Oops I started digging through my old files and found a character analysis and a couple of drabbles related to Hannibal that I wrote a couple years back, when I first read through the series. Oops where did these Hannibal feelings come from??
Largely, a cannibal is abhorred by a high-functioning society. In the old days, only those who were considered barbaric, or whose cultures were seen as “savage” were labeled as cannibalistic, whether or not they ate the meat of their fellow man. Cannibalism was reserved for the worst and most “godless” of creation, so it is a surprise that the man called the “Chesapeake Ripper” before his grand reveal and “Hannibal the Cannibal” after all the sick details had been slapped on every front page is a tidy, highly intelligent man.
Hannibal Lecter is a small, wiry man with maroon eyes, a grating metallic quality to his voice, and an unflappable calm. He tore the lips off a nurse, eating half her face off without increasing his heartrate on the EKG he was hooked up to. His sense of smell is highly developed, as exhibited by his ability to detect Clarice Starling’s brand of perfume—-L’Air du Temps—-on their first meeting in “The Silence of the Lambs”, even though she hadn’t worn any that day. He rides the fine line between what is accepted as being man and what is considered animal, honed to a certain kind of mental and physical perfection.
The question is, is he an “animal”? Is he a monster? A serial killer? A pitiable mental derelict in need of the love of a good woman? The answers are yes and no, no and yes, and somewhere in between. He is opportunistic and whimsical, dark as death itself but also gruesomely funny. As his captors have learned, he is impenetrable to testing. When handed papers to fill out, he folds them into origami; when pumped full of drugs and asked where he’d hidden bodies, he recited recipes for dip.
The one thing to keep in mind when dealing with Hannibal is that he wants to be treated with dignity above all else, whether you see him as man or beast or neither. You will be civil, you will be polite, and if you fail to do the above you will be killed and eaten for you are nothing more than meat. He departs from a true psychopath in that he is not incapable of understanding emotional foibles and can have moments of careful, measured kindnesses when he sees them being proper. There is a reason that he doesn’t fit any known psychological profile.
There is a humanity and an inhumanity to him. He has a wit and a layer of hiding, always curling his fingers beneath the rocks in the minds of others in order to get a peek at what’s underneath, while only very rarely allowing glimpses of his own humanity. He will never ask you to feel sorry for him, because that is pity, and pity is ugly. He is fascinated with Clarice when she comes into his life because she has an otherness to her that keeps him pacing and coming back. Unlike all the others, she embraces the humanity she finds while simultaneously accepting the darkness throughout.
Hannibal Lecter does not believe himself a god. He is a god of his own fashioning. He kills randomly and feels no remorse, but is still delighted by the finest orchestral arrangement. He will never be pinned down to mere humanity, though he takes great pleasure in watching them play.