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. <>.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Final Paper Proposal

Option A: Extended Literary Analysis Paper

You can also write a new paper if you wish. For this paper, you will also be required to bring in a second text: either a text from our class or a text of your choosing (for instance, you could do a comparative analysis of Carmilla with elements of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer; or compare some song lyrics to aspects of I Am Legend…). This paper should be indicative of your critical understanding of the novel in terms of the Irish tradition as applied to the course texts.

                For the Extended option, I would like to analyze Bram Stokers Dracula against Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  First, the papers goal would be to establish the comparisons between the two novels; their similarities in influence, such as political and cultural. Comparisons will be made too the suffrage movement that Bronte lived in compared too the reform acts happening at the time of Dracula’s publication and how they had common catalysts and how similar the plight of women is during Jane Eyre’s publication date to the plight of being Irish with Dracula’s.
The second goal of comparing these two works is to show how the middle class, the rising power during this period, placed a majority of its superiority over others by claiming they had a better sense of morality and its role in history during the time of these novels. Specifically, the paper will look too pinpoint what influenced the strong messages from Irishman Bram Stoker towards the British Empire with his novel Dracula.
Examples of placing importance toward morality among the middle class are numerous between both works. With Jane Eyre, this is shown with the role of a governess, who must be the angel of the house. With Dracula, the various characters portray various middle class Irishmen, all who place importance on technology or morality, who are trying not to succumb too the foreign, immoral influence of Dracula. Finally, the aspect of sexual portrayal of Irishmen and Women will be compared between Jane Eyre and Dracula in a hope too prove similarity.
It is hoped that by proving comparison points in the suffrage movement and the inequalities of Irishmen during this time period, the paper will show a blueprint or larger map toward what spurns or has spurned such marginalization.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Comparing Vampires, Haggerty and How to Address a Sullen Vampire

                Throughout this class we have learned a lot about the importance of perspective. With Dracula we had shifting narratives, but with Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire we have a running story told by a sympathetic character, Louis.  I could not help but compare the two vampires by noticing that even though there are different styles of narratives, they have a similar outcome.
Starting with the vampires themselves, consider the differences from Louis to Dracula; Dracula was a character who, especially with his early scenes with Jonathon Harker, looked English from the outside and had the want to be English but himself, when viewed up close was horrific and beastly. Dracula had invited Harker over to deceive him into teaching Dracula how to become more English. He was a foreigner, looking to disguise and live among the regular humans. 
Louis is quite the opposite. He in fact begs for death from Lestat initially and fights off his feelings of being a monster by eating off animals. Even though Louis succumbs too feeding off humans due to Lestats charms, he still resents doing so. And is frustrated with the inhuman characteristics of Lestat who seemingly, has no remorse for feeding off of humans. This again shows how our major vampires are different from each other. Interview has a major plot devise with Armand however, as he introduces sub culture too Louis and Claudia. It is quite ironic that Louis ends up burning down the very theatre that Armand operates from and that they travel together.
With Dracula, his castle represented sins and desires to Jonathon Harker that he did not want to partake in as he was conditioned they were horrible. With Louis, we have someone who is conditioned to believe that life is terrible. What is ironic, is that he seeks to create companions or help other vampires, such as Claudia, work on creating traveling friends for themselves. Louis is not looking to become English or to blend in; he is looking to hide in the shadows.
The profound difference between these two vampires is important to note as the outcome for mankind is the same; vampires kill humans.  To try to change this outcome, I would of started with providing education to the masses. As the boy giving the interview, personally, my response to Louis would be one of reverence and respect. And since he demonstrates elements of remorse and hopelessness, I would be very wary to ask of any favor, especially for someone in a state where they feel a need to confess. Louis whole story was about how looking for companionship destroyed him, how he must stay in the corner of society. Instead of using society as a smokescreen like Dracula, Louis must be the smokescreen. Asking to become a vampire too Louis when he is in this mindset, well, it would be easy to understand why someone would find that as insultive.
Finally, I would like to note that with our reading of Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture, I to found that it is beneficial to read as the characters being gay. The following line states this case well:
“To understand the Chronicles, in fact, they must be read as gay, and their relations can only be understood in terms of male-male desire. (p5)” Indeed, Interview starts with Lestat and Louis, and this respect and fear they have for each other has many elements of love. As Haggerty says, “…the homoerotics of Rice’s vampires are at least as culturally telling as anything that happens in Byron, or LeFanu, or even Stoker. Rice makes her vampires homoerotics for reasons that tell us more about their moment of creation than they tell about any historical precedents, however rich these might be.”