How is the idea of Good and Evil explored in Moby Dick?

Let’s explore how Herman Melville shows the differences between good and evil in his masterpiece Moby Dick

Moby Dick book cover

In Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick the author is eager to tell us a tale of good and evil. These two opposing forces are represented everywhere throughout his story, the vying battle between the two is the back bone of the entire novel. Good versus evil, love against hate, forgiveness or revenge, they are all explored throughout its many pages. This is one of the reasons for its enduring popularity amongst readers.

Some readers consider the great Moby Dick to be the character best placed to represent the evil force. Yet this whale, no matter how huge and scary is still simply that, a whale. He is an animal with no conscious ability to be rational, he is simply an animal living within his natural habitat.

So for me the obvious representation of evil is Captain Ahab. Ahab’s entire world is seeking out the whale that dismember him many years ago. He is a man consumed by one single goal, a goal to bring about death to a creature that has no understanding of what is happening. Captain Ahab is a man possessed by the idea of killing the great white whale, and he doesn’t care what happens as long as that end goal is achieved.

Yet Ahab is also not a one dimensional man, he is a tortured man. He is certainly not a cardboard figure of evil. “Once the captain throws his pipe overboard, he takes a turn for the worse,” here Melville is showing us that the Captain has become so overwhelmed with his need for revenge on Moby Dick that he no longer enjoys little acts, such as his pipe, as he once did.

Yet we must also remember that Captain Ahab leads his entire crew – baring Ishmael – to their death, for nothing more than petty vengeance. The true evil in this novel is the very human traits of stubbornness and obsession. A sentient and conscious man is willing to throw away everything to wreak his vengeance upon a creature who acted simply out of instinct and not malice.

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The presence of good is shown in the novel most clearly in the character of Queequeg, who was once a barbaric cannibal but who now embodies the ideals of ‘Christianly’ behaviour more than any of the other men aboard the Pequod.

While Ishamel and Queequeg’s relationship starts off with a brawl and attempted murder at the Spouter-Inn, it quickly turns into a beautiful friendship.

The reader gets to see the true heart of Queequeg for the first time when the two men fall asleep beside one another. When the two awaken the ‘savages’ arm lies draped across Ishmael in an affection manor, or as Melville describes it, as if Ishamel were “his wife”.

Queequeg also shows incredible modesty when dressing in the morning ing, even attempting to hide himself as he pulls on his boots. This moment shows the two sides of Queequeg, the savage and the civilised man: “if he were a savage he wouldn’t consider boots necessary, but if he were completely civilised he would realise there was no need to be modest when pulling on his boots”.

While this theme of friendship becomes less prominent once the Pequod unfurls its sails Queequeg does still save Ishmael’s life, albeit indirectly. Yet he also saves two other men from drowning while acting as harpooner aboard the vessel.

Queequeg’s presence within the novel slips as it draws towards the great climax as Melville begins to darken the tone and focus upon the aggression and hatred of the captain. However, his greatest action occurs at the novel’s finale.

While suffering from a fever Queequeg believes he is at deaths door and asks the ship’s carpenter to construct him a coffin in the form of a canoe to remind him of home. The coffin is not needed however as Queequeg makes a full recovery, it therefore becomes the ships new life-boat, which in turn is the only thing that allows Ishmael to survive Moby Dick’s attack and the Pequod’s demise.

Melville also shows us how good and evil can manifest itself through the journey of ones life. For instance Queequeg lived a life of bliss on the island of Kokovoko where he was the son of a King, yet he hated the life of idleness and insisted instead on becoming a whaler and exploring the world, the pampered life was not for him. Ishmael similarly wanted to see the rest of the world, not to escape idleness but instead to combat the early stages of a creeping depression. All of this is in stark contrast to Captain Ahab who’s sole reason for the journey was revenge, cruel and selfish revenge. Ahab is swept up in his manic desire to kill Moby Dick and the end result is a grizzly and unnecessary demise for his whole crew.

Overall Melville does well to give us good and evil characters with layers and depth. Captain Ahab has all the characteristics of a tragic hero, he has a great heart but tragic flaws. Yet it is his final actions and manic obsession with revenge that destroys his heart and leaves him simply as a flawed and hate filled villain. Queequeg on the other hand may appear to be a savage but his heart stays pure and he has a truly noble spirit.

Melville shows us that we cannot simply judge a person by their appearance, that titles and riches do not matter, it is only the heart that can be judged to show ones true self.

Trump says he’s writing ‘book of all books’ but it’s unlikely to find a big publisher

Figures at major publishing houses say it would be ‘too hard to get a book that was factually accurate’

Donald Trump has revealed he is writing “the book of all books”, this despite major figures within the US publishing industry saying it was unlikely that any big publishing house would touch the memoir of the 45th president as it may cause a “a staff uprising”, and that it would be difficult “to get a book that was factually accurate”.

To be fair that fear is not without merit. When Trump exited the White House for the final time in January the Washington Post reported that he had made 30,573 false or misleading claims while President.

It is common practice for former presidents to write their own memoirs when they leave office, Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” was a roaring success. Trump’s announcement therefore is not unexpected.

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In a statement last week the 75 year old former president said he had already “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, which he of course did not name. “I do not want a deal right now,” he said. “I’m writing like crazy anyway, however, and when the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books.”

The New York Times recently reported that a two-book deal Mike Pence landed with Simon & Schuster was “grating” on Trump, this was denied by a Trump spokesman. The Pence deal however caused problems for the publishing company, with many of its staff saying the company should not promote bigotry. Other rightwingers have run into publishing problems since the attempted coup on the 6th of January.

Simon & Schuster itself dropped a planned book on antitrust written by the Missouri senator Josh Hawley, a man who encouraged the rioters and objected to the electoral college results. His book was eventually picked up by rightwing publisher Regnery and will still be distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Any Trump memoir looks likely to be published in a similar manner, outside of the mainstream. Politico has reported that senior figures at Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have said they would not touch a Trump penned memoir. “It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”

Another senior figure said he was “skeptical” about Trump’s claim to have had two offers, saying: “He’s screwed over so many publishers before he ran for president none of the big five would work with [him] any more.”

Keith Urbahn of Javelin, an agent who has represented numerous Trump books told Politico: “It doesn’t matter what the upside on a Trump book deal is, the headaches the project would bring would far outweigh the potential in the eyes of a major publisher.

“Any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a factchecking nightmare, an exodus of other authors and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president.”

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Trump hit back by once again insisting that “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected”. Once again he wouldn’t name them.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future, as I have started writing the book,” he added. “If my book will be the biggest of them all, and with 39 books written or being written about me, does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money?

“Some of the biggest sleezebags [sic] on earth run these companies.”

Trump’s personal worth has plummeted since his first year in office, and now he faces extensive legal proceedings. The fact that memoirs written by his predecessor sold for $65m may have given him some idea on how to raise some more funds.

Waterstones has said that paying furloughed staff minimum wage ‘would not be prudent’

While Waterstones staff struggle to pay their bills Waterstones won’t increase their wages until shops reopen.

Waterstones recently told staff that any furloughed workers would not be seeing any increase to their wages until shops are able to reopen. This statement comes after a petition was launched calling on the book seller to help workers who are being paid under the minimum wage thanks to the furlough scheme.

