What they fail to realize, which Lecter and Graham seem to understand, is that Lecter’s claim to likeness with Graham does not only point to Graham’s resemblance to Lecter, a passionate serial killer. Lecter’s statement of likeness also implies Lecter’s similarity to Graham: a sensitive human being. Graham’s visit to Lecter provides a means for Graham to reawaken that dormant connection and reinforce his doubling relationship with Lecter, his monstrous double.


The pairs renewed connection is confirmed once Graham leaves the hospital, and he “had the absurd feeling that Lecter had walked out with him.”[7]


Freddy Lounds, a reporter for The National Tattler, staked out across the street, affirms this merging of Graham and Lecter when he snaps a picture of Graham in the doorway with the hospital’s name above him. Lounds’ story about the FBI investigation of the Tooth Fairy runs in the Tattler with a cropped version of this picture that shows “Graham’s face and the last two words [of the hospital’s name] in the stone.”[8] That is, Graham’s face alongside the words “Criminally Insane.” In the article, Lounds quotes a federal officer who, when asked why Graham consulted Lecter, said “It takes one to catch one.”[9] Lounds links this comment to Lecter, meaning that Lecter is needed to find another killer (it takes a killer to catch a killer). However, Lounds also writes that the “one” to whom the officer refers just as easily describes Graham, confirming that the worlds of Graham and Lecter have, once again, collapsed into one another.



Next time: How does the Graham-Lecter relationship stack up with scholars’ views on the monster?




[1] Thomas Harris, Red Dragon(New York: Dell Publishing, 1990), 79.

[2] Harris, Red Dragon, 80.

[3] Harris, Red Dragon, 81.

[4] Harris, Red Dragon, 81.

[5] Harris, Red Dragon, 81.

[6] Harris, Red Dragon, 85-6. Italics in original.

[7] Harris, Red Dragon, 86.

[8] Harris, Red Dragon, 86.

[9] Harris, Red Dragon, 115.


The Monstrous Human, 12: Letting the Monster In, I

My previous posts presented an analysis of a conversation between Atlanta Chief of Detectives Springfield and Graham and how this conversation showed the paradox of the monstrous human. This post centers on the next step in Graham’s mimetic journey.

Once Springfield and Graham return to their active hunt for a serial killer, they agree to a three day neighborhood canvass, which yields no useful information. Jack Crawford flies in from DC and discusses their stalled investigation. At this point, Graham knows “There was something else he could do. […] There was an opinion he wanted. A very strange view he needed to share; a mindset he had to recover after his warm years in the [Florida] Keys.”[1]

Graham announces to Crawford: “‘I have to see Lecter.’”[2]

Graham’s declaration reflects his profile as an emotional empathy with a high capacity for mimesis. To catch the killer, Graham must enter the mind of a killer. If Graham already had a criminal mind, as his wife Molly jokingly suggested, Graham’s duty would not entail a recovery effort; Graham would already think like the killer they seek. Because of Graham’s natural susceptibility toward imitation of speech and emotion, Graham’s proximity to a serial killer will not merely permit Graham to think like the killer. The encounter with Lecter will allow Graham to enter the killer’s mind so that he may imitate his thought patterns and think as though he were the killer himself.

Graham goes to Lecter’s home for the past three years, the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Graham’s visit begins with a conversation with the chief of staff, Dr. Frederick Chilton, the gatekeeper to the monstrous human. Chilton advises Graham on the rules for interacting with Lecter, then launches in a (half-warning, half-bragging) monologue on his observations of Lecter. Like Springfield, Chilton wants Lecter to be separate from humanity because of Lecter’s deeds. At the same time, however, Chilton’s comments show that he places Lecter squarely within society. Without realizing it, Chilton creates a picture of Lecter as a serial killer and a human being.

Chilton first warns Graham that Lecter is “very disarming,” which, he knows Graham is aware of.[3] Graham learns from Chilton that, for a year after his incarceration at the hospital, Lecter “behaved perfectly” and seemed to be “cooperating with attempts at therapy.”[4] Chilton’s initial overview of Lecter shows Lecter’s ability to blend in and cooperate when he wanted to, recalling Graham’s observations to Springfield that Lecter is capable of functioning normally. Because Lecter appeared cooperative, security was relaxed. However, Chilton informs Graham, one afternoon, Lecter “complained of chest pains. His restraints were removed in the examining room […] One of his attendants left […] and the other turned away for a second. The nurse was very quick and strong. She managed to save one of her eyes.”[5] Chilton had hoped to use Lecter as an “opportunity to study a pure sociopath […] It’s so rare to get one alive […] He seemed cooperative, and we thought that he could be a window on this kind of aberration. […] I don’t think we’re any closer to understanding him now than the day he came in.”[6]

Like Springfield, Chilton wants to place Lecter outside the bounds of acceptable society: as a sociopath and object of study. Chilton fails to see how this marginalization contributes to his inability to understand Lecter after three years. Chilton wants Lecter to be an aberration of humanity, not a human being or even a double of humanity. As Graham noted earler, Lecter is neither a sociopath, nor crazy; Lecter kills because he enjoys it. Lecter also is able to mimic a human appearance, which allows him to hide his monstrosity, enabling Lecter to keep a foot in acceptable and unacceptable worlds.

In contrast to Chilton’s treatment of Lecter as an aberration and research subject, Chilton reveals that in the past three years Lecter has written “some brilliant pieces for The American Journal of Psychiatry and The General Archives […] about problems he doesn’t have.”[7] Chilton’s comment about Lecter’s continued publication history mirrors Springfield’s question about how Graham spotted Lecter when no one else could. Chilton cannot understand Lecter because he insists on confining Lecter in ready-made categories of abnormal psychology, when Lecter actually exists in both the abnormal and normal psychological worlds. Lecter is a serial murder who regularly publishes academic papers reviewed and accepted by a board of editors. The psychiatric community still accepts Lecter as one of their own, while Chilton wills Lecter to live in a marginalized realm.

