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Red Dragon


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Red Dragon by Thomas Harris: A Look Inside The Serial Killer’s Mind Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is a dark piece of psychological fiction that was published in 1981. The novel is the first in a trilogy featuring the infamous character Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and psychopathic serial killer. However, Lecter is not a main character in this novel. Rather, the antagonist and killer is Francis Dolarhyde, whom the police jokingly refer to as the Tooth Fairy because of the bite marks he leaves on female victims. Harris does a masterful job of creating background on the killer that delves into the makings of a serial killer. Thomas Harris gives the reader an understanding of Dolarhyde’s mindset when committing his horrific crimes by detailing the abuses the killer suffered as a child (Sexton). Harris takes the reader from the infant born with a cleft palate so disfiguring he was left to die through the cruelty of a childhood that included abandonment, a mean and mentally unstable grandmother, and taunts from his stepsiblings. In doing so, the author provides significance to some of the killer’s actions (Cowley). This research paper will examine the underlying psychopathology of serial killers that often stems from abuse in childhood, turning the human into the monster. Red Dragon begins with the FBI and the police on a desperate hunt for a serial killer whom police have nicknamed the Tooth Fairy because of bite marks left on victims. The public is duly alarmed as the target of the killer is entire families. Members of the FBI know that they must quickly apprehend the criminal not only due to the public outcry and fear but also because time is against them. The killer strikes on lunar moons and the authorities have only about three weeks before his next crime. Jack Crawford, the special agent assigned to the case, seeks the help of Will Graham, a gifted FBI profiler. Graham has retired with a new life in Florida after

his capture of Hannibal Lecter. The retired agent left the FBI after that case, barely escaping with his life and questioning the effects of such cases on his mental stability. Graham does not want to reenter this world but does so after much persuasion. Will Graham spends time at the home of the victims to gain insight on the killer. The pursuer’s ability to understand a killer’s mind is evident, a thought that actually unsettles Graham. Despite his ability on these cases, Graham comes away with little new information. Dr. Bloom, the psychiatrist on the case, tells Graham that he believes the killer is disfigured because he breaks the mirrors in his victims’ homes. The doctor also believes that the killer had a horrific childhood based on the bite marks all over the mothers. When a cleaning man finds in Hannibal Lecter’s cell a note from the Tooth Fairy, Graham decides that once again he must unfortunately face Lecter in order to seek his help on finding the killer. Lecter works against the FBI, encouraging the Tooth Fairy to act on his urges and giving him Graham’s home address. The Tooth Fairy is a man by the name of Francis Dolarhyde. He was born with a cleft palate and abandoned at birth. His grandmother, who was mentally unstable, raised him. Unfortunately, her instability increased with age. Dr. Bloom was correct in his deduction that Dolarhyde’s childhood was one of neglect and abuse. Dolarhyde chooses his victims from the reels of movie films he develops at the photographic studio where he works. Through these videos, Dolarhyde knows the exact layout of the victims’ homes. The killings are inspired by Dolarhyde’s obsession over the dragon in the William Blake painting, “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun.” In his delusion, the Tooth Fairy believes he is “becoming” the Red Dragon in all its glory by giving into his urges to kill.

