Final Project

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sexual Innuendo and Homoeroticism
Lindsay Brown
English 263
Final Paper

Throughout this semester, many of the vampire novels that we have analyzed have had a certain thing in common.  Simply, the vampire needed to drink the blood of a living being to survive.  This can be seen as just that, something needed to live; a necessity.  However, if you were to look deeper into it, it can be seen as a sexual act.  The exchange of fluids goes both ways.  The blood of the living person flows in to the vampire, making him stronger and able to live.  Also, the vampire’s fluid flowing back into the living being’s body; and if left, making that being into a vampire.  The fact that this exchange of fluids can also be seen as reproduction (making more of them) it is easy to see how sucking blood, or any fluid transfers in general can be sexual.
One book that we read where the sexual nature of blood sucking was apparent was Dracula by Bram Stoker. One character that is worth looking at in this book is Lucy.  Lucy starts off as an innocent girl, though somewhat naïve. She’s outgoing, and fits into the traditional role of Victorian women.  She doesn’t work and is seemingly obsessed with finding a man to marry (and she is rather successful at this, having three proposals in one day).  This changes, however, later in the book.
Mina notices that Lucy has left her bed in the middle of the night, and becomes fearful of where she could be.  Mina finally spots Lucy in the churchyard, and also mentions that there seemed to be something dark standing behind her.
“The coming of the cloud was too quick for me to see much, for shadow shut down on the light almost immediately; but it seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it.  What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell.” (Page 88) 
This is actually the first encounter that Lucy and Mina have with Dracula in the book.  It’s important to note that Mina notices this dark figure (that we perceive to be Dracula) because later she notices puncture wounds on Lucy’s neck.  These puncture wounds mark the first time that Dracula has actually draw blood from Lucy.  If we bring in the idea of the exchange of fluids being sexual, it can be seen as the first time that Lucy and Dracula have engaged in sexual acts together.
“I was sorry to notice that my clumsiness with the safety-pin hurt her.  Indeed, it might have been serious, for the skin of her throat was pierced.  I must have pinched up a piece of loose skin and have transfixed it, for there are two little red points like pinpricks, and on the band of her nightdress was a drop of blood.  When I apologized and was concerned about it, she laughed and petted me, and said she did not even feel it.  Fortunately it cannot leave a scar, as it is so tiny.” (Page 89)           
Dracula keeps visiting Lucy, and can be shown by the fact that the previously mentioned wounds on her neck will not heal.
“I trust her feeling ill may not be from that unlucky prick of the safety pin.  I looked at her throat just now as she lay asleep, and the tiny wounds seem not to have healed.  They are still open, and, if anything, larger than before, and the edges are faintly white.  They are like little white dots with red centers.  Unless they heal within a day or two, I shall insist on the doctor seeing about them.” (Page 92)
Lucy’s character begins to disintegrate, alluding to the fact that she no longer carries the role of a proper Victorian woman anymore.  This is shown through her sickness, and is because of the fact that she is continuously fed on by Dracula.  In other words, continuously having sexual relations with Dracula.  A proper Victorian woman is seen to be virginal, and Dracula takes this title away from her.
Another instance of fluid exchange being seen as sexual is the blood transfusions that Lucy receives to try to say her life.  Through the process of these transfusions, she obtains blood from three different men.  Because of the sexual air that we have been discussing, this can be seen as her engaging in sexual acts with all these of these men.  This certainly does not help her character or her health and the transfusions fail to save her life.
It’s interesting to note that Dracula succeeds in making Lucy a vampire.  This goes along with the idea of fluid exchange being sexual because it results in reproduction.  It’s also interesting because of the fact that through the last while of her life, she has been symbolically having sexual relations with many men, and in death she actually turns into the vixen that her character had become in life.
“There lay Lucy, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before her funeral.  She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever; and I could not believe she was dead.  The lips were red, nay redder than before; and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom.
‘Is this a juggle?’ I said to him.
‘Are you convinced now?’ said the Professor in response, as he spoke he put over his hand, and in a way that made me shudder, pulled back the dead lips and showed the white teeth.
‘See,’ he went one, ‘see, they are sharper than before. With this and this’ – and he touched one of the canine teeth and that below it – ‘the little children can be bitten.” (Page 178)
Looking at blood drinking as a sexual act also transforms the actions in another book we read, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.  Even without looking at blood drinking in this light, things are still sensual between Louis and Lestat.  However, after looking at it sexual, we see a homosexual relationship (however unstable) form between them.
