The Vampire Tapestry Essay - Critical Essays

Suzy McKee Charnas


In the same way that Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) can be read as a patriarchal response to the “New Woman” movement of the 1890’s, so can Suzy McKee Charnas’ The Vampire Tapestry be read as a response to the women’s movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Charnas uses literary vampire conventions established by Stoker (such as the vampire’s sexual attractiveness, pride, and sense of prey as little more than cattle) with more modern conventions (skepticism about the existence of vampires) for ideological purposes, allowing The Vampire Tapestry to function as a text about gender relationships and patriarchal repressive gender ideology.

Weyland is presented as a complex, vulnerable human being who undergoes a series of changes through each of the novel’s five parts. In part 1, Mrs. de Groot identifies the power and strength of the vampire—an outsider— with the power and strength of a black woman in a repressive society, allowing her to defend herself. In vanquishing Weyland, she refuses her conventional role as woman/victim and becomes woman/hunter.

In part 2, the erotic element of the vampire is foregrounded. Weyland is placed on display and manhandled by Reese, who exposes the vampire’s bloodsucking apparatus in a scene that can be read as a displaced representation of the exposure of female genitalia to male gaze, which characterizes the gender power relationships of contemporary society....

(The entire section is 437 words.)