The Guardian has an interesting #readinggroup topic this month about vampires and this article poses an interesting question:
So what does it mean when we get to Twilight, and this time it is the vampire rather than poor old Harker who can’t touch his beloved? What does it say about our society that so many teenagers read a book telling them to resist their natural urges – and yet whose central vampire is repeatedly portrayed as “dazzling” and likened to a Greek God?
Vampires through the ages, as the article points out, have served different purpose in literature and been portrait quite differently. Each generation seems to be able to renew the old buggers and somehow make them their own.
So when you put Edward Cullen up against the giant Count Dracula himself Edward pales somewhat in comparison (pardon the pun). Because while Dracula seems to be one of a kind and have within him an essence of horror Edward Cullen is a lost boy trying to be and do good.
That’s not new. Anne Rice’s Louie survived on rats periodically (Interview with the Vampire was published in 1976) and like Cullen he did not like the creature he had become. Both on the other hand live in a world where vampires are and do evil.
So Edward Cullen, as Louie before him, is the odd man out. In Cullen’s case it’s the whole family that’s turned into “vegetarians”. So while Dracula seems to be a rare example of his species, he is true to his nature, Edward Cullen is one of many and the odd man out. The Cullen family’s attempt to stay away from human blood while very un-vampiric, seems to be the new thing with vampires. They fight the nature within themselves that is evil and unlike Louie the Cullen family is somewhat successful.
While Count Dracula is a story about the danger of the unknown and the outsider as evil the third element can’t be ignored and he seems to share this with Edward Cullen. This is the element of premarital sex.
It’s lengthy to go into the sexual symbolism in Dracula but Dracula seduces his women and if we agree that the bite symbolizes sex then he leads the women astray and that turns them into monsters (and/or has them killed).
So what does it mean when it’s the vampire that can’t touch his beloved?
The Twilight Series is a love story (unlike Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The boy in love tries all he can to fight his urges and not do his beloved harm. In the heat of the moment he is afraid that he’ll do Bella harm and therefore they stay away from each other – until after they are married.
So essentially the two stories seem to be preaching the same “morale” although in different fashion. Edward is is the dazzling Greek god because he is the perfect gentleman and not despite it. His charm lies in the fact that he (unlike Dracula) denies his nature and is willing to wait for the one he loves.
Dracula takes what he wants and the women suffer for it (or learn their lesson the hard way). So while Edward Cullen and Count Dracula are frightfully different the stories seem to point in the same direction. Stay away from sex until you’re married, otherwise you’ll get into trouble.
What returning to these Victorian principles says about our society I will leave for others to discuss but I think I prefer the existential agony of Louie.