Study Guide

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Death

By Seth Grahame-Smith

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... wish I could but vanish from this earth, for there is no love left in it. She has been taken from me, and with her, all hope of a... (Introduction.55)

This book doesn't slowly get us into the issues. Nope, it drops us smack dab in the middle of them. Right off the bat we know that Abe is sad because someone is dead. That's pretty much half of this book. We don't know who is dead or what Abe hoped before (but now doesn't). But here's a clear sign: buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Abe had never watched someone die before, and he hoped that God would forgive him for being slightly curious to see it happen. (1.58)

Death is a serious business for Abe. (He charges… by the head.) Or at least it will be when he's older. When he's just a kid, it's a fun mystery that he wants to investigate. These deaths are those of his great aunt and uncle, the Sparrows, so it doesn't really mean anything to Abe. But it will soon enough.

I ached for this "war" with vampires, knowing nothing of its consequences. Knowing nothing of holding a dying friend in my arms or burying a child. Any man who has seen the face of death knows better than to seek him out a second time. (2.96)

Even after Abe's mom dies, he doesn't seem to be taking death all that seriously. What's funny about this quote is that Abe comments on this from a future point when he can see what an idiot he once was. From the future, Abe can tell that seeking out death is not exactly the best idea in the world, not for him or for his family.

"Living men are bound by time," he said. "Thus, their lives have an urgency. This gives them ambition. Makes them choose those things that are most important; cling more tightly to that which they hold dear. Their lives have seasons, and rites of passage, and consequences. And ultimately, an end. But what of a life with no urgency? What then of ambition? What then of love?" (3.86)

Luckily, we've all read Interview with the Vampire and Twilight—or at least we've watched the movies—so we know what it's like to live forever. That's good because Abe and Henry only spend a few paragraphs discussing what it's like to live without death. Answer: it's weird. Without death, it's hard to organize your days according to what's most important.

Poe laughed at the suggestion. "Is not our existence long and miserable enough?" he asked, laughing. "Who in God's name would seek to prolong it?" (4.89)

Poe is even more depressive than Abe, so when the issue of immortality comes up, Poe's answer is pretty clear: life is terrible, so more life is even more terrible. It's a good thing Poe says this because now we know that he doesn't actually have a secret, creepy desire to be a vampire (which you'd forgive us for thinking, given the way he goes on about them). Poe laughs at this (he is a weird guy), but this is a serious issue that Abe faces. If life is bad, then is death maybe the best way out?

An old, familiar dread. I was a boy of nine again, watching my mother sweat and suffer through the same nightmares. Whispering the same futile prayers; feeling the same unbearable guilt. It was I who had brought this upon her. (6.93)

Here's Ann Rutledge dying and Abe feeling useless. Which is interesting because of how Abe is so strong and skilled in many other ways. This weakness sort of foreshadows the rest of Abe's life: he can kill vampires all he wants, but they'll always be around, and they'll always kill the people he loves. But wait, there's more. It's not just that Abe is useless, it's that he's actually part of the problem—he's the one who got Ann killed by writing a letter to John MacNamar. Ruh roh.

I stopped pulling at her hair and laid my hand flat upon her head, as if comforting a friend in a time of grief. All apprehension left me now. All pain. The warmth of whiskey. An unknown joy.

These are the last moments of my life. (7.57-8)

We're not even halfway through the book and already Abe has started to think about death as a nice rest. (We've read some long books that had us thinking the same thing.) Abe feels this connection between death and relaxation in a moment of, let's say, stress (a vampire is attacking him), but this connection remains for Abe through most of the book, even when he's not being killed by vampires.

I fear that a life of death has made me numb to both. (9.21)

Classic slayer conundrum. When you're surrounded by death, it starts to look not so bad, and that makes it a whole lot harder to enjoy your life. Plus, he's busy all the time, what with that ever-growing hit list of his. See, it's all about destiny, and it doesn't seem Abe has much of a choice. As long as he's Abe, he's a vampire hunter. Buffy would understand.

I have come to believe that the only peace in this life is the end of it. Let me wake at last from this nightmare... this brief, meaningless nightmare of loss and struggle. Of endless sacrifice. All that I love waits on the other side of death. (11.98)

Aw, thanks, Abe, for spelling it all out for us so nicely. This quote comes after Willie's death. Willie is his favorite kid (don't tell the others), so this death packed an especially rough punch. What's interesting here is that Abe seems to believe in reuniting with his loved ones after death; but at the same time, he wouldn't go along with Henry's plan to reunite with his loved ones by making them into vampires. It really does raise the question of what's so wrong with being made into a vampire. Is meeting up with your loved ones in heaven all that different? Does it really matter where you are, if you're together?

This boy—this nameless boy—had risen that September morning, unaware that he would never see another. He had dressed and eaten. He had run bravely into battle. And then he had been gone—every moment of his life reduced to a single misfortune. All of his experiences, past and future, emptied onto some strange field far from home. (12.64)

The war is a huge part of what we remember Abe for, but the Civil War doesn't take center stage here. We only get it in bits and pieces. And one of those bits (yech, excuse the pun) is this description of the aftermath of the war. Sure, it's worth fighting, but it's full of violence and death. Notice how Abe boils down this young kid's life? What matters is not that he lived many years, got up, got dressed, and ate breakfast. What matters is that he was blown away. Real uplifting stuff, Mr. President.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Death Study Group

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