In his pursuit of the Tooth Fairy, Will Graham has to deal with a relentless and annoying reporter, Freddy Lounds. The FBI uses Lounds to try to catch the killer. Graham tells the reporter that Dolarhyde is an impotent homosexual, knowing that Lounds will print the information. The plan is to enrage the Tooth Fairy, smoke him out, and capture him. It backfires when Dolarhyde gets an early printing of the paper and then kidnaps Lounds before the FBI can get there. The Tooth Fairy kills him by setting him on fire after cutting out his tongue. Francis Dolarhyde starts to have feelings for a young blind coworker by the name of Reba McClane. Her interest in him and kindness causes the killer to have conflicted feelings about his actions. The Dragon, in turn, becomes upset about that Dolarhyde cares for Reba and punishes him the same way his grandmother did. The voice of the Dragon, once it is heard, is that of his grandmother’s. As his feelings grow for Reba, Dolarhyde tries to stop the Dragon’s control of him by going to the Brooklyn Museum and actually eating the Red Dragon painting. The Tooth Fairy becomes scared for Reba, knowing that the Dragon will do horrible things and ultimately kill her. Dolarhyde finds Will Graham at his employment and realizes the FBI is closing in on him. The killer goes to say goodbye to Reba but is furious when he finds her speaking to another male employee. In his anger, he kills the man and kidnaps Reba taking her to his home. Unable to bring himself to kill her, the Tooth Fairy allows Reba to escape after he sets the place on fire and seemingly shoots himself. However, Francis actually escapes also leaving behind the body of a gas station attendant that he had previously murdered. Dolarhyde then proceeds to attack Graham at his home in Florida stabbing him in the face. The serial killer is fatally shot by Graham’s wife.

Thomas Harris wrote Red Dragon in 1981. It was the first in a trilogy that includes the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The author was born in Jackson Tennessee on April 11, 1940. Not much is known about his early years; however, not much is known about him altogether as he tends to be an enigma like his killers (Streibling). The author does not like to give interviews or conduct book tours. Despite this, Harris is still famous because of his characters such as Hannibal Lecter who has become iconic. When discussing Lecter, Harris speaks of him as a separate entity and a friend. He is cautious with him though, calling Lecter the wickedest man he has ever known (Sexton). One British critic calls Harris one of the “great melodramatists,” putting him in the same category with Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe (Thompson). While little is known of his youth, his mother has indicated that he was a prolific reader who preferred reading to sports. Harris’s father was an electrical engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority and his mother was a high school teacher. Early on, the family moved to a farm in Mississippi (Thompson). In his article, “Creator of a Monstrous Hit,” Jason Crowley characterizes the young boy as being “withdrawn and isolated.” After high school, the author attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas majoring in English. He wrote for the university newspaper covering police work. A fellow student who worked on the paper with him said it was evident that Harris would become an author. The author was noted for his fascination “with gathering facts, information, and angles” (Thompson). Thomas Harris married a fellow student in college. The marriage did not last and they were divorced in the 1960’s (Thompson). After graduation in 1964, Harris worked for the Associated Press (AP) until 1974. He was assigned as a crime reporter and took great interest in learning about police procedure and handling of homicides (Crowley). During this time, he wrote short stories for men’s and adventure magazines (Thompson). His first novel entitled Black

Sunday was written in 1975. It was the story of plot by terrorists to bomb people attending the Super Bowl using the Goodyear Blimp (Streibling). The book became a success once Hollywood bought the rights (Thompson). After the book, Harris became a full time writer of fiction. Many writers publish a book every year but that is not the case with Harris. The author spends a long time researching the material for his books (Thompson). In addition, the words of his novels do not come easy to Harris. Stephen King has stated that Harris finds writing, “a kind of torment,” describing the author as “writhing on the floor in agonies of frustration” (Crowley). This slow style of writing is evident in the publication date of Red Dragon, a full six years after his previous one (Streibling). As with his first novel, Red Dragon became a bestseller. It was turned into a movie called Manhunter. Harris’s next novel, The Silence of the Lambs, was also his most celebrated. It took him seven years to write and was published in 1988. The book became a phenomenally successful film winning Academy Awards including best picture, best actor, and best actress (Streibling). Hannibal which picks up seven years later from The Silence of the Lambs was published in 1999. To provide an account of how the character Hannibal Lecter came to be a serial killer and cannibal, Harris published Hannibal Rising in 2006 (Blades). Harris is so well regarded as a writer that there is little editing of his manuscripts according to his agent, Mort Janklow (Crowley). Today Thomas Harris lives in south Florida with his partner and travels as often as possible. He continues to be a recluse. According to the publicity director for his publisher St. Martin’s Press, Harris gives all of himself to his books and wants the characters to speak for themselves (Thompson). One theme of Red Dragon is that childhoods have powerful impacts on individuals and the Tooth Fairy was partially a product of his upbringing (Lehmann-Haupt). FBI profilers have

