Monday, December 20, 2010

The Marginalization of Women in the 19th Century as Seen in Comparison to Dracula and Jane Eyre

“The Marginalization of Women in the 19th Century as Seen in Comparison to Dracula and Jane Eyre”

            While published at different ends of the century, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Bram Stoker’s Dracula both explore similar cultural issues. Specifically, both works represent anxieties held by 19h century England over the role of women; how to place them in society. By exploring the values of society of the time as shown through the novels and supporting essays, a reader can then note how both authors are intentionally commenting on the lack of understanding of what to do with the placement of women. Similarly, by comparing the works one can find that not only do the authors feel that women are marginalized, but that they offer no solution under the current model, only further oppression by the system they are supporting.
            The emergence of the middle class is something that that still causes a sort of confusion. At the start of the 18th century there is a massive enthusiasm for the upcoming future. This is most notable through the time of the romantics, with such poets as Wordsworth, who held a hope for the future, seen with such lyrics and compositions as “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very heaven! (Prefaces and Prologues). As we will discover, Jane Eyre embodies many of these elements. Similarly, near the end of the century at the time of Dracula’s publication, there is a emerging pessimistic view from the lifestyle brought on from industrialization and new importance placed on national identity. This aspect of national identity is important to look at, as it is here that one can begin to trace the eventual connecting threads in Dracula and Jane Eyre and the eventual role of women in this setting.
            With the lead character Jane in Bronte’s work, there is the ultimate image of a Victorian woman. She is a representation of what is expected of women in the 18th century; domestic rule. Interestingly, at the time of Jane Eyre’s publication, there was another popular format of literary works; the housewife manuals. These ‘how to guides’ dictated what a woman needed to do in order to keep her house in order. Ruskin in Sesame and Lilies explains that the role of women, indeed, of being English, as “The common notion that peace and common notions of civil life flourished together (Ruskin).” What holds these together is the domestic importance of the role of the woman ‘being the moral compass of the house.’ In other words, the role of the early 18th century woman is to temper the house and its inhabits toward the path of a domestic sense of morality – as in, an orderly and English house.
            Consider the storyline of Jane Eyre; for Jane to become happy in its ending, Bertha, the crazed woman in the attic that is Rochester (Jane’s love interest who she is not ‘worthy’ of being with) wife must remain in the attic or die. For Jane to finally be worthy of Rochester’s love, she must have the wealth of the colonies showered upon her (citation needed). All of these elements are exploitive and are a commentary for another issue at play here, which is the morality of the middle class existing at all. What is most important to consider at this point is that there is a focus in the paradigm of Britain to one of righteous domestic morals. This is because the middle class requires a moral righteousness to function. In Jane Eyre, she represents this, as being the ‘moral compass of the house’ as Ruskin describes. It is possible to conclude, with the popularity of such brazenly chauvinistic works like Ruskin’s, that the importance of domestic space and controlling it was put on the woman and that she required to keep balance by bringing a sense of moral purity.
            Thus the role of women in Jane Eyre is left relatively a developing role based upon exploitation from the British colonies. There is a sense of humor here; Jane is depicted as being strong willed and different. When Rochester courts Jane only to reveal Bertha, his wife trapped in the attic, Jane no longer can marry Rochester as doing so would compromise her dignity. She would be equivalent to a prostitute, which is not a career choice that fits into the emerging middle class aspect of morality. Interestingly, many unbelievable events happen that stifles Jane’s advancement in society. However, the novel would have you believe that she finds a sort of balance. As can be shown with the following quote, Jane’s only advancements come from funds received through the colonies Britain occupies that somehow reach her family:
“ Were we not four? Twenty thousand pounds shared quality would be thousand each-enough and to spare. Justice would be done –mutual happiness secured. (Bronte 331)”
This passage demonstrates how the Victorian women’s only hope is through the exploitation of the colonies, which is never properly questioned. This relates to the author, as one can safely guess that Bronte also wrestled with her role in society; she originally published Jane Eyre under the male pseudonym Currer Bell. That alone makes a statement of the role of women; writing such a commentary was not in the place of a woman. Yet, Bronte seems enthralled and interested by the trappings of middle class society. After all, Jane still ends up looking for Rochester on nothing more than a distant sound of his voice calling her.
Jane Eyre is a lesson to the reader that as long as a woman maintains a sense of Victorian principles, problems will be solved with wealth molested from the colonies. If one were to question the harsh use of the word, consider that the East Indian Trade company more or less owned India. That is, Britain had no qualms with establishing a corporate economic body governance over a land for the sole purpose of profit and exploitation through slavery or slave-like conditions. If Jane Eyre is exploring the role of a Victorian woman and commenting on the ironies of it, Dracula is commenting on how the society that Jane Eyre so desperately wishes to assimilate to is the very one that undermines the gender. This can be seen through the characters Mina and Lucy and how Bram Stoker represents them.
