Study Guide

The Silence of the Lambs Cunning and Cleverness

Cunning and Cleverness

Nuns Canceling Venders. Cunning Scanner Delves. Nuns Cancel Given Nerds.

These are all (terrible) anagrams of "cunning and cleverness." In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter sometimes feeds Clarice anagrams as clues to the identity of Buffalo Bill (aka "A Blob if Full"). Hey, don't criticize—anagrams are better than being fed a human pancreas.

Clarice is cleverer than we are, deciphering them with a pen and paper. Maybe if the FBI doesn't work out, she can get a job as a puzzle master on an NPR game show. Clarice has to use her smarts in a lot of ways. First, she has to figure out how to deal with Lecter and enlist his help. Second, she has to piece together the clues Lecter gives her and what she tracks down on her own to locate this crazy killer before he kills his latest captive.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. Why does Jack Crawford need Hannibal Lecter to get to Buffalo Bill? What knowledge does Lecter have that no one else does?
  2. How does Clarice demonstrate her intelligence to Lecter? Why do you think this impresses him?
  3. Why does Lecter give clues in such cryptic ways? Why doesn't have just give the information he has without making it into a puzzle?
  4. Is Buffalo Bill cunning or clever?

Chew on This

Hannibal Lecter is bored easily. He needs to be impressed in a game of wits before agreeing to help anyone.

Clarice has studied a lot of human psychology, because she wants to join the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, but she has to step away from the textbook learning and think outside the box to solve this case.