Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Faceless Community and Castration?

     Lindvquist’s Let the Right One In seems to say a lot about the human condition of Cold-War Sweden and the lack of identity amongst its citizens. As always with the vampire novel, Eli represents a change from the norm, yet the fear that she instills into the city is different from the hysteria found in Carmilla, Dracula, and other vampire novels.
     I think that the essentially faceless nature of the townspeople correlates not only with the lack of history and culture in Blackeberg, but also with the stereotypical idea of Soviet Communism. As Calhoun states in his essay, “these marginal figures are forgotten wards of a welfare state, and in their drunken late-night wanderings are easy targets for predation” (27). While Eli and the fear of an unknown murderer does cause some in the community to take notice, I think that the general reaction is much different than past vampire novels, as there is an overall tone of indifference. I think that this novel correlates more with I am Legend’s perspective of vampires, in that as “marginal figures” (27), the townspeople represent the “old way of thinking”, whereas Eli represents the “new”, or the “evolved“. Even though Eli is over 200 years old, her lifestyle is definitely unique, and actually reflects a progression or evolution in life. This is similar to Ruth and the evolved vampires in I am Legend, as their existence makes Robert Neville’s own existence essentially pointless.
     The deaths in the novel do not affect the community in the ways in which one would expect, or as seen in past vampire novels (especially Dracula). Out of all the deaths of townspeople in the novel, the death of Virginia seems to affect Lacke the most. To Lacke, Virginia’s death seems to give the area a sense of identity or purpose, as the feeling (or Lacke’s sadness) spreads when “he started to cry. Not quietly, no, he wailed like a kid, but worse, more … the cry deepened, started to reverberate against the concrete walls. Lacke’s scream of primal, bottomless sorrow filled the stairwell from top to bottom, streamed through the mail slots, keyholes, transformed the high-rise into one big tomb erected in the memory of love, hope” (421). Yet in reality, there is nothing he can do about it. He is as powerless as he was in the beginning of the novel, essentially frozen in Blackeberg.
     I found the police‘s response to Virginia‘s death to be amusing, as “They had not believed [Lacke]. Or rather, yes, they had believed him but refused to interpret the events in the way that he did” (426). I like how “spontaneous combustion is just about as well-documented and scientifically proven as vampires” (426), which seems to show just how little the government or authority actually cares to take a look into crime (or the unknown) in the area. On that note, I’m wondering if the monotonous or faceless nature of the town could be related to Communism, whereas the government’s lack of concern could apply to the fact that Sweden was somewhat of an absent participant in the Cold War?
     The scene in which Lacke encounters Gosta’s multiple cats is one of the most intriguing scenes in the novel, even though I‘m not sure what to completely make of it. “A large gray and white cat was lying flat on the floor, looked like it barely had the energy to lift its head up. Gosta nodded at it” (332). The cat (“Miriam”) seems to say a lot about the town of Blackeberg, as the cats are complacent in their situation with Gosta. Lacke asks, “You’ve never thought about … having them fixed? Like castration, or whatever it’s called … sterilizing? You could make do with one sex, you know.” (332). The mention of castration definitely stuck out to me, as it seems to be a metaphor for Eli’s situation in Blackeberg. I think this scene is a great contrast between humans and animals, and in that sense, humans and vampires. The lack of energy in the cat seems to reflect broken nature of the Swedish people, and the fact that Lacke suggests sterilization seems to either reflect an overpopulation problem or possibly lack of identity. It is interesting to think about Lacke’s thoughts concerning “one sex” (332), as he almost makes it sound like it would be a step forward for the cats. In addition, with Eli in mind, this can be compared to not only his past but his possible future with Oskar.
     I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel at first, but it was definitely one of the most compelling that we’ve read this semester. I think that the generally emotionless nature of the community only enhances this vampire tale. In past vampire literature, a general theme is that the vampire will prey on innocence if innocence is not protected. No one in this novel is innocent by any means, and the indifferent nature of the community only enhances this idea -- on the surface, the community cares, but in reality, the community only does so because it is supposed to do so.  This is a great contrast to the relationship between Eli and Oskar, as they help each other because they want to, not because they have to.


  1. I like your relation from the people of Blackeberg, who are a group of people with little different or interesting about them, to soviet communism. It would appear that this is precisely the case for the population. They have no identity and appear to be one whole people with few unique features. Your completely right when you talk about the indifference of the community to the murders that are taking place right in their very own city, it is like they don’t care. In the other books when characters or townspeople heard news of a possible vampire it was very unnerving and they knew something had to be done, it is the complete opposite in this case. When you say, “Out of all the deaths of townspeople in the novel, the death of Virginia seems to affect Lacke the most. Yet in reality, there is nothing he can do about it. He is as powerless as he was in the beginning of the novel, essentially frozen in Blackeberg. (Mcmahont)” I think that essentially everyone feels frozen in Blackeberg. The city seems to be a hub for the dull unidentified and no one who lives there feels like they will ever leave, and to be honest I don’t think they care to. Overall good post!

  2. I think the correlations you pointed our are very interesting and something I didn't hadn't even thought about. I think that Eli had to learn how to evolve because she had to keep up with the children in each new generation. Children grow faster and learner quicker and Eli had to understand that evolution and has jumped on that band wagon. I like how in Calhouns essay he points out how the adult figures with the exception of Hakan, are pretty much faceless, mindless creatures who are for the most part blend into the scenery. I actually like that idea of the book because it's almost like a child's secret and the adults have no idea what is going on. Nice post.