Anne Rice: Dracula in a Mirror Darkly

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” (Stoker 25). This is one of Dracula’s first comments to Johnathan Harker, provoking unease from the Englishman. However, from a non-Vitorian perspective, there is nothing inherently evil about Dracula’s wistful appreciation of the wolves’ wild beauty. In her article “Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror,” Carol A. Senf alleges that the epistolary format of the novel unfairly maligns its titular vampire, giving too much responsibility to the biased Victorian narrators. “The problem, however, is that these perfectly ordinary people are confronted with the extraordinary character of Dracula… [Stoker] adds a number of humanizing touches to make Dracula appear noble and vulnerable as well as demonic and threatening; and it becomes difficult to determine whether he is a hideous bloodsucker whose touch breeds death or a lonely and silent figure who is hunted and persecuted” (Senf 424). Almost in answer to Senf’s concerns are the works of Anne Rice: Interview with a Vampire and its sequel The Vampire Lestat. The format of the first book directly opposes Dracula’s structure, as it is framed as an interview from the vampire’s point of view, one that the vampire himself acknowledges as an opportunity that he desperately needs.

People are good at inventing their own forms of evil. As Rice’s more self-aware vampire describes his irritation at a priest’s “’immediate and shallow carping about the devil; his refusal to even entertain the idea that sanctity had passed so close,’” he points out that, “‘People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil.,’” because, ‘”Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult’” (Interview 13). To Van Helsing, bastion of civilization, Dracula is most valuable as a surmountable symbol of the evil that must be hunted. Rather than putting energy into masking and policing their own desires, “Becoming like Dracula, they too would be laws unto themselves—primitive, violent, irrational—with nothing to justify their actions except the force of their desires. No longer would they need to rationalize their ‘preying on the bodies and souls of their loved ones’ by concealing their lust for power under the rubric of religion, their love of violence under the names of imperialism and progress, their sexual desires within an elaborate courtship ritual.” (Senf 428) Best of all, the opposing force of Dracula’s greater Ultimate Evil validates the “lesser evil” that the team hunting Dracula falls victim to. Dracula then becomes purely evil in the narrative because that is what the narrators require from him. Johnathan quickly forgets Dracula’s sad, quite assertion that “’I, too, can love’” (Stoker 46); he learns to ignore any evidence of a soul.

Rice’s contribution flips the script and forces the narrative to truly follow and learn about the vampire. The darkness and foreignness that the vampire inherently represents cannot be pushed to the side. Even narrator of Rice’s Interview with the Vampire has a distinct accent which the interviewer placed but couldn’t mark (Interview 5). Even after centuries, the vampire is still the eternal wanderer, or as Dracula puts it, the eternal stranger: “’Well I know, that did I move and speak in your London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger… a stranger in a strange land, he is no one; men know him not—and to know not is to care not for”’” (Stoker 27). And despite Johnathan’s reassurance that Dracula “’speak[s] English excellently!’” his first assessment of Dracula’s accent is to record the impression: “excellent English, but with a strange intonation,” (Stoker 22), revealing that he does indeed consciously mark Dracula’s otherness. As an outsider, these characters can safely be eternally shunned, as Lestat describes: “’You sense my loneliness… my bitterness at being shut out of life. My bitterness that I’m evil, that I don’t deserve to be loved and yet I need love hungrily. My horror that I can never reveal myself to mortals’” (The 310). This speech does not describe someone who is evil: it describes someone who has been told that he is evil. He believes himself to be evil, unworthy of love, and unable to connect with humanity, and yet his desire for love and bitterness at being shut out proves the opposite. He is still just as much a person. He, too, can love.

One thought on “Anne Rice: Dracula in a Mirror Darkly”

  1. One interesting aspect brought up by this comparison between Dracula and Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is the idea of the otherness. Both novels seem to explore the idea of the vampire as a figure who doesn’t belong. The vampires in Rice’s world are not inherently evil, but rather they struggle to find a place in society that will accept them for who they are. As we discussed in class, Dracula can be seen as a reflection of the fin de siècle’s fear of the other; the novel portrays him as a foreigner who threatens the stability and order of British society. However, the novel also complicates this portrayal, as Dracula is not simply a one-dimensional villain, but a complex character with his own desires and motivations. By contrast, Rice’s work challenges the notion of the other as a threat, and instead presents the vampire as a misunderstood and marginalized group that deserves acceptance and compassion.

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