Literary Monsters: The Rape of Humanity
In his essay Monster Culture (Seven Theses), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen outlines seven defining characteristics of the literary monster. He makes the claim that literary monsters are each possessed of these seven theses, which act as a common denominator across monster culture. While each of these theses is present, there is one aspect of monster culture that Cohen fails to discuss, and that is prevalent in enough different monster works that it warrants attention. Throughout literary monster culture, the act of monster brutality and violence is often described in a sexual nature or stemming from a sexual motive. The monster brutality can be viewed as a figurative rape of the characters who are opposed to the monster. This is made easily clear in Dracula and fairly obvious in subsequent vampire stories, but a closer reading of less obvious texts will reveal sexual undertones in the acts of violence. This discussion will look at the presence of sexually-natured brutality in Dracula and “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” two very different vampire stories, the physical act of rape in “The Company of Wolves,” and the underlying sexual innuendos present in the movie Aliens.
One of the dominant themes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is that of sexuality, as to be expected of a monster that relies so heavily on blood. Blood, itself, is symbolic of sexuality and the loss of female virginity. Stoker establishes the blood as something intimate and sensual, sexual, when Lucy receives blood transfusions from Arthur, Van Helsing, and Seward. Arthur, Lucy’s fiancée, delivers the first transfusion, and the characters note the direct parallels between Arthur and Lucy’s transfusion and sexual intercourse. There is an exchange of fluids from Arthur’s body into Lucy’s, and afterwards Arthur feels spent of energy while Lucy’s skin appears revitalized. The metaphor is further strengthened by Van Helsing and Seward both feeling it improper for Arthur to learn that other men have made the exchange with Lucy. Van Helsing makes a direct connection between blood and sexuality: “No man knows, till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own life-blood drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves. (135)”
Having established the logic of the text, Stoker furthers the link between sexuality and blood through the effects of Count Dracula’s attacks on Lucy. Both Lucy and Mina are described as being very attractive, but the key difference between the two is that Lucy is privy to her own appeal. Lucy is in a transitional state of coming into her own sexuality, a latent desire for sex that is suppressed by the norms of the society that she lives in. These latent urges are brought to fruition after Lucy is transformed into a vampire. When she rises, she is described as having something “diabolically sweet in her tones—something of the tingling of glass when struck – which rang through the brains even of us who heard the words addressed to another. As for Arthur, he seemed under a spell; moving his hands from his face, he opened wide his arms. (200)” The “spell” is Lucy’s sexual appeal to her fiancée, now fully realized and being used as a weapon thanks to being unlocked by Count Dracula. The Count’s attack on Lucy gave her a taste of the fulfillment that she craved her entire life, and now that she has had it she hungers for more.
This sexual nature of vampire assault is not only present in Dracula, but also in Karen Russell’s short story “Vampires in the Lemon Grove.” Clyde, the story’s main character, is a vampire who has taken on human qualities and has befriended a young girl, Fila. In one scene, Clyde remarks that he feels himself returning to his old, monstrous self while looking at Fila. He studies “her neck…her head rolling with the natural expressiveness of a girl. She checks to see if [he is] watching her collarbone, and [he lets] her see that [he is] (253.)” Clyde’s attack on Fila...
Cited: Carter, Angela. Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. New York: VINTAGE (RAND), 2006.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)." Monster Theory. Ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
Russel, Karen, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove.” The Best American Short Stories, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008
Stoker, Bram, Dracula. New York, HarperCollins, 2000. Illustrated by Barry Moser; afterword by Peter Glassman
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