The Vampire in Literature: A Comparison of Stoker’s "Dracula" and Rice’s "Interview with the Vampire"

Bachelor Thesis, 2010

46 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Theories of Stereotypes and Otherness

3. Historical Origin of the Vampire Figure

4. Otherness in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
4.1 Plot Summary
4.2 Body of Vampires
4.3 Behavior of Vampires
4.4 Sexuality
4.5 Power Relationships
4.6 Knowledge

5. Otherness in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire
5.1 Plot Summary
5.2 Body of Vampires
5.3 Behavior of Vampires
5.4 Sexuality
5.5 Aesthetic and Humanized Vampires
5.6 Knowledge

6. Conclusion

Works Cited

German Summary

1. Introduction

Ich hatte damals kein Leben in mir, ich war eine Untote. Ich sehnte mich nach dem Tod und war dem Wahnsinn nahe. Plötzlich war Lestat da, und dieser Vampir erzählte mir alles über Trauer, Schuld und den Verlust von Illusionen. Mit seiner Hilfe konnte ich über die menschliche Existenz nachdenken. Plötzlich fühlte ich mich so lebendig, wie nie zuvor in meinen Leben.

- Anne Rice -

The vampires in media today own romantic and seductive attributes. These are characteristics the ancient vampire in literature, Count Dracula, does not possess. Yet Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1897 laid the foundation for the vampire cult nowadays, despite the fact that some prestigious writers such as Goethe or Byron occupied themselves with the same subject matter before then (Pütz 8)[1].

Approximately one century later, in 1976, Anne Rice published her novel Interview with the Vampire (German: Schule der Vampire, Gespräch mit einem Vampir, Interview mit einem Vampir or also Interview with the Vampire). It was the formerly very famous first novel of The Vampire Chronicles saga. It has been buried to oblivion due to the very successful movie with the same name.[2] Her novels turned the one-sided image of vampires back then upside down because her revenants[3] become decent and live amongst us.

It will become clear in the course of this essay that her protagonists were not the monstrous creatures like in Dracula any more, but beings with feelings and thoughts as well as inner conflicts and problems. The outcome of this paper shows that the portrayal of the literary vampire figure in Stoker’s Dracula differs strongly from the one in Rice Interview with the Vampire. This is especially due to the different perspectives of the two novels. Stoker uses various diary entries, newspaper articles and notes, collected by human beings pursuing and finally destroying the Count, for narrating the story of Dracula. The hybrid form is gained by the collage of these various types of experimental narrative techniques (Lubrich 139). His epistolary novel aims to give the reader the impression of an authentic report about the happened events.

Interview with the Vampire on the contrary was the first novel whose main character Louis experienced his life as human being as well as his changing world as vampire. The novel’s perspective is for the first time reversed: not the vampire hunters are telling the story after they destroyed the revenant, but it is the vampire’s perspective, giving an interview about his life to a human.

Rice creates a world where humans and vampires live next to each other. Her vampires are living undetected amongst the humans and resemble them not only with their bodies, but also with their minds. There is no horror detectable, but amazement and identification with the revenants by the reader. Stoker in contrary sets his story in a place that cannot be found on a map and creates a setting filled with horror where the elements of terror increase through the course of the novel.

In this context, the differentiation of the image constructed of the vampires in the two novels, Dracula by Bram Stoker and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, are looked at. Therefore it is explored which elements are adopted and which ones developed over the time. Moreover, their consequences will be examined.

The following paper is divided into six chapters. Initially, a short overview about theories of vampires will be given. Therefore I use the theories of stereotypes and otherness which are explained in chapter 2. Afterwards, the historic origins of vampires are shortly considered. I explore the origins of the folkloric vampires,[4] their appearance and their reasons to visit the living, as well as the historic figure Bram Stoker used as prototype for his novel, before the theories are applied on the two aforementioned novels.

Subsequently, the paper investigates first Bram Stoker’s Dracula because his gothic novel has been published approximately one century before Interview with the Vampire, afterwards Anne Rice’s novel. Each chapter is divided into five subchapters examining relevant aspects of otherness[5] and stereotypes concerning vampires.

I will give a short overview about the plot of both of the stories. This is particularly important because there exists a huge variety of movies with differing actions about Dracula so that it is necessary to know the original plot created by Bram Stoker. Due to the aforementioned very successful movie, most persons have the plot of the movie of Interview with the Vampire in mind, thus it is likewise crucial to give a short plot summary about the novel by reason of modified scenes and omitted story lines in the movie adaption.