found that the serial killers have a history of difficult personal relationships. Almost all of them are male. Some may be too shy while others have no loving figures in their lives. Most have been harmed emotionally and physically by their parents or have been abandoned. In their childhood they never learned right from wrong from their guardians. The killers commit their crimes in order to obtain power and excitement from overpowering another human (“Serial Killers”). Francis Dolarhyde’s life fits the general description of the serial killer. While the grandmother’s mental illness provides evidence of a biological factor, Harris makes the case that extreme cruelty in childhood often is a factor behind the horrific crimes of the serial killer. Francis Dolarhyde is similar to other serial killers as he is an outcast who never felt love and acceptance as a child. He seeks a sense of power, a feeling he has never had. The idea of becoming the Red Dragon gives him that power and allows him to act on his violent urges. Dolarhyde was born with a cleft palate with the obstetrician commenting that his appearance was “more like a leaf-nosed bat than a baby” (Harris 244). His mother abandons him and the infant is sent to an orphanage. The grandmother does take him in once she learns of him but it is only to get back at her daughter. The one word the grandmother immediately teaches him is mother. The motive is to embarrass her daughter and son-in-law by parading the deformed boy with the speech impediment at all the political events. To her delight, her son-in-law loses his election. While the election result brings her great joy, it is at the future expense of Francis who will suffer from the taunts of Mr. Vogt’s children. The grandmother becomes increasingly unstable threatening the young child with mutilation for wetting the bed. His only source of comfort is Queen Mother but after Francis believes she has betrayed him, he sees her as another one who has mocked him. In his essay on the Hannibal Lecter figure, Daniel Shaw describes Dolarhyde’s murders as a “twisted expression of his need to be loved and accepted” (Shaw).

The backstory on the Tooth Fairy provides the logic behind the killer’s actions. Dr. Bloom is correct in his assumption that Dolarhyde breaks all the mirrors in the house because he cannot stand the sight of himself. Mirrors are placed in the eyes of his victims so he can see himself triumphant in their eyes (Crowley). When his mother comes to the grandmother’s home, the boy sees that the grandmother bites her. This action will be repeated by the killer on his female victims. The killer professes a strong love for his grandmother, but he mutilates the mother figures he kills. Entire families who have shared a love he never experienced are brutally slaughtered. On his chest is tattooed the William Blake painting The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. Defenseless as a child, Dolarhyde aspires to gain the Dragon’s power by killing victims chosen from the home movies he develops (Sexton). Through the author’s description of Dolarhyde’s troubling childhood, the reader becomes empathetic of Francis especially when he develops feelings for a blind coworker. His psyche splits into Francis and the Red Dragon who fight against each other over Reba, one to save her life and the other to sacrifice it. The struggle is so difficult that the speech impediment returns to Dolarhyde (Crowley). He finally hears the voice of the Dragon and it is that of his grandmother. Reba’s love is not enough to heal him although he does allow her to escape. Certainly, the biological element is evident as his grandmother was mentally unstable all her life. But, through his research the author has learned that childhood abuse is common among serial killers (Sexton). Harris draws the Tooth Fairy as a complex character, both loathsome and somewhat sympathetic given his childhood. Critics of Red Dragon give the novel uniformly good reviews. Daniel Shaw in The Mastery of Hannibal Lecter calls Red Dragon “the best novel of the trilogy” (4). Shaw describes Francis Dolarhyde as “far more threatening, powerful, and sympathetic,” than any of Harris’s