Chilton believes, as Springfield had, that Graham has special knowledge about Lecter, an interesting belief since Chilton is the psychiatrist not Graham. Chilton wonders whether Graham was able to identify Lecter by reconstructing Lecter’s fantasies as they appeared in his killing style. This line of thought shows Chilton clinging to a medical approach to Lecter: the only way to catch Lecture was to diagnose him. Chilton appears oblivious to the fact that Graham did not diagnose Lecter, Graham recognized that Lecter was the murderer based on a random piece of knowledge the two shared. In other words, Graham solved the case based on a human connection not a clinical diagnosis.

Next time: Graham’s reunites with Dr. Lecter.
[1] Thomas Harris, Red Dragon (New York: Dell Publishing, 1990), 74.
[2] Harris, Red Dragon, 74.
[3] Harris, Red Dragon, 76.
[4] Harris, Red Dragon, 76.
[5] Harris, Red Dragon, 76-7.
[6] Harris, Red Dragon, 77.
[7] Harris, Red Dragon, 78.

The Monstrous Human, 11: Spotting Lecter II

Previously, I wrote on the conversation between Will Graham and Atlanta Chief of Detectives Springfield. Their talk centered on Springfield’s interest in Graham’s capture of the serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Springfield was interested in knowing how Graham was able to “spot” Lecter as the killer, since no one else could.


The conversation between Graham and Springfield shows how hard it is to find the monster in human disguise. Springfield seems sure that Lecter is unlike any sane person he knows. He repeatedly asks Graham to identify Lecter’s craziness and the outward clue that showed Lecter’s monstrous nature. The problem with Springfield’s line of questions is that they do not reflect the reality of the situation. Springfield’s questions show his need to fit Lecter into a very specific box as “The Monster”. Because Lecter’s actions are so despicable to Springfield, Lecter must fall into a category that is decidedly “Not Human”. However, Springfield also shows that putting Lecter into only one box is impossible.


Graham, however, refuses to put Lecter in any of the boxes that Springfield suggests. Graham’s response shows just how difficult monstrosity can be to find. Graham talks about Lecter as the monster who lives among us and who blends in with normal society. Lecter accomplishes this, Graham says, because Lecter looked normal on the outside and no one could see what lay inside him. Lecter’s humanity then is a mask (or human suit) that disguises his underlying nature. Even so, Lecter’s humanity is still very much a part of his nature, since Lecter needs the human suit to survive in society. In Giradian terms, Graham seems to suggest that Lecter’s ability to appear normal is really Lecter showing his ability to imitate humanity. Through imitation, Lecter lives in and blends with normal society.[1] Lecter’s ability to imitate humanity further suggests Lecter as a monstrous double of humanity, which Girard described as a being in whom the good and evil mix.[2]


While Graham seems comfortable with the idea that a monster like Lecter can imitate and live among humanity, Springfield seems less able to accept this idea. Girard found that modern humanity is uncomfortable with the idea that the monster and the human (created in the image of the divine) manage to exist in the same being.[8] This lack of comfort leads Springfield to create separate categories of existence. A person can be either a monster or a human, but not both. Springfield’s questions prove just how wrong that view is.


The focus of Springfield’s questions is how Graham caught Lecter. If Lecter is as crazy and monstrous as Springfield asserts, anyone could have caught him. People would have known that Lecter was a monster just by looking at him, and “spotting” Lecter (as Springfield terms it) would not have been a problem. That Graham is the only one who identified Lecter as the killer implies that Graham is someone special. The way Graham even came to identify Lecter may not be considered normal according to Springfield either. Rather than follow clues or an evidence trail that led to Lecter as the killer, Graham intuited Lecter’s guilt through a personal connection shared between the two men: Wound Man.


A medical illustration called Wound Man tipped Graham off as to Lecter’s identity as the serial killer sought by the FBI. The sixth victim in the series of murders under investigation resembled the image of Wound Man. Graham encountered the image in a pathology class during graduate school. Lecter was first trained as a surgeon before he became a psychiatrist. As a trained surgeon, Lecter most likely encountered Wound Man himself during his medical study, perhaps also in a pathology class. Graham’s lucky grad school encounter with Wound Man offers an example of shared knowledge between Lecter and Graham. This knowledge brought their separate worlds together, even if only in a small way. The overlap of Graham and Lecter’s world shows that the boundaries between good and evil are not clear-cut. The boundaries between good and evil are fluid.


The mixture of Graham and Lecter’s worlds also cuts the distance between them as individuals. They shared something in common and that commonality lead to rivalry. In the context of Girard’s view of desire, Lecter is the subject, Graham is the mediator, and the object is Lecter’s killing spree. Once Graham knows that Lecter is the killer he seeks, Graham becomes a rival who blocks Lecter from his killing spree. The rival has to be destroyed, and, in keeping with Girard’s theory, Lecter attacks Graham.


The conversation between Springfield and Graham poses the question of how one spots evil. The answer, according to Graham: you don’t spot evil, you recognize it. Spotting implies seeing something that stands out from things around it. Recognition implies a sense of familiarity. Lecter did not stand out against the backdrop of society because, as the monstrous human, he blends in with society. This means, that the only way to identify evil or the monstrous is to recognize its existence within your familiar setting. Graham relies on this sense of familiarity in order to discover Lecter and to track the Tooth Fairy.