Based on the theories of stereotypes and otherness, I want in this respect expand on relevant attributes in chapter 4 and chapter 5, especially the display of otherness shall be enlarged upon. The two novels are at first compared in the aspect of the body of vampires, their different shape, what defines them as Other, but also what makes them equal and thus Same to humans. The next aspect discussed is the behavior of the revenants. Their different abilities are explained and compared, before I will deal with the sexuality of vampires in the next subchapter. This topic is especially significant, as human beings project their desires and wishes into the literary figure of the vampire. Particularly the Victorian age was shaped by huge moral standards, which only lasted externally and thus projected a huge variety of sexual wishes.

Two subchapters of each story differ. I will focus on the power relationships in Dracula. These relationships contribute to the terror of the novel, especially towards the power of the Count over the two women and the men. The hunters also gain more and more power over Dracula. In Rice’s novel I will deal with the humanization of her protagonists, their aesthetic and the consequent identification of the reader with the characters. Afterwards I will enlarge upon the theme of knowledge in both of the stories. Knowledge finally leads to the destruction of Dracula, as will be seen in that chapter. Yet, it also plays an important role in Interview with the Vampire, as Claudia knows about her entrapment in her body what leads to fatal consequences. Finally, I will give a conclusion about the aforementioned aspects in relation to the theories.

2. Theories of Stereotypes and Otherness

All over the world exist stereotypes. There are national differences as Florack describes in her work Tiefsinnige Deutsche, Frivole Franzosen or typical male and female images in commercials. We encounter national stereotypes very often. The Germans are described as orderly and a bit rigid, whereas the French are famous for their vitality and frivolity (Florack 3). Although these descriptions are of course exaggerated, there is a kernel of truth in these images of other nations. Or maybe not?

Nevertheless, the question arises what exactly stereotypes are and how they emerge, whether they display the truth and whether they are positive or negative. The term stereotype originally comes from the field of printing. In this context, stereotype was aligned to a process with which certain parts of a text could be reproduced. It was only in the year 1922, when a stereotype expressed „verfestigte, schematische, objektiv weitgehend unrichtige Formeln, die entscheidungserleichternde Funktion in Prozessen der Um- und Mitweltbewältigung haben.“ (Herzog 329)

In other words, the term stereotype today is made of certain characteristics and behavior patterns which are attributed to a group of persons, these, above all, reduce the complexity and thus lead to a simplification of reality (Herzog 329). Walter Lippmann even described stereotypes as a kind of “mental shorthand” that should simplify the more and more complex world with its masses of information (qut. in Elliott and Pelzer 26). Hence, coherences could be better defined. Due to this reduction of complexity and extreme simplification, differences between single persons are neglected, the world is binary divided into black and white, good and evil (Elliott and Pelzer 27).

However, it becomes clear that the attributes of a stereotype apply for a whole group. That is also a characteristic that distinguishes a stereotype from a prejudice in a way that prejudices can apply for persons or for whole groups whereas stereotypes only refer to a whole group (Herzog 329). Prejudices are also always negative, while stereotypes can be either negative, positive or even neutral (Herzog 329).

So, stereotypes are a part of our daily life. They are used to simplify the different culture and mentality of a foreign country and enable us to describe the otherness and the foreign. It is incontestable that different cultures vary from each other. But it is much easier to simplify various cultures with means of a stereotypical display. Stereotypes can thus be used like a pattern to process complex information effectively (Femers 42).

Yet, more attributes become clear: the other, the foreign, the unknown. If borders of identity blur, fear and fright is triggered (Schäuble 12). The literary answer of the 18th and 19th century to this development is the fantastic literature[6] with its display of the monstrous, abnormal and unknown (Schäuble 12). In this genre, Schäuble argues, monsters are created who embody the Other, the incomprehensible, frightening and threatening because of the blurring of borders between the known and unknown, the normal and the diverging, between Self and Other. These borders become stressed, even violated (Schäuble 13). The literature struggles since the ancient Greece with the effort to define the Other and the foreign to make it one’s own and thus comprehensible (Lubrich 9f).

