Lightreads's Reviews > The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas   Harris
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's review
Dec 27, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction, mystery, horror

I'm assuming this book was once shocking and groundbreaking. And okay, yes, eww with the eating people and the skinning. But also? Shut the fuck up, Thomas Harris. There are few things more obnoxious than a male author with a hard-on for his female protagonist. Worth reading for Hannibal the Cannibal, because I dig that abnormal psychology stuff, but did I mention the objectification? The sexism? The way the reader is never allowed to forget
about gender? How every male she meets falls for the heroin? Yeah, as it turns out, the unnamed and hovering Harris narrator is by far the most hateful and creepy personality around, and that's including the aforementioned cannibal.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2006 – Finished Reading
December 27, 2008 – Shelved
January 3, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
January 12, 2009 – Shelved as: mystery
January 15, 2009 – Shelved as: horror

Comments (showing 1-24)

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Melissa Sinner Wow. Harsh. I read this in the 80s and never even

Melissa Sinner Sorry. Finger slipped. I was going to say... I never read any of that into the story. I may have to re-read it to see what you're saying here. Interesting take on Harris as the creeper in the background. Thanks for a different perspective!

Marie I agree. He seems to really emphasize the gender thing. Perhaps it was understandable back when he wrote it? I don't even know. All I can say is that it's very irritating from my 2010 perspective.

However, I freakin' love Hannibal. So I may trek through his other books just because of that.

Livvyxo I think the whole point of the author's obvious 'hard on' for the female protagonist was to highlight the way she, or women in general, were perceived at the time, especially being in such a masculine role as Starling was.

Julia It's heroine, not heroin.

message 19: by Dana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dana Harper Yes, its sexist when all the male characters are interested in a female protagonist. Females getting attention is always sexist. Especially if they are attracted not only to there looks.

message 18: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy I completely agree with everything you wrote even though I loved the book. I got so tired of hearing how Clarice's gender got in the way/involved literally everything. And the scene at the end with her getting it on with that one minor character was so strange. But I guess, this was the 80s. Things were probably much different back then.

message 17: by Adam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Adam good job w/r/t missing the point entirely

Steph Yes, it was unrealistic for so many men to fawn after her, and it was strange when she hooked up with the entomologist in the end.

However, I think that her gender is very important to her character because she is an aspiring FBI agent in the 1980s. It was a transitional time, few women held these kinds of positions. Ever seen the X-Files? Even years later, Scully struggled against judgements made because of her gender. It's hard to be a strong female whose peers are primarily men.

Gordon If he creeped you out that bad, I'm going to have to give props to Harris as he was intended on making his audience feel uncomfortable.

Theresa You mean the heroinE?

Abbie Winchester I think you missed the point entirely, he wrote those things to show the real world. Did you forget all the parts where Clarice was thinking to herself how nasty and impolite all the men are? Chilton? Did you even read the effing book?! I think that he added all the sexist men in to show that there are monsters that aren't locked away for murder.

Janay The whole book was creepy i barely remember it

Angela Completely agree with Abbie Winchester, You missed the point. The author emphasizes the unwanted attention Clarice gets because of how hostile the ambient is for a female (attractive) agent. She can't walk into a room full of male officers without being objectified by the *characters* in the *story* - NOT by the author himself. You need to recognize that difference.

Sarah I got a totally different impression. I LOVED the theme of gender in this novel. And it was written in 1988! Harris's female characters are so strong and well-written in my opinion, and the references to Starling's gender, especially during the time, is so real. I felt closer to Starling because I understood and shared her frustrations relating to her gender. I actually hate it more when writers try to pretend like gender doesn't matter. It shouldn't, but it does, and it's frustrating as hell. Again, I really enjoyed Harris's attention to gender. It made the novel a lot more enjoyable to me.

Victoria I think Thomas Harris constantly brings up the gender issue to show that Clarice is a

Victoria no-nonsense, eyes-on-the-prize agent. Despite not being taken seriously by anyone, she's determined and driven to find Buffalo Bill and save Catherine Martin. She's not interested in flirting with every man she sees but it was rare back then to see female FBI agents so men are intrigued and attracted to her and her position of power.

Polli Cuevas You have to go beyond the story and understand the social context of the time in which it was written. It´s like hating Michelangelo for using religious theme.

Kelly I think the point was trying to emphasize how women usually feel in the workplace with everyone either putting them down or sexualizing them. Also this novel is extremely scary and beautifully written- and also read Red Dragon, there's a male protagonist in that novel, so Thomas Harris isn't obsessed with female leads. Will graham is probably the shining star in the Hannibal universe since even in Silence of the Lambs Hannibal makes reference to him.

Christina Mosher Male feminist trying too hard. Sorry bro, but for a woman in this position, it's what it feels like, at every turn.

message 4: by Andres (new) - added it

Andres Garzon stupid!

message 3: by Misha (new) - added it

Misha You just can't win with people like you, Lightreads. What? There's a beautifully written book which (among other things) encapsulates the struggle of a brave, intelligent, physically able woman going into a mostly male-dominated workplace at a time when you just didn't see these kinds of things, and even though she's hit on constantly she gets the job done? CLEARLY THE AUTHOR HAS A HARD-ON FOR THAT WOMAN! WHAT A SCUMMY PERSON, OBJECTIFYING HER (even though her looks are what least attracts us to her but whatever).

I just don't understand what you want from others when you can't even separate the artist from the art, or recognise when a woman is actually being complimented in media. I shudder to think what would happen were you and people like you able to limit the creative control of others.

Jenn Okay, so, before I read the book, I read your review and thought you were probably massively off the mark. But, no. You're totally right. As much as this book wants to be progressive and feminist, it isn't. Clarice has no personality whatsoever. She is Woman Who Gets Dumped On At Work For Being a Woman, and that's all she is. It's not that Harris is pointing out that sexism is rampant; it's that that's ALL he does. Clarice is less developed than Dr. Chilton, who's barely in the book. So, yeah, I get your review. As always, thanks for the great commentary.

message 1: by Doc (new)

Doc Martin Of course yours is the only bad review.

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