A Comparison and Contrast of the Protagonists in Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho

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During the course of this essay I aim to explain, analyse and interpret the fundamental, moral and philosophical differences in two seemingly similar characters. The main focus concentrates on three events. In Silence O.T.L , Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist turned convicted mass murderer, is used by the FBI to assist in the apprehension of a multiple murderer and takes the opportunity to effect his own escape. In American Psycho, Bateman vexes his frustration at society through violence and gradual self-destruction, taking out his anger on those he considers inferior or those who threaten his status.

SOTL is written in the third-person perspective for the reason that it deals with a wider scope of story, i.e. there is more than one clearly defined main character, and there are more characters and plots that influence the storyline as it progresses. AP is written in the first person narrative perspective as it revolves around one main character and deals only with his opinions, flaws and actions, for instance the air of vanity and self-obsession associated constantly with Batemans character & lifestyle.

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The two characters on a superficial level share similarities, which then become differences because of the way the characters act and appreciate certain aspects of their lives. As an example, the theme of violence is utilised in both stories. The two characters are both extremely violent in their actions against others, but for different reasons. Patrick Bateman is sporadic and random in his use of violence, whereas Lecter is decisive and carefully calculated in his violent actions.

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Luxury and style both feature prominently in the two characters lifestyles, but their appreciation of such things differs greatly. For instance, Bateman is educated & tasteful concerning commercially accepted styles, for instance the classic brands, Armani, Versace, for essentially narcissistic reasons in order to improve and emphasise his social standing. The narration constantly talks of expensive clothes, cars, restaurants, clubs and drugs, so much so that these things become worthless and insignificant. Nothing is treasured or respected; nothing is irreplaceable or even special. Batemans tastes are essentially dictated to him by his generation s definition of style and culture, and is classed during the book as the stereotypical Ivy League yuppie. Bateman s reflections upon society as a whole are very jaded, and his generation are extremely intolerant of other social groups. His friends and colleagues taunt the homeless with dollar bills, offering them and snatching them away laughing, they refer to women as hardbodies and chicks , joking that the only girls who have good personalities or are even halfway intelligent are ugly. Bateman mistakes a young student for a beggar because she is sitting down with a Styrofoam coffee cup, (Young student mistaken for homeless, reference to women as hardbodies , the one-dollar game played by his colleagues, the assumption that all homeless are drunks and not products of their environments) Lecter, in Hannibal surrounds himself with luxury as a stimulus to his tastes. 

Even when incarcerated in SOTL he takes in Starling s (an FBI agent) appearance, noting her tasteful handbag but decrying the poor quality of her shoes. In Hannibal where Lecter has escaped to a new life in Florence, he purchases good quality wine and wears exotically tailored classic suits because he appreciates their value over their price.

A sub theme to the violence is the choice and range of victims. Bateman is random in his killing, from prostitutes and homeless to a work colleague/rival from Wall Street. Lecter is selective as most of the victims he took before his incarceration were clients he had met through his chosen profession of psychiatry. At all times he is in control despite being clinically quite insane. Lecter is above all an erudite scholar. He is sophisticated, tasteful, independently wealthy and perfectly polite. Despite the fact he is violently insane and dangerous on a level unseen by most, he is measured and callously responsible for all his actions, no matter what they may be. He has exquisite taste in all of the sensory stimuli he enjoys, all of the luxuries he can afford. His appreciation of such possessions has always been present but is made more urgent and obvious because they are the things that one can only dream about when imprisoned at the level of security displayed in SOTL. For instance, his appreciation and keen intelligence are both displayed in the drawings he keeps in his cell when originally incarcerated, drawings of cities such as Florence drawn solely from memory to act as replacements for a view he doesn t have.

The introduction of this essay mentions three events that stand out. Firstly, American Psycho narrates as Bateman murders a homosexual and his dog on the street. The event itself is fairly standard for the book but from an analytical point of view it is very prominent. The descriptions during the narration use a lot of stereotyping, for instance the homosexual is portrayed as effeminate with the hackneyed lisp and limp wrist. Bateman describes him with contempt, labelling the man the queer as he gives Bateman the once-over with a quizzical smile . Bateman s intolerance toward those who dont conform to his way of life shows again in the narrative through his mental criticism of the victim s clothing and appearance, in particular references to the man s tacky loose corduroys and his ridiculous moustache . Bateman s manner during the book is continually jovial and pompous towards those he chooses to interact with, mostly his victims. He is always genuine and friendly, but the edge inside is always clear. The trust of his victims, as with many killers, is important for him to keep his victims in the positions he wants them in, and he obtains it through a fa ade of wealth and class. Ultimately, the author s work sends a potent message concerning the degenerate philosophy behind the power of money and social standing.

Our second event sees Hannibal Lecter murder two guards in order to trigger the events that lead to his escape. The level of violence utilised is once again, typically excessive, yet the author s style of writing allows the reader to see the necessity in what is, to us, the cold blooded murder of two human beings, but to the character, the killer, merely the decisively necessary disposal of two obstacles in the protagonist s path. The significance of such an insight into the mind of a psychopath is what these books are all about, the realisation that within everyone lies the capability to discard all that we have been taught in the pursuit of what we want.

The third event arises in the book Hannibal , where Dr. Hannibal Lecter murders an Italian detective who attempts to collect a bounty upon Lecter s head. The detective, Rinaldo Pazzi, is murdered out of necessity but the situation is perfect for Lecter in that it allows him to kill with reason, but to drastically and excessively violent measures. Lecter s sense of the dramatic, and his twisted sense of humour permit him to use the situation to firstly obtain the information that effects his escape, and secondly, to fully endorse his psychotic tendencies. Lecter s education comes into play when he realises the Pazzi is a direct descendant of a man who was disembowelled and hung as a traitor from the Palazzo balcony centuries before. Lecter proceeds to extract his information, cut open the gut of Rinaldo Pazzi and push him over the balcony attached to an electrical cord, a demise he deems ironic and almost artistic. During the time when he interrogates the bound and gagged detective, Lecter is constantly polite and dreadfully cheerful, yet efficient and purposeful. His enjoyment of the act itself does not influence the method or the execution, a calculated move by the author to emphasise the callous intelligence of the book s aristocratically conducted anti-hero.

These conclusions considered, the main difference between these two glamorously twisted characters is that one is raised in a world where money is the key to the best and the worst desires that the mind can create, and it is this upbringing that exchanges basic moral and social skills for the luxury of being able to conduct oneself in a manner that is chosen by a person rather than a society that needs no assistance in destroying itself. The other protagonist comes from a world he has created for himself, a world where he is the only conscious being, where only he can decide what will happen, what is right or wrong, and what is ultimately to become of this world. Either way, the outlook upon society itself is bleak, desolate, and pessimistic and exposes the eternal weakness of man, in other words the inability to be content. Therefore, in similarity lies detail, and it is this detail that separates one person from another. And yet, this is not a conclusion in itself. In difference, there is always similarity. My conclusion is that no matter how different these characters are, looking past the similarities and differences I have highlighted, they are just part of the snake that swallows its tail.

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A Comparison and Contrast of the Protagonists in Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-comparison-and-contrast-of-the-protagonists-in-silence-of-the-lambs-and-american-psycho-essay

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