            In Dracula, Mina is a representation of Victorian models, much like Jane Eyre. She has some aspect of being a ‘new woman, that is, a cycling, smoking, knowledgeable individual, but refutes that she is one herself. Mina more appropriately fits Ruskins model of a Victorian women, much like Jane Eyre. Surely she would fit the description of being “one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth,” (Ruskin). Or, surely she would be this to the idea of the Victorian genders. Therefore, one can conclude that Mina is a character on the fringe, holding some aspects of this 19th century ‘modern woman’, but still cannot escape being a representation of Victorian ideals. Much like Jane, she wishes to marry and is concerned with status, as shown in the courtship between her and Jonathon Harker. Lucy, on the other hand, is a sexualized being. One notes how she has three suitors and cannot decide which offer to take.
Both women represent how the novel Dracula attacks two aspects of the female gender; with Lucy it is an attack on establishing a sexual identity that deviates from any traditional Victorian model.  Mina, however, through her perseverance as a Victorian woman, establishes a role in aiding with the eventual death of Dracula. That is, her role is one where she actually is detrimental to herself. She admits that she is not a new woman and then demonstrates perfect passive and obedient behavior expected of a ‘moral compass of the house’. However, the question is how important that role of Mina is. Despite Mina having a mental connection with Dracula, Van Helsing himself does not want Mina to accompany them on their journey. Dracula, through Mina and Van Helsing and the eventual unimportance of Mina representing these roles, is a commentary by Stoker, an Irish man, on where English/Victorian ideals of being a ‘moral compass of the house’ will get the Victorian woman; a quick path to being forgotten, used and marginalized. This relates to Jane Eyre in a very intriguing manner, as the commentary on Mina by Stoker is similar to that of Bronte with Jane, just without the level of awareness brought on by a hundred years of hindsight. When noting this, it is interesting that the role of women is never established by either author. Jane never finds a way to be successful without exploiting the colonies or Bertha. Similarly, Mina never achieves any success beyond giving birth. This very notion is a Victorian ideal that the woman should stay in the domestic space and not the public. The only alternative remaining to analyses is Lucy.
Lucy is a representation of English anxiety on the domestic ideals of what a Victorian woman represents when they encounter sexual change. While she is much like Mina, she is not afraid to comment on sexuality. Besides having multiple courters, it is interesting to consider that Dracula must be invited into a house before he may torture his victim through deceit. This is important as Lucy is the first victim, thus hinting that perhaps her curiosity, unbecoming of a Victorian woman, is a factor in her being attacked. More disturbing however is Stokers commentary on possible change through the outcome of Lucy.
Lucy does not have a happy ending in Dracula. She is his first victim and then she becomes the victim of the Victorian ideals of domestic space. One the group finds Lucy after she has disappeared, she calls out to Arthur in a sexual manner. This quote is important as it shows that Lucy is allowed to be as sexual Victorian woman, but only in death, or, only in a monstrous form that properly represents how monstrous the Victorians view her sexuality. Even more disturbing to consider is the scene where Arthur stabs the wooden stake through Lucy’s body as she sleeps, which is described as follows:
“The Thing in the coffin writhed, and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions.; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake,…. (Stoker 231).”
 The word usage leads the reader to assume that Arthur is having a sexual experience and that it is also acceptable. He must sexually take over Lucy, but only when she is a monster. The fact that he is described ina  heroic manner suggests the ease at which a Victorian male can dispose of the Victorian identity, especially one such as Lucy, who had just the smallest blemish.
In an article exploring sexuality through the famous vampire tale of Carmella, the author states that the piece of literature, written near the same period, represents “the strenuously brutal efforts or male authority to erase women’s sexual knowledge… (Heller)” One can easily find the same parallel in Dracula, which makes multiple commentaries on the danger of a sexualized woman.
So a new question is raised; what is the danger of a sexualized Victorian woman? It would appear that it would lead a woman toward breaking from Ruskin’s “moral compass of the house” philosophy, thus being an attack on the very fabric of the middle class that sustains the aesthetic and being of the Victorian period. Dracula is an other figure, an immigrant. The only way Lucy can become sexual is to become something other than the Victorian national identity.