Next time: Graham’s plan to find the Tooth Fairy: letting the monster in.



[1] See L. H. M. Ling, “The Monster Within: What Fu Manchu and Hannibal Lecter Can Tell Us about Terror and Desire in a Post-9/11 World,” East Asia Cultures Critique, Vol. 12, Mo. 2 (Fall 2004): 377-400.

[2] René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) 251-2.

The Monstrous Human, 10: Spotting Lecter, I

My previous post analyzed the profile of Graham Harris created in the beginning chapters of Red Dragon. The forthcoming posts will discuss the theme of how Graham caught Lecter. Here, I present Graham’s talk with Chief of Detectives Springfield, who claims to be concerned about the previous relationship between Graham and another serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham and Lecter worked together in a previous FBI murder investigation. It turned out Lecter had been the killer they wanted all along. The following post will discuss how this conversation relates to Girard, Jung, and the monstrous.

Following a third trip to the Atlanta crime scene, Chief of Detectives Springfield presses Will Graham to discuss Dr. Lecter and the incident that led to Lecter’s capture. Springfield claims he has to ask about Graham’s past with Lecter, even if it makes Graham uncomfortable. Springfield most likely does not have to ask about Lecter at all, given (1) Graham’s clear discomfort with discussing the situation and (2) the fact that Lecter has little bearing on the case at hand. Springfield’s desire to know about Lecter, to know how Graham did something no one else could, supersedes Springfield’s ability to empathize with Graham’s discomfort. If Graham continued to stonewall the discussion of Lecter’s capture, the situation has potential to erupt into conflict driven by Springfield’s desire in which Graham acts as the obstacle. Graham gives in, and readers received the first glimpse into the relationship between Graham and Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter.

Although Springfield wants to know how Graham caught Lecter, Springfield first asks: “What made [Lecter] do it, how was he crazy?” [1] Springfield’s question shows his desires to push Lecter into a category outside of accepted social behavior, into an area for “crazy” (i.e., not normal) people. Graham’s response shows an unwillingness to move Lecter outside of society in the same way. Graham tells Springfield that Lecter killed “because he liked it. […] Dr. Lecter is not crazy, in any common way we think of being crazy. He did some hideous things […] But he can function perfectly when he wants to.”[2] Springfield pushes on: “What did the psychologists call it—what was wrong with him?”[3] Again Graham refuses to label Lecter as existing outside acceptable social bounds:

They say [Lecter’s] a sociopath, because they don’t know what else to call him. He has some of the characteristics of what they call a sociopath. He has no remorse or guilt at all. And he had the first and worst sign–sadism to animals as a child…But he doesn’t have any of the other marks […] He’s not insensitive. They don’t know what to call him.[4]

Lecter does not fit into ready-made categorizes that define boundaries within society, and separate the “normal” people from the “crazy” people. In many ways, Graham’s comments show that Lecter conforms to conventional human behavior.

Still unsatisfied with Graham’s reluctance to describe Lecter as outside normal humanity, Springfield asks what Graham calls Lecter: “Just to yourself, what do you call him?”[5] Springfield appears to get the answer he seeks. “He’s a monster,” Graham says. “I think of him as one of those pitiful things that are born in hospitals from time to time. They feed it, and keep it warm, but they don’t put it on the machines and it dies. Lecter is the same way in his head, but he looks normal and nobody could tell.”[6] Despite being a monster, Graham’s comments reflect Lecter’s ability to exist within the community. Because Lecter “looks normal” no one could see the monstrous aspects inside him.

Springfield’s final questions deals specifically with how Graham “spotted Lecter.” No one Springfield knows (including him) can figure out how Graham did it. Despite attempts to move Lecter away from the community, Springfield’s comment shows what Graham described. If Lecter was solely monstrous and crazy, everyone would be able to identify him with absolute certainty. However, because Lecter “looks normal and nobody could tell” what lay beneath that normality, spotting Lecter was more difficult.

Graham calls his spotting Lecter a “coincidence” related to the crime scene and body placement of the sixth murder victim in the series of killings Graham has investigated with the FBI.[9] According to Graham, “The [victim’s] wounds reminded [him] of something.”[10] Years earlier, the sixth victim had a hunting accident and was treated in the ER by Dr. Lecter, a resident surgeon at the time. Graham visited Lecter, then a practicing psychiatrist, to ask about the incident. Lecter said he did not remember anything about the victim. Something did not sit well with Graham. After reviewing the information with Jack Crawford, Graham returned to Lecter’s office on a Sunday. Graham describes what happened next:

We were talking and he was making a polite effort to help me and I looked up at some very old medical books on the shelf above his head. And I knew it was him. When I looked at him again […] I knew it, and he knew I knew it. I still couldn’t think of the reason, though. I didn’t trust it. I had to figure it out. So I mumbled something and got out of there, into the hall. There was a pay phone in the hall. I didn’t want to stir him up until I had some help. I was talking to the police switchboard when he came out a service door behind me in his socks. I never heard him coming. I felt his breath was all, and then…there was the rest of it.[11]

Recovering from the attack that left a “looping scar across [Graham’s] stomach,”[12] Graham realized what tipped him off “‘was Wound Man.'” Graham tells Springfield that Wound Man is “‘an illustration […] used in a lot of the early medical books like the ones Lecter had. It shows different kinds of battle injuries, all in one figure.’” Graham first encountered Wound Man in graduate pathology course at The George Washington University, where Graham received his master’s degree. The image is significant because the body position and injuries of the sixth victim were similar those of Wound Man. That Graham ever encountered Wound Man, he says, was “‘A piece of luck.’”[13]

The conversation satisfies Springfield’s interest in Lecter’s capture, and he and Graham resume their hunt for the latest killer.

