University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
How Vampirism Is Depicted in Dracula by Stoker and I Am a Legend by Richard Matheson
Vampires are creatures that are believed to feed on flesh blood of living things and especially human beings. From the novels, vampires evolved from dead human beings and came back to life with more powers than them making them super humans. To understand vampires’ evolution, different myths were developed across the world. Ancient Persia recorded their first history as most Greek and Roman myths tried to expound further on their evolution. In the history recordings, vampires were depicted as huge creatures who struggled with human beings to feed on their blood. They further differed with human being in that; they could not age or contract diseases. Their immunity to diseases prevented them infections from human beings when they fed on their flesh and blood. Although many history recordings argued on traditional history, there existed some modern vampires that first appeared in Europe. In contrast, myths also recorded a different category of vampires whose origin was not from dead human beings but with temporal incarnation between humans and vampire. This category included blood thirsty goddesses, who were classified as Stinges, Lamiae and Empusae that fed on blood occasionally.
Vampirism can be defined as the act of feeding on flesh and blood of living things other than vampires. When feeding the blood of human beings, vampires bite the victims’ neck sucking out large volumes of blood. Through neck biting, they are able to injure the carotid artery, which is the major artery that transports blood to the brain hence paralyzing the victim and sucking the whole blood. Vampirism is regarded as a belief of one gaining supernatural powers and feeding on human beings blood in the folklore and popular culture.
Stoker tried to expound on vampires by using them as characters in his book Dracula. In this book, Dracula, who is a vampire, is the main character. The author explained how the vampire had lived for many years, which was atypical for a normal human being. Similarly, Richard Matheson book was dominated by vampires who were created by infusion of viruses. Although people could be infected with vampirism virus, Matheson brings out the nature of immunity where one of his characters Robert Neville never contracted vampirism despite being infected. He was immune to the virus though he had unique human characteristics such as blond hair and blue eyes. Matheson described Neville as an educated medical researcher who concentrated on the research on vampirism only to find out that his blood was infected though immune to the virus.
Vampires in the Text
Stoker used different vampire characters to construct his book story. Dracula, the most dominant vampire in the story was described as the king by other characters such as Van Heslin. He was very powerful and he could control nature as well as living creatures such as wild animals. In addition, Dracula has the ability to incarnate to a bat, werewolf and change his victims into vampires through infections. His ability to hypnotize his victims gave him control over them and avoided being hurt by others. Despite his powerful nature, Dracula had a number of weaknesses as described herein. His powers were limited by reflecting him on reflective objects such as mirrors. This was evidenced when Jonathan tried to reflect his image on a shaving mirror. He lost his powers and became weak to the extent of being controlled by another person. Stoker emphasized in his book, despite the weakness, it was hard to fully destroy Dracula. More weaknesses emerged as holy symbols and garlic repelled him and his sleep was on the fate of ancestors and the native land. He did not have ability to cross river, which water was following unless supported my men or the luck of the water. This showed how he could be controlled or destroyed in cases he became so dangerous.
Matheson classified vampires in two categories, which included the dead and the living ones. Similarly, as Stokers described, he depicts vampires as being repulsive to garlic and holy symbols. For example, Christian vampires feared the cross as it was a sign of holiness. Matheson explained how Neville destroyed vampires by exposing them to sunlight, inflicting large wounds and staking them with wooden spike.
Comparison between the Two Works
Both authors acknowledged garlic and religious symbols as repellant to vampires. For example, Ruth recoiled violently when Neville handed garlic over her in Matheson book and Dracula when dining with Jonathan avoided feeding on garlic. In both texts, vampires relied on flesh and blood as their main food that strengthened them. For example, Dracula in the first paragraph almost attacks Jonathan when he cuts himself. Vampires are depicted feeding on blood by Matheson and he uses the phrase blood thirst to emphasize on their need of blood.
Superstition is also another theme that was described in both books. Stocker explained how Van Helsing and Seward followed the garlic superstitions from the old country where they were believed to ward off spirits by protecting themselves by them. Religious symbols such as bread and cross represented Christ and his Body (stoker 123). Despite Neville’s ability to destroy vampires, he still used garlic to protect himself strengthening the theme of superstitions in the text. Both authors described vampirism as contagious from vampires to normal people. People who survived attack by vampires were infected through bites and insects. For example, Neville was infected by vampirism and his immune ability prevented him from transformation to vampire.
In both books, vampires appeared to be enemies of the normal people. In I Am a Legend, the human race was insignificant as most of them were destroyed and killed by vampires. Moreover, Neville struggles with vampires and kill most of his encounters at nights. Stoker explained how Helsing had lived wanting to conquer and destroy the Dracula and how people continuously warned him and Jonathan against close association with the monster Dracula. The conspiracy, fights, and killings between vampires and the normal human beings is an evidence of enmity between the two races.
In both books, vampires’ body circulations were totally different from those of normal human beings. For example, when Neville killed a woman vampire for research in Matheson’s book, he found that her body contained rows of salt and pepper mixed the same ratios (Matheson 60). Similarly, Stoker explained how vampirism victims could not be transfused with blood from normal people and their fate was solely on supernatural powers to heal them.
