The concept of comparing the relationship between Frank and Karl’s relationship in “Sling Blade” to Clarice and Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs” seems a bit odd, until you consider the further development of Lector and Clarice in the movie “Hannibal”. When all three movies are considered, it becomes clear that both older men treat Clarice and Frank as their own children. The most obvious parallel between the two relationships is in the ultimate sacrifice that the Karl and Lector make for their proteges.
Karl determines in “Sling Blade” that Frank’s life will be better off without Doyle and though he is generally a good person, is willing to sacrifice his freedom so that Frank can be happy (Thornton, 1996). Superficially, Lector makes a similar sacrifice for Clarice in “Silence of the Lambs”, but his intent is also to use the young FBI agent for his own gratification, something that Karl does not do (Demme, 1991). However, by the time we get to the second movie, “Hannibal”, Lector’s affection for Clarice has grown to the point that he sacrifices his hand so that she can live (Scott, 2001).
In “Silence of the Lambs”, Lector acts as a sort of mentor for Clarice, helping her to gain insight into the criminal mind, but he has his own motivation. He uses her as his conduit to the outside world and lives vicariously through her descriptions of the crimes (Demme, 1991). Lector has been promised more contact with others instead of being always restricted to no contact with the outside world. By the time get to “Hannibal”, Lector has developed enough affection for Clarice that he remains in contact with her even though he has escaped from prison (Scott, 2001).
At the end of the movie, lector has the option to kill Clarice to make good on his escape, but chooses to sacrifice his hand instead of her (Scott, 2001). This is similar to “Sling Blade” in that Karl could have simply walked away from Frank’s life and left the young boy to deal with his mother’s contrankerous and abusive boyfriend, but Karl knows the damage an abusive father figute can do to a young boy and wants better for Frank (Thornton, 1996). By killing Frank’s abuser, karl is in his own way preventing another child from suffering the same traumas that he did, even at the cost of his own freedom (Thornton, 1996).
The interesting parallel between the two men is that they were able to overcome their own derangements, real or imagined, for the people that they cared about. Though Karl’s derangement was more a societal one and Lector’s a true mental disorder, both were able to tap into their basic humanity to guide people that they came to care about. The main difference is that Karl never had ill intentions and Lector simply subverted his unnatural leanings because of his affection for Clarice.