Study Guide

'Salem's Lot Lust

By Stephen King


She was not a believer in love at first sight, although she did believe that instant lust (going under the more innocent name of infatuation) occurred frequently. (2.271)

Susan is thinking about her feelings for Ben, and about whether she is in love with him or simply infatuated (in lust) with him. The book tends to present their relationship as love… but it ends with Ben putting a stake through her heart, which could be seen as a particularly bloody and ugly representation of sex. Susan's mom told her not to trust that guy, right?

There were no ghosts. But there were preeverts. They stopped in black cars and offered you candy or hung around on street corners or… or they followed you into the woods…

And then…

Oh and then they….

"Run," he said harshly. (3.412-415)

Danny Glick thinks about ghosts and the supernatural as things linked to perverts, or sexual offenders. This is a comparison made throughout the book: Hubert Marsten, who brings the vampires to Jerusalem's Lot, seems to have been a pedophile and murderer. And Danny himself, a child, soon becomes a kind of sexual predator, slaking his lust with blood.

It had been part her and part him that night, and after it had happened and they were lying together in the darkness of her bedroom, she began to weep and tell him that what they had done was wrong. He told her it had been right, not knowing if it had been right or not and not caring… and at last they had slept together like spoons in a silverware drawer. (3.94)

The relationship between Eva Miller and Weasel Craig is generally presented as complicated but sweet, right rather than wrong. It ends, though, with them both turned into vampires in service to the Master. As vampires, perhaps they live happily ever after together, like two spoons. Or maybe they've turned into vampires as punishment for their illicit relationship.

But no matter how deep the potential liking, it is impossible to open up completely to a man who is dangling your daughter's potential defloration between his legs. (5.3)

This is a dour take on the relationship between fathers and son-in-laws. Moreover, the guy who does eventually deflower Susan and become her "husband" is Barlow. Maybe Bill could have challenged him to badminton.


"Hmmm? What?"

"It's all over."

"What is?"

"You know what. Do you want to? Tonight?"

"Sure," he said. "Sure." And thought again: Isn't this some life. Isn't this some life. (6.194-199)

Sandy is saying that her period is over, and she's asking if Roy wants to have sex. Here we've got a pretty explicit connection between intercourse and blood, and it's not long before the family turns into vampires. No one said King was subtle.

He could almost see her hands cupping her titties, making them bulge into the V of her cardigan sweater in ripe white half-globes, whispering: Kiss them, Dud… bite them… suck them… (6.270)

Dud Rodgers, under Barlow's influence, is fantasizing about biting and sucking on Ruthie Crockett. Dud's one of several characters whose sexual desires are fulfilled by Barlow. Vampires make a weapon out lust.

"I was attracted to him in a mildly sexual way, I guess. Older man, very urbane, very charming, very courtly. You know looking at him that he could order form a French menu and know what wine would go with what, not just red or white but the year and even the vineyard. Very definitely not the run of fellow you see around here." (9.157)

Susan is sexually interested in Straker because he's a sophisticated outsider. Perhaps she's also attracted to Ben because he's a sophisticated outsider. And then there's Barlow, yet another sophisticated outsider. Susan likes these sophisticated outsiders… and she gets turned into one herself, more or less (though vampires don't drink wine).

"It's such a lovely dream, Tony," she said, speaking against his throat. The movement of her lips, the muffled hardness of her teeth beneath them, was amazingly sensual. He was getting an erection. (10.74)

Leave it to Stephen King to turn nursing a child into erotic lust. Vampires are often linked to incest themes here. When Barlow bites Susan, for example, he makes her his child and simultaneously has sex with her. The "lovely dream" here could be seen as the dream of all sorts of lust and illicit sex.

Something in her face—not stated but hinted at— made Jimmy think of the young Saigon girls, some not yet thirteen, who would kneel before soldiers in the alleys behind the bars, not for the first time or the hundredth. (14.327)

Vampiric Susan is compared to underage prostitutes. She's sexually corrupt in a way that the male vampires don't seem to be (none of them are compared to underage prostitutes, anyway). You also have to wonder if it's Barlow who's corrupted her, or if she was doomed as soon as Ben slept with her. This town, you might say, has some issues with female sexuality.

Over her face, terror and lust seemed to pass like alternating flashes of sunshine and shadow.

"Darling," she said.

Reggie screamed. (14.782-784)

This is Bonnie Sawyer, looking forward to consummating her relationship with Corey Bryant for all eternity. There's really not much more to Bonnie, in the story, than lust; about all the book says about her is that she wants Corey (it's not even clear why, or what he's got to offer precisely).