On the other hand both books described contrasting characters on vampire and discussed below. Vampires described by Stoker were difficult to destroy and kill and were only destabilized by refection. On contrary, vampires described by Matheson were easily killed by exposure of sunlight and infliction of wound that were staked. According to stoker, vampires were as a result of the work with supernatural evil spirits that were connected to dead. In contrast, Matheson wrote that vampires were created by infusion of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Matheson described the evolution and development of vampires as progressive. That is, they grew from young to strong creatures that mutated at some points and they could spend some times in the sun. Stoker described vampires’ development as retrogressive, growing from old weak creature to young strong creature through feeding of blood. Stoker work was based on religious beliefs and his main aim was to strengthen and restore religious faith in the society. He did this by creating a scenario where vampires who were believed to be evil became afraid of holy symbols and supreme powers.
It was learnt from the text that, vampires feared holy waters and for that reasons people could protect themselves from them. Dracula represented devil and this was expressed more by name of his home in London, Piccadilly. The word appears to be close to the word peccadillo “a slight offence” or sin (Merriam-Webster 530). Matheson work in contrary was not based on spirituality. His entire book denounces the interrelationship between God and humanity as evidenced by Neville when he did not depend on invisible beings when trying to destroy and kill vampires. He was more dependent on his vampire research, which was facilitated by his medical research career. According to science, the reliance on invisible being appears absurd and science does not validate it. In both books, the concepts of vampirism indicate the wickedness of humankind as it is concerned with termination of life and shedding of blood. This is against the societies norms and values and the books were written to address the evils.
Matheson brought out vampires in his book as unique and modified enabling them to be more alluring to the intended target audience. This was contradictory to those in Stoker’s book where they were depicted as monsters of devil’s associates thus attracting believers as the main audience. This would help the believers appreciate the mighty power of God that made devil afraid as evidence by Dracula avoiding religious symbols. On the other hand, the target audiences for Matheson work are mainly non-believers as most of the characters such as Neville were never afraid of super beings or supernatural powers. He uses the assumption that the doctoring of individuals affects what they fear and what they do not (Matheson123). Neville discovered the reflective character of vampires in Matheson book, which was opposed to those described by Stoker (Matheson 16).
In the book, I Am a Legend, Neville searches a scientific cure for vampirism from his blood due to its immunity unique character on vampirism. Although his initial trials to heal vampires had aborted, he continued to search for a solution ceaselessly. Fortunately, he found the cure, which could depress the vampires thirst for blood thus reducing their threats on human beings. This was the not the case in the text of Dracula.
Vampires in both books appear as creatures, societies uphold their beliefs and norms without permitting vampires to despise them. Despite the vampires being hostile to people, they struggled to push the out of the society and denounced their evil deed across the society through eliminating them. Society struggled to push Dracula out of the society but his unnatural power defended him and the society attempts were in vain. Their fear of evil spirits prevented them from his attack and instead hoped for a savior who will come for their help. The society saw Helsing as their savior and their belief in God. He was a well-learned doctor who had an open mind and thus was probable the person to save them (Stoker 109).
The two books targeted the evils in the society by addressing them and trying to bring people closer to a supreme being, God. Perhaps, the society was full of evils at the time of writing and so it was necessary to address the issues through text. It can also be assumed that, people used texts or books to learn most of the things in the societies and thus there was need to use the medium to communicate exclusively to the people. From the fact that Christianity (Church) was evident in the texts, the authors revolved their writings around it acknowledging God as the protector of human race from all sources of evils such as vampires in the book society. The individuals were protected by religious artifacts that was evidenced by possession of religious symbols by Helsing had religious items such as holy waters, which helped to protect the society from evils. Matheson described Neville as having tattoo of a cross which served as vampire repellant thus to some extent having religious beliefs. Not much was explained in the about Christianity and the church.
Some of the people in the society were enlightened and had both scientific knowledge and religious beliefs to deal with the evils associated with the vampires. The authors of the books were skilled and considered perception of the people when writing so that they could be able reach and impact on the people’s ways of life. For a typical author, he or she must be able to understand his or her audience in order to deliver a relevant message and in an appropriate way without provoking them. Matheson and Stoker used this aspect and combined it with the knowledge of vampires and their attitude in the society. The use of vampires in both books was fundamental as they depicted the evils in the modern that are caused by various abnormalities as Matheson explained one of the cause to be the second world war. Therefore, by use of reality and fiction, the authors were able to prove their worthiness in literature and society.
Both books used vampires to deliver their messages to the respective societies. They depicted societies that were full of hostilities and blood spilling between vampires and normal human race. Although the vampires in both books had common characteristics such as feeding on human blood, they exhibited slight differences on their evolution and development. The books attracted varied audiences with Dracula attracting audience of vampires who knew Dracula as the best vampire in history. The books addressed the political views of the time with Stocker in being more concerned on Europe where the church was prominent in the political scene with believers as rulers such kings and queens. In the Matheson book, the issue of the world war was described as politically influenced and depicted how mankind would be swept off on earth by stronger weapons than nuclear if wars were to recur.
Dunnigan, James F. How to Make War. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2003. Print
Matheson, Richard. I am Legend. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1954. Print
Stoker, Bram, and Leonard Wolf, ed. The Annotated Dracula. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. Publisher, 1975. Print