It begins when Lestat turns Louis into a vampire.  This is another example of reproduction and thus a sexual act.  Their first encounter with each other is extremely sensual, especially when coupled with Louis falling in love with all of the details of the world.  In this moment, he is completely in love with what he is and Lestat. 
‘“I think that I knew what he meant to do even before he did it, and I was waiting in my helplessness as if I’d been waiting for years.  He pressed his bleeding wrist to my mouth, said firmly, a little impatiently, ‘Louis, drink.’  And I did. ‘Steady Louis,’ and ‘Hurry,’ he whispered to me a number of times.  I drank, sucking the blood out of the holes, experiencing for the first time since infancy the special pleasure of sucking nourishment, the body focused with the mind upon one vital source.  Then something happened.”  The vampire sat back, a slight frown on his face.
“How pathetic it is to describe these things which can’t truly be described,” he said, his voice low almost to a whisper.  The boy sat as if frozen.
“I saw nothing but that light then as I drew blood.  And then this next thing, this next thing was . . . sound.  A dull roar at first and then a pounding like the pounding of a drum, growing louder and louder, as if some enormous creature were coming up on one slowly through a dark and alien forest, pounding as he came, a huge drum.  And then there came the pounding of another drum, as if another giant were coming yards behind him, and each giant, intent on his own drunk, gave not notice to the rhythm of the other.  The sound grew louder and louder until it seemed to fill not just my hearing but all my senses, to be throbbing in my lips and fingers, in the flesh of my temples, in my veins.  Above all, in my veins, drum and then the other drum; and then Lestat pulled his wrist free suddenly, and I opened my eyes and checked myself in a moment of reaching for his wrist, grabbing it, forcing it back to my mouth at all costs; I checked myself because I realized that the drum had been my heart, and the second d drum had been his.”‘ (Page 20)
This quote clearly shows how intense the act of blood drinking can be.  It completely consumed Louis, to the point where the rest of the world around him faded and he was focused on that one thing.  Symbolically this act is effectively like taking Louis’ virginity.  His first time participating in such in act would understandably consume and overwhelm him.  Also, it made him slightly addicted to it and left him wanting more, so to speak, as evidenced when he had to consciously stop himself from grabbing Lestat’s wrist back.
It’s interesting to note that although Louis seems very in love with Lestat at this point, he does not actually love him.  He seems more in love with the experience; much like someone might enjoy sex with someone they are not in love with.  The following quote shows how Louis really feels about Lestat.
“’Now I’m getting into the coffin,’ he finally said to me in his most disdainful tone, ‘and you will get in on top of me if you know what’s good for you.’ And I did.  I lay face-down on him, utterly confused by my absence of dread and filled with distaste for being so close to him, handsome and intriguing though he was.  And he shut the lid.  […] The first thing that became apparent to me, even while Lestat and I were leading the coffin into a hearse and stealing another coffin from a mortuary, was that I did not like Lestat at all.  I was far from being his equal yet, but I was infinitely closer to him that I had been before the death of my body.  I can’t really make this clear to you for the obvious reason that you are now as I was before my body died.  You cannot understand.  But before I died, Lestat was absolutely the most overwhelming experience I’d ever had.’ (Page 25)
His second time drinking blood was just as entrancing as the first.
”Lestat and the swamp and the noise of the distant camp mean nothing.  Lestat might have been an insect, buzzing, lighting, then vanishing in significance.  The sucking mesmerized me; the warm struggling of the man was soothing to the tension of my hands; and there came the beating of the drum again, which was the drumbeat of his heart – only this time it beat in perfect rhythm with the drumbeat of my own heart, the two resounding in every fiber of my being, until the beat began to grow slower and slower, so that each was a soft rumble that threatened to go on without end.  I was drowsing, falling into weightlessness; and then Lestat pulled me back.” (Page 30)
It seems that drinking blood is addicting, as evidenced between the previous quotes from Interview with the Vampire.  Louis almost can’t pull himself out of the trance that the act puts him in, almost harming himself the second time (drinking from a dead body).  This can be related to how someone might be addicted to sex, and crave it like the vampires are craving blood.  However, even though Louis craves blood, he does not kill for fun, or even make a game out of killing his victims.  He kills out of necessity, and to keep himself alive.  Much unlike Lestat who will make a game out of it, and ‘play with his food’ so to speak.
If we continue to look at blood drinking and the exchange of fluids as a sexual act, we have to agree that there is homosexual intercourse within the novel Interview with the Vampire.  However, cloaking the sex within a different act (drinking blood) that can be seen as having reasons of its own besides sexual reason, people who don’t want to see sexual acts between two characters of the same sex won’t, they will just see the vampires drinking blood to stay alive or to make more vampires.  This fact helps with the book’s acceptance, because it makes it more socially acceptable to a wider range of people.  It can be seen as ‘just another vampire book’ when really it is actually very risqué if you understand the connections between the fluid exchange and sex.