Next time: How the conversation between Springfield and Graham relates to Girard, Jung, and the monstrous.



[1] Thomas Harris, Red Dragon (New York: Dell Publishing, 1990), 68.

[2] Harris, Red Dragon, 68

[3] Harris, Red Dragon, 68.

[4] Harris, Red Dragon, 68-9.

[5] Harris, Red Dragon, 69.

[6] Harris, Red Dragon, 69.

[7] René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 251-2.

[8] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 262.

[9] Harris, Red Dragon, 69.

[10] Harris, Red Dragon, 69.

[11] Harris, Red Dragon, 70.

[12] Harris, Red Dragon, 7.

[13] Harris, Red Dragon, 71.

The Monstrous Human,9: Will Graham–Open to Imitation II

In introducing Will Graham in my previous post, I focused on three episodes that show Graham’s ability to imitate others and take on their emotions. I suggested that Graham has a natural capacity for imitation and that he has qualities of an empathy: the ability to reproduce other people’s emotions and points of view in himself, voluntarily or involuntarily.


This brief view of Graham’s as a natural imitator and an empath links to my previous posts on Girard, Jung, and the monstrous in four ways:


  1. Graham’s conversation with Jack Crawford points to Graham as the mediator between law enforcement (the subject) and the Tooth Fairy (the object). This creates one triangle of desire: FBI + Graham (mediator) + Tooth Fairy.
  2. Graham is drawn into an investigation seeking a serial killer. That is, Graham takes on the FBI’s desire to catch the Tooth Fairy. Even though he has not worked for the FBI in three years, he accepts this desire as his own.
  3. Graham takes on speech patterns, facial expressions, emotions, and the mindset of those around him, including the criminal. Graham shows that boundaries between people are more fluid that we think or maybe want to believe.
  4. Graham’s ability to flow between mindsets (especially criminal and law enforcement) shows the subjectivity of good and evil. While Graham is on the side of the “good guys” and hunts the “bad guy,” he still shows signs of existing on both sides of the good/evil fence. Springfield sees a lifer’s demeanor in Graham’s face. Graham’s wife jokes that Graham has a criminal mind after hearing a childhood story.


These points also show one more thing: Graham is comfortable living in a paradoxical state, where good and evil exist at the same time. This ability might be the reason the FBI sought Graham out. FBI profilers could have looked for the Tooth Fairy without him. After all, they did their jobs for three years without Graham. Yet, for some reason, they need Graham to find this particular killer.


Graham’s unique ability is of interest to Chief Springfield, who wants to know how Graham caught one the infamous psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, three years before.


Next time: Graham’s discussion with the Atlanta Chief of Detectives: how did Graham catch Lecter?

The Monstrous Human, 8: Will Graham–Open to Imitation

My previous post provided an overview of my exploration into Red Dragon, and outlined four pieces of the novel that I will address in this upcoming series of posts: Graham’s ability for imitation, two conversations on how Graham caught Lecter, and the revelation of Lecter’s attack on Graham.

This post draws on Thomas Harris’ introduction of Will Graham to develop a view of Graham’s capacity for imitation. When the novel begins, readers meet Graham three years after he left the FBI. He lives in Florida and repairs boats.

The novel opens with Jack Crawford, agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, visiting Will Graham at his Florida home. Crawford wants to discuss the murder of two families (one in Birmingham, AL, the more recent in Atlanta, GA) and the FBI profile of the suspected killer, nicknamed The Tooth Fairy by members of the Atlanta Police Department. As they talk, “Crawford heard the rhythm and syntax of his own speech in Graham’s voice. He had heard Graham do that before, with other people. Often in intense conversation Graham took on the other person’s speech patterns. At first, Crawford had thought he was doing it deliberately […but] later realized that Graham did it involuntarily, that sometimes he tried to stop and couldn’t.”[1]

Later, in Atlanta, Graham and Crawford discuss the case with Atlanta Chief of Detectives, Buddy Springfield, who felt that “Graham’s face was blank; closed like a lifer’s face.” [2] After their meeting, Graham and Crawford eat at a local Atlanta restaurant. There, Graham notices the people surrounding their table: a couple visibly bothered by Crawford’s cigarette smoke (to which Crawford was oblivious) and a mother and daughter arguing (anger that Graham feels in his neck and face).

After a second visit to the Atlanta crime scene, Graham calls his wife Molly. During their talk, Graham tells her about a time he stole a watermelon as a child and ran to escape capture. Molly jokingly comments: “‘A criminal mind, even at that age,’” to which Graham responds, quite seriously: “‘I don’t have a criminal mind.’”[3] Graham’s comment is true, he does not have a criminal mind, however, as these few examples show: Graham does possess the aptitude to mimic or double other people’s mindset and emotions.

Our initial experience of Graham and Crawford, and the revelation that Graham habitually mimics other people’s speech patterns, mindset, and emotions suggests:

  1. Graham’s natural susceptibility to mimetic interactions, and
  2. Graham’s ability to embody the mindset and emotional of his conversation partner and people around him.

Copying Crawford’s speech pattern suggests Graham’s attempt to recapture the FBI ethos after not working for three years. Springfield’s observation that Graham resembled a “lifer” reflects Graham’s ability to transition into the criminal attitude and mindset they discuss. Graham’s observations of restaurant patrons and his absorption of the anger from the fighting mother and daughter show Graham’s emotional relationship and close link to the environment in which he exists.