According to Staszak, the term otherness describes

the result of a discursive process by which a dominant in-group (‘Us’, the Self) constructs one or many dominated out-groups (‘Them’, Other) by stigmatizing a difference – real or imagined – presented as a negation of identity and thus a motive for potential discrimination. (Staszak 2)

Thus, individuals have to be classified in two different hierarchical groups: them and us (Staszak 2). The two groups Staszak uses depend on each other. The in-group “embodies the norm” and its “identity is valued”, whereas the other group is “defined by its faults” (Staszak 1). This can lead to a feeling of superiority by the members of the in-group. They are able to impose their categories on the out-group, define them as Other and thus can discriminate its members. The construction of this Other is essential because in that way the in-group can construct the opposition to the other group. Due to that, they are able to isolate themselves from them and give themselves an identity whereas the other group is stereotyped. As Staszak put it nicely: “The Other only exists relative to the Self, and vice versa.” (Staszak 2) This means that we all have an Other, we cannot exist on our own, but are only a part of a whole.

However, apart from Staszak, there exist a lot of different theories and concepts about otherness. Many of the theories explore the fields of ethnicity, class, gender and culture (Lubrich 9). There is no common notion of the Other between the theories, ages and cultures. Said stated, that “each age and society recreates its Others” (Said 332). This statement makes clear that there exists a huge diversity of different concepts, which are not possible to summarize in a paper composed of only limited pages. Consequently, only a short overview about selected theories will be given below.

The concept of the Other usually assumes “the existence of one significant Other for any national Self, and that this Other is usually threatening and negative” (Petersoo 117). Yet, Petersoo himself argues that the Other does not mandatory have to be negative, but can also be positive (Petersoo 117).

Simmel, in contrary to Staszak, defines the stranger representing the Other as someone who is “beyond being far and near”, as “element of the group itself, not unlike the poor and sundry ‘inner enemy’ – an element whose membership within the group involves both being outside it and confronting it” (qut. in Kastoryano 79). In this context, Becker argues that the interactions occurring within and without groups follow “codes, categories and boundaries to identify the included, the excluded, the conformist, and the deviants as Outsiders.” (qut. in Kastoryano 79)

Petersoo even describes otherness, based on Sampson, as dependent on different situations. He states that the Other can also be “an historical event or era, political institution, a specific collective non-national entity, e.g. ‘women, non-western peoples, peoples of colour, people of subordinate social classes, people with different sexual desires’” (Petersoo 119).

Furthermore, Triandafyllidou argues that “the significant Other […]‘serves in overcoming the crisis because it unites the people in front of a common enemy, it reminds them “who we are” and emphasises that “we are different and unique”’” (Triandafyllidou 603). Later on, it is examined how this description fits perfectly to the literary figure of the vampire and how the vampire hunters recognize in Dracula the Other, a common enemy who has to be destroyed. They upraise themselves and their morals over the Other which is in their eyes inferior to them. The literary vampire can be compared to the national concept of otherness, as Triandafyllidou described it: “The national Self is afraid that the external Other is going to ‘challenge the territorial and/or cultural integrity of the nation from “without”’” (Triandafyllidou 603). The hunters around van Helsing are also afraid of Dracula’s blending into society, thus becoming less Other, but more Same and Anne Rice’s vampires seem to have already reached the midst of society.

It becomes obvious that the Other is defined by its difference, mostly by “outward signs like race and gender” (Onbelet ”Imagining the Other”). According to Onbelet, the difference often symbolizes either weakness or strength. Yet,

without the permission from the dominant social group to speak, marginalized people cannot tell their own story, cannot define themselves, but rather, must submit to the descriptions assigned to them by the dominant group. So not only are they robbed of their voice, they are also robbed of their identity, their sense of self, and their sense of value. (Onbelet “Imagining the Other”)

Particularly Stoker’s Dracula is “robbed of his voice”, whereas Louis literarily “tells his own story” in form of an interview.

