Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the Right One In

I really like Let the Right One In, it’s so gritty and dark and yet so modern that it’s easy to relate to despite the setting being in a foreign country. What makes it interesting is that Oskar and Eli are both outcasts, misfits in a way. What is it exactly that brings the two of them together? I believe it is their commonalities. Oskar is a 12 year old boy that is frequently picked on, humiliated and tormented by fellow classmates and children his own age.

 Footsteps outside, voices. Pissball in hand, he fled into the nearest stall and locked the door at the same time as the outer door opened. He soundlessly climbed up onto the toilet seat, curling into a ball so his feet wouldn’t show if anyone looked under the door. Tried not to breathe.


Jonny, of course.

“Hey Piggy, are you here?” Micke was with him. The worst two of the lot. […] If the pissball were discovered, Thomas was the one who would really be able to use it to hurt and humiliate him for a long time. Jonny and Micke, on the other hand, would just beat him upand that was fine with him. So in a way he was actually lucky…

“Piggy? We know you’re in here.”

They checked his stall. Shook the door. Banged on it. Oskar wrapped his arms tightly around his legs and clenched his teeth so he wouldn’t scream.

Go away! Leave me alone! Why can’t you leave me alone?


“You’ll have to open the lid if you’re going to shit, you know. Go on, squeal like a pig.”

And Oskar squealed like a pig. (p.9-10)

He is not strong enough to stand up to them although he has a deep, dark violent side and violent daydreams of murder against his tormentors. This is his release, in a sense.

He thrust and thrust and thrust. After the first blow Jonny had realized this wasn’t going to be like those other times. With blood gushing from a deep cut on his cheek, he tried to escape but the Murderer was faster. With a couple of quick moves he sliced away the tendons at the back of the knees and Jonny fell down, lay writhing in the moss, begging for mercy.

But the Muderer wasn’t going to relent. Jonny was screaming…screaming like a pig…when the murderer threw himself over him and let the earth drink his blood.  

Oskar also creates illusions, and voices to comfort himself.

“It’s over now, it’s enough. Understand? This is it.”

The clown didn’t answer.

“I’m not standing for this. Not even one more time. Understand?”

Oskar’s voice echoed in the empty bathroom.

“What should I do? What should I do, do you think?”

He twisted his face into a grimace until it hurt, distorted his voice by making it as raspy and low as he could. The clown spoke.
“…Kill them….kill them….kill them…” (p.95)

As for Eli, her escape seems to be leaving Hakan and the house and heading to the playground to be by herself.

“You here again?”

Oskar lifted his head, pretended to be surprised, let a few seconds pass and then:

“You again.”

“Why are you sitting here?”

“Why are you up there?”

“I came to be by myself.” (p.56)

Eli and Oskar also seem to rely on each other. Their times on the playground slowly becoming their escapes and as their relationship advances they each become stronger.

“Someone did that to you, didn’t they?”





“Some kids in my class.”

He slowed himself down with his feet, looked at the ground in front of him.

“Yes, what is it?”

“You know what?”

She reached her hand out and grabbed his and he stopped completely, looked at her. […] With her other hand she touched his wound and that strange thing happened. Someone else, someone much older, harder, became visible under her skin. A cold shiver ran down Oskar’s back as if he had bitten into a Popsicle.

“Oskar. Don’t let them do it. Do you hear me? Don’t let them.”


“You have to strike back. You’ve never done that, have you?”


“So start now. Hit them back. Hard.”

“There’s three of them.”

“Then you have to hit harder. Use a weapon.”

“Yes, but what if they…”

“Then I’ll help you.”

“You? But you are…”

“I can do it, Oskar. That…is something I can do.”  (p.105-6)


  1. The story is definitely very gritty and dark, which is part of the allure which makes people read it, it is different from many people’s everyday life. The fact that this was the only real modern book we have read was interesting and caused me to enjoy it more than some of the others we have read. I like reading about cities with today’s architecture rather than large castles with butlers from the past. I definitely agree with you that the reason Eli and Oskar come together is their mutual problems, each being different but equally troubling to them. This is why they latch onto each other and become so close, Eli helps with the bullies and Oskar helps him with the pain and suffering of being a lonely two hundred year old vampire. “Eli and Oskar also seem to rely on each other. Their times on the playground slowly becoming their escapes and as their relationship advances they each become stronger (Emily).”
    One thing that I thought was strange was how he talked to himself. But you bring up a great point, that this is the way he deals with the interactions with the bullies. I originally just thought he was kind of weird but it makes complete sense that he deals with the pain and fear this way.
    He is not strong enough to stand up to them although he has a deep, dark violent side and violent daydreams of murder against his tormentors. This is his release, in a sense.

  2. I found it so interesting the way in which the violence in this book is so multi-layered. You have the Cold War and the presence of Russian submarines, which poses its own violence; Hakan, who commits horrible acts on the bodies of his victims; Eli, herself, who violently attacks the people of Blackeberg, picking off lower class workers; the bullies; and finally Oskar, who fantasizes about violence and torture. It seems that in a place that is supposed to be "peaceful" and even pacifying in its construction, these housing units possess an incredible degree of corruption and terror. In what ways can we see this novel as a reaction to oppressiveness of the suburbs and these manufactured spaces?

  3. It’s really cool that you bring up the idea of Oskar and Eli being outcasts. It’s neat to think that both these characters are so drawn to each other but yet they do not know how out casted each one it. Eli does not really know the extent of which people pick on Oskar and Oskar does not know what Eli is. It is really sad how much they pick on Oskar. The passage that you posted makes me feel so bad for him. I think that with Eli, Oskar feels that he can get the strength to stand up to the bullies and I think that with Oskar, Eli feels more human that with anyone ever before.

  4. I can't say I'm a history buff so I don't know much about the location that the story takes place in or very much about the time line but the thick layers of violence are definitely evident. It does seem that oppression causes feelings of violence. The characters Eli, Hakan, and Oskar are all oppressed or treated unfairly and with contempt in one way or another so it only makes sense that their surroundings, including the people in it lead to the way they lash out. Also, this is just a thought but the town was very plain and boring with nothing to do so violence, stealing, etc... might be a way for people to release their anger at being forced to live in such a place.

  5. They do rely on each other, and I think it's interesting how you point out that they are both misfits. In other vampire novels that we have read the vampires always were misfits as well. Dracula, for example, was feared by the people of his own country. Louis was a misfit in his little 'family' because he felt guilty for killing humans and appreciated life in a way that Lestat did not.

    It seems that anyone who is different is singled out as strange. Eli is different, because she is a vampire, and Oskar can always tell that there is something a little off about her. Whether she can jump down from something higher than expected, or the fact that she does not bathe. Oskar is also strange, to his classmates, because he likes voicing his knowledge.