The petition has thus far been signed by more than 1,500 people, including more than 100 Waterstones workers, it is also backed by the author Philip Pullman. It is addressed to the companies managing director James Daunt and its chief operating officer Kate Skipper, it says that as many of the companies staff are employed at or very near to minimum wage being put on the furlough scheme has now “plunged [them] beneath this line and into financial uncertainty”.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allow a company to furlough a worker and the government will ensure that employee gets 80% of their wage, however it does not protect an employee from falling beneath the minimum wage.

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The petition claims that some Waterstone employees are therefore “struggling to pay bills, borrowing money to make ends meet, turning to charity just to survive”. Testimonies from some anonymous staff include a senior bookseller who has worked for the company for over 18 years and who know finds themselves turning to food banks in order to survive after their monthly earnings have dropped £170 beneath the minimum wage threshold.

“I have a partner and two small kids to keep on that, and we’re struggling,” they wrote.

Another employee has said they won’t be able to make their rent payment this month, while another said they’ve had to turn to friends and roommates to help cover their bills.

The petition stresses that Waterstones’ owners, the hedge fund Elliott Advisors, paid out over £93m to just 107 staff members at the end of the 2019 financial year.

“We understand the impact that Covid has had on the business and that the high street is in a precarious position. We are not asking for a full top-up, not that we are paid a great deal above minimum wage – simply that incomes are made back up to this safety line,” the bookseller who organised the petition said in a statement to the Guardian.

“It is not our intention to damage or attack our company. We are dedicated to our jobs and adore our colleagues, hold great belief in the product we sell and love the people and customers that we encounter daily. Rather we set up the petition with the aim of raising awareness of … the real and immediate need many of our booksellers, as well as millions of other low-paid workers in various sectors, are experiencing.”

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In response to this petition Kate Skipper told staff in a mass email that furlough had been “the lifeline which has prevented mass redundancies” for their business.

“I say this in no way to diminish the stress and strain that being on furlough creates, nor to ignore the financial hardship that accompanies it,” she wrote, adding that the chain planned a 2.75% pay rise from 1 April 2021 – or from when it can reopen the majority of its shops. This follows a pay rise last April.

She said that petitions “provoke considerable social media and other reporting on Waterstones, much of it damaging. We regret this, and regret especially also if any bookseller feels unable to discuss their concerns, whether with their HR representative, anyone from the retail team, myself or any of the management team. I realise this is an unbelievably tough and desperate time for so many people but to continue to protect the business, and thereby importantly to deliver our aim to pay more, we need to survive – and ultimately to prosper. Please consider how best that can be achieved.”

Skipper also said that the company has “we have great sympathy” with the petition. “Only the extreme circumstances of prolonged, enforced closure of our shops, with no certainty of the timing of their reopening, has caused the furlough of our booksellers in this manner,” she said.

“It would be much better if we were in a position to pay our booksellers their full salaries, even as we keep our shops closed. With no clarity for how long this crisis will last, this would not be prudent. We look forward to reopening and bringing our booksellers back to work. Then we will have certainty and are pleased that we will be able to give well deserved pay rises.”

Despite stores being closed however online sales of book have remained steady during the various UK lockdowns. Last month the industry monito Nielsen Bookscan reported that the volume of print books actually grew by 5.2% to 202m in 2020.

L.A. teen gives thousands of books to young readers

A teenager from LA. has made it her mission to get books into the hands of young children.

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Alana Weisberg has always been an avid reader, she enjoys nothing more than escaping into a good book. So when the pandemic hit and her school was forced to close, she found a lot more free time on her hands, free time she was happy to fill with her insatiable appetite for reading.

But this also got her thinking about other children, children who were not quite as fortunate as herself. With libraries closed many children would not have access to the books Alana herself could enjoy, that did not sit well with the 16-year-old sophomore from Los Angeles.

Thus she founded Bookworm Global, a brilliant charity that Weisberg started to last spring and has so far collected and distributed over 22,000 new or used books to children in need.

Alana Weisberg and a garage floor full of books

Bookworm Global began small but has grown rapidly over the last year. Now the organisation even trains Girl and Boy Scout troops on holding their own book drives in their local communities. Any books collected are sent on to Weisberg or organises getting them into local schools or non-profits around her area. Bookworm Global has even branched out of California and donated to an orphanage in Mexico.

Yet the focus is still on her local community. Weisberg says her goal is still to get books into the hands of L.A. children with little means.

“I wanted to get books to kids living below the poverty line,” she said. “The children that are getting these books have never owned a book before.”

Los Angeles has a homeless problem, particularly amongst youths. The city has a lot of students and English learners who are struggling to read at the states average standard, that is according to state data, this is not acceptable to Weisberg.

ICEF Inglewood Elementary Charter Academy has received around 5,000 books from Bookworm Global, something that will help many of its students according to the community relations coordinator Jhonathon Gonzalez. According to Gonzalez these books will be the only physical ones many of his students will have access to.

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The school does not have its own library and has been forced to photocopy pages from numerous books just so their pupils can have access to the written word. Almost ninety percent of the schools pupils live below the poverty line, though Gonzalez says that number is now likely higher thanks to people losing their jobs during the pandemic.

“Getting books into the hands of students is critical so that children can momentarily step away from the harsh realities of their COVID-19 living conditions and travel to new worlds through reading,” Gonzalez said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to escape what they’re currently going through and go to a magical land,” he said. “A lot of our students don’t have that opportunity. It’s up to us to provide them a different world through the lens of a reader.”

Bookworm Global has also placed an emphasis on books whose protagonists are people of colour, in an attempt to appeal to as broad a range of readers as possible.

Weisberg hopes that this philanthropic organisation can help many new children develop as deep a passion for reading as she has.

“Reading is really important to me because it’s my escape. When I’m bored, I go and read,” she said. “I want kids to be able to engage in a book and really enjoy it and foster a love of reading.”

Eyes of Sleeping Children by D.A. Butcher Review

D.A. Butcher comes out swinging hard with this stunning debut novel. Eyes of Sleeping Children is a psychological thriller set in the 1930’s and takes place in a depression hit Kansas that is about to bare the brunt of a giant dust storm.

The focus of this story falls squarely upon the Lockhart family, and specifically upon the father Louis. As the storm begins to attack their small family farm the Lockhart’s seek shelter in their cellar.

Eyes of Sleeping Children Cover

Yet the storm is but the beginning of this families tragedies, after awakening from a troubled night of sleep Louis finds that his son, Jesse, is missing, yet there is neither a sign of forced entry or that the young boy has left the house.

Who, or possibly what, is to blame? While Louis looks for an answer within the reality he understands, his wife begins to break down and lay the blame squarely upon a figure from the realm of nightmares, The Sandman.

Louis must work quickly if he has any hope of ever seeing his son again, he sets out on a journey that will delve into the past, and into secrets long since lost to time.

But that’s enough about the book’s plot, I really would not want to ruin this one for you.

This is a daring, but well executed, debut novel that takes a number of different genres and themes and makes them all coalesce brilliantly as the story comes to its climax.

At times this feels like a locked room thriller, while at other times it delves wonderfully into some psychological twisted world that sends shivers racing up and down your spine. And yet through all of that it somehow manages to blend and balance it very nicely with a depression era set family and their day to day struggles and drama.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Louis Lockhart, and for the most part he is an engaging and interesting character that we as outside readers can easily empathise with. And while there are a supporting cast of mostly interesting characters it is with Louis that we are firmly embedded, both narratively and emotionally.