Evidently, the common thing in all selected theories is the concept of the Other to be seen in relation to the Self. Without the Other, there can be no Self and vice versa. Levinas states that the “ethical relation of love for the other stems from the fact that the self cannot survive by itself alone, cannot find meaning within its own being-in-the-world, within the ontology of sameness.” (Kearney 60)

Palacios even divides theories of the Self in three different frameworks “according to the weight they assign to the process of social determination that society exercises over the subject, and the level (or capacity) of agency they recognize in it” (Palacios 27). Her approaches range from “absolute social determination” to “complete agency”, the Self being either completely determined by its environment or totally acting according to its own will (Palacios 27). She further on differentiates various manifestations of the Other. There can be the ‘deviant’ other where the individuals are badly adapted to society, based on Parson’s theory in which personality, culture and society are assumed as important factors in the process of socialization (Palacios 28). Marx on the contrary defines the Other as ideology with the Other being within the Self; “the thought of someone other than oneself dominates the thoughts/actions of the self” (qut. in Palacios 29). Whereas Marx’ Other does only exist as “inverted consciousness or a state of alienation” (Palacios 29), Michel Foucault makes it possible to look at identities and otherness as discursive and thus power structured constructions (Lubrich 11).

Worth mentioning is also Greenblatt’s dual model about various binary oppositions as reaction to otherness such as “alienation of the other” vs. “alienation of the self”, “otherness” vs. “sameness” or “exclusion” vs. “inclusion” (qut. in Lubrich 15). With the aid of such binary constructions, it is possible to identify and structure otherness (Lubrich 16). Similar to Greenblatt’s approach is the one of Todorov. He divides otherness in two negative types: the first being total differentiation, the second being the complete identification with the Other (Lubrich 17). Consequently, the Other either completely differs from us or is not other, but a part of ourselves; yet both times the Other is not understandable (Lubrich 17).

In addition, Sigmund Freud published in the year 1919 an essay called The Uncanny. This essay particularly applies to the construction of vampires, especially Count Dracula – even though he does not mention a revenant once in his paper. He creates the otherness out of the etymological origin of the German word unheimlich and states that it is

obviously the opposite of heimlich, heimisch, meaning “familiar,” “native,” “belonging to the home”; and we are tempted to conclude that what is “uncanny” is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. Naturally not everything which is new and unfamiliar is frightening, however; the relation cannot be inverted. We can only say that what is novel can easily become frightening and uncanny; (MIT 2)

The figure of the vampire is constituted as something uncanny. Not only is it unknown, but also unfamiliar. The most important attribute however, is the possibility that this unknown could actually be true.

We – or our primitive forefathers – once believed in the possibility of these things and were convinced that they really happened. Nowadays we no longer believe in them, we have surmounted such ways of thought; but we do not feel quite sure of our new set of beliefs, and the old ones still exist within us ready to seize upon any confirmation.

As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny. (MIT 17)

The portrayal of the vampire is a prime example for otherness, the uncanny and especially the consequent stereotypes. The association of the figure of a revenant today is almost without exception an immortal bloodsucker with charisma and good manners. But where does this image come from and where are the roots of this stereotype? Does the image of such a well-behaved, mostly aristocratic revenant rest on facts or is it just an invention of our time?

To begin with the one main typical characteristic, blood is associated with vampires. Not only in the meaning of blood circulation, but mostly with the sucking of blood from human beings to stay alive. Though, these beings do not really live, they rather exist. It is a state between life and death where the borders between living and dead creature blur. Humans are on the one hand frightened by vampires, on the other hand also fascinated by these creatures of the night who have the possibility to live forever (Kroner 95). Because of this unique state of being in between life and death, vampires are also called the Un-Dead.[7]

Moreover, the modern vampires are often aristocratic, but at least rich. According to a study, about 70% of the literary vampires are aristocrats (Schaub 163). Not only Dracula was a count and emerged as a black-clad and cultivated aristocrat (Pütz 35), but also Louis from Interview with the Vampire comes from a family of country gentry, Sir Varney from Varney, the Vampire is an aristocrat and Edward from the Twilight Saga is also well-off.

According to Melton, the most common image of a vampire is the following: vampires are pale because they themselves own few blood, but that of their victims. This paleness constitutes nearly every vampire: Dracula, Louis, Lestat, Claudia and the other vampires from Interview with the Vampire, as well as Carmilla and the vampires from the Twilight Saga. Moreover the typical revenant has in comparison to the pale face very red lips. And finally, the sharp and prominent canines should not be left out, as well as the coldness of the body and the smelling breath. (Melton 2)

Auerbach states in Our Vampires, Ourselves that destroying a vampire is possible through staking and fire. Garlic however is not helpful for all vampires, but rather for the earlier representatives of their species like Dracula. Moreover, vampires are nocturnal and drink the blood of human beings to be able to exist (Auerbach 1). Obligatory characteristics of a vampire are sleeping in coffins during daytime, various special powers such as the transformation in a bat or reading thoughts and the avoidance of sunlight which brings death to most vampires.