            After considering these points, one can come to the conclusion that both novels comment on the same aspects of what defines a Victorian woman and that these relate well to domestic manuals of the era. Furthermore, one can see through Dracula and other analysis on the subject matter continually leads to a downfall of women that augment sexuality into their identity. The result? Sexuality is not a part of the national identity established by Britain in the 19th century, and embellishing in this is a threat to the culture. A side note to consider is that in our own modern times few women hold the highest position in many fields. It is easy to note the still ongoing marginalization of half of our species. While there is some solace in knowing that there were authors aware of these contradictions and inequalities, it is also disappointing that there are no alternatives offered. Perhaps the knowledge in and of itself will bring forward the awareness needed.
This awareness is most notable in the aspect of defining a middle class. If Jane Eyre continues her role as a Victorian governess, there will be more colonies established that will eventually riot, just as in East India. If Lucy continues to augment the Victorian model, Stoker notes that the very system that she so seeks acceptance and assimilation will actually devour her, as seen with Arthur driving a stake through her heat. It is also important to note that both Jane Eyre and Bram Stoker’s Dracula have maintained interest in culture for over a hundred years, with stories and characters influenced heavily by the count and governess still being created. Dracula as a novel has maintained a lasting appeal, most strongly noted in Stoker’s use of bringing out English anxieties that are still relatable to modern times. Jane Eyre is much more subtle in this respect, but it is to be expected as it does not have the hindsight that time offers. There is another outcome to consider, far different from this.
One can note a embodiment of the male perspective in Victorian England at this time in a early moment in Dracula, the first chapter, as Harker demonstrates how he is a modern Victorian man, a lover of science and a man who prizes that his observations are made of factual observations. He begins his journal with:“Left Munich at 8:35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.” (Stoker 5)Through the use of the Victorians prized technology, Dracula almost successfully establishes a ‘false’ English identity. After considering how the novel uses technology as a conduit for anxiety through establishing a false identity, it is important to consider how the protagonists in the novel deal with this anxiety; they adapt through the old world’s superstitions with the new Victorian ages technology. Van Helsing continually brings superstitious elements back into the quite modern at its time printing of Dracula. This is a interesting commentary on what may be a possible resolution; a effort to shift identity from a national one, such as with the Victorian one, to a more global one, an identity prized by the romantic. By Van Helsing bringing a old world to the new, at least the characters in Dracula were able to defeat him. Their victory, however, is questionable, as it appears short.
An essay by Thomas Carlyle mentions the theory of ‘enchanted wealth’. Essentially, enchanted wealth is the “successful industry of England”, which, with all its “plethoric wealth, has yet made nobody rich; it is an enchanted wealth, and belongs to nobody (Thomas Carlyle 1127).” This very idea is perfect for describing the futility of assigning gender roles for a sort of domestic superiority, as Ruskin would have the reader believe. Indeed, all the assumptions of a importance in domestic space is an imagination and belongs to no one. And, as Dracula and Jane Eyre show, they are easily challenged and only resolved by supernatural methods or colonial cash.
On a final note, it is important to consider what a manifestation of the ideal Victorian male is. Jonathon Harker in Dracula is an  is an embodiment of the attitude held at the time by Victorian era England. His language is very autonomous, factual and matter of fact. The language and worth that Harker places on fact resonate with a feeling held by the English; that science and technology are held in the highest esteem and the role of the women is one that brings confusion. The ever important English Identity is not quite sure where to place women. As Thomas Arnold quipped, “Feudality is gone forever” (Thomas Arnold 1102). If the end of feudalism brings continued progress as the 19th century middle class would believe, welcomed or not, of the manufacturing based economy. Interestingly, the book embodies this by presenting modes of transportation for people and data, one of the most paradigm shifting forms of technology, as mysterious. When Harker goes to castle Dracula, he enters into a carriage and experiences an almost dream like adventure, to a point where “sometimes, as the road was cut through the pine woods that seemed in the darkness to be closing down upon us, great masses of greyness, which here and there bestrewed the trees, producing a peculiarly weird and solemn effect…” (Stoker 13). Similarly, new technology is made mysterious, but more so by what happens when it is struck by the spiritual old world.  These elements are a parallel of the Victorian woman; when Lucy combines aspects of Dracula’s foreign sexuality and Victorian identity, the result is death from both parties. Similarly, at the end of Dracula, we have Quincy and the count himself expiring. And with Jane Eyre, you have the emotional fallout that is her relationship with St. John and her lack of caring for her colonial funds.
The only aspect of these novels that now stays a mystery is how the English identity could gravitate, for so long, to this flawed idea of assigning women roles of controlling domestic space and men in public space. It is clearly a well orchestrated manner of marginalizing, made even more humorous when one considers that during this time women outnumbered men two to one in England. Luckily, Dracula and Jane Eyre both stand as testaments to the polar influences of thought at the time of their publication, and how the idea of gender equality still needs to be properly addressed, as opposed to temporarily appeased.

