Discussion Posts

Trope Discussion: “To turn or not to turn,” the vampire question

Introduction: What is the trope?

This trope typically appears in vampire romances. The question is whether or not the vampire in the relationship should or shouldn’t turn the human. Often, the question comes up for a variety of reasons. The obvious and practical reasoning is that a vampire is immortal and typically never ages, whereas the human will naturally age and die of natural causes. Once the human ages to a conspicuously older age than when the vampire was turned, their relationship will become awkward and attention grabbing. Additionally, if the hope is to remain in a relationship for a long time, there is a constant threat that the human may die of any number of causes before the natural conclusion of the relationship. This also tends to be a part of the conflict of the story, as protective tropes often appear in vampire romances as well.

The trope often appears in one of two common patterns: The vampire regularly pressures the human to let themselves be turned, or the human regularly pressures the vampire to turn them. Various motivations can lead to either presentation. In the first pattern, most often the vampire is hoping to offer protection and eternal love, or if the romance is less intense they might just want to make things easier for themselves. In the second pattern, the human often has a desire to be with the vampire eternally and is highly concerned with the factors that might lead to their own demise. Depending on how difficult the process is, the vampire might not be confident in their abilities to turn the human, or there might be some moral conflict that vampire has.

What does the trope stand in for?

Sometimes this trope is just there to drive conflict. In the Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber, Raven and Alexander have a solid romantic relationship from book one. The conflict of whether Raven should become a vampire or not is thus the overarching plot of the series and the trope doesn’t get much deeper there. In other cases, though, the trope can stand in for much more. In The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, Sookie Stackhouse is regularly offered immortality by vampires–especially vampires who want her to work for them or be with them. Sookie’s resistance is concrete, she never considers the offers seriously, and this is part of her personality. She stands by her humanity and wants to be human, she wants to grow old naturally and have a natural life. Here, the trope often represents an insurmountable difference that leads to the end of her relationship with a vampire.

In a romance series, the trope does generally stand in for other major issues in relationships. Marriage, having children, differing lifestyles, and financial issues are generally problems that a vampire romance doesn’t really need to or have to address, thus the issue of “should the human partner be turned” can stand in for these issues as a conflict. Sometimes the question is presented as a temptation, standing in for any variety of temptations in the real world. It can also pose a philosophical debate, standing in for other forms of self examination.

Interesting questions it raises

The most interesting question that this trope raises is that of autonomy and humanity. In some vampire stories, a main human character is turned out of necessity; their impending death or doom takes decision making out of their hands. Many vampire stories focus on this factor, bringing up how resentful of immortality some of them feel because they might have made a different choice if they’d been prepared. Many vampires involved in this trope who resist the pressure humans place on them to be turned fear that should they turn their human partner, that human may resent them for doing so. Often in these partnerships there are various downsides to becoming a vampire: the inability to have natural born children, the inability to age further, the loss of certain loved parts of humanity such as the sunshine, etc. When the decision is placed entirely in the human being’s hands there are a lot of questions of autonomy and choice that are brought up, including the right of the vampire to rescind their consent/offer to turn the human at all.

Another question that the trope raises tends to be if immortality is worth it. Being a vampire is often presented as an immensely powerful and desirable thing. You’ll be young forever, unchanging and impossible to kill (or very difficult to do so). You’ll have eternity to learn, practice skills, live with loved ones, etc. But with that come certain trade offs, dependent on the presentation of vampires within the world. Some vampires can’t be out during the day at risk of mortal peril, others can’t enjoy food or drink anymore. Vampires will have to watch the rest of their loved ones age and die of various causes and would ultimately be unable to save every single one of them. Vampires won’t be able to age, which depending on the age of the human when they want to be turned could be a major problem. Imagine being stuck at eighteen forever, or sixteen, or even younger.

Philosophically speaking, it can be argued that the point of life is that it ends eventually. You have to make the best choices to pursue the best life you can without knowing if you’ll have a chance to live much longer, to live again, or to see an afterlife. Being a vampire may give you the opportunity to do so much more, but it also takes away that deadline (for lack of a better term). Without the self motivation to pursue education, talents, hobbies, crafts, or any other personal project, vampires can waste away and do nothing with their immortality.

Final thoughts

Ultimately this trope continues to emerge and be an important factor in many vampire fiction stories. Especially vampire romances. Where you have a human and a vampire romantic pairing, this trope will emerge. Sometimes the results are a human turned into a vampire, and other times the relationship ends because the trope drives them apart. But what’s more interesting is that this trope brings into play important questions and discussions. Independence, autonomy, consent, and the right to make one’s own decisions in life are all discussed if not directly then tangentially during the presentation of this trope in fiction. There are examples of all sides of the question, and it is treated differently each time it’s presented since no two characters and relationships can be exactly alike every time. The philosophical implications are immensely interesting, as well.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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