Study Guide

The Silence of the Lambs What's Up With the Title?

What's Up With the Title?

As much as you've wanted to silence Lamb Chop after ten hours of singing "The Song That Doesn't End", that isn't what this movie is about. There isn't a single lamb in this film, neither real, cartoon, nor puppet. So just what lambs are being silenced?

The key to the title lies in one of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling's little quid pro quos. (Or is it quids pro quo?) This monologue, one that surely clinched the Academy Award for Jodie Foster, is shot mostly in close-up with an eerie wind effect subtly in the background, so you know it's important.

Lecter wants to know why Clarice ran away from her relative's ranch in Montana. The short answer: It was the screaming of the lambs. Young Clarice heard lambs being slaughtered. She tried to save one, but it was too heavy and she didn't get very far. Lecter presses her further. He asks,

LECTER: You still wake up sometimes, don't you? Wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.

Then, because he's Hannibal Lecter and he's always right, he says,

LECTER: And you think if you save poor Catherine, you can make them stop, don't you? You think if Catherine lives, you won't wake up in the dark ever again, to that awful screaming of the lambs.

Catherine Martin is the one lamb that Clarice thinks she can save. This time, she does. She rescues Catherine before Bill kills her. She is celebrated and she graduates the FBI Academy. Lecter calls her with congratulations and a question, "Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?"

We think he helped silence them for her.