A Comparative Analysis of Pepe Carvalho and Hannibal Lecter
While Hannibal Lecter may seem like an odd choice at first for comparing Pepe Carvalho, it is through extensive examination that the similarities will become evident. Despite their obvious similarities: both are European from countries once ravaged by war (Carvalho in Franco-era Spain and Hannibal in World War 2 Lithuania), both worked for one of the US secret services and both left for varying reasons. But it’s the core of their characterisations that makes them so similar. They share a love for fine-dining and high culture, they are both voyeurs in the professional sense and they both have complex relationships which are very untraditional.
The most obvious point of comparison is found within the subject of culture and hedonism. Both men are extremely self-serving characters who go out of their way to improve their lives through culture. They also subscribe to the philosophy of hedonism, but they never go so far as hedonism taking over their life. This is further proven when even Hannibal Lecter’s incarceration merely slowed him down instead of stopping him completely. The most abundant example found is food. All throughout ‘Los mares del sur’ we see Carvalho eating at every given opportunity and when he’s not eating, he is discussing food or thinking about food. And of course, Hannibal Lecter is famous for what he eats – humans.
The concept of being cultured is very important to both characters and it even plays into the main plot of each book (Los mares del sur and Hannibal) especially Italy and the Italian language. ‘Los mares del sur’ takes its title from a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo, an Italian poet. Alternatively, it was named after Cesare Pavese’s poem ‘Los mares del sur’ who is also an Italian poet. Within the book we see Carvalho discussing the poem over paella with his two friends Fuster and Beser, and its significance for Pedrell. Carvalho does all that he can to understand Pedrell’s obsession with Paul Gaugin and French Polynesia as part of his assignment to retrace Pedrell’s life during the year he went missing. In ‘Hannibal’, Hannibal has escaped custody and hides in Florence, Italy under an assumed name. The Florence plot of the book involves a disgraced police officer, Rinaldo Pazzi, hunting down Lecter to collect the bounty on his head. Many references to Italian artists, writers, poets and philosophers are used throughout the book as a means for Hannibal to both indulge in his desire for high culture as well as manipulating the plot to move on. Dante Alighieri’s ‘Inferno’ becomes an important tool in the novel where Pazzi befalls the same fate as the two Pazzis in Dante’s work as well as Francesco de Pazzi from Italian history. Another point involves Hannibal and Pazzi’s wife discussing Dante’s ‘Vita Nuova’. From discussing this Dante piece, Hannibal decides to return to America to save the protagonist, Clarice Starling, from the true antagonist, Mason Verger.
There is one aspect of their hedonistic lifestyles that separates both characters quite substantially: sex and sexuality. From reading the book, we know that Carvalho loves sex or rather, he loves having orgasms. He masturbates quite frequently almost to the point of being described as a chronic masturbator. But as well as his love of masturbation, Carvalho loves women just as much. Charo and Yes are just two examples of sexual relationships that Carvalho has with characters in the book. Despite all this, Carvalho does prove that he does not have a sex addiction as his desire for sex and orgasms never prevents him from working and he also maintains standards. A sex addict generally wouldn’t care who s/he has sex with so long as they’re having sex. Carvalho expresses how disgusting he finds anal sex, or at least bottoming (on the receiving end) in the book as well as showing he is quite homophobic. Hannibal, on the other hand, expresses little to no sexual attraction in any of his portrayals. He does show romantic interests (which will be discussed further on), but the interests are purely romantic, not sexual. Hannibal however does partake in one aspect of hedonism that Carvalho does not: cannibalism. Many scholarly works state that sociopaths will use murder as a means for sexual gratification or as a replacement, but we know that Lecter is unclassifiable due to his personality and he has no sexual relations with any of his victims either peri-mortem or post-mortem. Rather he removes his victims’ organs with surgical precision and uses them as fine-dining ingredients, which leads to the most famous quote, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone / a nice Chianti.” The act of murder and cannibalism can be taken as a sexual act without being intrinsically sexual, but intimate.
