Ch. 3: Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires
Vampires No Longer Need to be Bloodsuckers
Contrary to most of the teenage (female) population, I’m not an avid fan of vampires. Nothing about immortal bloodsuckers that sparkle in the sunlight appeals to me. The only reason I forced myself into the movie theater to watch Twilight was to laugh at the foolishness of overzealous fans that murmured in excitement every time their favorite werewolf or vampire appeared on the screen. Naturally, when I noticed that this chapter might actually give some deeper meaning to these cold-skinned creatures, I figured that I might as well see if it would change my stance on them
In chapter 3 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires, Foster looks beyond the surface-level, stereotypes of vampires and creates somewhat of an archetype for them. Literally, the vampire that has been written into stories for centuries is a perplexing figure who seduces virginal women and forever extinguishes any trace of innocence in them. Symbolically, however, vampirism stands for narcissism, abuse of humanity, and blatant disrespect.
While reading this chapter, I realized that the spectrum of what constitutes a vampire is broad, which forced me to acknowledge the many “vampires” I’ve been reading about for years. Prevailing television shows and films, such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries revolve around vampirism. However, they confine vampires by only significantly revealing characteristics the masses would generally associate them with, which are immortality, pale-skin, aversion to sunlight, etc. This has created misinterpretation in the public of what actually classifies one as a vampire.
“Where are you going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates epitomizes this non-literal representation of a vampire figure. Connie is a materialistic fifteen-year-old that values her looks and boys over anything. One night, she is out with a pal of hers, and she captures the attention of a mysterious male in a gold convertible, Arnold Friend. She initially brushes off his strange and seductive comment towards her: “Gonna get you, baby,” and the two part. The summer continues on, and one day, Connie is left alone while her parents attend a barbeque. After a while of being alone in her house, a gold convertible pulls up with Arnold Friend and a friend of his inside. Though, Connie is clearly startled by his sudden appearance, Arnold Friend harasses her and requests that she get into his car; however, she rejects him. The two continue to go back and forth, and when Connie asks Arnold Friend his age, he is very ambiguous, stating that he may be the same age as or older than her. He then begins to threaten Connie and warns her that if she doesn’t leave the house, he will harm her family. Connie makes an attempt to call the police, but anxiety and panic leave her unable to do so. Arnold Friend persuades her to put the phone down, and Connie complies. The ending is left unanswered, as Connie can feel a presence taking her out the door.
Here, we have all of the telltale signs of a vampire story. Connie is clearly portrayed as the beautiful virginal youth by her age and evident value placed on looks, and Arnold Friend is the mysterious, all-knowing vampire. When the two initially meet, there is a sexual implication with the vampire’s first line, “Gonna get you baby.” His clear intentions reference the literary trait of indirect mention of sex in vampire stories. As the story continues on, the reader can infer that Arnold Friend is much older than Connie, depicting the notion of an older vampire preying on a youthful girl. When Arnold Friend starts to threaten Connie, his dangerous side comes out, yet he has some sense of allure to Connie, for she never retreats. The end is left unclear; however, because Connie feels herself moving towards him, her innocence dwindles away, and she succumbs to Arnold Friend’s will.
The stereotype of a vampire will forever be engrained in my mind, for I grew up learning about these myths through books, television, movies, and research. However, vampires in the symbolic sense are everywhere. The following link provides insight on the temptation of these immortal beings and what they represent.