Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am Legend Pt 1

I thought that the beginning of this book was very interesting. In my blog this week I would like to discuss the differences of the vampires in this novel compared to the ones in “Dracula”. First off Robert Neville talks about the things he uses to keep the vampires away from his home. on on page 14 garlic is brought up as a defense, “He’d put garlic there instead. Garlic always worked.” This is similar to how Van Helsing used garlic in “Dracula.” “He punched holes in each clove half, then strung them all together with wire till he had 25 necklaces (pg 15).” In “Dracula” Van Helsing would make similar necklaces of garlic for Lucy to wear whie she slept to keep the count away from her. Robert Neville then brings up the myth of mirrors and being able to turn into a bat and fly. “According to the legend, they were invisible in mirrors, but he knew this was untrue. As untrue as the belief that they transformed themselves into bats (pg 28).” This contradicts two things that were shown in “Dracula.” When Dracula comes behind Jonathan who is looking in a mirror, he cannot see Dracula, but in “I am Legend” the vampires are scared of mirrors and break them with stones. Dracula also turns into a bat and flew into Lucy’s window and would bash his wings against it to wake her to open the window. It is also funny that later in “I am Legend” Robert Neville describes a vampire that is trying to jump off a roof because he thinks he will turn into a bat. Another thing that is brought up is the idea of the cross. While in “I am Legend,” the cross affects Christians but Neville also says, “‘Why should a Jew fear the cross?’ He said. ‘Why should a vampire who had been a Jew fear it? Most people were afraid of becoming vampires. Most of them suffer from hysterical blindness before mirrors. But as far as the cross goes—well, neither a Jew nor a Hindu nor a Mohammedan nor an atheist, for that matter, would fear the cross.’” So in “ Dracula” the cross just effects every vampire but in “I am Legend” you have to use the symbol of the religion for it to effect the vampire. Neville also talks about how to kill vampires. Throughout the start of this book he tries to think of the reason why the stake works. He has many different logics that he comes up with. The first one is hemorrhage. However, there is just some feeling that he has that tells him it is more than that. He first starts to talk about the myth of having to stake a vampire through the heart. He says, “At first I thought the stake had to hit their hearts,…I believed the legend. I found out that wasn’t so. I put stakes in all parts of their bodies and they died. That made me think it was hemorrhage. But then one day…I k new it couldn’t be hemorrhage…I didn’t know what to do. Then one day it came to me… the bacillus is a facultative saprophyte. It lives with or without oxygen; but with a difference. Inside the system, it is anaerobic and sets up symbiosis with the system. The vampire feeds it fresh blood. The germ also causes, I might add, the growth of canine teeth.(pg 144-145).”  So basically Neville is explaining that the oxygen that hits the vampire’s blood is what makes it decompose. Another thing in this quote I want to touch on is that the germ causing canine teeth. This idea is similar to that in “Dracula” when Lucy transforms into a vampire her teeth begin to grow and sharpen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dracula Pt 2

The fact that Arata claims, “All the novel’s vampires are distinguished by their robust health and their equally robust fertility. The vampire serves, then, to highlight the alarming decline among the British, since the undead are, paradoxically, both ‘healthier’ and more ‘fertile’ than the living (pg 466)” I think is very interesting. I want to look first at where he says “robust health.” I guess I agree with that because vampires never get sick or even really injured. Also they are very hard to kill or get rid of. In “Dracula” the only way to get rid of a vampire is to put a stake through their heart and then cut their head off. In the novel they talk about the reason that all these things are necessary is so that the vampire cannot put itself back together and reincarnate.