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As Louis frantically begins his hunt to find his missing son the book ratchets up a notch and becomes a zealous race to unravel the mysteries and discover the truth lurking in the shadows. Over time though it is Louis himself who begins to unravel and whose mind deteriorates, while this gives for some excellent character focus and really brings Louis alive and fleshes out his characterisations, it also slows down the pace of the book at points to little more than a crawl. While this is not a major issue it does make the book feel imbalanced.

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Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing

Author Spotlight is our series that aims to give writers a platform to talk about the artform we all love, writing. This time around D. A. Butcher joins us to talk about his life, his struggles, and his passion for writing. Check out this excellent article. I grew up in London. My mother is Italian … Continue reading “Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing”

However, as the story enters its final acts it rekindles the fire that had burned so brightly at its opening. In fact by the final pages this book had burnt not only itself out but me as well, there are some disturbing scenes throughout this novel that have stayed with me long after the final word has fluttered its way through my mind.

The twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale are mind bindingly well conceived and that climax, boy was that a treat to behold. Throughout most of the novel I thought I knew the truth, I thought I was an all knowing reader, but I was very much mistaken, Butcher had more than a few tricks up his sleeve to leave me feeling the fool.

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Indeed so much of this book has stayed so vividly with me that while writing this review I feel like I have only just put it down when in reality I finished this book week ago, and have read many others since then.

Not only is the story well conceived it is also very well written, Butcher has the skills and talents of a much more seasoned writer.

There are a couple of negative points though, as with any book. I think there are a few pacing errors that make the book feel unbalanced, it almost feels like there are two books wearing the trench coat of one sometimes. The dialogue can at times feel a little stilted, and I would say there are a few too many metaphors and similes used which can slow down the pace of the book somewhat, but this is me being overly pedantic and attempting to find something to balance this review.

Overall this is easily one of the best debut novels I have ever read, indeed it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read period, and I will no doubt be diving back into again soon, and I sincerely implore all of you to do the same.

Rating

Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Eyes of Sleeping Children for yourself, and I highly recommend you do, you can find it over on Amazon.

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Let’s discuss how Harriet Jacobs challenged the pro-slavery ideals of her time through her writing

Front cover of Incidents in the life of a slave girl

Slave narratives were a powerful tool in abolishing the slave trade and were significant in creating a voice for the slaves and showing the human experience of slavery. An important slave narrative is that of Linda Brent synonym Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

She was a slave who struggled for years against her oppressive master and bravely ensured both her own and her children’s freedom. Within this slave narrative Harriet challenges conceived notions of the importance and justification of slavery and pro-slavery ideas. She challenges the religious morality of the slave-owners, their view that slaves were inhuman and the treatment of female slaves.

Harriet and her fellow slaves are represented as the subaltern subject, a group suppressed by a dominant other, ‘in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history, and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow’ (Spivak 1988: 28). Harriet is fighting against her oppressors so as to ensure her freedom and save other slaves from the ‘grasp of demon slavery’ (Jacobs 1861: 27).

A key pro-slavery idea challenged by Harriet Jacobs is that of religion and the slave-owners belief in their religious superiority.

When colonising America in the 17th century the colonists felt themselves to be morally superior to that of the natives and justified colonisation by saying the natives were heathens due to their lack of religion, and so it was the colonists’ duty to teach the natives their religion as they were viewed as immoral.

This view was still held by the slave-owners and whites in South America in the 19th century. This act of controlling the subaltern subject through religion is known as hegemony. ‘Hegemonic means of social control, whereby marginalised and suppressed peoples are encouraged to accept the ideas and values of the dominant classes’ (Ransome 1992).

However as shown by Harriet Jacob’s the business of slavery was a contradiction to religious teachings, ‘slaveholders pride themselves on being honourable men… to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves you would have small respect for their veracity’ (Jacobs 1861: 21). Jacobs talks about how the slave-owners justify their actions by demonising the slaves and seeing them as ‘merely a piece of property’ (Jacobs 1861: 3).

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Yet it is the slave-owners who are represented as morally corrupt and how religion is a mere chore to them, ‘she was a member of the church; but partaking of the lord’s supper did not seem to put her in a Christian frame of mind… she could sit in her easy chair and see a woman whipped, till the blood trickled from every stroke of the lash’ (Jacobs 1861: 4).

This shows the hypocrisy of slave-owners that they preach to others that they must be Christian and yet so casually disregard it themselves. The roles between the slaves and the colonists/slave-owners have now reversed, the slave-owners are now viewed as the beasts and the slaves are shown to have more Christian feeling, ‘It was a beautiful faith coming from a mother who could not call her children her own’ (Jacobs 1861: 7).

The use of sarcasm is rife within Harriet’s narrative as she challenges the lies surrounding the religious superiority of the slave-owners and their families, ‘The honour of a slaveholder to a slave!’ (Jacobs 1861: 1) she feels there is no honour on the side of the slave-owner who is more concerned with money that the treatment of fellow human beings.

Harriet Jacobs

Another pro-slavery idea challenged by Harriet Jacobs is the idea that the slaves were inhuman. It was believed they were beneath the human race and so the slave-owners felt it morally acceptable and even encouraged to treat them in such a barbaric way, ‘regard such children as property, as marketable as pigs on the plantation’ (Jacobs 1861: 17).

The slave owners felt that the slaves were incapable of human emotion and so therefore they should have no human rights. Jacob’s challenges this idea and states the slave-owners to be the violent ones, they are the ones who lack human emotion and by showing both her own and her fellow slaves human emotions through her writing she contradicts this belief, ‘this poor creature had witnessed the sale of her children… without any hopes of ever seeing them again’ (Jacobs 1861: 68).

By showing the pain and emotion of the slaves Jacob’s tries to break through the curtain of lies that shroud slavery, ‘the secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the inquisition’ (Jacobs 1861: 17), and to gain sympathy from the reader and support for abolition. ‘What mockery it is for a slave mother to try to pray back her dying child to life! Death is better than slavery’ (Jacobs 1861: 31) this shows the sheer desperation of the slaves, that they would rather their child die than live through the pain they suffer.

The stereotypes of the slaves and the supposed ‘superior race’ have once again been reversed with the slave-owners exposed to be the ones who are inhuman. Jacobs refers to the lack of humanity and emotion showed by the slave-owners towards the slaves, ‘I would shoot him, as I would a dog’ (Jacobs 1861: 20), exposing how through their prejudices they have become blind to the basic rules of humanity and the respect you should have for a fellow being.

Mary Prince, a fellow slave writer also conveys a sense of pain in her narrative and urges with the readers in England to no longer be ignorant to slavery and to help the abolitionists to free the slaves, ‘Oh the horrors of slavery!–How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is. I have been a slave–I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free (Prince 1831: 11).

Slave-owners were viewed as the honourable sect of society who maintained the hierarchy of race by controlling those who they saw as beneath them. They hid behind this disguise of honour whilst promoting the business of slavery. However this idea of honour is laid bare in Jacobs’s narrative as she exposes the truth, ‘my master began to whisper foul words in my ear’ (Jacobs 1861: 13) and the true treatment of slave girls at the hands of their so called upstanding masters is revealed.

