Friday, November 19, 2010

The Evolution of Louise the Vampire: Literary Criticism

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire presents the reader with a totally new form of this classic horror character.  Louis, the interviewee, is a man at the end of his rope.  After the death of his brother, Louis cannot bear to live longer, but cannot find the gusto to end his own life.  He encounters Lestat, a vampire, and is turned himself.  Louis begins a long journey of finding himself in this new role of no longer living, but not dead.  He is not like any other vampires we have encountered in literature prior to this in one distinct way; he cannot bring himself to feed on humans.  This begins an interesting and telling evolution of the death of the man within the vampire.  By looking at a few keys passages from Rice’s novel, the evolution of Louis into full blown vampirism can be seen. 
            The first passage we will look from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire comes from page 54 of the novel. 
I had to kill him.  He started to run.  He would have alarmed everyone.  Perhaps it might have been handled some other way, but I had no time.  So I went after him, overpowering him.  But then, finding myself in the act of doing what I had not done for four years, I stopped.  This was a man.  He had his bone-handled knife in his hand to defend himself.
Rice describes Louis first encounter with feeding on human blood.  Before this time, Louis relied on animal blood to sustain his vampirism.  Louis emphasizes the necessity of the act.  He seems as though he is a man with no other option.  Louis stresses that he “had” to chase after and kill this human.  Furthermore, Louis reminds the reader that he had “no time” to mull over the situation and think of a better course of action.  Finally, Louis stops this act of vampirism when he finally realizes what has happened.  It seems as though he feels a sense of remorse for his actions, commenting that this is “a man” who is trying to defend himself from an attacker.  In this passage the reader sees Louis in his infant stages of becoming a vampire.  He does kill for fun or sport like his maker Lestat, but rather looks at this act as a necessity to preserve his own well-being.  Louis rationalizes the act by saying the man would have told everyone about the vampires in New Orleans therefore putting his safety in serious jeopardy.  After this encounter, the reader understands a new form of the vampire.  Louis is compassionate and conscious of the effects vampires have on the world around them.    
            Our next passage furthers the evolution of Louis as a vampire.  Although the reader may feel some sympathy to the condition of the compassionate vampire, this does not last for long. 
I could feel the fever for the kill rising in me, a knot of hunger in my insides, a throbbing in the temples as if the veins were contracting and my body might become a map of tortured vessels (Rice 122).
Again the reader experiences the thirst of a vampire, but for the first time this is coming from Louis.  He describes the need for the kill in a very graphic way.  Furthermore, it is important to note than many of the terms Louis uses seem to echo that of the heart.  He focuses on words like throbbing, veins, contracting, and vessels.  This passage is a fantastic example of the syntax Rice uses throughout the novel to stress the need for blood that courses through a vampires psyche.  Louis is beginning to sound very similar to his other vampire companions.  The reader feels a sense of need for blood, more specifically human.  Louis no longer laments over the kill, or does it out of necessity.  He feels the “fever for the kill” mounting inside him.  Louis is no longer satisfied with animals and clearly needs something more.  In addition, the need for a kill gives Louis “a knot of hunger inside him.”  He is starving for the taste of blood.  This stands in stark contrast to the Louis the reader encounters with the old man running from him.  He is no longer looking to kill simply for necessity, but is searching for a victim to feed on. 
            Louis transformation is almost complete.  The last passage we will examine comes from page 254 of Rice’s novel. 
Not physical love, you must understand.  I don’t speak of that at all, though Armand was beautiful and simple, and no intimacy with him would ever have been repellent.  For vampires, physical love culminates and is satisfied in one thing, the kill.
One of the most human acts that is discussed in the novel is physical love.  It is one of the few things that is common between us and vampires.  Although this is true, Louis equates this act to the kill.  He even goes as far to say that it “culminates and is satisfied” by a singular act of taking a victim.  In this, his transformation from fully human to completely vampire has occurred.  He no longer has the shreds of humanity that hold him back in the beginning of the novel.  His transformation is one of the more fascinating themes of the novel for two reasons.  First, Louis is the first character we have encountered that seems to hold onto his humanity even after he has become a vampire.  He does so with his compassion for victims, the recognition of his actions, and their effect on others.  Secondly, Louis shows compassion for his fellow vampires.  Not until his, and his companions, lives are threatened does Louis commit an act of vampirism on another human.  He is conscious of the peril his society lives in and does his part to protect it.  In this, an analysis of Louis as a character in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is one of the most intriguing and fruitful in the vampire literature we have read this semester.  

1 comment:

  1. Cmose, nice post! I very much agree with many of your points. To start, your point about the hesitancy Louis displayed in killing humans was a very noticeable component of this novel. We as readers are given this new aspect to uncover and within this new subtext Rice subverts much of what we have previously read about vampires. In Carmilla for example, one of the vampire’s strongest desires is to kill. In fact it may be her only desire as she was driven by a very singular impulse to feed on humans. You aptly note about his first attempt at feeding on human blood, “Before this time, Louis relied on animal blood to sustain his vampirism. Louis emphasizes the necessity of the act. He seems as though he is a man with no other option.” Exactly! Louis for much of the novel simply refuses to allow himself to succumb to the animalistic desire that vampires fell towards human blood. While he is able to resist, in the end he gives in to temptation.

    You brought up another interesting point later, writing about how he “is the first character we have encountered that seems to hold onto his humanity even after he has become a vampire.” Excellent point, I also liked how you mentioned that his ‘human’ compassion was the trait that gave this away. Louis was not cold and detached from his humanity like Dracula or Carmilla, he was not a base creature driven by blood such as the vampires in I Am Legend. Instead he is a compassionate and thoughtful vampire, at least until the end when he becomes detached from his emotions through the many losses he is forced to endure.