This brief collection of episodes create a profile of Graham as an emotional empath, a highly sensitive and intuitive individual capable of feeling, absorbing, and reproducing the emotions of others, voluntarily or involuntarily. This sensitivity includes an intuitive knowledge of another person’s mindset. Such intuitive knowledge contributes to the empath’s ability for compassion, which includes being able to take on a person’s perspective through conversation. As an empath, imitation flows throughout Graham’s natural function in the world. Although Graham may not characterize himself as an empath, he is aware of his ability to absorb the emotional and mental perspective of others, and make connections through feeling.

Next time: How this mini profile of Graham relates to Girard, Jung, and the monstrous.



[1] Thomas Harris, Red Dragon (New York: Dell Publishing, 1990), 3.

[2] Harris, Red Dragon, 39.

[3] Harris, Red Dragon, 57.

The Monstrous Human, 7: My Exploration into Red Dragon

My previous series of posts have introduced select scholarly views on the monster and Hannibal Lecter, Renè Girard’s theory of mimesis (or imitation), and C. G. Jung’s view of the paradox of evil. The forthcoming series of posts aims to put these pieces together in an examination of the relationship between FBI Investigator Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the first novel that introduced the good doctor: Red Dragon.  My discussion builds on Edward Ingebretsen’s observations that: (1) monsters are made in our image and likeness, and (2) “monsters and those who pursue them can be mistaken for each other.”[1]

In Red Dragon (1981), Thomas Harris introduced audiences to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a former surgeon turned psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. The novel centers on the FBI’s hunt for another killer, Francis Dolarhyde (known as the Tooth Fairy), with the incarcerated Lecter appearing as a minor participant in the context of this larger drama. To profile and catch the Tooth Fairy, the FBI enlists the help of a former FBI investigator, Will Graham, who left the agency three years earlier after he simultaneously caught and was attacked by Lecter. Although a sub-plot of Red Dragon, the past rivalry between Lecter and Graham seems to reappear when, after receiving a fan letter from Dolarhyde/the Tooth Fairy, Lecter writes the burgeoning serial killer and tells him to kill Graham.

To begin a discussion of imitation in Red Dragon, I look at the reader’s introduction to Graham, whose ability to imitate appears early in the novel.  To explore the relationship of imitation between Graham and Lecter, and the idea of the “monstrous human,” I focus on three episodes within the novel:

  1. Graham’s discussion with the Atlanta Chief of Detectives on how Graham caught Lecter,
  2. Graham’s visit to the Chesapeake Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where Lecter is imprisoned,
  3. Lecter’s assault on Graham prior to, yet revealed during, the narrative within Red Dragon.

Next time: Will Graham and the openness to imitation.



[1] Edward J. Ingebretsen, “Monster-Making: A Politics of Persuasion,” Journal of American Culture 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 32.


The Monstrous Human, 6: Lessons from Girard & Jung on the Monstrous Human

My previous post presented C. G. Jung’s paradox of evil: the notion that what appears evil may sometimes be productive. Of course, we judge good and evil on appearance (or experience), and turn away from something because it does not align with our subjective definition of “helpful” or “good.” I offer Jung alongside René Girard’s view of the monstrous double: the mirroring of subject and mediator wherein the mediator becomes the monstrous double, a being in whom good and evil mix. Both the monstrous double and the paradox of evil understand that the monster mirrors us (or we the monster) and acknowledge that the monstrous veils a mingling of divinity and humanity that has potential to produce something beneficial.

This post offers a few observations on the lessons we should take from Girard’s  monstrous double and Jung’s paradox of evil in order to contemplate the concept of the monstrous human. These same lessons also help understand the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon (and by extension, in NBC’s Hannibal).

Distinctions and boundaries are fluid. We want so desperately to be different, to not be the other person who we judge as depraved. The problem with this, which both Girard and Jung point out, is that the boundaries that actually separate us from the despicable “other” are imaginary (if they exist at all). Not only are we mirrors of the bad, the bad sometimes exists within us.

The monstrous exists inside and outside of us. The idea that the monstrous lives not just within our community but in us is a thought we want to avoid at all costs. The monster and enemy has to be “not us,” but as Girard and Jung point out, that evil monster is us or our double each and every time. We have trouble finding the monstrous precisely because it exists in plain sight. We look for something so different and so obviously “evil” that we ignore the very signs that tell us the monster is in our presence.

Sometime the best way to deal with the monster is to let him in. While the monster is threatening and can cause great harm, sometimes the only way to overcome the monstrous is to open oneself to an experience with the monster. The entrance of the monstrous is akin to possession (usually temporary, but potentially permanent) in which we allow the monster to permeate the imaginary boundary separating us so that we learn to see and proceed as the monster himself. Of course, this prospect is not an easy one to be open to, and not everyone is capable of this feat.

Next time: An overview of my exploration into Red Dragon.

The Monstrous Human, 5: C. G. Jung and the Paradox of Evil

My previous post offered a brief overview of René Girard’s theory of mimesis (i.e., imitation) , which states that desire leads to conflict and rivalry between a subject and the mediator of the desire. The closer the subject and mediator become, the more their double-nature, or mirroring each other, is revealed. Once the difference between subject and mediator collapse, the mediator becomes a monstrous double of the subject, a being in whom the good and evil merge.[1] The purpose of this post is to expand on this idea of the monstrous double as both good and evil, using C. G. Jung’s archetypal theory, focusing on Jung’s view of the paradox of evil.