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In the 19th century women were viewed as delicate beings that needed to be sheltered and protected, a stark contradiction to the treatment of slave girls, ‘women were seen as needing social and moral protection from male tyranny. This was not compatible with the ‘physical brutalization of females and…[the] disregard for black motherhood and maternity’ (Beckles, 2000: 173), ‘women are considered of no value, unless they continually increase their owners stock. They are put on a par of animals’ (Jacobs 1861: 24).

Female slaves suffered from the double negative of black race and female gender which only created more issues with how the readers viewed her credibility, ‘the reception of Incidents arrested to the continuing difficulty of Jacob’s, or any black woman writer’s, gaining an audience: faced with the “double negative” of black race and female gender’ (Garfield, Zafar 1996: 4).

The “double negative” also contributed to the treatment she suffered at the hands of her masters, ‘slavery is terrible for men; but it is more terrible for women’ (Jacobs 1861: 39). The slave-owners would often berate their slaves and justify their actions by claiming the slaves to be beasts and yet they were the ones who abused their slaves in a beastly manner, ‘peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of’ (Jacobs 1861: 13).

Jacobs states how slavery is not a positive influence on the white race as the slave-owners would have them believe, but is instead a curse, ‘I can testify from my own experience… that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as the blacks’ (Jacobs 1861: 26), slavery is turning them into monsters who disregard their religion and their humanity, ‘the white-faced, black-hearted brother’ (Jacobs 1861: 36).

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It is also spoken of how the slave-owners treat their own children who are conceived out of their disgrace, if the child has a slave mother then it must ‘follow the condition of the mother’ (Jacobs 1861: 21) and be ‘reared for the market’ (Jacobs 1861: 26). Showing a distinct lack of feelings towards their own flesh and blood on the part of the slave-owner. However the rule that the child follows the ‘condition of the mother’ only applies if the mother is a slave because if the mother is white and the father is a slave then ‘the infant is smothered, or sent where it is never seen’ (Jacobs 1861: 26) showing a complete disregard for the commandment thou shalt not kill.

Most female slaves were not even allowed to act like mothers to their own children, ‘I longed to be entirely free to act a mother’s part towards my children’ (Jacobs 1861: 86), and there was indignation on behalf of the slave-owners wives that slaves should be allowed to do so, ‘considered it alright and honourable for her, or her future husband, to steal my children; but she did not understand how anybody could hold up their heads in respectable society, after they had purchased their own children’ (Jacobs 1861: 72).

This represents how warped the minds of the slave-owners and their families had become when they felt they had more right to own another being than for them to be with their families, a basic human right.

Harriet Jacobs’s narrative challenges fundamental pro-slavery ideas and aims to abolish the business of slavery. Her narrative however can be viewed as subjective and therefore biased causing the readers at the time it was published to question its authenticity.

At the time of the publication of slave narratives there was a stigma that slave writers were melodramatic in their accounts and so the readers often failed to believe them continuing their support for slavery ‘Jacobs.. had to contend with a sceptical readership that said her work could not be “genuine” because of her emphasis on the domestic, her “melodramatic” style and her unwillingness to depict herself as an avatar of self-reliance’ (Garfield, Zafar 1996: 4).

To try to connect with the reader and to convince them of her narratives authenticity Jacobs speaks directly to the reader, ‘I am telling you the plain truth’ (Jacobs 1861: 17) and states that ‘I do not say there are no humane slaveholders. But they are like angels visits- few and far between’ (Jacobs 1861: 25), showing she is not biased against all slaveholders just those who violate the very core of humanity.

Harriet writes that she knows the readers will not believe what she says, ‘the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe…greater than you would willingly believe’ (Jacobs 1861: 13) she states they will not believe her as they cannot possibly know what it is like to be a slave, ‘O virtuous reader! You never know what it is to be a slave; laws reduce you to the condition of chattel… subject to the will of another’ (Jacobs 1861: 28).

Jacobs also questions the authenticity of pro-slavery writings, she speaks of how their writing is deceptive and do not show the true reality of the life of a slave, ‘men go to see slave-owners and encounter favourite slaves in comfortable huts’ and they complain of the ‘exaggerations of abolitionists… what does he know of… girls dragged down into moral filth? Of pools of blood around the whipping post?’ (Jacobs 1861: 38).

She shows herself to be in contrast to pro-slavery writers to be writing a stark and truthful account of the barbaric nature of slavery, not shying away too much from topics such as rape which was not something women were supposed to mention in the 19th century regardless of their status, ‘for the female slave to give a first-hand account of her personal experiences was to contradict nineteenth-century ideas regarding the ‘privacy of “woman”’ (Fisch, 2007: 232).

There is also in parts a lack of evidence such as letters which had been sent to Harriet from her master which were lost but this lack of evidence could of discouraged belief in Harriet’s narrative, ‘absence of materials, may be due to the highly contested theoretical and methodological problems relating to the study of the subaltern subject – problems that are further exacerbated when the subaltern is female’ (Morton 2012).

The editors comments at the end of the narrative also tries to provide Harriet with credibility helping to show the readers that her account is honest and not a fabrication, ‘the author of this book is my highly- esteemed friend’ (Child 1861: 304) showing that she has trust in the writer and therefore so should the reader.

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This is also the case with the narrative of Mary Prince, for whom the issue of authenticity was also a problem with many not believing her account, likely due to the fact that she like Harriet was a female slave writer. The editor therefore states that, ‘the narrative was taken down from Mary’s own lips… no fact of importance has been omitted, and not a single circumstance or sentiment has been added.

It is essentially her own, without any material alteration farther than was requisite to exclude redundancies and gross grammatical errors, so as to render it clearly intelligible Pringle 1831: i).

Slave narratives like that of Harriet Jacobs were used as a tool by abolitionists in their campaign for abolition and were used to reveal the experiences of the slaves, ‘the narratives quickly became the movement’s most essential texts, providing eyewitness accounts of slavery’s brutal reality’ (Fisch 2007: 28).

Jacob’s not only challenges pro-slavery ideas such as religious superiority, the dehumanisation of slaves and the treatment of female slaves, but she also challenges the very principals of the slave-owners and their complete lack of humanity.

Dracula by Bram Stoker Review

Let’s return and look at the novel where the legend began, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Dracula isn’t just a book, not anymore anyway. Dracula is a brand, it is a sweeping, broad, stereotyping name that conjures up characters with countless components and interpretations. So after writing a rather in-depth essay on the changing sexualization of vampires I was compelled to return to the beginning of the vampires literary journey, I therefore dived right back into Bram Stoker’s masterpiece so I could once again see how this famous character began.

Going back to Dracula after the deluge of modern vampire iterations is quite fascinating. For instance Dracula does not suffer burning pain from the sunlight as most modern vampires do. This does make reading Dracula difficult though as we have to throw most of our modern beliefs about the mythical creature out of the window, if we do not do so it can be difficult to engage with the novel.

It is also sad that the books big events, which would have been dramatic plot twists to readers of Stoker’s era, are easily predictable in the modern age, which of course diminishes their impact.

Yet being a predictable and already well known story does give the novel a sense of dramatic irony and adds to the underlying themes of ignored prophesies and that of a predetermined fate.