Works Cited

Prefaces and Prologues. Vol. XXXIX. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001. December 17th, 2010. (web)
Ruskin, John. "Sesame and Lilies: Three Lectures." Google Books. Google, 1884. Web. 20 Dec 2010.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1st. New York, New York: Fine Creative Media, 2003. 5. eBook.
Heller, Tamar. "The Vampire in the House." (1872): Print.
Bronte, Charlotte. “Jane Eyre”. 1st. New York, New York: Penguin Press. 2006. 331. Print.
Arnold, Thomas. "The Age of Energy and Invention." Longman Anthology of British Literature. /Ed/. David Damrosch and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson, 2006. Print.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1st. New York, New York: Fine Creative Media, 2003. 13. eBook.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eli the Vampire (part 2)

For this week, I felt the question posed at #4 posed the most fun to take on. What I found striking is contained in these lines:
“clean and sweet-smelling, not [having] matted hair and emanate foul orders like both Regan [from The Exorcist] and Eli” (30)
I see this as an example of Calhoun creating a list of binaries of what is and is not a child (a very Anglo Saxon way of constructing things) and then listing how Eli attacks these ideas. It is interesting that Calhoun notices binaries so well which ties in to Let The Right One In, whose author loves to quip about vampire physiology (as seen with the membranes for flight and the explanation of another consciousness living inside of Virginia). Calhoun, similar, sees the binaries of Eli from regular children and how Eli challenges traditional gender roles.  These opposing elements that Calhoun mentions are important, as the construct of gender is an important one to consider. It begs the questions of what is a vampire and what is a man/woman, all of which Eli questions just through her very existence.
In nations like Rhodesia, there were moments of gender apartheid that were put in place under the argument that specifying genders to specific roles will be beneficial on the community. This has long been proven incorrect. Similarly, in 18th and 19th century Britain, women were delegated to roles such as a governess. Previous readings in class have shown us how long women have been marginalized and how ignorant the controlling society was of the female gender. Eli brings these fears forward, but in a contemporary way. It is not so shocking as to make a book like Dracula anymore, where Victorian males encounter sexuality that frightens them and women represent perfect models of chastity (consider how Mina, the more conservative, lives while Lucy, the more sexual, dies). Eli brings these fears for a 21st century audience.
                Let The Right One In challenges constructs of children in many way. Besides attacking the senses by describing Eli as having a foul stench, indeed, every aspect of Eli is questioned, including her parents:
“As Oskar turned and left he heard soft creaks from the Cube. She was going to stay out here in her thin top. Her mother and father must be… different, letting her go out dressed like that. You could end up with a bladder infection.” (Lindqvist 57)
                With this passage Lindqvist lets the reader know that children are tuned nito their senses more than adults let on. Similarly, children have much energy that is typically directed against their parents. With Eli, this possible rage toward adults becomes all the more real when it is revealed that she needs blood to survive and that she requires adults to help her feed. Since she is dependent on them, but still, as noted in Warm-Blooded, subject to the strange rules of adults, forced by their whims. Since Eli is also a vampire however, and really quite old, Eli is capable of committing atrocities. That is where the finale of Let the Right One In is so important.
                With Oskar, he is continually frustrated with the foulness of Eli. But still, he forms a deep bond that, oddly enough, transcends age, gender and any sense of human ethics. Most notable of this is when the narrative POV’s start to address Eli as a different gender. This is creating a sort of growing consciousness that the reader participates in. Indeed, the novel presents growth similar to how a child experiences it, and this is played out with Oskar and Elis interactions.
 Eli is also an attack on the Anglo Saxon construct of children that is incredibly effective, much like zombies from Haiti. A child must be good and innocent, or it is not a child.  Someone must have genitals to be declared a gender. Eli challenges all of these ideas with physiology, morality and time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Critical Analysis – Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let The Right One In