For Jung (1875-1961), good and evil are human value judgments. Much of what we see as evil, Jung wrote, reflects humanity’s “stupidity and unconsciousness” rather than our “wickedness.”[2] Jung rejected the idea that evil was simply a lack of good, and argued that if evil were just the absence of good, conflict between good and evil could not exist. [3]

Jung asserted that his perspective of evil was not a theological view,[4] but a psychological understanding that neither good nor evil exists alone. Good and evil rely on each other and emerge in contrast to one another when we need to explain life experiences.[5] In this relationship, evil (like unconsciousness) represents “a helpful though […] dangerous complement” to consciousness,[6] while good describes “what seems suitable, acceptable, or valuable.”[7] We are unable to fully know the deepest qualities of either good or evil, which means that our experiences of good and evil are subjective.[8] This, Jung claimed, creates a paradox of evil: what one individual sees as evil, another may not. Of this paradox, Jung writes:

“the paradox [of evil] is just that for this particular person in this particular situation at this particular stage of development it may be good,” while at others “good […] may be the worst thing possible.” [9]

Humanity’s tendency to judge may actually cause us to overlook an opportunity because it appears to lack goodness. Condemning evil does not stop it from being problematic,[10] nor does accepting evil and darkness transform evil into good. Rather, recognizing evil helps explain an individual’s inner darkness.[11] For Jung, the shadow archetype (a personification of our personal insecurities) lives within this paradox of evil because the shadow archetype is seen as negative and threatening on first meeting. However, if we allow the shadow into consciousness, we see that the shadow may promote goodness, “life and well-being.”[12]

Understanding our reality “depends upon the […] interplay of forces that we call good and evil.” However, humans cannot control this interplay, so we must “leave the outcome up to the power […] greater than ourselves.”[13] According to Joseph L. Henderson, humanity’s “sacred duty” is to gain control of the shadow archetype, so as to begin spiritual work required to restore psychological balance.[14] The shadow’s association with evil makes such work difficult, especially given the shadow’s common manifestation as the devil, a psychological projection of incompatibility between the individual and her/his unconscious, negative traits.[15]

Jung approached the devil from a Jobian perspective as an adversarial figure that represents “fear [and] negation,”[16] but is not antithetical to goodness. In an archetypal context, the devil and evil are dangerous only when the individual refuses to engage them, seeks to suppress them, and/or does not bring the so-called evil contents into consciousness.[17] The devilish shadow is not an naturally destructive archetype, but may become destructive if an individual does not pay close attention to the shadow or its message.[18] While the work of accepting the shadow consequently lessens the shadow’s threat and presence, the archetype does not disappear from the psyche altogether. Rather, the shadow withdraws and remains inactive as long as “all is well with the conscious.”[19] Should a crisis occur in consciousness, the shadow reappears to repeat the cycle of psychological adaption.

Two factors of the Jungian view of evil are important for my discussion of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter as doubles, and of Lecter as the monstrous double:

  1. The idea that good and evil are subjective judgments.
  2. The idea that evil is a necessary aspect of the psyche.

Because a judgment of evil is subjective, an individual can chose to perceive what seems evil as either negative or positive. The closer we allow ourselves to get to the devil in our psyche, the more we adjust our judgment of evil from something destructive into something productive. In the guise of a devil, the shadow plays a crucial role in overcoming psychological crisis. An archetypal understanding of evil and the devil helps develop an image of Lecter as a manifestation of Graham’s shadow and as the monstrous double, in whom evil and good mix.

Next time: How Girard’s monstrous double and Jung’s paradox of evil relate to the monstrous human.



[1] René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) 262.

[2] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Psychology and Religion, West and East, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 11 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), par.291.

[3] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Aion: Researchs into the Phenomenology of the Self, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 9.2 [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978], par. 247.

[4] Jung, CW 9.2:112.

[5] Murray Stein, introduction to Jung on Evil, by C. G. Jung, ed. Murray Stein (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 16.

[6] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 14 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), par.149.

[7] Jung, CW 9.2:97.

[8] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Civilization in Transition, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 10 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), par. 860.

[9] Jung, CW 10:866.

[10] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Psychology and Alchemy, trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 12 (Princeton: Princeton University Press), par. 36.

[11] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed., Vol. 9.1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), par. 595.

[12] Stein, introduction to Jung on Evil, 14.

[13] Stein, introduction to Jung on Evil, 21.

[14] Joseph L. Henderson, “Ancient Myths and Modern Man,” in Man and His Symbols, ed. C. G. Jung (New York: Dell, 1968), 360-1.

[15] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, trans. R. F. C. Hull, 2nd Edition, Vol. 7 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), par. 152.

[16] C. G. Jung, Collected Works: Symbols of Transformation, trans. R. F. C. Hull, Vol. 5 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) par. 551. For Jung’s discussion of the adversarial Satan, see: C. G. Jung, Answer to Job, trans. R.F.C. Hull (London: ARK Paperbacks, 1984) or CW 11:553-758.

[17] Jung, CW 10:867.

[18] Murray Stein, Practicing Wholeness: Analytical Psychology and Jungian Thought (New York: Continuum, 1996), 84.

[19] Jung, CW 9.1:477.

The Monstrous Human, 4: Rene Girard & Mimetic Theory

In my previous post, I presented my addition to the conversation of investigating (a) the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter as a search for likeness, and (b) Hannibal Lecter as the monstrous human. In this post, I present the first part of my method of analysis: Rene Girard’s mimetic theory (or theory of imitation).

Understanding (a) the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter and (b) Lecter as the monstrous human involves looking at Rene Girard’s theory of desire or imitation (i.e., mimetic theory), which aims to explain the cause of conflict and violence in society. Wolfgang Palaver calls Girard’s theory “a ‘theory of conflict’ […] that both elucidates the causes of interpersonal clashes and also offers solutions to them.”[1] The following brief overview highlights only specific portions of Girard’s theory as they pertain to an examination of Graham and Lecter in Red Dragon.