If you’ve never read Dracula before the novel contains enough details and plot points you’ll be unaware of thanks to the modern day changes to his character and story, this allows a first time reader to predict but still enjoy the subtle differences of the novel. They may know what’s to come in Jonathan Harker’s dreary approach to the castle but there’s also enough new elements to keep some mystery alive.

But enough about why it’s still worth checking out the original novel even if you already know the story, let’s get on with discussing the book itself.

Dracula opens with Jonathan Harker making his journey through Transylvania to Count Dracula’s castle. He is warned by locals again and again to avoid the Count, to flee and return to his own life, but of course he pays them no heed.

The build up to the first meeting with Dracula is tense and harrowing, perhaps more so because the modern audience already knows that the seemingly amiable host is anything but pleasant.

The first part of the book is devoted to the exploration of dread, Jonathan slowly realises that his host is a creature of utter evil. This part of the book is brimming with paranoia and a feeling of the unknowable. It is told entirely through Harker’s journal entries, this adds a new level of dread as we get to witness first hand the cracking of Jonathan’s psyche as he connects more and more of the castles terrors with the Count. This method of storytelling makes the reader a more active participant in the fear and paranoia voiced by Harker.

While the first part of the novel is designated for this emotional torment this does mean it lacks the action heavy punch the modern reader may expect from the genre. Yet Dracula’s emotional and psychological hold over the reader ensures it rarely becomes as slow and tedious as other books of the time are prone to do.

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There are times, particularly in the middle, where Dracula does flag a little however. Stoker spends a lot of time on correspondence between our two female heroes Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. These correspondence talk a lot about everyday Victorian life, and while it is done in beautifully curated prose, it’s also tedious in comparison to the novel’s opening. While you’re thinking about Jonathan and his fate, you are left to read about the countryside and English weather. Thankfully though it isn’t long before the novel begins in earnest.

When reading Dracula again it was interesting to note the manner in which it is told, the use of journal entries and letters creates a ‘found-footage’ vibe akin to modern day horror films like the Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. This manner of narrative creates a unique form of foreboding and dread which makes Dracula an emotional and fearful read even for those already aware of the overarching plot-line.

Dracula’s use of letters and the personal words contained therein allow the reader to understand and empathise with characters more than traditional narrative devices would, we get to see and feel their inner thoughts as they struggle against this monster.

Each character in Dracula is well crafted and believable, they all have separate personalities and quirks which play out across the story in numerous ways.

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Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

As for the story itself, well its heartbreaking, it’s full of emotion as the characters deal with life, love, death, horror, all of which are beautifully realised with Stoker’s prose.

There are many themes explored within these pages, with love, religion, and death being just a few. This book opens your mind with new questions in every chapter, and it leaves you thinking about its numerous themes for days after it’s gone back on the shelf.

Dracula is one of the first books to explore and bring to life the vampire, and it has gone on to spawn many an imitation, but it is still the best novel in the genre and Dracula is still the King of the vampires.

This is a must read for anyone, if you’ve never read it before I’d recommend you change that immediately.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

You can grab a copy from Amazon, the kindle edition is just 49p.

How do the pigs maintain their authority on Animal Farm?

An exploration of the methods used to assert control by the pigs in George Orwell’s political allegory, Animal Farm.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm explores the Machiavellian way in which politicians are able to abuse their power to dissolve a democracy and create a totalitarian regime in its place.

But just how are the pigs able to maintain their power?

From the outset of the rebellion it was violence, or at least the threat of it, that the pigs used to further their own agenda. However, while the attack dogs keep the other animals obedient this physical intimidation doesn’t prevent silent dissent, or the whispered questions about Napoleon’s actions and motives.

To neutralise this threat to his and the other pigs power Napoleon relies on something more subtle than violence. He uses rousing slogans, phrases, and songs to instil a sense of patriotism and camaraderie amongst the animals.

On Animal Farm it is language and rhetoric that are the most effective tools at the pigs disposal for social control.

Crucially the pigs realise that the songs and slogans must be simple to memorise and easy to repeat so the other animals are able to internalise their principles.

When written commandments prove difficult for some of the animals the pigs transform them into one brief catchphrase that they repeat everywhere: “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

You might also be interested in our review of Animal Farm

This slogan inspires loyalty and commitment towards the pigs, and fear against the humans. This blind commitment and loyalty to the pigs is most strongly emphasised in Boxer, the cart-horse. Boxer constantly reaffirms his loyalty with the slogans “Napoleon is always right,” and “I will work harder.”

These slogans become increasingly effective to the point that they are used by the animals as a means of self-policing. During a protest against Napoleons decision to sell farm products to humans it is not the “tremendous growling from the dogs,” that calms the angry voices, what breaks the tension is when the sheep begin to recite the mantra “Four legs good, two legs bad!”

During this key scene Orwell explicitly contrasts the strength of brute force with the power of language, demonstrating that while violence may work in the short term, it is only language that can create lasting affects.

The importance of language within the pigs regime is shown with the powerful role given to Squealer, the spokespig of the authorities, and the presence of Minimus, the government poet pig.

Alongside the songs, poems, and commandments, Napoleon and the rest of the pigs also use language in the form of oral and written histories of the Farm to maintain their authority.

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As soon as Napoleon violently seizes power he uses language to justify his actions and secure his own position. He denounces his former ally and fellow revolutionary, Snowball, calling him a human sympathiser and an enemy of the animals.

This story of Snowball’s betrayal is told again and again until Snowball’s role in the revolution and founding of Animal Farm is erased from history.

Somehow even though many of the animals remember Snowball being given a medal for his bravery in the Battle of the Cowshed, Squealer convinces them he actually fought alongside Mr Jones against the animals.

The ever loyal Boxer struggles to believe this lie when first told, though he is convinced with the intervention of Squealer who tells him that Napoleon knows it to be true. “Ah, that is different,” exclaims Boxer. “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.”

When the pigs eventually move into the farmhouse Squealer makes some revisions to the commandments to better benefit the pigs and their new found luxuries. The commandment “No animal shall sleep in a bed” to “No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,” while the rule about drinking becomes “No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.”

Even the mantra that had so effectively created loyalty is changed, becoming the wildly different “Four legs good, two legs better,” until it ultimately becomes the famous quote, “All animal are equal, except some are more equal than others.”

Even when Squealer is caught changing these commandments the animals don’t suspect anything, the power of the pigs rhetoric and language has made them blind to the obvious truths.

The other animals have been brainwashed by the pigs use and implementation of language, so much so that even when the pigs have their dogs slaughter dozens of animals for colluding with Snowball their actions aren’t questioned, especially once the sheep begin their bleating of “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

Yet language is not always used in a negative way in Animal Farm. Old Major’s rousing use of “The Beats of England,” initially leads to the overthrow of the tyrant Farmer Jones and the creation of their own government.

Yet as Orwell shows language can be used for insidious purposes. Napoleon seizes control and uses language for the purposes of social manipulation and control.

The most important lesson he leaves us with is that rhetoric is often more powerful than state-sanctioned violence or the threat thereof.

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The Room Where It Happened By John Bolton Review

The fallout between president and national security adviser makes for an interesting but grandiose ego stoking read

Most Washington insiders knew it wouldn’t work, it was a bad idea, but did Trump listen? No of course he didn’t, listening to others is not really something narcissists do well. When Trump first hired John Bolton as national security adviser they had a sort of good cop, bad cop recipe in mind. For that to work though one of them actually has to have some qualities of a good cop.

