Profile of a Monster: Hannibal Lecter
â€œA census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.â€
Of all characters in literature, few come close to the complexity and evil that is embodied by Hannibal Lecter. Thomas Harris took several characteristics of serial killers in the creation of Lecter, cannibalism being the key aspect of Lecterâ€™s psychopathology. Harris also based the character Jame Gumb, or Buffalo Bill, on the real life serial killer Ed Gein. Gein liked to dress up in the skins of his female victims, just as Buffalo Bill did. This was Billâ€™s signature, whereas Lecterâ€™s was cannibalism. Lecter, however, is not satisfied to just eat his victims, he must feast on them. This usually involves elaborate preparations of five star meals, as exemplified by Lecterâ€™s victim Paul Krendler, who had his living brain served to Agent Starling by Lecter.
Most serial killers also personalize their victims, that is, mutilate or position their victims in certain ways. Lecter seems to have a penchant for personalization, as demonstrated by his killing of Italian inspector Rinaldo Pazzi. Lecter disemboweled and hung Pazzi in the same Venetian plaza that Pazziâ€™s ancestor was hanged. This personalization, is also evident in the killing of Paul Krendler, who, as mentioned before, had his brain served to both himself and Clarice Starling. Krendler was Starlingâ€™s nemesis in the FBI and Lecter knew this. He killed Krendler in the presence of Starling as and act of personalization and in a profession of love to her.
Lecter, according to the books, has killed at least 14 people, and orchestrated the attempted murder of and FBI agent. He derives pleasure from the pain and suffering of others. But, Lecter is extremely selective in his victimology. Lecter tends to choose individuals that he see as â€œuncultured,â€ moreover, th