Friday, October 2, 2009

Manhunter analysis - part 19: Saint Augustine on Babylon


The movie Manhunter is based on Thomas Harris's 1981 novel, Red Dragon. Harris also wrote a novel called The Silence of the Lambs (in 1988), out of which a movie of that name was made, and this movie has already been extensively analyzed on this blog. In parts 20 and 21 of the Silence of the Lambs analysis, it was shown that the number on the prison uniform that Hannibal Lecktor[a] wore while an inmate in Baltimore, 'B1329-0', is a reference to the Confessions of medieval theologian and philosopher Saint Augustine of Hippo. We then used the Confessions to help further analyze The Silence of the Lambs.

Since concepts from Saint Augustine are used in The Silence of the Lambs, it seems worth checking into whether there are any such concepts in Manhunter; and, in fact, this turns out to be the case, though it is not the Confessions, but is instead Augustine's City of God that will help us analyze Manhunter.[b] This was discovered to be true by looking at Augustine's various works, and finding that he makes several references to the biblical book of Revelation in City of God, in particular, in Book 20 of City of God, which is titled, 'Concerning the Last Judgment, and the Declarations Regarding It in the Old and New Testaments'. Since we know that the book of Revelation has applicability to our movie, we thus have reason to believe that City of God will as well; and there is, in fact, at least one instance where this is true, as described below.

Recall that the ancient city of Babylon was mentioned in part 17 of the analysis; it turns out that Augustine's description of the founding of Babylon in Book 16, chapter 4, of City of God has applicability to Manhunter's use of speech difficulties (e.g., the stuttering of various characters mentioned earlier) and differences (Graham's and Crawford's different pronunciations of persons' names). Below is quoted the applicable portion of Book 16, chapter 4 of City of God, including parts of Augustine's quoted material from chapter 11 of Genesis:

Of the diversity of languages, and of the founding of Babylon
But though [the nations descended from Noah] are said to have been dispersed according to their languages, yet the narrator [of Genesis] recurs to that time when all had but one language, and explains how it came to pass that a diversity of languages was introduced.

"The whole earth," he says, "was of one language and one lip, and all had one speech...And [the families of Noah's descendants] said, Come, and let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top shall reach the sky...And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord God said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language...and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Come, and let us go down, and confound there their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. And God scattered them thence on the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city and the tower. Therefore the name of it is called Confusion; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and the Lord scattered them thence on the face of all the earth." [Gen 11]

This city, which was called Confusion, is the same as Babylon, whose wonderful construction Gentile history also notices. For Babylon means Confusion.

a. Spelled 'Lecter' in The Silence of the Lambs
b. The Dods translation of City of God is used throughout this analysis.

City of God (Dods)


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