After just 18 months this at best rocky relationship fell apart spectacularly. Bolton claims he quit while Trump claims he fired him, shock horror.

Now Bolton is openly declaring Trump unfit for the office of President, and is also accusing him of using foreign dictators and tyrants for an electoral leg-up in Novembers elections. According to Bolton Trump is quite happy to ignore Chinese concentration camps for Muslims if they can somehow help him.

Trump provides no defence for himself from these claims and has instead fallen back on his favourite tactic of name-calling, specifically he has called Bolton both a “wacko” and a “sick puppy.” I’m not sure calling somebody disgusting and in need of being put down is all that presidential. This is political warfare at its most loathsome, its most based and perverse, but that seems to be the only level within which Trump can feel at home.

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Bolton of course is no better.

Bolton is a cold warrior, or as Roger Ailes once referred to him, a “bomb thrower.” In just this vein of cold heartlessness Bolton’s book is a sneering attack on the diplomatic peace process of “international governance,” he even goes on to attack and blindly label Europeans as weak-kneed ninnies.

Like Trump, Bolton seems to enjoying showcasing himself as a fighter, going so far as to say that juggling phone calls at a G7 event made him feel like he was “[part] of the Light Brigade,” or that his “scar tissue had scars.” These powerful metaphors are just that though, Bolton may love sending men and bombs at the enemy but when it came time for him to serve he dodged the draft and joined the non-combatant guard instead, citing that he did not want to join a losing war.

John Bolton pictured here with Donald Trump at a G7 meeting.

Like Bolton himself the Trump outlined in this tell-all book seems eager for conflict. “Hit ’em, finish ’em,” he yells during a dispute with the Turkish president, “Kick their ass,” he orders an envoy to China during the well publicised trade dispute.

Yet Trump is all bark and no bite, he could never bring himself to actually follow through on any threat made. This is no different according to Bolton from the way Obama “graced the world with his views, doing nothing to see them carried out.” Like the president Bolton also hated Obama, and just like Trump Bolton never quite explains why, presumably they hated his ability to maintain graceful and keep his class even when under pressure.

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To give Trump a little bit of praise though he resisted Bolton’s continued attempts at what he called a “kinetic response.” First Trump called off joint exercises in an attempt to ease tensions with North Korea, then he called off a strike on Iran because 150 civilian casualties were predicted.

Apparently even changing his mind about invading Venezuela gives Bolton cause for frustration. Bolton’s Trump is a coward in his eyes, eyes that appear to love the thought of American soldiers standing on hostile foreign soil the world over.

Easing tensions with North Korea led to the first meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

There was one topic of conversation though that Bolton admits he was too afraid to broach, the topic of Putin. Bolton states he was “afraid of what I might hear.” Bolton sells this book as “The Room Where It Happened” referencing a meeting between Putin and Trump, a meeting Bolton was not present for and neither does he ever explain what “It” refers to.

If we ignore all the bravado and false impressions Bolton gives us this book really is nothing more than a catalogue of his failings to incite American showdowns with the EU, Nato, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and more. Bolton gave up his greatest shot at changing American history when he refused to stand up and testify during Trump’s impeachment hearing. In the books epilogue Bolton gives us a rather familiar excuse for his absence from the trial, why bother when impeachment was a lost cause. Clearly Bolton’s moral compass is not just broken, I think it’s fucking missing.

The Room Where It Happened is a book of two halves, on one hand it’s a book attacking Donald Trump, and on the other it’s a monument to Bolton and his own ego. For Bolton Trump is akin to Julius Caesar, a tyrant looking to change the political landscape for his own gain while Bolton is a true Republican standing up for the values his country was built upon. It’s a lofty standard and one that Bolton falls far short of. Bolton colluded with a vicious and morally corrupt man and only now that he has fallen from favour does he paint himself in this manner.

No matter how much Bolton may try and blindfold the reader to the truth it is quite clear that he and Trump, the man he so vehemently attacks, are one and the same. They are cut from the same cloth and rather than vindicating himself with this book all he has done is make it clear that he should be nothing more than a footnote in American history.

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

You can grab copy for yourself at Amazon.

If you’re a writer we want to read your work

Society was the real villain in Frankenstein

What is a monster? Let’s try and find out

A monster is most often defined as a “large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature.” Most often in literature the main character of the story is a good guy, a man or woman who goes against evil to destroy a villain or monster. And yet despite the fact that the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a quintessential example of a monster, big, ugly, unnatural, it is in fact Victor, the main character who is the true monster. But can we really dismiss his creation as no monster? I don’t think so.

Victor is the one who wished so much to create unnatural life that it ultimately led to the deaths of everyone he loved so dearly.

Some people argue that the creature is the monster of the story based upon the way he looks, he fits the criteria sure but Frankenstein is a novel about the inner reality of a soul, it is a story about how the actions not the physical appearances of people make them monsters or not.

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Yet in most analysis of the text the creation is referred to as Frankenstein’s monster, that is his most common label. After all his description is horrifying, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries, his hair was of a lustrous black, his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”

This is a classic example of judging a book by its cover. We, just like the society in the book only see the scary and monstrous aspects of the creature and did not think to judge him by what he was on the inside, within that most horrifying of extremities. Someone who is newly born cannot be evil, they do not know right from wrong, they do not understand the world around them.

The creation is shown to be fascinated with the world, with nature specifically, “I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path.” This is the moment when the creation shows his curiosity for the first time, by allowing us to heart his wonderment through his own words Mary Shelley shows us that he is not a monster, he’s more accurately a child.

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Frankenstein Review

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (most commonly referred to simply as Frankenstein) by Mary Shelley is an old classic of Gothic literature.

We are even shown that he is capable of being good by performing helpful deeds such as gathering wood. It is quite clear that if he had been taught and nurtured he could have been brought down the right path and found his place within society.

At one point he takes a families wood cutting tools and brings them back an ample supply of firewood, an act of pure kindness, “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire, and during the night I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.”

At his most basic the creation has a personality that cares for others and craves their acceptance within their lives. And yet no matter how many acts of kindness he performs nobody is willing to accept him within their society, he is always judged by his looks alone and not by his deeds or actions, “he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick.”

Those were the actions of a family the creature had grown to love from a far, the family he would chop wood for secretly so they never went cold, and yet they were terrified by what they saw, they could not bring themselves to look past the outside to the kind hearted person within.

Mary Shelley gives us the false impression that the creation is the monster of the story, but of course that is not true. Victor is a selfish man whose rejection of his creations leads to his own demise and that of his family, he is the monster of his own creation, he is the true villain.

When the creature is first born his introduction into our world is cruel and unforgiving. His creator, and more rightly father, is horrified by him and abandons him immediately, which for a being of new life is terrifying.

This was not a creature born evil, he was simply a product of Victors unwillingness to accept the truth about his experiement. He tries to reach out to other people, to find the comfort and companionship he should have had from Victor. All he ever wanted was to be accepted, and his one true chance at that was taken cruelly away from him when Victor destroys his companion, “The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.”

It was this harrowing death that pushed the creature to his breaking point. Throughout his entire life he had never known one single act of kindness, he had known only disgust and hatred, based on nothing more than his appearance.

