01 March 2010

Night Vision

"According to Abraham Van Helsing, the voice of authority on vampires in Dracula, the vampire can see in the dark" (Melton 755). This little perk of vampirism comes in handy as the blood-drinker lurks in a shadowy recess waiting for his prey to stumble by him.

Vampiric night vision is a logical assumption, "because vampires [are] nocturnal creatures who [move] freely in the darkness of the evening hours" (755). In order to feel comfortable and secure a creature should be able to use all available senses, so a vampire must be able to see at night. But, let's be honest, you can see at night, too. You just can't see very well.

Nocturnal creatures cannot perceive an environment that is totally dark, either, unless they employ another means of navigation. The bat, for instance, uses sonar. The viper utilizes infrared. Often the vampire is compared to both of these creatures, but can a vampire truly see when the world is devoid of light?

Before we continue further, I will admit that I have rather poor eyesight. I mean, it's probably still better than yours, but I shouldn't brag. Once again, I am an unreliable source of information. My eyes are not equipped with infrared sensors, x-ray emitters, or sonar receivers...but, I really wish that they were; that'd be cool.

Anyway, let's examine what fiction and folklore have to say. Then, we'll discuss the scenario as I...ahem...see it.

In folklore, vampires emerge at night, and in some tales cannot withstand the solar rays. However, vampires are rarely afforded a narrative voice in folklore, and we cannot assume that they possess heightened night-vision just because they are nocturnal.

So, we'll turn to fiction. Certainly, Stoker bestows keen nocturnal sight on his undead characters. Human narrators describe dark scenes through which the vampire navigates flawlessly. In more modern fiction, nearly always vampires are ascribed preternatural sight, including powerful night-vision.

Nina Auerbach points out that Rice's vampires "do little, but they are superb spectators. When they are not killing, they flex their highly developed vampire sight" (154). Not only do Rice's vampires see well in very low light, but they also see well in illuminated scenes. Louis notes how his vision changes--he sees the world through new, vampiric eyes--when he transforms from human to vampire. Armand, as Amadeo, records how lights glow brighter after his death, and paintings seem to come alive. Colors are also bolder, and patterns are more distinguished.

When I argue with Anne Rice, readers of my blog become disgruntled. You'll be happy to know that I'm not contradicting your vampire-guru author...well, I'm not contradicting her overtly, anyway. Vampiric vision relies on acute perception, which is sensing and mentally translating the environment, instead of sonar, infrared, or any other seemingly magical catalyst of night vision. Vampires are nocturnal and are therefore more accustomed to the dark version of the world than diurnal humans. Looming shadows fail to startle the vampire, who realizes that they are nothing more than inanimate objects. Small movements register sharply in the peripherals of the vampire's vision, and he knows to react to these tremors.

So, does a vampire have night vision? Of course, he does. And, unlike you, he understands what he sees.

See you soon,

Note: Hey, it could be worse. I could have babbled on about the natural bleaching of rods and cones and the regeneration cycles of cells...just think about that.

Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires.
Melton, J Gordon. Vampire Book.

No comments:

Post a Comment