I believe that when Arata talks about fertility he is referring to sexuality. In “Dracula” when Lucy begins to turn into a vampire she begins to become more beautiful. Another thing that I can think relates to sexuality is when Madam Mina would go into a trance and start serving people. I think that the reason this could be taking as sexual is because a woman who waits on men and takes care of them is, for the most part, desirable. It may not be one hundred percent true today, but when “Dracula” was written I think that this was very important to people. Another thing in “Dracula” that I think can be related to sexuality is how and when Dracula preys on his victims. For the most part, especially with Madam Mina, he entered her room while she was sleeping and then would the drink from her. For example, “Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw we all recognized the Count—in every way, even to the scar on his forehead. With his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast which was shown by his torn-open dress (pg 247).” I think that the sharing of bodily fluids such as blood is a very sexual act. Something that actually relates to the idea about fertility is how a vampire can ‘reproduce.’ Pretty much all Dracula had to do to make a new vampire is to drink the person’s blood several times until their blood is gone. I think that this shows that a vampire’s mode of reproduction is better than a human’s. I say this because during the time “Dracula” was written some women died during child birth. So in a sense when one life is created another one is taken. But in the vampire sense there is no risk during reproduction.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dracula pt. 1

When I think of Dracula I think of him as the “poster child” for Vampires. While reading the first half of Dracula I wanted to show the different points that show the classic vampire look. On page 13 when a woman from the village finds out that Jonathan is headed to Dracula’s castle she, “taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me…I suppose, the doubt in my face, for she put the rosary around my neck, and said, ‘For your mother’s sake,’…Whether it is the old lady’s fear, or the many ghostly traditions of this place, or the crucifix itself.” This shows the superstition that vampires cannot look at or touch crucifixes which go along with the idea that vampires cannot go inside a church. When Jonathan meets Dracula for the first time on page 22 there are more vampire qualities. “Holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed as cold as ice.” Vampires having super-strength and being ice-cold are still very common in modern vampire stories. Also Dracula then goes on to lie and say, “but I have dined already, and I do not sup (pg 23).” And also, “he did not smoke (pg 23).” So not eating/smoking is a sure sign of a vampire even a modern one. Then on page 24 when Dracula and Jonathan are going to bed Dracula says, “I have to be away till the afternoon.” And as people know vampires sleep all day and walk at night. However some modern vampires are defying it, it still, for the most part, is true. What I think that was really creepy was when Dracula came up behind Jonathan and, “There was no reflection of him in the mirror (pg 31)!” And then after Jonathan was startled, “I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for thre fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there (pg 31).” This goes back to at the beginning of the blog where I talk about the myth that crucifixes are poison to vampires and this here proves that to be true in Dracula.  The on page 42 Jonathan realizes, “they threw no shadow on the floor.” Again another myth very similar to the idea that the  cast no reflection in mirrors. Then after Jonathan becomes suspicious of Dracula and begins to wander the castle he finds, “There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count (pg 50)!” Again another myth that vampires sleep in the ground or coffins which in most modern vampire stories is still true. And the last superstition that I want to discuss is the idea that vampires also turn into bats. This was first brought up on page 90 in Mina’s journal and continued on in Lucy’s life. So do you think that Dracula is the “poster child” of vampires? Or do you think that everything in Dracula, all the ideas about vampires, comes from a collection of stories prior to this one?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carmilla; Literary Criticism

