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A Vampire Narrative: How Vampires Have Changed in Literature

Updated on May 15, 2013
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Vampires in Literature

If you focus on the biggies in Vampire literature from Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula , to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, to Stephanie Meyer’s breakout Twilight Series, the serious changes this traditional monster has developed in the media becomes immediately obvious. Where before the vampire figure was a completely non human, dark mystery that scared the hell out of readers and visited nightmares, it is now a sparkling, sunlight dancing girlish fantasy to swoon over. Instead of focusing on why this change occurred through the centuries, I wanted to present each of the major vampires from these novels (Dracula, Lestat, and Edward) and let you see for yourself. Is this a good change in this monster’s character or have writers gone so far astray that the newer vampires are not really qualified to be in the same league?

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) produced probably the most lasting vampire figure in literature and media and still gives readers as much macabre imagery to satisfy their lust as it did in its first publication. Full of imagery, symbols, and superstition, this piece gives readers insight into English and European customs and gives them reason to look into the mythologies, religion, geography, and other aspects of the story that are not well known to the modern reader.

Dracula is scary, sinister, and sexy. He is unholy and undead, he can enslave those like Renfield and has an impenetrable gaze with crimson eyes. He sucks the lifeblood out of the helpless and pure and, although he is immortal, he can be killed with a simple stake to the heart or kept at bay with garlic.

Tom Cruise as Lestat with Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire
Tom Cruise as Lestat with Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire

Lestat

Anne Rice’s brat prince, Lestat, is one central figure through most of her chronicles, appearing first in Interview With the Vampire (1976). Where Dracula lives in darkness, Lestat remains in a grey area. Like his predecessor, he cannot go into the sunlight and, although it is unnecessary, he lives in a coffin. He is a blood sucker, life taker, and the perfect, handsome, vampire you love to hate.

Unlike Dracula, Lestat can withstand garlic and, although immortal, can be killed. The only sure way to achieve this is with fire or sunlight. This character allows readers to witness a vampire struggle with their humanity, connect with a monster, and fall in love with the blue eyed bad guy.

Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in Twilight
Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in Twilight

Edward

Stephanie Meyer’s Edward Cullen first appeared in Twilight (2005) before exploding onto the silver screen and media. His forefather lived in the dark, his predecessor in the grey, while he lives in the light. He believes in marriage (something an unholy vampire would not do) and in abstinence before marriage. He will only take the lives of animals and, to top it all off, he sparkles when he stands in the sunlight. He cannot sleep, has a controlled bloodlust (except when it comes to his love interest, Bella), and lives forever as a “hott” teenager full of angst for his monster lifestyle and urges.

Just like Dracula and Lestat, Edward is immortal but also killable, much to the delight of many a boyfriend or husband with a partner drooling over his sparkling body. Cut off his head and toss him into a fire and his golden eyes will be gone forever. Readers enjoy the romance, danger, and intrigue surrounding a romance with a vampire good guy.

Vampire Narratives

So what qualifies being a vampire? Do they have to sleep in a coffin? Stay out of the sun? Or be completely non-human/unholy? The vampire is a fascinating character with in the major figures and novels of literature throughout history but also as it changes and one steps back to look at the big picture and ask these kinds of questions. It seems that in a lot of ways, the vampire is being taken out of the realm of the supernatural and mysterious and brought into the world of humans as it loses many of its darker qualities. One can only wonder where they go from here.

© 2011 Lisa

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      Scarlet Scrivener 

      6 years ago

      Very good article! I still prefer the old Bram Stoker kind of vampire. Yes, they're sexy, but they're not marriage material like Edward. My favorite vampire of all time is Varney the Vampire. Varney took on a lot of different masks in the course of his nearly 1,000 pages of a penny dreadful. His soul was pretty rotten even as a human being. He was dug up by bad people, whom he immediately fed on and then he went about the countryside as a con man, masquerading as a gentleman and sometimes a nobleman, but eventually being found out. (I guess I'd better write a hub on this... my comment is getting long.)

      I was never crazy about LeStat. The character is such an egomaniac that he's hard to like. But, there's no such thing as a really bad vampire story.

      And, Edward... I am currently a member of Team Jacob. I haven't been able to wade through the third novel, yet, though.

      Accolades!

    • mattforte profile image

      Steven Pearson 

      6 years ago from Spanaway, WA

      Lestat is the evolution of vampires. Edward is the tinkerbell. Hopefully the strongest survive ^.^

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Great hub! I really appreciate this because I didn't know all this about vampire characters in literature and movies. I have never gotten into the vampire craze going on right now with the Twilight series. Thank you for a very informative and straightforward hub on vampires. Now this was interesting! And well written. Voted up!

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