We desire what other people want or what we believe other people want. Through his literary examinations, Girard observed that human needs are based on the needs of those around a person: because an individual does not know what to desire, she desires what those around her desire. Thus, individuals imitate the desires of people they see around them.[2] Palaver points out that Girard’s theory does not refer to shallow imitation of gestures or expressions. Rather, Girard’s theory reflects the openness to and influence of humans toward one another.[3]

Desire moves in a triangular shape. Jean-Michel Oughourlian defines desire as a psychological movement that requires energy to move toward its goal/object of desire.[4] This means that desire and the steps taken to reach this desire are psychological in nature. Girard sees this desire as moving in a triangular fashion between the individuals and the object of desire: person A (the subject) wants what (the object) person B (the mediator) wants. The mediator (person B) becomes a model of behavior for the subject (person A). If person B does something to get the object, person A must do the same.[5]

The closer the subject and the mediator are, the more likely conflict will begin.  The mediator may become a rival for the subject, if the subject believes the mediator is blocking the way to the object of desire. This rivalry may then lead to violence, in which the subject attempts to remove the obstacle blocking her access to the object of desire.[6] According to Girard, whether rivalry appears depends on whether the mediation is external or internal.

  •  External mediation: If the distance (or difference) between the subject and mediator is large, and they do not desire the same thing (or there is enough of that thing to go around), there is no conflict.[7]
  • Internal mediation: If the subject desires the object because the mediator desires it, the mediator will become a rival for the subject. This rival must be defeated, and this is where conflict enters the situation.[8] According to Oughourlian, rivalry is essentially connected with desire and cannot be separated from it.[9]

When the mediator (person B) and the subject (person A) become close, the double nature of the pair reveals itself. The closer the subject comes to the mediator, the more the mediator desires what the subject desires. Thus, the two (subject and mediator) mirror one another. According to Girard, the closeness of the pair is determined by spiritual, not physical, distance.[10] Girard describes the relationship between the pair (subject and mediator) as symmetrical. Whatever you say about one, you can say about the other.[11] Oughourlian calls this process a mirror mechanism in which the link between the pair is responsible for the doubling and the rivalry.[12]

The truth of desire is that the mediator plays a dual role: evil and sacred.[13] Once the distance and difference between the subject and mediator collapse (in the case of internal mediation), the two exist on the same level. Here the mediator becomes a monstrous double of the subject, a being in whom the good and evil merge and morality is more gray than black and white.[14] Girard notes that humanity is uncomfortable with the idea that good and evil exist in the same being.[15] It is on the basis of this doubling that I will discuss Lecter as the monstrous human who exists in a paradox: serving good and evil, and living inside and outside of society at the same time.

Next time: I discuss Girard’s view of the monstrous double alongside C. G. Jung’s paradox of evil.



[1]Wolfgang Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory, Trans. by Gabriel Borrud, (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013) 33.

[2] See René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure,trans. by Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976) chapter one.

[3] Palaver, Girard’s Mimetic Theory, 36.

[4] Jean-Michel Oughourlian, The Genesis of Desire, Trans. by Eugene Webb (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010) 17.

[5] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 2-4.

[6] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 7-10.

[7] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 9-10.

[8] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 9-10, 41.

[9] Oughourlian, The Genesis of Desire, 12.

[10] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 9.

[11] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 100.

[12] Oughourlian, The Genesis of Desire, 2-8.

[13] Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 81.

[14] René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) 262.

[15] René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 251-2.

The Monstrous Human, 3: My Addition to the Discussion

In my previous post, I presented select scholarly views on the monster and on Hannibal Lecter. In this post, I offer my addition to the conversation.

Building on previous scholarship, I explore Lecter’s disturbing position on the spectrum of the evil monster, between the fearful “other” and the human. While Lecter’s actions are monstrous, society does not fully expel him beyond the bounds of humanity. Thus, Lecter remains “at large” and immune to destruction because he exists as a paradox: the monster who can hurt and help at the same time. In Red Dragon, Lecter is the portal that helps FBI Investigator Will Graham cross to the “other” side so that he may catch serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy. This means that (1) Graham lives in this space between the human and the monster alongside Lecter, and (2) as the pursuer of monsters, Graham is in danger of becoming one himself. Both Lecter and Graham then become “other” in Harris’ narrative, living within the human world and also beyond it. Thus, the search for the monstrous ultimately involves a search for likeness.

To investigate the “monstrous human” and the search for likeness as seen in Graham and Lecter’s relationship in Red Dragon, as well as our connection to this relationship as readers, I use French literary scholar Renè Girard’s mimetic theory (or theory of imitation) to explain the link between Will Graham and Lecter as an experience of doubling. I will incorporate C. G. Jung’s paradox of evil (the notion that evil can be helpful) into Girard’s paradox of violence (that violence can have benefits) to further discuss Lecter’s paradoxical existence as the monstrous human.

Next time: Girard’s theory of mimesis (or imitation) and what it has to do with the monster.

The Monstrous Human, 2: Scholars on Monsters & Lecter

Below, I present the views of five scholars on the concept of the monstrous: Edward Ingebretsen, L.H.M. Ling, Joseph Grixti, Peter Messent, and W. Scott Poole. Long, Grixti, and Messent offer their views of the monster in relation to their investigations of Hannibal Lecter.