The essential question that arises here is: In how far does the stereotypical portrayal of a vampire correspond with the image of the revenant in literature? Or was it due to the image in literature that the vampire promoted or even produced such a stereotype?

There definitely exists a stereotype of a vampire, at least in the perception of the population. However, this prototype is primarily shaped by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, undeniable the greatest vampire ever, yet does not have much in common with folkloric vampires. A special and important attribute about vampires is their huge diversity. Consequently, it is not possible to constitute just one literary vampire type due to these differences (Pütz 80). As Strübe says: “Jeder Vampir verkörpert die Zeit, in der er erschaffen wurde.“ (Strübe 135); or as Auerbach describes it: “There is no such creature as ‘the Vampire’; there are only vampires.” (qut. in Strübe 135) Therefore, the history and the beginning of the belief in vampires is an important factor to consider.

3. Historical Origin of the Vampire Figure

If a typical vampire of folklore, not fiction, were to come to your house this Halloween, you might open the door to encounter a plump Slavic fellow with long fingernails and a strubbly beard, his mouth and left eye open, his face ruddy and swollen – and he looks for all the world like a disheveled peasant. (Barber via EBSCO)

In front of your door would stand a typical Slavic revenant. Most people today however would expect a vampire of fiction instead: “a tall, elegant gentleman in a black cloak” (Barber via EBSCO).

All over the world exist myths and legends about bloodsucking beings that leave their graves at night to visit the living. So there is for instance the so-called Lamia in Greece who appears in the shape of a beautiful and seductive woman and allures young men, kills them and drinks their blood afterwards (Klewer 25). Nevertheless, there are also similar figures in Chinese, Russian and Polish belief (Klewer 30f). Due to this multitude of vampire beliefs, it is hard to define where the exact origin of the belief in bloodsucking beings came from. It is widespread all over England, Rome, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland and Russia (Kroner 60). One approach settles Transylvania as the original country, yet that could be due to the famous novel Dracula taking place in that region, other theses believe the origin in Egypt, China, India or Greece (Klewer 28).

Either way, Kroner and Klewer describe both – thanks to the multitude of ancient sources – a real vampire hysteria in the 20’s and 30’s of the 18th century. It started in the year 1725, when Peter Plogovitz and in 1732 Arnod Paole died in Serbia. After their deaths, more people passed away of an unknown disease and there were witnesses who saw both dead wandering around as vampires. Thus their graves were dug up and their corpses were found not decayed, but full of fresh blood, new skin and fingernails what clearly identified them as vampires at that time (Kroner 60f; Klewer 37f). When Plogovitz was unburied and staked, his body raised and started bleeding and groaning (Klewer 37f). Nowadays, it is known that these features can all be explained with today’s knowledge about medicine, thus Plogovitz and Paole most probable died of splenic fever (Klewer 38). Yet the people at that time did not have this knowledge. They tried to explain the deaths with the available knowledge and derive logic conclusions from the symptoms (Strübe 33).


[1] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Die Braut von Korinth (1797); Lord Byron The Giaour (1813); John William Polidori The Vampyre (1819)

[2] The movie Interview with the Vampire was directed by Neil Jordan, starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas and Christian Slater. Its release date was December 1st, 1994 in Germany.

[3] I use the terms vampire and revenant equally in this paper.

[4] I use the term folkloric vampires for the original revenants in history like e.g. Strübe did in After Nightfall. Modern vampires or revenants are used for vampires in literature and media.

[5] Some authors such as Staszak capitalize Other and Self to illustrate that the items belong to the theory of otherness. I will also capitalize the two terms in order to clarify their meaning.

[6] Fantastic literature is often opposed to Realism and regarded as “threat to the rational” in Jutta Fortin: Brides of the Fantastic: Gautier’s Le Pied de Momie and Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann. Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2004. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 257-275.

[7] Bram Stoker named the initial version of his famous novel The Un-Dead, but later on changed the name to Dracula.

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The Vampire in Literature: A Comparison of Stoker’s "Dracula" and Rice’s "Interview with the Vampire"
University of Stuttgart
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Janina Nußbaumer (Author), 2010, The Vampire in Literature: A Comparison of Stoker’s "Dracula" and Rice’s "Interview with the Vampire", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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