Friday, April 24, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 27: Aurelius and marionettes


Spindles of sewing thread in Gumb's house.

We have been discussing the latter part of Lecter's spoken clue to Starling, to help the FBI apprehend Buffalo Bill:

"Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it, in itself, what is its nature...?"

In part 26 it was observed that the two questions embedded in this statement, point to the specific part of Aurelius's Meditations that says,

"This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature [or form]? ..." (material inside square brackets in original).

It was also observed that here, Aurelius is distinguishing the material from the causal: to each thing there is both inert content (substance, material) and an activating causal principle with a discernible reference. In Book 10, chapter 38 (i.e. 10.38) of the Meditations, Aurelius elaborates on the importance of the causal principle:

"Remember that this which pulls the strings is the thing which is hidden within: this is the power of persuasion, this is life, this, if one may so say, is man. In contemplating thyself never include the vessel which surrounds thee and these instruments which are attached about it. For they are like to an axe, differing only in this, that they grow to the body. For indeed there is no more use in these parts without the cause which moves and checks them than in the weaver's shuttle, and the writer's pen, and the driver's whip."

In the above, Marcus gives a new application to one of his most frequently-used images: that of the marionette. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, 'marionette' is defined as, "A jointed puppet manipulated from above by strings or wires attached to its limbs. [French marionette, from Old French, musical instrument, diminutive of mariole, the Virgin Mary (influenced by the name Marion), from diminutive of Marie, Mary, from Late Latin Maria]." Recalling that Clarice represents the Virgin Mary, the idea is that she is being, or is to be, manipulated like a marionette, within some metaphorical context.

Marcus Aurelius's Meditations (Long)


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