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“Vampire or victim. It depends on who’s around.”  -U2, Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

I like to understand how other people see the world. I wonder how a physicist sees a car accident or how a fireman thinks about a fire. Recently, I read How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster. I make no claims to be a literature professor, so I found the book intriguing.

The author explained that often in literature, one thing really means another. Does the scene begin in winter? Perhaps it is an allusion about the end of life. Did the hero lay down his life? He may be a Christ-figure. Did you read about a house in disrepair before you were introduced to the couple who live there? Perhaps it was foreshadowing the state of their relationship. I will leave the more colorful themes to your imagination.
In the third chapter, Foster discussed vampires. Vampires have gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Dozens of TV shows have been about vampires. Search vampire on Amazon, and you will get 85,096 results for books.
Vampires are “alluring, dangerous, mysterious”[1] and they prey on beautiful, helpless young women. They are scary stories about a loss of innocence, but like other elements of literature, vampires are not about vampires. Vampires personify the characteristics of predators. They are about “selfishness, exploitation, a refusal to respect the autonomy of other people.”[2]

Do You Know a Vampire?

Perhaps the reason that vampires are so compelling is because they are so common, not as pointy-tooth creatures of the night. But they are all around us: That pushy salesman, your boss at work, your crazy relative who controls family gatherings, and shoppers trampling each other to save a couple of bucks during a holiday sale. Foster explained:
Using other people to get what we want. Denying someone else’s right to live in the face of our overwhelming demands. Placing our desires, particularly our uglier ones, above the needs of another. That’s pretty much what the vampire does, after all. He wakes up in the morning—actually the evening, now that I think about it—and says something like, ‘In order to remain undead, I must steal the life force of someone whose fate matters less to me than my own.’ I’ve always supposed that Wall Street traders utter essentially the same sentence. My guess is that as long as people act toward their fellows in exploitative and selfish ways, the vampire will always be with us.[3]

Are You a Vampire?

So I ask you—are you a vampire? I am not asking if you are a creature of the night. I am asking if your customers or employees experience you the way that Foster described. No one wants to do business with a vampire. If the answer is yes, how can you change your undead ways to be more human?

End Notes

[1] Foster, T. C. (2017). How to read literature like a professor: A lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (p. 16).
[2] Foster, T. C. (2017). How to read literature like a professor: A lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (p. 16).
[3] Foster, T. C. (2017). How to read literature like a professor: A lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (p. 21).