Abstinence vs. indulgence:

How the new ethical vampire reflects our monstrous appetites


  • Elizabeth Nelson Pacifica Graduate Institute




As an archetype, the vampire is alive and well in the collective psyche. A closer look can reflect back to us what we deem monstrous out there as well as inform us about the monstrous within. This is fundamental to Jung’s notion of the Shadow and fundamentally an issue of ethics. This paper explores how specific attributes of the contemporary vampire reflect our ethical agon at the beginning of the 21st century, using two popular vampire sagas, the Twilight series and True Blood as examples of the tensions between abstinence and indulgence among a predatory species. This paper explains the elements of the female Bildungsroman literary genre found in both stories, which offers psychologists a particularly fruitful view into ethics and character development, and shows how the central love relationship between a human female and a vampire male dramatizes some of the trickier aspects of relating to the Other in the most intimate manner. The paper concludes by comparing Aristotelian virtue ethics with Jung’s notion of individuation to discern who is the real monster—and who aspires to the classical notion of arête.