The Monster

For Edward Ingebretsen, monsters are political beings meant to instill fear. They are always around and we depend on them for social stability. Monsters act as “mechanism[s] for stress-release” and allow a “dose of incivility” in our highly ordered world. Moreover, monsters reflect what happens when we cross that “line between civility and incivility” (26). Foreign but not alien, monsters represent our “failed selves” (29). We create monsters to watch them die, Ingebretsen argues. In metaphorical terms, we create monsters so we may literally slay our fear. While being our “greatest sin,” monsters depict our crises and help us fix them. The danger, Ingebretsen points out, is that sometimes we see monsters as good because of what they do for us. Therefore, we must remember two things: (1) monsters are made in our image and likeness, and (2) “monsters and those who pursue them can be mistaken for each other” (32).

L.H.M. Ling writes similarly of monsters as political beings that instill fear and warn against it. While living among us, the monster remains an outsider while living among a population and lives for himself.

Joseph Grixti argues that we fictionalize serial killers as “inhuman monsters” to come to terms with their disorienting actions. Novels help us explore these figures in a safe-mode where they are contained and unthreatening. The purpose of such treatment is to make readers believe that this monster lives in us all and “only the controls of civilized order” prevent it from emerging (95). Thus, monsters are exceptions to this rule of control and order, implying that those of us who remain “in order” are not.

Peter Messent places the monster in the context of liminality (a feature of Gothic literature), or the threshold between the known and unknown associated with instability. Messent presents three binary relationships (or doubling effect) associated with liminality: monstrous/civilized, nature/culture, raw/cooked. Each of which, Messent argues, creates a third space of possibilities that challenge readers who might otherwise remain unaware. For Messent, then, the monstrous exists alongside the civilized and creates an unstable space between spaces that challenges readers’ assessment of the world.

 W. Scott Poole traces the development of monsters within the American historical landscape and presents monsters as “part of the genetic code of the American experience” (18). The American monster came out of “the central anxieties and obsessions” that have dominated America since its founding (4), and has, in the most recent centuries, become connected to concerns over “medicine, disease, death” and technological advances (221). Poole argues that, in American history, monsters are symbolic aids that help develop our worldview in which they play a significant role as something existing outsides of ourselves; they represent our fears, our hatreds, and the marginalized, “sickening Other” (13). Monsters are “beast[s] of excess,” and stories about monsters are stories of excess (xiv).

This very brief presentation of the monster tells us:

  1. We create and destroy monsters.
  2. Monsters live within, yet stay separate, from the so-called ordered society.
  3. Monsters represent things outside ourselves that we want to control and/or overcome.
  4. Monsters occupy a place in-between, in which they present the consequences of crossing moral and social lines, and disturb our worldview.
  5. Monsters are helpful in certain contexts.

Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter is a foreign-born man living in America. He is a psychiatrist and cannibalizing, serial killer. For Ling, Lecter’s Eastern European origin draws similarities to Dracula, the evil monster who shares similar physical features with the population in which he lives. Thus, Ling writes, Lecter is one of us, he is “the evil other [who] now resides explicitly within” (381).

According to Grixti, Thomas Harris (creator of Hannibal Lecter) depicts two kinds of monsters: the psychopathic loner (who becomes a beast thanks to gender identity issues and really bad mothering) and the evil devil (the evil genius type). The killers Harris’ heroes track (The Tooth Fairy, Buffalo Bill) fall into the loner category. Lecter occupies the evil genius role, and knows “more about the inner depths of those around him than they care to admit to themselves” (94).

For Messent, the novels of Thomas Harris occupy a luminal space (or space between spaces) themselves because they do not conclude with a nicely tied-up ending. The serial killer is destroyed, which restores a sense of stability in the novel’s world, but Hannibal Lecter remains. Lecter straddles both sides of the luminal line, on the one hand existing in the destabilizing, monstrous world of the serial killer yet, on the other hand, occupying a prominent place as a psychiatrist whose purpose is to help people stabilize themselves. Messent aregues that Lecter’s cannibalism is the metaphor that glues both sides together. Lecter literally consumes people’s flesh, and figuratively “penetrates the minds as well as the bodies of others” (27). Therefore, in a luminal context, the desires of Hannibal Lecter cannot be contained on one side or the other. Lecter occupies both spheres through a luminal doubling.

Lecter represents the monstrous because:

  1. Lecter lives within, yet is foreign to society. He blends in because of similar features, which mask his identity as a monster.
  2. Lecter is an evil genius, monstrous because he is more in tune with the people that surround him than they are of themselves.
  3. Lecter lives in the in-between as both killer and psychiatrist. Thus, he exists on both sides of the social order.
  4. Lecter cannot be confined to one box because he occupies this in-between, therefore he remains constantly and disturbingly ‘at large.’ His narrative does not end in a nicely wrapped package: he is not destroyed but remains alive.

Next time in “The Monstrous Human” series: My approach to Hannibal Lecter as the monstrous human in the novel Red Dragon.


Works Cited:

Grixti, Joseph. “Consuming Cannibals: Psychopathic Killers as Archetypes and Cultural Icons.” Journal of American Culture 18, no. 1 (Spring, 1995): 87-96.

Ingebretsen, Edward J. “Monster-Making: A Politics of Persuasion.” Journal of American Culture 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 25-34.

Ling, L.H.M. “The Monster Within: What Fu Manchu and Hannibal Lecter Can Tell Us about Terror and Desire in a Post-9/11 World.” East Asia Cultures Critique, Vol. 12, Mo. 2 (Fall 2004): 377-400.

Messent, Peter. “American Gothic: Liminality in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter Novels.” Journal of American and Comparative Cultures 23, no. 4 (Winter, 2000): 23-35.

Poole, W. Scott. Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011).

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