other serial killers (4). He finds that Harris also does an exceptional job with the character Will Graham. The reader is engrossed as Graham allows his mind to become the killer. He enters the crime site speaking in third person, slowly moves to second person, and chillingly starts to use the words I and mine (Shaw 3). Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of The New York Times agrees with Shaw’s assessment of the Tooth Fairy character. The reviewer writes that Dolarhyde exceeds the evilness and mental instability of Hannibal Lecter. Lehmann-Haupt finds that Harris is masterful in creating the build-up of the story. By providing the background story of the Tooth Fairy, Harris creates a multi-dimensional character which allows for an unexpected ending. The book hits the reader in the gut, connecting to the part of us that incensed by the killer’s actions, “would like to get rid of evil with a gun” (Lehmann-Haupt). At the time the book was published, Americans were reeling from a number of serial killer cases. David Berkowitz, also known as “Son of Sam,” had been captured some years earlier. His killings had terrified New York City. Ted Bundy had confessed to killing over 30 people including a 12 year old girl. Theodore Kaczynski, known as “the Unabomber,” was in the midst of sending mail bombs. Jeffrey Dahmer was on the loose eluding capture as men and boys were being systematically killed. These cases terrified the public and also highlighted the work of FBI profilers who hunted them down (“Recent Serial Killers”). Red Dragon has particular relevance to Homer’s The Odyssey and Dante’s Purgatorio. In The Odyssey, Dante presents women who have great power and influence unlike the reality of ancient Greece. (Homer). These traits of strength and power are apparent in the female characters in Red Dragon. However, the characters are not the same in terms of virtue. Athena’s presence, like the grandmother’s, demands obedience and she controls the outcome of a situation. But while Athena is a force for good in Odysseus’s life, Francis Dolarhyde’s

grandmother causes him irreparable harm. Dolarhyde does have Queen Mother and Reba who somewhat counteract the grandmother’s evil. But they unfortunately lose their influence once the young boy feels betrayed by them. The central force in his life remains his grandmother, a female as strong as Athena but regrettably with none of the virtue of the goddess. Another literary piece that is relevant to the book is Dante’s Purgatorio. In this work, Virgil explains that love is at the center of good and evil. Love, according to the poet, is the motive behind all actions. It is “that seed within yourselves of very virtue, and every act that merits punishment” (Dante, Canto XVII, L103-105). Yet, while it makes sense for the individuals Dante encounters on his journey through purgatory, it appears Dante could not conceive of an evil like Francis Dolarhyde. The serial killer did not murder because of the sins of loving too little, the sins of loving too much, or the sins of loving the wrong things an absence of love. He murdered because as a child, he never sensed the feel of love or learned how to love. His evil stems from an absence of love. Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon is a disturbing, scary, and suspenseful novel that takes the reader into the mind of a serial killer. Harris draws from his lengthy research to create the frightening character of Francis Dolarhyde. Despite his horrific murders, Dolarhyde comes across as strangely sympathetic due to the emotional abuse he suffered in his life. One of the scariest thoughts when reading the book is that none of us can fully protect ourselves from a mind so evil. Serial killers do not wear on sign on their forehead. Actually like Ted Bundy, they usually look harmless and seem affable. But, in a way, we do have power. We have the power to help uplift and form the emotional stability of the people we meet. Serial killers may be immune to our kindness, but that virtue remains a potent tool in society. It can lessen the anger and hostility that simmers inside people. Humans tend to respond in kind to the way they have

been treated. Many of the shootings at schools were by students who felt the sting of mockery and the pain of alienation by fellow classmates. Other students have been driven to suicide by Facebook entries or personal attacks. The novel reinforces the idea that each on us needs to realize the ramification of our words and our actions. We have the power to help stop the violence.

Works Cited Blades, Bobby. Hannibal Rising. Elbo Computing Resources, Inc. 2006. 3 April 2011. . Cowley, Jason. "Creator of a monstrous hit." Observer 19 Nov 2006: n. pag. Web. 27 Mar 2011. . Dante. The Divine Comedy. Trans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2008. Harris, Thomas. Red Dragon. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2009. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998. Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. Books of the Times: Red Dragon. The New York Times. 10 Nov. 1981. 3 Apr 2011. . Recent Serial Killers 1970 to present (AP list). Free Republic. 11 Oct 2002. 3 Apr 2011 . Serial Killers. Into the Abyss. 2010. 3 Apr 2011. . Sexton, David. "Mr Harris's cookbooks." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 18 Aug 2001. Web. 27 Mar 2011. . Shaw, Daniel. "The Mastery of Hannibal Lecter." Google Books. Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. . Streibling, William. "Thomas Harris." The Mississippi Writer's Page. University of Mississippi, May 2001. Web. 27 Mar 2011. .