Works Cited

Stoker, Bram, Nina Auerbach, and David J. Skal. Dracula. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. Print.

Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. New York, NY: Ballantine, 1997. Print.

Course Review

Friday, December 17, 2010

I have understood the depth of blood drinking and what it represents.  Before this class, I saw it as only a method for the vampires to continue to live.  A necessary evil.  After this class, I now see how it can be taken in a more sensual manner.  Another thing I learned is the fact that ‘normal’ humans react so strongly to them in novels because they are different.  They are seen as threatening and people seek to destroy them, even if they are not really evil.  (An example would be Louis.  He is not evil, as he feels guilt over every kill he has to perform). 
I have developed a deeper appreciation for novels.  After having to analyze novels for this class, it is kind of impossible not to.  I think from now on I will always look deeper than the surface when reading novels, and try to figure out the underlying themes of the books.  I have definitely evolved me as a reader because of this.   I think I have also evolved as a writer during this course because of the fact that everyone has access to read what I write, so that pushes me to write better than I otherwise might have.
The novel that had the greatest effect of me was Interview with the Vampire.  It showed a different side to vampires.  Instead of previous novels where vampires were observed by the narrator, this novel actually put you in the shoes of the vampire.  You see what they are actually feeling, and how guilty Louis feels about his whole situation.  It’s a different aspect that what you normally get from vampire novels.
I actually really enjoyed the blog form of this class.  I was iffy about it in the beginning, but I came to like having my own blog in a neat little website.  It’s preferable to me than having everyone’s posts all mixed together.  And I like that you can pick and choose which classmate you want to respond to. 
Some posters that stuck out to me are Emily and Andrew.  I felt their posts were always very well thought out and introduced new ideas to the reading that I had not previously thought of.  I enjoyed reading their posts because it made me think, instead of telling me something I already knew.

Let The Right One In; Part 2

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hakan can easily be perceived as the worst character in this novel.  He is a pedophile and he kills young boys.  In the novel, it states 

Someone who worked at the post office and who lived in the area had tipped off the other neighbors about what kind of mail, what kind of videos he received.  It took about a month before he was fired from his job at the school.  You couldn’t have someone like that working with children.  […] He hadn’t actually done anything at the school; he wasn’t that stupid.  […]  In his drunken stupor he became careless, fondled young boys, got beaten up, ended up at the police station.  Once he sat in jail for three days and puked his guts out. Was released. Kept drinking. (Page 214-215).

This portrayal of Hakan paints him as one of the worst types of people, a drunken man who steals a child’s innocence.  

However, he does have some redeemable qualities.  He does not kill anyone until after he meets Eli.  In this sense it seems like Eli is the one stealing his innocence, instead of the other way around.  He actually seems to be resistant to killing people, only doing it because it is what his beloved needs to survive.  In his mind, it seems love triumphs all, even morals.