UPDATE: More material, academic papers, analysis & critique @ my current blog Elastic Collisions -

“Predatory Hierarchy and Vampires”

                Vampires have long been an icon that challenges the idea of ‘myth’ while also being a perfect example of the term itself. Long before Bram Stokers Dracula, there was Carmella, the lesbian vampire. Before this there were the ancient Greek tales of the Lamia, who are best described by  Lawson "....the chief characteristics of the Lamiae, apart from their thirst for blood, are their uncleanliness, their gluttony, and their stupidity" (LAWSON) that would suck the life essence of children. The difference with the vampire, however, is that while other monstrosities of literature and entertainment are considered mostly a natural evil, that is, in and of themselves capable of harm to general human interest, vampires are a commentary of relationships through a sort of deception. When a reader is first introduced to Dracula, they are shown what Jonathon Harker sees; hairy palms, an age that changes one day to the next. Dracula’s visage is initially, at the beginning of the story, made detestable to the point where Jonathon Harker states "As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me... a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal." (STOKER, 30).  Similar, in contemporary literature with Let The Right One In by XXXX, we also have a young vampire named Eli who “smells of death” one moment and then looks healthy the next (this of course, is after feeding).  Both these examples from authors born in different centuries help illustrate a common characteristic of the vampire; it is more than just a mythical, evil being. In fact, vampires are representation of much larger ideas, such as reverse colonization and false friendship. One article that helps illustrate and compare these ideas is Warm Blooded: True Blood and Let The Right One In by J.M. Tyree.
                In this article Tyree compares the ideas of vampires throughout time, concentrating on contemporary vampires and their meaning in society. Tyree compares many common known vampires and literature, including from I Am Legend, Dracula and Twilight. For the purposes of this analysis, some page 37 of Film Quarterly Month will be looked at in particular. Some brie quotations are important to consider with these ideas of false friendship, reverse colonization and how they will play into predatory hierarchy,
                “LaFanu (writer of 1872 lesbian thriller Carmilla) remarks of Carmilla’s victim in her isolate home. “How great an event the introduction of a new friend is, in such solitude,” (One chill in Stoker involves the way count Dracula uses the word “friend” interchangeably to refer to English people and English books.) Vampires , and those who have dealings with them, have a deeply ingrained lonely status, whether it’s Count Dracula forcing his way into English society, Buffy amid the castes and schedules of Sunnydale High… Allan Gray in Vampyr or Jesus Gris who after turning into a vampire in Cronos, says, “I feel like I don’t belong at all.” (TYREE, 37)
                This article shows us some important themes the author is trying to convey. This includes the importance of vampires needing someone else. Consider the aspect of vampires, shown in both Dracula and Let the right One In that a vampire must be invited into a home before they are allowed to enter. The whole aspect of deception is necessary to a vampires survival, but that deception is dependent either out an outside source, such as Hakan with Let the Right One In, or Jonathon Harker in Dracula, who teaches Dracula how to be English for his survival. With this in mind it is understandable to assume that this “false friendship”, as Tyree so mentions, is actually a survival mechanism, not an emotional response from vampires. The vampire as a myth is actually more complex than Tyree perhaps imagines in his enlightening essay. An important aspect that Tyree overlooks is the foreign assimilation and predatory hierarchy. Vampires are just like humans; most humans feel like they do not belong and are also alone. Tyree assumes that vampires experience some enhanced or augmented form of loneliness by needing humans as food, but really, this predatory hierarchy is a reflection of reverse colonization (the fear of those that are colonized coming to the land that has colonized them) and also sheds some light to a different idea. This idea is that humans and vampires both use each other as prey, much as the class system demonstrates.
With Bram Stokers Dracula the author demonstrates predator hierarchy in two ways. Both can be seen through the character Renfield, who Dracula preys upon. Renfield feasts upon flies, but also saves some to trap larger insects, to eventually attract worms who attract birds. Renfield demonstrates class hierarchy with actual food chain hierarchy. This is a good example of why vampires are larger than their myths; they are much more complex, representing cultural issues. Renfield is feeding upon smaller forms of life to keep one larger form of life alive. This is how Stoker, a Irishman (Irishmen were quite marginalized by Britain in the 19th century), demonstrates the faults of the middle class system and the industrial age. A second way Dracula demonstrates predatory hierarchy is with the death of Morris at the end of Dracula. Quincy Morris, an American, is killed by the foreign influence (Dracula), leaving only the Englishmen behind.