Thompson, Clifford. Current Biography Yearbook 1999. “Thomas Harris.” New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 2000. .

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...Name: Institution: Course: Date: The role of violence in the world of Beowulf In the poem, Beowulf is an aging king who wears the identity of a warrior has different faces according to the situation at the moment. The poet describes Beowulf as “ greater/ and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world” implying that he was a strong man but still as any human being, he was mortal (Warsh et. al., 8). Violence in the poem is surfacing as a tool to venerate superiority. The poet explains Beowulf’s anxiety to battle Grendel but still exuding courtesy, diplomacy and patience. However, the battle that he craves for, is only possiblen after he gets permission from Hrothgar “Beowulf-anxious to meet with Hrothgar, from whom he hopes to receive permission to battle Grendel- is courteous, patient, and diplomatic”. This explanation also shows that violence is a measure of power and superiority but there are limits that a person is confined that makes them to give respect to people. In this case, Beowulf respects the boundary that he cannot fight Grendel until he gets permission from Hrothgar (Warsh et. al.,8). The aim of Beowulf wanting to battle Grendel could be a way of proving his heroism to gain prominence, amassing wealth or helping people. The poet writes“What does Beowulf want? Is he motivated to perform heroic acts simply by a need to help other people? Or is he interested mainly in accumulating as much wealth as possible?. It implies that Beowulf wants the battle to gain either...

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Born or Not to Born in Dragon Years

...students, and hope that we will all fly like dragons this year, guys I am extremely surprised with the news that this year is going to see an exponential rise in the birthrate in Asian nations, typically, China and Vietnam for the belief that any child who comes in being in this special period is endowed with a lucky life. For years, dragon has been regarded a legendary animal and associated with power, activeness, superiority and other good traits. Hoping that their off-springs to have the same life as the dragons’, millions of young couples try their utmost to have babies and problems, however, remain that the population explosion might happen. According to several experts, this rage is likely to result in a gloomy picture, though. First of all, that people think children are born this year are lucky purely originates from the unfounded belief, without any empirical research. Second, as they grow up, ready to take the entrance exams and seeking for jobs, competition between babies of this year escalates ceaselessly. The higher unemployment rate on the horizon is imminent, let alone probably an increased crime rate and the shortage of housing. Perhaps, to people working in the real estate, this could be a positive signal, as a result of the fact that the demand for housing during that epoch is on the climb, pushing the price to the rocket and greatly benefiting them while their parents who dedicate their lives to buying houses for their dragon-year-born children are dissatisfied....

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...Cruelty The prophet David from the Bible who spoke of false accusations people make, an angry dragon from Scandinavia whose fury could not be withheld, and a man who knows the brutality of human nature. Though all different situations, they share a common theme, cruelty. Cruelty in gossip, cruelty in temper, and cruelty in nature. Cruelty can be found in all types of literature even as old as the Bible. “Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up risen up against me, and such as breath out cruelty” (Psalms 27:12). This quote is asking God not to let us give into our enemies, and for us to not believe the brutality of people’s false accusations. The prophet David was the one who conveyed this quote. By speaking out about the cruelty of people he is indirectly saying that God is the only person you need to seek approval from. He is also saying that no one else’s words or savageness should matter. Though David’s message is centuries old, it proves that a verse, or phrase can contain the same significance even centuries later. Only decades later cruelty was still evident with World War II and the Nazis, and in modern day situations such as terrorism. Many other works of literature are also proof of this same idea. One example of a piece of literature that conveys cruelty well is the story of Beowulf. “And the signs of its anger flickered and glowed in the darkness, visible for miles tokens of its hate and its cruelty...

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