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Isabella Brown-Quigley

Professor Holly Batty

English 102

01 November 2017

We Are Monsters Too: Analysis of Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Where are the monsters hiding? Everywhere and deep inside our unconscious minds. In

everyday life, we walk amongst and contain monsters without realizing. The corrupt human

nature is what is monstrous. An author commented on monsters in nonfictional stories and said,

not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside

(Fredrik Backman). In the small southern town of Bon Temp, Louisiana, vampires come for the

first time and chaos rises amongst the townspeople. The white townspeople want segregation

between themselves and the vampires while the monsters are seeking equal rights similar to

African-Americans. Whereas vampires are the obvious monsters, Harris novel depicts

humankind as being even more monstrous for failing to resist primal desires, and engaging in

acts of murder, necrophilia and prejudice.

A major theme in Harris novel is desire, which is a base for destruction. According to

Purdue OWL, Freuds psychoanalytic theory describes that the Id is the part of the unconscious

mind that contains instinctual drives. All of our primal desires are located in the Id. Throughout

the novel, the characters are connected by primal desires. These desires include sexual

intercourse and the sucking of blood. Libidinal desire can be caused by primal instincts. Harris

created a monstrous human by the name of Rene to depict the most repulsive being

possible. Hed strangled her with her apron strings. And hed had sex with her, after she was
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dead (Harris 277). Rene murdered his sister and had sex with her corpse. He engages in

necrophilia and incest. Renes libidinal desires are abnormal given the atrocities he

commits. The monster is not only a murderous pervert, but he is a human. It is horrifying to

think that another human is capable of committing those loathing acts.

Bill Compton, the vampire, portrays human qualities when he controls his primal

instincts and tries to fight against the prejudices of the town. His nature and appearance are

monstrous, but his interior is humane. He was turned into a vampire when he was infected

with a virus and was killed during the Civil War. Bill fought for the South during the Civil War

in his hometown known as Bon Temp. He is a cautious, intelligent, and respectable gentleman

and treats Sookie like a lady. Bill falls deeply in love with Sookie and wants to stay in his

hometown with her. Becoming a vampire was traumatic for him because he had to kill humans,

and leave behind his wife and children. His libidinal desire is to connect with Sookie, which is

done through sex and the exchange of blood. The Id wants to drink blood, but he controls his

hunger and mainstreams, which is when a vampire relies on synthetic blood. The synthetic

blood is an alternative food source to prevent feeding on humans. The synthetic blood enables

vampires to shed their monstrosity, leaving just the monstrosity of the humans.

Harris compares African-American rights in the real world to vampire rights in her

fictional world. It takes place in a small town that fought for the South in the Civil War. During

the Civil War, the Southern states were pro slavery, largely because their economy depended on

it, unlike the north who had the advantage of an industrial economy that used machines rather

than slaves for production. African-American slaves supported the economy and prejudice was

used to justify the enslavement. The town was initially racist towards African Americans. The
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setting of the southern town establishes the tone for racism. Harris only includes two African-

Americans in her novel, with very little dialogue. She wrote, He was furious that someone had

killed a woman he knew, and he was hoping it wasnt a black man because that would make his

relationship with Kenya even more tense (81). The white townspeople are prejudice towards

minorities and seem more willing to accept the white vampires rather than different colored

members of their own species.

The author comments on the real world of racism towards African-Americans through the

fictional world where there is prejudice towards vampires. The author comments on such a

heavy and deep topic to make people aware of their monstrous actions such as racism. A lot of

the humans in this town do not take kindly to vampires because they are inhuman like how

slaves were considered to be. In an interview with psychoanalyst, Dr. Sullivan, he said You

cant learn to trust white people by one nice one (98). Sookie for example demonstrates

compassion that is not show by the townsfolk. Sookie is among a minority of townspeople who

accept vampires. The white townspeople try to accept a species that kills humans and does not

accept other humans.

The humans sense of superiority is used to justify depriving vampires not only of

equality, but of life itself. In the beginning of the novel, a couple attacks the vampire, Bill, to

drain him and sell his blood as a drug (Harris 8). Vampire blood is illegal and has effects

including heightened senses, improved libido, and strengthened muscles in humans. The couple

treated Bill like he was a commodity. This is similar to how African-Americans were treated

during slavery. Even though African-Americans were considered livestock and inhuman, their

white slave owners were the inhuman and monstrous beings. The couple in the novel slashed
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and wrapped Bill with silver chains like how slaves were bonded and tortured. Harris compares

Bill to a slave here. The couple is prejudice towards Bill, but also want to exploit him as

chattel. White owners used their slaves as a means to produce goods such as cotton and

tobacco. The blood that the couple wanted was simply a product from which to profit and they

had no regard for the victim.

