More from Thomas Harris:

The coffee mugs had the thick rims that dribble down the sides. Starling watched Inelle Corey walk heavily away like hell's own option and drank half a cup with her napkin tucked under her chin.

What does like hell's own option mean? FWIW, this conversation between Clarice Starling and Inelle Corey has a religious (Christian) undercurrent to it. Also, Starling is a southern gal.

  • I think this is just Too Localised. Googling hell's own option produces just 14 hits. Apart from the Thomas Harris quote and this question itself, there are only three other instances. And none at all in Google Books. Oct 27 '12 at 18:20
  • @FumbleFingers I'm looking for an explanation of the meaning. I don't know if this is an expression or not for it to have X number of Google hits. I've adjusted the title accordingly. Oct 28 '12 at 17:37
  • I understand that. But it's either not something people say at all, or it's an extremely localised usage. However one distinguishes between those two possibilities. Either way, I still think as a question on ELU it's either Too Localised of OffTopic/Not Constructive "Lit Crit". Oct 28 '12 at 19:33
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    @FumbleFingers This seems like an elaborate way of you saying "I don't know". Oct 28 '12 at 19:51
  • I guess you could say that. But bear in mind that I personally have avoided actually thinking about the possible meaning of the expression. I'm not familiar with it, and I've simply concerned myself with establishing that it's not sufficiently common to justify being queried on ELU. If you're not satisfied with jwpat7's conjecture (which I also haven't read yet) I don't mind thinking about it on your behalf and posting comments (us ELU-ers gotta stick together, after all! :). But at the risk of repeating myself - I still think the matter is Too Localised. Oct 28 '12 at 21:42

I imagine this is a figurative way of saying Inelle Corey is playing on the Devil's team, or is optioned to do so. In baseball,

If a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the active major league roster, he is said to be on optional assignment—his organization may freely move him between the major league club and the minor league club.

Alternately, it might be a figurative way of saying she is financially associated with Hell; a financial option being

a derivative financial instrument that specifies a contract between two parties for a future transaction on an asset at a reference price (the strike). The buyer of the option gains the right, but not the obligation, to engage in that transaction, while the seller incurs the corresponding obligation to fulfill the transaction.

Early in the conversation which the quoted passage ends, Corey is said to express righteousness or anger; at times she is defensive and doubtful, at others open and helpful. In that context, it seems to me that “walk heavily away like hell's own option” suddenly pops up unmotivated. Perhaps Harris liked the ring of it; I don't know just what he meant, and think the phrase “walk heavily away like hell's own minion” would sound as well and be more clear.

  • Thanks. The baseball angle is promising. But it doesn't seem to really fit with the "walk heavily away" bit. Is there a baseballer's walk? Please elaborate. Oct 28 '12 at 5:28
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    @coleopterist, I added a paragraph in answer; briefly: “I don't know just what he meant.” Oct 28 '12 at 7:02

It's much simpler, guys. Harris means that Corey is a personification of a punishment, apparently a life deprived of style, beauty and joy. And yes, Harris made it up, never heard it before, has a nice ring to it for sure, that's what good writers do.

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    Hi Mariah, can you make a case for what sounds like simply your opinion? How do you know Harris made it up?
    – Joachim
    May 7 at 21:02

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