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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carmilla and Innocence

                In the short novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu the vampire reigns supreme. It is an interesting twist on the gothic vampire story because in this story the vampire is a young and beautiful girl. To the naked eye she is a young helpless child, who needs someone to help take care of her. This is seen when we are first introduced to her when her carriage tips over in front of the schloss. My child will not have recovered sufficiently to resume her route for who can say how long. I must leave her: I cannot, dare not, delay. “To Laura and her father she seems like a perfect normal young girl, and because of the loneliness of the schloss they decide to take the young girl in, even though they really know nothing about her, and are even told not to ask questions of her.
                I found the story interesting because of the innocence of Carmilla. She doesn’t show the signs of a scary monster; in fact she is the complete opposite. She can live, breathe, and walk among humans as if she is one of them, and no one would ever suspect her.  She uses that innocence to prey on her victims slowly and methodically.  In a way the story reminds me of The Vampyre because she can blend in with humans, but unlike Polodori’s Ruthven who is depicted as mysterious, she is innocence personified.
                The story has an underlying gothic theme of the dual nature of the character. She is evil and destroys life, but at the same time looks and acts like a child, and feeds off the loneliness of Laura. Laura dismisses many of Carmilla’s quirks because she desperately wants someone to be her companion.
                Another interesting note in this story compared to Polodori is that Carmilla could actually love someone. It is shown many times over in the story that she is in love with Laura. “The time is very near when you shall know everything. You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish. How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, loving me, to death; or else hate me and still come with me. and hating me through death and after. There is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature.”  Even though Carmilla is an evil creature she can still love another person.  Once again is emphasizes the dual nature of her character. It emphasizes more of her human characteristics. We can see by her love of Laura that she is determined to have her no matter what, and she will take her death to have her all to herself.  In this passage she blatantly admits to Laura she is being selfish with her, even though Laura doesn’t really understand the true meaning of Carmilla’s words.
                Overall this was a very enjoyable novella, and I will admit I did not stop reading until the end of the story. I enjoyed the story very much, though I will admit I really wasn’t sure what to write about for my blog this week. I am hoping that others in the class will help give me a better idea of something to write about for next week. 


  1. I also found this story difficult to put down and, like you, have completed the story in its entirety. Of the many compelling points of this novella, I was most fascinated by the way in which Le Fanu chooses to depict Carmilla. For instance unlike in other Vampire stories, Carmilla does not possess the pale and lifeless complexion of many other vampires. Instead she is a most beautiful woman who is adept at using her looks to create close relationships with her female prey. As you wrote, “She can live, breathe, and walk among humans as if she is one of them” Fundamentally this seems to depart from many vampire tales. As you so aptly noted, Polidori’s Ruthven was characterized by his air of “mystery”. His stoic, yet confident nature was what drew Aubrey to his obsession and ultimate demise.

    Yet another aspect of your post that was of note was the way in which you noted Carmilla’s dual nature. I don’t get the feeling that Carmilla actually loves Laura, rather I believe she is confusing love and desire. Her desire to feed and prey upon Laura is being confused by her as love. In your quote of Carmilla there is support for this assertion, “You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish.” Carmilla wishes to ‘possess’ Laura, this selfish desire lends itself well to the way Laura still somewhat sympathizes with her persecutor near the end of the book, but that is better left to next week’s post!

    Nice work!

  2. I think you bring up a lot of great points, and it made me think a lot about the differences between the vampire Carmilla and the stereotypical male vampire that had dominated stories like this up until this time. Whereas Lord Ruthven is quite obvious that Lord Ruthven is an individual that imposes fear and mystique, Carmilla is described as “slender … wonderfully graceful … her complexion was rich and brilliant; her features were small and beautifully formed” (262). Carmilla’s descriptions, when contrasted with Lord Ruthven’s, make her seem quite harmless and innocent upon first glance.

    I also like how you point out that Carmilla is able to love someone, whereas Lord Ruthven and other vampires of this time were essentially monsters out to drink blood. While Carmilla may have ulterior motives concerning Laura, she does feel love and compassion. While Carmilla appears to be innocent, she does have ulterior motives when concerning Laura. I think later on in the semester when we get to Interview with a Vampire, it will be interesting to compare Carmilla to Claudia, as she is also described as an “innocent” vampire.

    I actually think that Carmilla is more like the older Catherine from Wuthering Heights. A lot of this has to do with both characters’ physical beauty, as Laura is infatuated with Carmilla and both Heathcliff and Edgar are infatuated (or obsessed?) with Catherine. But the way that she haunts Laura is quite similar to the way that Catherine haunts Heath cliff (aside from the blood drinking), and the way that Carmilla is dominant over the Irish land is quite similar to the way that Catherine overshadows Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.

  3. I do agree that Carmilla does seem innocent, but I also believe that Le Fanu structured her character to be completely aware of this; so much so that she uses it as an advantage. Carmilla preys on Laura, a character who is searching for companionship. Innocence plays a key role in this because their relationship would have never blossomed like it did if Le Fanu made Carmilla anything like Ruthven. She is so enamored with the idea of a companion that Laura ignores many of Carmilla's strange nature. I also believe that innocence is exploited in the discussion of the portrait that "resembles" Carmilla. She is stunning and beautiful in the portrait. These are two qualities that someone with an evil nature would not necessarily possess.

  4. I like your point about Laura ignoring Carmilla's faults or quirks because she is so incredibly beautiful and Laura really craves a companion. Whether Laura and Carmilla's relationship is intended to be merely friends or something more, it seems that Laura is nonetheless blinded by her infatuation with the girl. I think that both Laura and her father seem a bit naive. Neither one seems to hold anything against Carmilla, even if she acts strangely. When she disappeared from her room and reappeared hours later after a through search of the house Laura's father simply laughs it off and blames the incident on sleepwalking. Neither one seems to think much of anything about the girl's strange behavior. Carmilla does seem to feed on Laura's loneliness, and what bothered me a little bit was that even Laura's own father wished his daughter could be more like Carmilla. No one can fault her for anything.