Part of what makes both characters so compelling is the jobs they have as both their jobs are extremely important to their characterisation. Carvalho is a dick, a private detective, and his series of books revolve around him trying to figure out the mystery of the story. In the case of ‘Los mares del sur’ what happened to Stuart Pedrell. Lecter’s job is important to his characterisation as well, as in ‘Hannibal (TV series)’, ‘Red Dragon’, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lecter acts as a profiler who aids the protagonist in looking for the antagonist. But we can see that both men have had jobs that led them to their current profession: Carvalho used to work for the C.I.A. and Hannibal studied medicine up until he became a psychiatrist. But obviously, we can’t negate the obvious links between how both jobs would be connected in a parallel universe were they exist together. As a private detective, it would seem possible that Carvalho could use Hannibal’s expertise on the criminal mind to help him track down whoever it is he is looking for. But both men’s careers are more similar than one would presume upon first glance. Both Carvalho and Hannibal are, in essence, voyeurs. They are paid to get intimately acquainted with the lives of people, they have to get to know the subject with as little personal interaction as possible and then they have to make decisions and come to conclusions while looking from a distance. The whole plot of ‘Los mares del sur’ involves Carvalho finding out what happened to Pedrell during the year he went missing before his death. Obviously with Pedrell being dead, Carvalho is learning about his life from a distance. He starts with Pedrell’s family and from there he moves to Pedrell’s friends, acquaintances, rivals and lovers. Every bit of intimate detail that Carvalho learns is from second-hand sources. Hannibal acts as a voyeur with both first-hand and second-hand sources. As a practicing psychiatrist he had to deal with the personal lives of his patients, he would have to get to know them quite intimately to offer them advice on their life. Working as a profiler, he had to get himself acquainted with the killer in question through second-hand sources. He would use police reports, crime scene photographs and the protagonists’ own opinions. Another interesting point to note is how both characters use their respective jobs as a means to further their own desires and these desires border the line of immoral if they’re not already classifiably immoral. The most obvious example in Carvalho’s case is Yes, the daughter of Stuart Pedrell. Maybe Yes was in her right state of mind, maybe not, but Carvalho and Yes do have sex and it can be taken that Carvalho takes advantage of the emotionally distraught Yes. They have sex, they do drugs, Carvalho cooks her a meal and then he kicks her out of his home. Upon Yes’s second attempt to hook up with Carvalho, he flat out refuses and she leaves quite quickly. Hannibal uses his job to realize his own desires too. Hannibal follows his own code of ethics and his main one being that he will only kill the “terminally rude” if possible. The most infamous example was his patient, Mason Verger, a paedophile and a rapist and Hannibal’s patient. Hannibal used his sessions with Verger to gain his trust then he went back to Verger’s house where he proceeded to drug Verger and made him mutilate his own face and feed it to the dogs. Obviously that is far past the point of morality, but then we see examples of Hannibal genuinely helping people such as Abigail Hobbes in the TV series whom he goes out of his way to protect. Although it can be argued that he is only protecting her so that she won’t reveal his secret.
As previously established, both Carvalho and Hannibal are ultimately self-serving characters which has a direct impact on their relationships with others. Some relationships serve both characters for a higher purpose whereas others are more akin to a master and slave type relationship. Moreover, both men actually have very similar relationships to other characters in their respective series fulfilling similar roles. As mentioned above we see Carvalho discussing the case he’s working on over paella with two of his friends /associates and the significance of ‘Los mares del sur’. Here it is quite clear that Carvalho considers them to be of equal intelligence and he’s comfortable enough to discuss poetry with them as well as the case. We see Hannibal has a similar relationship with Will Graham in ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Hannibal’ (TV series) and Clarice Starling. Both men however manage to get something out of each scenario as well as information: Carvalho gets a meal that he thoroughly enjoys whereas Hannibal negotiates the information he has for better amenities (including a meal) in prison or to prolong his being discovered as the Chesapeake Ripper. Both men establish a master and slave relationship with certain characters in the book as a means to assert their dominance. Carvalho uses Yes for sex, drugs and a companion to eat with, but once he’s finished with her he treats her indifferently. In fact, Carvalho more-or-less kicks her out of his home and into the streets and he is completely indifferent as to what would happen to her. It isn’t until Biscuter convinces, or rather, makes Carvalho realize what he’s doing isn’t good that he follows Yes into the streets looking for her (on an interesting side note, a case for Carvalho being a sociopath could be made considering his personality). Hannibal’s master and slave relationships are a lot more pronounced than Carvalho’s. Most people are easy targets that he can manipulate into doing what he wants such as convincing the lunatic Miggs to eat his own tongue or convincing Mason Verger to cut his own face off. Both men do have romantic interests in their books, or as romantic as is possible considering their characterisation. Carvalho has Charo, a prostitute, and while their relationship easily could have started off as purely sexual, he does show to genuinely care for her which is evident in the time he spends with her in non-sexual scenarios. Hannibal’s relationship with Clarice Starling is just as untraditional as Carvalho’s with Charo. Clarice originally uses Hannibal to catch serial killer, Buffalo Bill, and then she is later charged with capturing Hannibal seven years after he breaks out of incarceration.
The two men have more in common than one would think initially. Their characterisations and personalities make them more similar and at times it is possible that the two men could switch places with very few consequences. Their mutual love for high culture and their complex relationships with others make them close and almost spiritually connected and their jobs as voyeurs link the two men professionally. Carvalho is more akin to the sociopathic Hannibal than any other detective in any series. In the end, their main difference is what would draw them even closer in a parallel universe: the killer and the detective.
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Crystal, Garry, and Niki Foster. “What Is a Sociopath?” WiseGeek. Conjecture, n.d. Web. 06 May 2013.
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