Vampires in Literature - How Vampires Are More Than Just a Good Scare
Vlad the Impaler
Did You Know?
Dracula's real-life correspondent was Vlad the Impaler (or Vlad Ţepeş in Romanian), a voivode of Wallachia who reigned multiple times in the second half of the 15th century. He was really famous for impaling his enemies or criminals on a wooden pole, and leaving them to die. The legend goes that he used to drink their blood.Now that is a sight!
The count himself admits his Romanian origins, however the information that Bram Stoker uses is historically inaccurate. In any case, if you'd like to "solve" the mystery surrounding Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, feel free to search the web!
The Role of Vampires in Literature - Introduction
Before saying that you know everything there is to know about vampires in literature, or more precise, the popularity of vampires in literature just because you've read Dracula and/or Twilight, you're wrong.
And I am about to show you what.
First things first: there are things WAY more scary than vampires such as demons, werewolves, giant monsters, zombies, gruesome murderers, and so on and so forth. From this list, the vampire seems the most friendly.
Why is that more precisely? Let's start with probably the most famous vampire in literature, Dracula.
In almost all the movies, the count has a very strong aura of attractiveness. Sometimes he is extremely sexy (or at least considered sexy by the ladies). However, in all the cases, Dracula is alluring, dangerous, mysterious, and he focuses exclusively on beautiful, unmarried (even virginal by some standards) women. And when Dracula finally gets his chance and drinks the blood of the young lady, he becomes more younger, powerful, and stronger. Not only that, but his victims are "turned" to vampires as well, and in turn, they seek other innocent people to transform.
And so, apart from being just a vampire hunter, Van Helsing has the task of protecting the honor/virginity of the young ladies while tracking down Dracula.
Count Dracula as Himself
Vampires and Sexuality - How Vampirism is More Than Just Being a Vampire
To set matters straight, the story of Dracula is basically cut down into several sections:
- An old guy seduces young women.
- He violates them, and leaves scars (the teeth mark on their necks).
- He steals their innocence, their purity (and from a marital perspective, their virginity).
- Transforms them into followers, perpetuating the sin.
And so, following this line of thought, Count Dracula is not only meant to be a good, scary story. In fact, we can conclude that it has to do with sex.
Vampirism is not JUST about vampires.
There are some other things included here like selfishness, exploitation, dominion over another, just to name a few. This is also a good reason to give when saying that the traditional image of the capitalist is a vampiric one. The capitalist is the embodiment of the vampire through the same attributes that were mentioned before.
Now, if I have touched the issue of vampiric capitalism, allow me to digress for just a moment, and share something from one of my courses. There is a strong fascination with being a vampire. I mean, who wouldn't want to be one? You live forever, you are eternally young, and have superpowers. In an orthodox Marxist way being very strongly individualized means that the vampire is the image of the successful capitalist. And if you notice, in almost all the depiction of vampires in literature and film, he/she is filthy rich.
On the other hand, the zombie represents communism. The "zombie" has a collective identity, and its main goal is to transform you into one of them. The mindlessness of the zombie also accounts for the blind faith that one must have in the totalitarian regime. With that in mind, the "survivors" of a zombie apocalypse are desperately fighting to keep their individuality, and at the same time trying to not be eaten and transformed.
Just a Bunch of Zombies Having a Drink
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The Principle of the Vampire
So far, we have seen that it does not take that much to have scary vampires in literature and film. However, the principle of the vampire can be applied to other genres of "horror fiction". For example, Dr. Jekyll's counterpart, Edward Hyde, is there to show us that even respectable men have a hidden dark side. By drinking a potion (which could very easily stand for an alcoholic beverage), Dr. Jekyll changes completely.
All things considered, why would you use the symbol of the vampire/monster to talk about sex?
Bram Stoker's Dracula appeared in 1897, indicating towards the end of the Victorian era. In the Victorian period, there was the sense of a strong moral and ethical code, and as a consequence, censorship was something incredibly common in that time. Because the Victorian authors could not talk freely about sex, they found ways to do so without actually referring to the actual physical act. And as a side note, more information on the topic of literature and sexuality can be found in the linked hub to the right.
Even nowadays, where the freedom of speech is strongly enforced, authors use vampires, werewolves, and the whole lot in order to present various aspects of reality.
The main point is this: vampires and monsters are not just about vampires and monsters.
If you'd like to hear more about Dracula and Vlad the Impaler
Vampires Need not be Human
Just to recap, vampires need not be referred to as vampires in literature. The ingredients for a successful vampire story includes, but it is not limited to: an old man/woman, representing traditional values; a young woman, a stripping away of her innocence; a rejuvenation of the old person, and the invariable destruction of the woman.
The symbolic nature of the vampire or the monster is still being used today (even though in time it has lost some of its authority and ability to scare) because the vampires in literature are a particular useful narrative device in order to advance the plot.
Furthermore, the vampiric personality is also used as a mean to explore the blurred line between what is human and what is monstrous. The examples that fall into this category move beyond Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Long Story Short
- Vampires are not just about the supernatural creatures.
- They embody capitalism, and the various forms of exploitation.
- Even though they are a fictional device, vampires in literature represent something that is very much connected with reality.
Conclusions Regarding Vampires in Literature
In the end, this is what it comes down to: exploitation in various and plural forms. Suffocating the other in order to survive, and placing the personal needs above the needs of the other.
While this characterization sounds more like that of a greedy capitalist than of a vampire, history is filled with episodes of exploitation of man by man, and even though the vampire in literature and film has become somewhat the subject of ridicule and cheap romanticism, it still stands as a witness for something that is deeply rooted in what it means to be human.
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