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The New Vampire: Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire

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Essay title: The New Vampire: Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire

The vampire has been a mysterious and enticing figure since its entrance into popular culture, usually regarded as the tale Dracula written in 1897 by Bram Stoker. Stoker, and later Anne Rice, as well as many other writers and directors have capitalized on the fascination the public has with these dark creatures of the night. Whether they are in books or on the big screen vampires capture our imagination, tantalizing us with a taste of the darker side of life. But if vampires are so dark and so different than we are, is that what makes them so fascinating? Is it because they symbolize the forbidden? Is it because they resemble humans, but act nothing like them? Or is it because we all have a fascination with things that we don't understand? My aim is to find out why they have entered the mainstream consciousness and how they have managed to have such a successful, and seemingly unending run.

In order to analyze the transition of vampire, we must look at the idea of the vampire as portrayed in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The vampire is seen as a foreigner: someone much removed from society who makes no attempt to fit in. His accent, dress, home and manner suggest that he is in no way human, and he is very much a cold, evil character that could not be seen in any other way. We cannot identify with him, nor are we supposed to even want to. Wood refers to these characteristic depictions as “the obsolete codes” which show “humans as heroes, the vampire as enemy; humans as comrades, the vampire as loner; virtue as a human trait, evil as inhuman; humans as Christian, vampires as Satanic.” (60) However, some do credit Stoker with the introduction of the new vampire. Surely the characters in Dracula follow this stereotype of good and evil being completely distinct from each other.

Prior to the 1931 film Dracula the stereotypical vampire was presented as “an ancient, decaying, walking corpse with distorted features, razor-sharp fangs, and extended fingers”. (Reep, Ceccio, Francis 124) After Bela Lugosi's performance in the 1931 film version, the vampire became middle aged, extremely pale, and of some aristocratic descent, usually with a horrible accent; think “Ay vant to sack yor blud!” and you're on the right track. This vampire lived in some derelict castle, or dark dank quarters, sleeping in a coffin amidst cobwebs and spiders. He lived a solitary existence, and was not given any sort of redeeming qualities that would make the reader or viewer sympathize with him. (Reep, Ceccio, Francis 124)

The introduction of Anne Rice's novel Interview with the Vampire, however, changed all of that. By changing the mythology of the vampire she “has modernized the nature of the vampires; no longer simple or single-minded personifications of evil, her blood-drinkers are fully realized characters who sensibly confront the problems of their lives.” (Wood 60) Vampires suddenly seem much more human, much more realistic, and much more accessible.

There are several distinctions between the traditional vampire and the modern vampire. While Wood points out that these new vampires are aristocratic, blood-thirsty and nocturnal, just like their predecessors, that is basically where the similarities end. Rice's vampires do not transform into other creatures. They do not prey solely on virginal women in the night.(Wood 60) Her male vampires are as fashionable as the earlier vampires, but are also young, handsome, and passionate, living in luxury and – for the most part – delighting in their vampiric nature and immortality. Probably the most profound and important change though was that “Rice told the story from the vampire's point of view, making her vampires not only sympathetic but also glamorous and exciting.”(Reep, Ceccio, Francis 125) In another departure from traditional middle-aged male vampire, Rice created Claudia, a child vampire – both beautiful and intensely horrible at the same time. And much unlike the mob chasing down Count Dracula, Rice's vampires are not vanquished by normal humans; her vampires thrive in their own nocturnal world, facing little threat from the mere mortals who appeared in her novel as secondary characters and mostly a convenient meal. (Reep, Ceccio, Francis 125)

Along with this change in the vampire itself comes a change in the narrative. Instead of the vampire being merely a creature within the story, the no-question-about-it outside antagonist who must be defeated, the vampire is now the center of the story. Anne Rice's vampires become our narrators; but more than that, they become the protagonists. They are no longer set completely apart from humankind. They talk like humans, dress like humans, look like humans (at least in the dark of night anyway) and act like humans. In fact, Louis and Lestat in particular

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