                With Let the Right One In, Eli is always made as an outsider in a similar way that Dracula is. This is mostly due to the actions of adults around her (comically reminiscent of childhood mentality; being frustrated that your reality is determined by the whims of adults, whose rules make no sense to a child) forcing her into scenarios. However, Eli is also an outsider in any land she inhabits. Her survival is dependant upon Hakan to procure food for her, of which Eli cannot do (again, consider the Harker/Hakan comparison). If she does not feed, she begins to smell and look horrid, much like Dracula. In this regard, the immigrants, Eli and Dracula, still require some essence of local life to feel alive. What is interesting is that the biggest fear associated with their myths is that they assimilate into normal culture unnoticed. Eli shows this with her relationship with Oskar; she nearly grooms normal local boy to become her next Hakan by the novels end. This shows the manipulative, survival aspects of vampires. Indeed, John Ajvide Lindqvist is very interested with vampire physiology, much as Bram Stoker was in Dracula.
Since vampires look at humans as food, there is an element of use there that pollutes any aspect of friendship. This is where Tyree’s false friendship can best be demonstrated; vampires will make friends of their food before feeding on occasion. With Let The Right One In and Dracula, both vampires are shown to be more than evil at the beginning of their respective novel. Eventually, it is revealed that Eli, who Oskar believes is a girl, is actually a boy who has been mutilated and has no actual genitals. This brings a new type of perversion when Eli tells Oskar that he is “Not really a girl.”         Eli is eventually revealed to be a character that has been molested, raped and mutilated. In the same vein, Dracula is a character that has fought to preserve his homeland and is well educated. When Van Helsing comes upon Dracula’s library, he remarks how astonished he is with the extent of its contents. Van Helsing’s astonishment makes Dracula’s threat genuine in a more honest manner; he is able to use technology and research just as well as his Victorian counterparts. In essence, he is the same as them, and not this evil vampire myth, just as Eli is not some feral and evil child, but a complex character.
                All vampires have an ability to use false friendship for a means, but that means is larger than just feeding upon. Vampires are social commentaries, and their feeding is actual as pedestrian as what people do to each other constantly. The very notion of working hours for wages is vampiric.
Tyree also notes that “…this pattern of seduction and betrayal is not at all that goes on in the latest incarnation of the vampire myth – in fact, rather the opposite is the case. Against enemies living or undead, Edward, Bill and Eli will defend the fragile bodies of their younger lovers, and their reasons for doing so go beyond the vested interest in having self replenishing bags of fresh blood around for themselves. They aren’t false friends. What they truly desire is something different – they wish for an end to their interminable loneliness.” (TYREE 37)
                Here, Tyree places importance on the myth of the vampire actually requiring something that is universally understandable to everyone; not wanting to be alone. Tyree ignores the ideas of reverse colonization, however; Dracula and Eli represent foreigners coming upon a land and sapping it of their resources, of which the ‘mother land’ originally did themselves. It is true that Eli makes a real friendship, but can the reader truly surmise that it is genuine? This very ending that the novel brings forth works so well because it is so universally identifiable to how humans question their own relationships. Indeed, these friendships can be self serving to provide further defense that the contemporary vampire needs life to sustain itself. When one considers all this, Vampires quickly become a model into introducing the darkest aspects of the human construct.
                When a reader considers predatory hierarchy in the context of class and food struggle, vampires take on a much more universal role. Tyree recognizes the importance of a vampire needing a relationship with its prey, however he also just assumes that vampires represent a simple instinct and that Let the Right One In tells the tragedy of such a relationship. The truth is a little more unsettling; the myth of the vampire is equal to the myth of humanity, it just has a sharper set of teeth.