 He doesn’t see Eli as an object to be used sexually (though he does want that), but instead someone to be cherished and loved.  He never made Eli do anything that she/he does not want to do.  He will take what he can get from her/him, even if it is just laying next to each other.

“Are you . . . hungry?”
Eli turned around again.
“I’ll do it for you. But I want something in return.”
“What is it?”
“One night. All I want is one night.”
“Can I have that?”
“Lie next to you? Touch you?”
“Yes.” (Page 110)

It is interesting that Hakan does not see Eli as he sees other children.  He almost looks to her to take care of him, because she got him out of the situation he was in previously; the drunkenness and being taken to the police station.  

One evening when Hakan was sitting on a bench next to a playground with a bottle of half-yeasted wine in a plastic bag, Eli came and sat down beside him.  In his drunkenness Hakan had almost immediately put a hand on Eli’s thigh.  Eli had let it stay there, taking Hakan’s head between her hands, turned it toward her, and said: “You are going to be with me.”
Hakan had mumbled something about how he couldn’t afford such a beauty right now but when his finances allowed . . .
Eli had moved his hand from her thigh, leaned down, and taken his wine bottle, poured it out and said: “You don’t understand. You’re going to stop drinking now. You are going to be with me. You are going to help me. I need you. And I’m going to help you.” Then Eli had held out her hand, Hakan had taken it, and they had walked away together. (Page 215)

It is almost sad to see this, as we know that Eli is manipulating Hakan using his love for her.  She/he knows that Hakan will do anything for her and anything to keep her alive, even if it means taking another person’s life.  It seems almost tragic because all he wants is for Eli to love him, yet she doesn’t.  She/he is everything he wants, yet he cannot fully have that, and it is apparent to him every day.  More so when Oskar enters the picture.  Is it really so hard to imagine that one would get jealous in this situation? If you take the ages away, you basically have unrequited love and using someone’s feelings to manipulate them. 

Let The Right One In

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

                To have a brand new city, means to rob it of any history.  Every city had to have a start at some point but it is still strange to think of a completely new area, in a place where nothing was previously.  Blackeberg is one such location. 
                The fact that it has no history to it makes it seem like a one dimensional place.  There is nothing for children to even learn about the area in which they live.  “At school, the children didn’t get to do any special projects on Blackeberg’s history because there wasn’t one.  That is to say, there was something about an old mill.  A tobacco king.  Some strange old buildings down by the water.  But that was a long time ago and without any connection to the present.” (Page 2).  The way the city is described is even one dimensional.  It seems like it could be any city, anywhere.  There is nothing that makes it special, or makes it stand out.  “There was a town center.  There were spacious playgrounds allotted to children.  Large green spaces around the corner.  There were many pedestrian only walking paths.” (Page 2).  The fact that there are no special features about this area makes it seem that it could really be anywhere.  And that the events that happened here could happen anywhere. 
                It seems that Lindqvist is making a statement about how the modernity of a place is less than desirable.  It robs a place of character.  The fact that the events of this book happened here, instead of somewhere else, also makes a point on how a modern place is undesirable.  “It explains in part how unprepared they were.” (Page2).  It seems that the author is saying that because something is new, we as a society have a hard time believing that anything bad would happen there.  However, this is never the case, because bad things happen everywhere, indiscriminately.
It seems worthwhile to note that Eli also seems without a past.  She just appeared next door to Oskar one day, without even indication that she lived there.  “Five surnames neatly spelled out in plastic letters.  One live was empty.  The name that had stood there before, HELLBERG, had been there so long you could real it from the dark contours left against a sun-bleached background.  But no new letters, not even a note.” (Page 46).  It’s interesting that we have two things without a past.  The town, and Eli herself.  We even know some of the past of Hakan, or at least a hint of it.  “That was one of the things that had gone wrong in Norrkoping.  Someone had remembered the brand name on the bag, and then the police had found it in the garbage container where he had tossed it, not far from their apartment.” (Page 12).   However, instead of being one dimensional like the town, Eli is full of mystery.  We want to know where she is from, what happened to her, her past, etc.  The flat town seems a perfect setting for her character, as it makes her more mysterious than if it had been in a town rich with history.