Carmilla is a short story about a girl name Laura who gets attacked, without her knowing, by a vampire. A girl named Carmilla pretended to get injured in a carriage accident and asked Laura’s father to take her in. Carmilla then used her “charm” on Laura and they fell in love. At night, Carmilla would sneak into Laura’s bedroom and drink from her. Carmilla was finally found out by men and then staked and burned. This story is a classic lesbian vampire novel written in 1872. Tamar Heller wrote a literary criticism about it entitled The Vampire in the House: Hysteria, Female Sexuality, and Female Knowledge. I believe that the title “The Vampire in the House” is a perfect fit for Carmilla. Laura and her father obviously did not know of the vampire and that is why she was allowed in the house.
            In the literary criticism the author states,
While the episode from Laura’s childhood thus suggests she knows too much too soon about sexuality, the behavior of the adults to whom she relates her experience reveals their anxiety about this knowledge. The nervous reaction of Laura’s nurses and father, through ostensibly to a supernatural menace, recalls the reaction of Victorian doctors to the notion that young girls might have sexual feelings: they deny that anything could have happened while, at the same time, betraying a fear the very worst has (83).
First off, I believe the episode form Laura’s childhood that they are talking about was when she first saw Carmilla in the middle of the night. The reason that her nurses and father were so nervous was because that the supernatural reason why Laura was becoming so sick was true. The doctor came in and asked Carmilla to show him where she felt the ‘bite’ and when she did he saw a blue dot about the size of the tip of her finger. I honestly do not know how this did not throw up a big red flag but maybe it was because in these days vampires we not common so they did not know exactly what to look for.  I think that even though the doctor told Laura’s father that she would be ok he was still a little worried that something more was wrong. It was not until the General came and told Laura’s father what had happened to his daughter who had recently passed away. He told her a story about a girl named Millarca and her mother that he had met at a ball. The mother had asked him to keep Millarca for a little while. The Generals daughter became very fond of just like Laura was of Carmilla. After a little more talking Laura’s father and the general realized that Carmilla and were the same person.
            Another idea that Tamar Heller touches on is the fact that Carmilla does not eat. It says,
Carmilla epitomizes the nineteenth-century female invalid. ‘[V]ery languid’ in her movements (290), she sleeps late, does not eat, and can scarcely walk several steps before becoming completely exhausted. In not eating, the ‘slender’ (290) Carmilla is like the ‘fasting girls’ whom Joan Brumberg has discussed in her study of the history of anorexia, a condition which resembled hysteria and which was identified as a distinctive syndrome in 1873, the year after ‘Carmilla’ was published. Yet some nineteenth-century physicians read anorexia as evidence, not of the denial of desire, but of its pathological expression; Philippe Pinel, head of the Salpetriere, claimed that in his anorexic female patients periods of starvation alternated with ‘nymphomania’ and the ‘impulse toward frantic desires (80-81).’
When I read that they are almost saying that Carmilla was anorexic really makes me think. Was she? I mean I know she did not eat real food but she did drink blood. And while reading the story I did not see Carmilla as someone who was weak. Hysterical probably but she still had powers because she could influence Laura into being attracted to her. Are they just using Carmilla as a way to show that thin girls are not right and that they are hysterical?
            Tamar Heller later elaborates on the topic of Carmilla’s influence. “What Laura is saying, in other words, is that she did not know what was happening to her while it was happening. Carmilla’s influence, like a clandestinely administered cup of opium, is ‘unsuspected (85).’” I think that this is just stating the obvious. I mean would Laura really have let Carmilla suck her blood if she knew it was happening? Probably not. If we look at the phrase “clandestinely administered cup of opium” we see that this means that Carmilla is being able to do this to Laura and is not even suspected of anything until the General comes and reveals her true self. I also think that the reason that Carmilla chose another female to influence was also symbolic. I think that they are trying to show that women can be dominant and the fact that she is a lesbian just adds to that. It is, in the time this was written, two uncommon things.
            Towards the end of the criticism they talk about how the killed Carmilla. It was almost like the authorites created a rape-like surgery on her. Is this symbolic of something? Do you think that this goes back to the idea that Carmilla is anorexic and hysteric? Maybe they are trying to make a point saying this is what happens to people who do things like this. “The body, therefore, in accordance with ancient practice, was raised, and a sharp stake driven through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a piercing shriek….Then the head was struck off, and a torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck (89).” I think this was a gesture made to make a point about vampirism. I think that by pointing out the part about “in accordance with ancient practice” they are saying that this has happened before and we know how to handle it. But do they? It took them too long to figure out what was happening to Laura even though they say the marks on her neck.

Hellar, Tamar. The Vampire In The House: Hysteria, Female Sexuality, and Female        
Knowledge in Le Fanu's "Carmilla" (1872). Article
Le Fanu, Sheridan. "Carmilla." In A Glass Darkly. New York: Oxford UP, 1872. 243
319. Print.