Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chapter 34: In Which Varney is Adept at Blame Shifting

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Varney reveals deeper aspects of his character.

I am a nitpicker at heart, as I'm sure my reader(s?) have noticed. It's just how I read and enjoy things. It takes a good deal of effort to step back and analyze something more holistically, and even my reviews of things I enjoyed tend to read like "this was bad and this was bad and [extended rant on this one sentence that was bad] but otherwise it was awesome and you should read it." These chapter-by-chapter analyses are perfect for me, because I can zoom in on a small aspect of one small part of Varney without feeling that I'm neglecting the work as a whole.

I mention this now because I spent most of my analysis of the last chapter on one small paragraph, and in Chapter 34 (THE THREAT. -- ITS CONSEQUENCES. -- THE RESCUE, AND SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER.), I immediately zeroed in on a single line.

The gist of the chapter is that Varney, finding a sleeping victim no fun at all, wakes Flora up and begins to torment her in a horrific seduction. She resists, and he tells her:
"Flora Bannerworth, you are persecuted -- persecuted by me, the vampyre. It is my fate to persecute you; for there are laws to the invisible as well as the visible creation that force even such a being as I am to play my part in the great drama of existence."
In his first attack on Flora, he is just a monster. In this attack, however, he explicitly distances the supernatural forces that make him a vampire from himself. He did not attack Flora by his own will, for his own gain; rather, he is compelled to by forces beyond his control.

The rest of the chapter is basically an extension of this idea. Varney begs Flora to love him in order to save him. She refuses. Now his attack on Flora is no longer the fault of supernatural forces -- rather, the blame transfers to Flora. The attack is her fault for not being selfless enough to love him (as is a woman's responsibility, obviously).

Finally, Varney assures Flora that she will not become a vampire just from a few bites, but that if he keeps attacking her over a long period of time, she will turn. Here he resorts to the "she was wearing a short skirt" defense: if Flora is within his sight, he cannot help himself, but if she leaves Bannerworth Hall he will forget about her and she will be safe.

Let's go back, for a moment, to my post about sexy vampires -- because this is exactly the type of attitude I see in a lot of fictional vampires. The blame shifting, the separation of their "real self" and the evil deeds their vampirism compels them to,  the sense that the objects of their affection are to blame for their staying around such a dangerous creature.

Except in most of those stories, the vampire is supposed to be the hero. Here, Varney is sympathetic, but I haven't get gotten the impression that we're supposed to view him as some kind of alpha male, romantic hero, rather than a well-developed, well-rounded villain. That's why this chapter works for me as an intense and frightening scene -- because I never get the sense that it's not supposed to be.

Chapter 35: In Which the Admiral's Awesomeness Overshadows Everything Again

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