UPDATE: More material, academic papers, analysis & critique @ my current blog Elastic Collisions - http://elasticollisions.blogspot.comhttp://elasticollisions.blogspot.com/
“In the tradition of gothic fiends, the vampire is one of the oldest; its legends flourished in Eastern Europe long before gothic writers appropriated the vampire for their tales.”
This is a interesting point to keep in mind, as this article will explore the difference between Wuthering Heights Byronic character of Heathcliff to modern vampire heroes too see if there is a cultural trend toward what vampires represent. Specifically, that in the beginning, vampires were fiends.
In the case of Heathcliff, he is considered a character that is a “Byronic Hero”; someone that is dangerous, arrogant but also able to adapt despite their own ability to self destruct. This is shown with Heathcliff especially during the climax of Wuthering Heights, near the end of the book, where he is still ‘followed’ by Cahtrines ghost, still aimlessly exploring catacombs. Whats interesting about Haethcliff is that his death becomes very obvious too the reader, that is, the fact that it is impending, but it is revealed very slowly as his own demise is quite slow. And in his death is what I find lies an example of the largest differences between modern and classic vampires. Most notable, from the start of the 1900’s with the introduction of film.
Much like the classic 1922 film Nosferatue, Heathcliff faces many moral questions and issues. Unlike Nosferatu however, Heathcliff does not give in to this. In a sense, he exhibits more of European upper class sensibilities of honor, despite being quite mad and narcissistic at times.
Heathcliff however dies by being passive. He accepts his fate, much as how all classes ‘should’, according to a monarchy, accept their fate.Nosferatue breaks this mold; he tries to have what he should not. And when he reaches for it, he is destroyed by his greed,
Other characters, such as Lestat in the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire, gives in to his desires throughout the course of his whole existence, until the very end, and only seems more or less rewarded as he does not die but in fact ends up renewed. This is also interesting as around this time Vampires are becoming more and more beautiful in appearance in their American iterations, culminating, of course, with the Twilight series, which has characters described as beautiful in both adaptations; film and novel.
Interestingly enough, when comparing modern vampires to Wuthering Heights, one comes to a perfect comparison with Heathcliff and Edward, the most modern of popular vampires. Despite the character of Edward in the Twilight series being declared as “overly Byronic” (Kirkus Reviews, http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Twilight/Stephenie-Meyer/e/9780316160179), he ends up living a rather charmed life. He ends up out of harms way and with what he wants. He does not die a terrible death, in fact, he brings an air of romance. His desires are not only given to him, in a way, it becomes expected as one reads the series. There will be adversity, but it will be overcome by these beautiful, powerful creatures. In a way, this leads to entitlement, and of course, this upcoming generations sense of entitlement, especially among the privileged.
Heathcliff is not a Nosferatu or an Edward, but in the endgame of all these characters we see a trend with modern literature; making the vampire less of an outcast, less of high society, and more titillating. Where Heathcliff did not completely give in to his revenge and instead gave into his own insanity, Lestat feigns repentance. Where Heathcliff demonstrates abilities to rise and fall, Edward ends up taking honeymoons with his newborn child while reading the minds of people miles away. Beauty is retained for these new vampires of the masses, but for Heathcliff, in a way an example of high society values, in today's eyes, represents a Byronic hero type that I wish modern mediums would gravitate more toward; something that ends up as dust.