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The Savage and the Gentleman: A Comparative Analysis of Two Vampire Characters in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat
Växjö University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Humanities.
2000 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The creatures known as vampires have inspired authors for several hundred years. These beings are stereotypically described as belonging to a “nocturnal species” who live “in shadows” and drink “our lives in secrecy” (Auerbach 1). However, they have by now appeared so often in literary works, and in so many different shapes and sizes, that they are much too nuanced to be called ‘stereotypes.’

This essay will make a historical comparison between two fictional vampires, one hundred years apart, in order to show that a change has taken place when it comes to how vampires as fictional characters have been portrayed in terms of their appearance, their psychology, and their roles in society. The first novel chosen is, for obvious reasons, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was written at the turn of the nineteenth century by a male author and is probably the first novel that comes into mind when the word vampire is mentioned. The second novel, The Vampire Lestat, was written almost a century later, in 1986, by a female author, who, to readers of vampire fiction, is a worthy successor of Stoker. Her name is Anne Rice, best known for her debut novel Interview with the Vampire (1976).

The two novels are naturally chosen because of their similarities, but perhaps even more so because of their differences. Dracula is a typically Victorian Gothic novel, which is set in the remote mountains of Transylvania, and in the modern capital London, contemporary to when the novel was published. It is written in epistolary form but never allows for the main character, Count Dracula, to defend or explain himself and his actions in a first-person narrative.

The Vampire Lestat, on the other hand, is a Neo-Gothic novel that focus less on conventional Gothic elements, for example gloomy settings, and more on the psychological aspects of what it is like to actually be a vampire. Unlike Dracula, it is the main character’s fictional autobiography in which he recalls his life in France, his transformation into a vampire, and his current career in the United States as a famous rock star. Nina Auerbach calls it “a series of temporal regressions in which Lestat . . . embarks on a backward quest out of the knowable world” (172).

Both novels used in this analysis are thus part of the Gothic genre, one being a Victorian Gothic and the other Neo-Gothic, but there are significant differences between the two. I will investigate how these differences reveal themselves when it comes to setting and plot. However, the novels are similar in that they present two male vampires who belong to the nobility and have lived on through the centuries. The vampires both want to be where the power is, which means, in the case of Stoker’s Dracula, that he tries to conquer nineteenth-century London and seduce a young intelligent woman named Mina. Lestat, on the other hand, wants to become a famous twentieth-century rock star in the United States and simply have a good time while being a vampire (Auerbach 6).

The aim of this essay is to investigate what is typical of the genres that the two novels belong to and determine what has changed in the vampires’ physical appearance, their manners and their ability to adapt to modern society. In the first section of the essay I will give a description of the typical elements of the Gothic and the Neo-Gothic genres and then compare them in order to make a generic description of the two novels, Dracula and The Vampire Lestat. Vampire fiction will be treated as a sub-genre to the Gothic genre. In the succeeding two sections I will make comparative analyses of the two novels, particularly of the main characters, in order to describe the similarities and differences between the two and study how the vampire character has changed during the last century. Much of the discussion, especially regarding Dracula, will be based on Cesare Lombroso’s concept of the ‘criminal man,’ and various modern scholars’ opinion that the vampire is seen as an outcast and a threat to society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2000. , p. 24
Keywords [en]
vampire, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Lestat, Dracula, Lombroso, Gothic Fiction, Neo-Gothic Fiction
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URN: urn:nbn:se:vxu:diva-535OAI: oai:DiVA.org:vxu-535DiVA, id: diva2:206843
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humaniora/teologi
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Available from: 2000-12-01 Created: 2000-12-01 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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