The creature deals with Victor in kind and kills his beloved wife Elizabeth.

Something can not be created evil. It is the surroundings and environment within which they are raised that ultimately influence their behaviour. And we see first hand the creature turn from a kind hearted individual into a killer.

Shelley shows us quite clearly that people focus too much on whats on the outside and forget to look at whats on the inside of another person.

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Victor was a reckless monster driven by his own passion and ambition, instead of truly thinking about the ramifications of his actions he focused on his desire to be famous.

When Justine is accused of murder Victor stays silent, he doesn’t tell the truth and take responsibility, he allows another to take the fall, and when the creature threatens him on his wedding day he thinks not of Elizabeth but of himself.

Victor describes his own creation as an animal, he never once looks at it as if it were human. But he’s not the only one to reject him.

The creatures entire life is filled with societal rejection and hatred, and we are able to understand, though not justify, his extreme actions in retribution, after all it is societies fault that he is led to the actions he commits.

When he is on his own the creature is a kind individual, he saves a little girl from drowning and he helps a family survive the harsh winter. But he is not seen as the hero he is but as a monster, and it is that fear and hatred leads to the creation of a monster to rival his creator.

The creation certainly did not wish to be born to be evil, he did not wish to be born at all, yet so many literary experts say that simply because of Victors horrible actions his creation is not a monster, as if excusing his actions. They are both monsters, they are both evil, why cannot that be so? Society turned the creature into a monster but I argue it did the same for Victor. He sought approval and fame, shallow things yes but things that society encourages and rewards. They were both corrupted by the same thing, the views of others.

Why not check out this other essay of ours

An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares

Vampires have enjoyed something of a renaissance in modern literature and one of the main reasons for that is the sexual nature of what is otherwise a monster from the depths of mankind’s nightmares.

If we look backwards in time at the first proto-literary vampires they may not have been unable to engage in ‘normal’ sexual activity like their modern day counterparts, but they certainly were not asexual creatures as some people would believe.

To understand the sexual nature of vampirism we really need to look closely at arguably the greatest masterpiece within the entire genre. I am of course talking about Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The sexual nature of vampires is first seen within those pages when Jonathan Harker encounters the three vampire brides who reside within Dracula’s Castle. Harker openly describes the brides as sexually appealing, ” I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with their red lips.” Stoker also described the three brides as sensual predators whose bites were more akin to a kiss. One of the women even anticipated the biting of Harker with her own desires, “He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.”

Bram Stoker set his masterpiece in the heart of vampire folklores

An even more obvious allusion to the sexual nature of vampires is given when Lucy Westenra, one of the novels ‘good’ women, becomes distracted by the presence of Dracula. During a sleep walking incident Lucy is found by her friend Mina being fed upon by the Count. This begins Lucy’s transformation from a prim and proper lady of the day into what is described by some as a “sexual monster.” As the vampire took a hold of her Lucy took on a most unladylike voluptuousness that was unbecoming of the period.

Not only this but on her death bed Lucy requests that her lover, Arthur, give her a kiss, when he leans in however she attempts to bite him. Yet its within the blood transfusions meant to save her life that Stoker truly shows his understanding of the sexual nature of the vampire. While never able to consumate his love for Lucy Arthur muses that by sharing his blood with her they have at least, in the eyes of God, been married.

Yet it was not Lucy that was the true goal for Dracula, that dubious honour was held by Mina, an honour that led to the most sexually charged scene of the novel. When Van Helsing realises Dracula’s intentions he calls together the men of the novel and they quickly make for her bedroom. Bursting through the door they discover Dracula sitting on the bed and forcing the poor women to drink his blood from a ragged tear upon his chest.

Dracula does not respond well to the interruption. “His eyes flamed red with devilish passion….” Once he was driven away and Mina realised what had occurred she felt violated and vowed never to “kiss” her husband again.

Stoker will no doubt have taken inspiration, at least somewhat, from the Eastern European vampire lore, including their beliefs as to the vampire’s sexual nature. In southern slavic lore for instance it is believed that when suspected vampire corpses are dug up many will have an erection.

Vampires in Romanian folklore

In Gypsie folk lore they too thought of the vampire as a sexual entity. The male vampire for instance was believed to have a sexual appetite so strong that it alone would prove powerful enough to bring the creature back from the grave. His first act upon reawakening would be to return to his widow and engage in sexual intercourse, an activity that would continue nightly, leaving the poor widow exhausted and emaciated.

The more modern interpretation of vampires as young handsome men may take inspiration from the Russian folklore which described the vampire as a young handsome stranger who would lure unsuspecting women to his bedchamber. This tale was used to frighten and curtail the more adventurous of a towns youth.

The original vampire in literature can be found in “The Bride of Corinth” which drew heavily from an ancient Greek tale of a woman who died a virgin and returned from death to enjoy the sexual proclivities of her parents house guest.

Clearly vampires have been creatures of a sexual nature since the human mind invented them. Yet it is only in the modern stories that the sexuality has become so overt.

Carol Fry, author of the compelling article “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula”, pointed out that Dracula was also being depicted as a staple of nineteenth-century books, the rake. The purpose of the rake within books was simply to torment and distress the good ladies of upright society. In many ways the stereotypical rake was very much like a vampire in their demenor and actions. In many tales falling for a rake would leave a female character as contaminated as “morally depraved”. Just like this sociatal label of depravitiy Dracula leaves behind his own contamination on the innocent women who fall beneath his charms.

When the creature was brought from the page to the stage Dracula took on a new life. No longer was he relegated to the background he inhabited in the novel, now he was front and centre, a place where it was much easier to understand the romantic appeal of the creature. However it was Christopher Lee and his set of fangs that truly brought the charming romance of Dracula to the mainstream when the count hit the big screen in 1958.

Christopher Lee personified the evil Count Dracula

While it was arguably Lee and his portrayal of Dracula that really showed us the sexuality of the vampire he wasn’t the first to do so. In Dracula’s Daughter (1936) a female vampire seduces a young model with a charged sexual appetitie hitherto unseen from the vampiric species.

As human society continued to evolve and sexual proclivites became more normalised it was soon the turn of the vampire to be turned into a semipornographic feature by the French director Jean Rollin. It wasn’t long before other directors released equally risque material around the vampire mythology.

While the vampire continued down this adult orientated genre for some years it was not until the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was released that it really gained momentum.

But thankfully it was not the adult film industry that helped redefine and mold the evil monster of the gothic era into the often romantic lover that we see today though. It was books and mainstream films that created the idea of a vampire being not just sympathetic but often times even a hero.

We can give much of the credit for this new form of vampire to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain, who emerged from the pages of the novel not as a blood sucking monster but as a man with convictions and morals, and of course the captivating sensuality that many of his forebears had shown, sometimes he even fell truly in love.

While Germain was unable to have sex traditionally his bite was able to convey an intense sexual pleasure to the recipient, a pleasure women found to be more than adequate.

While books containing the exploits of Germain were being released a new play called Dracula: The Vampire Play in Three Acts was proving a huge draw on Broadway. This would be the first such play to show the public the scene in which Mina is forced to drink Dracula’s blood.

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In the novel the scene is akin to rape more than anything else, yet the play transformed it into one of seduction. A transformation that was kept when the play was adapted for the big screen. Gone was the monster, in his place was an attractive foreign nobleman who was able to lure his victims to their demise by the sheer power of his sexual presence.