Works Cited

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2004. 30. Print.

Tyree, J. M. "Warm Blooded: True Blood and Let The Right One In." Film Quarterly. 2008: 37. Print. 

Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press,  1910. Web.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eli and Education– What the Vampire Icon for the 21st Century Teaches its Reader

Online Artifact Assignment

For this assignment, it seemed the aspect of experimentation in choosing a subject was celebrated. Going under this credo, I have selected an interview with the author as my online artifact, posing the question of what the author is trying to persuade their audience of and finding that by analyzing the main characters. Understandably, little time will be given to analyzing the visual rhetoric of the website.

“Nothing engages us as much as children,” John Ajvide Lindqvist (Meredith)
He walked along the forest path looking for Jonny Forsberg… The earth shall drink his blood,” Oskar in Let The Right One In. (Lindqvist).

When looking at the link provided, one will find they are at the website Constructing Horror.  The site serves as resource for “horror storytelling”, however, they also mention that they are “brought to you” by a Swedish film company called Golem. The layout of the site is quite simple, allowing the viewer to focus on the content provided. Sidebars are stretched long apart the page, perhaps not accounting for screen resolution. The interview is accompanied with images on the right side of the main page which show a photo of the author, an ambiguous child’s toy, some wild life scenery and then promotional links (authors book first) followed by site links. The person being interviewed is the author of the vampire novel Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist.
            The interview style itself is focused mainly off the topic of the release of the Swedish film of the same name of his quite popular and acclaimed novel  Let The Right One In, of which he is also an accredited for screenplay adaptation. John Ajvide Lindqvist answers a series of questions regarding his creative process by referencing his own thoughts and inspirations. Included with this are other films and novels. The theme of the interview is true to the title: On Horror and Children. These themes in the interview relate to explaining what children’s role is in the horror genre, which helps in understanding in what role the author uses children.
            Lindqvist offers very interesting insight towards why he has used children as a major tool for telling his vampiric tale through a general question:

C.H.: Why Do children appear so frequently in Horror Fiction?
JAL: ”I believe that there is an number of reasons, where the simplest is really that if you want to scare, if you want it to be creepy, then it is very important that the reader or your audience can identify with the person who is to be scared.” (Meredith)

“Children are something that we want to take care of and protect, and they are not supposed to be put through anything nasty. But when they are, it becomes so much more unpleasant. After all, there are still some sorts of Taboo’s in the horror world.” (Meredith)

            Another line that helps explain the author’s viewpoint is in regards to the idea of a ‘child’s reality’:
“When you are a child, things and events are what you decide that they are. You decide that this certain object is the most precious ever; you decide that that corner of the garden is the most creepy and so on. As an adult you don’t think like that anymore, which gives credibility to depicting a Childs point of view, hence making it a believable reality.” (Meredith)