The author demonstrates prejudice through villainous human acts. Humans are

monstrous towards one another. Psychoanalyst, Dr. Mark J. Blechner, provides an example in

his journal, which states, We are prejudiced about genocides. In the last 20 years, the United

States intervened vigorously in the genocide in Kosovo, where the victims and the perpetrators

were white skinned. But in Rwanda and Darfur, where the victims are black skinned, we have

shied away from active intervention (Blechner 245). Humans have tortured their own to appear

more superior than the other. We fight for power and create arbitrary rules to display dominance

over other humans. This thirst for power and dominance leads to many profound issues such as

racism. In one instance in the novel, some humans set fire to a house knowing vampire

occupants could not escape because of the daylight that burns them. The most monstrous

human, Rene, goaded the arsonists and murdered three fangbangershumans who volunteer

their necks to vampires because they enjoy the pain. His prejudice against vampires led him to

believe that, Anyone whod let a vampire do that deserved to die (277). When he found out

that his sister was a fangbanger, he killed her and then had sex with her corpse. He repeated this

act with other women when Bill first came to town, giving the appearance that Bill was the

culprit. Rene took advantage of a vampire moving to town and set Bill up.
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Harris shows that prejudice is awful and preventable because it is learned; it is not

innate. The United States has been dealing with the issue of prejudice since its beginnings. The

colonists from Europe had believed that whites were superior to every other color, and even that

some whites were better than others. That learned prejudice was brought to America and

institutionalized, remaining even to this day. According to Blechners psychoanalysis, racial

prejudice is learned and often covert. He stated, Even the most open minded of us cannot

completely eliminate the prejudices that were programmed in us from a very early age (244). It

is nearly impossible to stop a seed of prejudice that has already been planted into someones

head at an early age.

Rene is the ultimate monster, but this is hidden throughout the novel until the end. He

flies under the radar because his hatred for vampires is withheld and he is made to seem like a

good-hearted man. Rene exclaims, You dont touch anyone who works here. Thats the rule

(43). He defended Sookie when a customer was acting rude. This is a humane action of

Rene. He appears to be a kind man throughout the novel to the townspeople, but he ended up

being a murderer. Sookie was shocked to learn that Rene was the killer all along. Motivated by

his prejudice, he murders his promiscuous coworkers fangbanger lady friends. His prejudice

against vampires was exacerbated when his sister became a fangbanger. Rene blamed the

vampires for corrupting his little sister. As his prejudice manifested, his hatred spread to his own

kind and kinfangbangers. Renes acts of murder, necrophilia, and prejudice are what make

him monstrous. His actions contradict his thoughts because he is worse than the monsters

towards whom he is prejudice.


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Through a psychoanalytic lens, Harris depicts primal instincts, murder, necrophilia and

prejudice to illuminate the monstrosity of humankind juxtaposed against one of the most

notorious monsters in fiction. Primal instincts reside in the Id and some people cannot or choose

not to control them. Renes sexual desires include necrophilia and domination. Dead until Dark

is a commentary on centuries-old prejudice against African-Americans. We create images of

other monsters to encapsulate our true Ids and what we dread most in life (Donovan). We

do this to make ourselves feel like less of a monster by comparison. The vampires represent

our primal instincts--what makes them monstrous is beyond their control until synthetic blood is

available, at which point it becomes possible for them to shed their monstrosity and become

more humane. However, humans in the novel do not need to be monstrous to survive. Prejudice

is a monstrous quality possessed by humans. We are the monsters. Humans kill for sport,

commit acts of genocide and torture our own kind. Martin Luther King once said, Dont judge

someone by the color of his or her skin, but by the content of his or her character. Humans are

prejudice towards innocent African-Americans for their appearance and in the novel, towards

vampires for their actions needed to survive, yet we do not even glance at our own kinds

actions.

Works Cited

Brizee, Allen. Purdue Owl. Purdue University, 03 June 2013.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/04/

Accessed 13 Nov. 2017.


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Blechner, Mark J. The Role of Prejudice in Psychopathology and Psychoanalytic History.

William Alanson White Institute, 2009. http://icpla.edu/wp-

content/uploads/2015/08/Blechner-MJ-The-Role-of-Prejudice-in-P Psychopathology-and-

Psychoanalytic-History-p239-250.pdf

Donovan, Patricia. UB Reporter. University of Buffalo, 27 O

Oct. 2011. http://www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/archive/2011_10_27/monster_culture.ht

ml. Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.

Fields, Hannah. TTU. Texas Tech University, 26 April

2017. https://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/focus/posts/2017/erin-collopy-

vampires.php. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.

Hansen, Michelle Kay. Monsters in our Midst: An Examination of Human Monstrosity in

Fiction and Film of the United States. University of Nevada, Las Vegas. May 2012.

Harris, Charlaine. Dead until Dark. Berkley. May 2001.

Hunter, Jeffrey W. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 330. Detroit: Gale. Literature
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