When Mina now willing rushes to her lover to drink his blood Dracula completes his transformation from being a villain into a hero, and one who lived up to the film’s grand tagline, “Throughout history he has filled the hearts of men with terror, and the hearts of women with desire.” It was this portrayal of Dracula, played by Frank Langella, that then influenced the 1992 Dracula production from the mind of Francis Ford Coppola.

Coppola showed us a young and handsome man who becomes a monster due to the loss of his beloved wife. This Dracula depiction is able to seduce Mina from her weak fiance and a full love story subplot was crafted which ended in a sensual lovemaking climax alongside the iconic blood drinking scene.

Coppola Dracula is a twisted but sympathetic creature

Coppola gives us a villain but a sympathetic one who in the end begs for release from his curse so he can die in peace.

The evolution of the vampire into a hero lover was a primary element in the overall permeation of the vampire myth into the culture of late twentieth century society.

Mara McCuniff, the centuries-old vampire of Traci Briery’s The Vampire Memoirs, is overtaken by her sexual urges for three days each month at the time of the full moon,while Lori Herter’s romance novels made the vampire the pinnacle object of a woman’s fantasies.

Sexual tension was an ever present theme throughout the hugely successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, which was one of the first vampire stories set in high school with a young adult cast exploring their newly developing sexuality and having numerous human vampire relationships.

Buffy took the vampire back to school

The heightened sexuality portrayed within Buffy inevitably spilled over into the literary world with the likes of Anne Rice (interview with a vampire) being criticised for upping the openly sexual content of her later novels in an attempt to broaden her appeal to the new young vampire fans.

Yet it was the inclusion of vampires within the traditional romance book sector that really pushed the vampire, especially male, into popular fiction. After all romance literature now claims half of the book market.

Many of these novels follow a copy and paste plot. They place a young desirable woman into a forbidden and dangerous relationship with the handsome vampire (either hero or villain). One of the first authors to see big success with this model was Charlaine Harris thanks to her series of books, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, which you may know as the television series True Blood.

This fascination with vampires trickled down from adult romance novels in the first decade of the new millennium and into the rapidly growing YA scene. An early example of this is the hugely successful vampire diaries series. While L. J. Smith published the first three books in the 1990’s it gained much of its popularity in the late 2000’s with its TV adaptation and she returned the finish the series.

Of course there’s one vampire iteration that has to be spoken about. The popularity of the blood sucking monster hit new heights with the release of Twilight in 2005. Stephanie Meyers heroine was a high school girl who finds her true love in a handsome vampire, and kind of also in a werewolf but this article isn’t about them.

Twilight was the most popular modern vampire tale

Bella Swan and her vampire lover Edward Cullen are faced with holding back their expressions of sexual attraction until marriage, which only occurs at the end of the book series.

This sexualizing and romanticizing of the vampire in fiction may depart from the common belief of a mere monster, but it is certainly not new for the creature of mythology.

As discussed earlier many a native folklore tell of, a vampire like creature with a seductive sexuality that mingles naturally with its innate monstrous nature.

Sadly modern vampire depictions seem intent on lessening the monstrous origins of the creature in favour of salacious sexuality. There is a natural balance in the myth that is being lost in its modern depictions.

What this evolution into the peak of sexuality has ensured though is that vampires will remain a focus of fictional works for many years to come.

The Last Terry Pratchett Stories will be Published in September

Many of the stories in The Time-travelling Caveman have never been published in a book

The last ever stories from the mind of Terry Pratchett will eventually be published in September. While they’ll be our final gift from the late great author these stories were written early in his career while he was just a young reporter. Many of these stories have never been released in book form before and range from a steam-powered rocket’s flight to Mars to a Welsh shepherd’s discovery of the resting place of King Arthur. Some of the stories did see the light of day when they appeared in appeared in the Bucks Free Press and Western Daily Press way back in the 60s and early 70s.

Pratchett worked at the Bucks Free Press during this time where he would write a weekly Children’s Circle story column. He published his first novel, The Carpet People, in 1971, when he was only 23. Original copies of the newspapers containing these Pratchett stories can sell for hundreds of pounds online.

Discworld is arguably Pratchett’s most famous series

When the editors of Pratchett’s children’s books, Ruth Knowles and Tom Rawlinson, learnt there were more early stories not yet in book form they jumped at the opportunity to share them with the world.

“After reading them, we knew we had to create one final book. It is very fitting that some of the first stories he wrote will be in the last collection by him to be published,” said Knowles and Rawlinson in a joint statement. “There is so much in these stories that shows you the germ of an idea, which would go on to become a fully fledged Terry Pratchett novel, and so much hilarity that we know kids will love. That is what makes the stories so special – they are for kids and adults, and kids who want to be adults, and adults who are still really kids. Which is exactly who a Terry Pratchett book should be for.”

The stories in book, titled The Time-travelling Caveman, see him exercising his trademark dry wit. In The Tropnecian Invasion of Great Britain, he writes: “That was how things were done in history. As soon as you saw a place, you had to conquer it, and usually the English Channel was full of ships queuing up to come and have a good conquer.”

“When it comes to Terry, there is always going to be an embarrassment of riches. His incredible talent and imagination knew no bounds,” said Rob Wilkins, the author’s and manager of his estate. “With more tales of everything that would go on to make Terry Pratchett books the phenomenon they became – humour, satire, adventure and fantastical excellence – we just couldn’t deny readers these gems, and the chance to read a Terry story for the first time, one last time. It will mean so much to fans.”

Pratchett sadly passed away in 2015 but not before leaving us a plethora of brilliant novels to enjoy. From Discworld to Good Omens Pratchett left an everlasting mark on the literary world, a mark that will only get stronger this September.

Rowling joins Rushdie and Atwood to warn against ‘intolerance’

JK Rowling has joined Salman Rushdie has signed a controversial open letter condemning “an intolerance of imposing views.”

JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie are just a few of the well known signatories to a controversial open letter warning against the spread of “censoriousness” which they say is leading to “an intolerance of opposing views” and “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism”.

Rowling, whose article detailing her personal beliefs on transgender rights has recently seen large numbers of Harry Potter fans distance themselves from her, said she was “proud to sign this letter in defence of a foundational principle of a liberal society: open debate and freedom of thought and speech”.

Rowling has faced pressure from Trans activists recently over her controversial comments

The letter is signed by more than 150 writers, academics and artists, including other such notable figures as Gloria Steinem, Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell.

The letter acknowledges that “powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society”, before it goes on to attack what it describes as “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favour of ideological conformity”.

The writer Thomas Chatterton Williams is the hand behind the letter and has used it to hit out at how a “panicked damage control” is able to lead to the delivery of “hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.”

He also critiques how “editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged in-authenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organisations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes”.

“Donald Trump is the Canceler in Chief,” Williams told the NYT. “But the correction of Trump’s abuses cannot become an over-correction that stifles the principles we believe in.”

The letter concludes with all signatories asserting that “the way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away”.

Of course the letter has faced its fair share of criticism online. “As is usually the case for people who manifest in favor of free and open debate and against repression, several of the people on this @Harpers Open Letter have behavior in their past that reflects the censorious mentality they’re condemning here,” tweeted the author Glenn Greenwald.