Dracula vs. Twilight

Isabel Braico, Staff Writer

The concept of literary merit, often defined as the overarching value of a piece of written work, has, in recent years, come under fire for being a matter of blatant subjectivity presented as objective fact. The academics who decide which books become classics and which are forgotten by history don’t have a more sophisticated taste in books than the general public, they’re just better at expressing that taste in big words. No one can tell you that a book has literary merit; every person must decide that for themselves.

That’s why it’s often frustrating to me when people who’ve never read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series claim they hate it, without really asking themselves why. Personally, I think the book is extremely problematic, and that in trying to ascribe human traits to a monster, Meyer ends up romanticizing monstrous traits. On the other hand, universally admired classic books aren’t perfect, either. For example, in Dracula, the division between good and evil is so clear cut as to make the story uncompelling. Both novels are flawed, and yet Dracula is revered as an uncontested classic, where the mere mention of the Twilight series causes thunder to roll and birds to fly from their roost.  

Obviously, not everyone feels this way about Twilight. I know many people who enjoy the Twilight series, simply because it’s fun. Unlike Dracula, Twilight doesn’t take itself very seriously. Dracula’s intended purpose was to raise questions about what makes a monster and what makes a man, and maybe this is what won it its place in the literary canon. Twilight, though, is more lighthearted; its primary purpose is to entertain, which is probably why a dedicated reader could get through the Twilight series in a few days, where Dracula takes quite a bit longer. Still, just because Twilight serves a different purpose than Dracula doesn’t mean it lacks literary merit. It’s easy to think that Dracula is inherently better, because it deals with heavier themes, but if the purpose of a book is to have a compelling conversation with a reader, then Twilight definitely fulfills that purpose– otherwise, you wouldn’t have teenage girls and their moms lined up for blocks in 2009, waiting to get their hands on Twilight: New Moon.

I’m not arguing that Twilight deserves to be immortalized as a classic, but I am arguing that it garners quite a bit of undue hatred. Frankly, I think that this hatred stems from the book’s intended audience: teenage girls. We tend to assume that anything that caters exclusively to the interests of teenage girls, whether it be boy bands, fashion trends, or vampire novels, lacks substance. This sentiment has become so strong that we often see teenage girls trying to distance themselves from their peers,claiming that they’re “not like other girls.” According to Twilight fan Helen Rohn, “It’s so underrated because everyone wants to stray from the norm to appear cool, but really it’s a pretty solid series.” We teach girls to be ashamed of their identities and their interests, and this is reflected in the widespread hatred of Twilight, especially by those with no actual exposure to the books.

When we let people decide which books are worth reading for the general public, we tend not only to reinforce existing biases in society, but to validate them. In my opinion, neither Dracula nor Twilight are great books. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have value, and it certainly doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t be able to enjoy them. Don’t waste your life reading heavy novels because some white guy in an ivory office building  says they’re worth your time. Whether you’re reading Dracula or Twilight, read whatever brings you joy, because life is too short to suffer at the hand of a bad book.