Eli, a permanently young vampire, fills this role of child horror quite perfectly. The construct of Eli is that of permanent childhood. However, her (or his) fate is tied to Hakan, who prepares the killings for her. Hakan lives in an adult reality: his world is not the same as Eli’s or Hakans. Since Eli is mentally trapped at 12, she unable to have the intelligence to properly map out how to feed on her own in the modern world. Indeed, all attempts she makes up at feeding by herself end up horribly. She needs Hakan, who actually brings the fear of an adult reality to Eli through protecting her. In this way, Hakan represents that all adult protection comes with a price. This is especially seen later in the novel when Hakan attempts to rape Eli when he becomes an almost feral vampire (who he is normally permitted only to sleep with or lightly touch).
Since we know Hakan is a pedophile, one capable of masturbating in public places to little boys undressing, we can take that Hakan embodies a fearful element. While Eli is a monster, since she is mentally still a child, she still needs a maternal/servant figure. That maternal character is also a monster, however, a monster in an adult reality. Hakan does not seek just to survive, as Oskar and Eli do in a child’s reality. He seeks to exploit, specifically Eli.  
            Oskar, Eli’s eventual friend, is the other personification of a child reality. He has a relationship primarily with other children: his relationship with the bullies embodies the child’s tradition fear, the fear of physical harm. Oskar copes with this in a strange manner: there is a scene in the book where he actually embodies the persona of “The Murderer” and imagines a murderous rampage in quite detail. This whole scene is told from a POV that makes the reader believe it is happening, until the narrator reveals the shredded bark next to a tree Oskar was attacking while imagining his victim.
            Eli’s origins are also quite brutal. She is described as being over 200 years old, having been violently abused and molested. Her genitals are destroyed, leaving Eli, born a boy, in a eunuch state.  This state is also ironic, as Eli is in a way pure. Since she has no genitals, she is not a sexual being. This fits with Oskar; he is neither sexual. And although Oskar wrestles with Eli’s lack of care over killing so easily for the sake of necessity to start, he goes along with it through the end, helping her in the finale.
When Lindqvist states that “children are something we strive to protect” he is giving a large insight into the sort of education he is hoping his vampire will give to his reader. Since Oskar needs someone to protect him, Eli gladly fulfills this role, as she will offer it without seeking to take advantage. The two children, one in a temporal childhood reality, the other permanent, get what they need from each other. In a sense, they are both ‘feeding’ off each other.
            The character of Eli is an educational one, much like how Bram Stoker used Dracula as an educational tool.  In Dracula, Stoke paints a scary immigrant who brings with him frightful ideas for the Victorian society. This, as seen with every vampire, includes hyper sexuality. All of these elements also play toward what makes vampires so important: vampires are a timeless tool that can be used to describe a foreign element in a common place. As once quoted by Nina Auerbach, each age “gets the vampire it deserves” (TYREE 31-37).  Let the Right One In’s Eli is our generation’s vampire, and Lindqvist ends up seeming quite the romantic. His beliefs in the sacredness of children, that they should be protected, allow him to craft a story about a beast that should not exist. Yet the reader cannot help emphasizing with Eli needing companionship.
The novel offers many narration changes and insight to the cultural shifts in the world around Eli. At one point, any men said to resemble the beast that Hakan has become are met with sneers and question themselves in the mirror. The author is hoping that the reader will also know how important it is to protect the reality childhood and not give into the adult reality (every adult in the novel is mostly unlikable and the bullies are near adulthood). The question with Eli, in her childhood reality forever, remains; what would happen, if she and Oskar did end up together, when Oskar became an adult, in his own reality? Would he end up as strange and villainous as the pedophile Hakan? Or would the newspaper clipping child, focused on murder headlines, bring that reality with him, using the education of Eli to construct a better world? Lindqvist and his interview help teach that through the icon of Eli and fantasy of vampires one can find qualities of universal importance. Even more important is that these traits of comradely, caring and acceptance are seen in characters that hold the physiology of a monster, such as Eli, and emotional disturbance, such as Oskar. This allows a wide range of readership to feel a sense that they to kind find salvation, even in a horrible thing. Understanding all this, one can see that Let the Right One In is not just a tale about pedophiles and vampires, it’s also about teaching people to be giving and the dire consequences that come out of ignoring the child’s reality. This is very telling through the question posed over halfway through the interview:

C.H.: Children as protagonist or antagonist, which do you find most exciting to work with?
JAL: I tend to combine both those things, that the child is the protagonist, the one we are following, the one that drives the tale forward, and at the same time being the one that you have to watch out for. (Meredith)

            Indeed, at the end of the novel, both Oskar and Eli are children to watch out for.

Works Cited

Lindqvist, John. Let the Right One In. Bloomsbury, UK: Quercus Publishing , 2009. Print.

TYREE, J. M. "Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In." Film Quarterly. 63.2 (2009): 31-37. Print.

Meredith, Jason. "ON CHILDREN AND HORROR: Interview With John Ajvide Lindqvist." Constructing Horror. Golem Films, 2010. Web. 29 Nov 2010. <>.