Forbidden Fruit

The idea of what vampires are was always a mystery to me.  The way they were portrayed in movies and novels was that they were these vicious blood sucking murderers that lived in secret away from the rest of the world and one thing I’ve always noticed was that vampires were always men it was very rare to come across a female vampire.  The use of a female vampire in LeFanu’s Carmilla and his way of using sexuality and eroticism in a Victorian novel through women is what makes the novel appealing.  
Usually in a Victorian era novel sexuality and eroctism is discrete and if it is openly used, its between men and women.  LeFanu takes it a step further by creating a sexual relationship between two women.  Which is totally unexpected especially for the time the novel was written.  As if this relationship between Carmilla and Laura wasn’t enough, LeFanu takes it another step further when it’s revealed that Carmilla is a vampire.  Everything about Carmilla is completely out of the ordinary for the time it is written.  The power and manipulation she has over Laura is incredible. Carmilla has a power that draws people to her. She is evil but is able to disguise herself so well that even when it’s sensed that something isn’t right about her, still  attracts Laura to her.  Which reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve, they knew what was forbidden to them but they let the evils of the devil overpower them.  Which is exactly what Carmilla is to Laura, the devil.  She can’t help but take part in the seduction, she is blinded by the evils of Carmilla and the more she tries to pull away the deeper she got sucked in.  Laura knew the relationship she shared with Carmillia wasn’t natural and frowned upon but she couldn’t help herself.  As the saying goes, “how could something so wrong, feel so right.” 
“Now the truth is, I felt rather unaccountably towards the beautiful stranger. I did feel, as she said, “drawn towards her”, but there was also something of repulsion. In this ambigious feeling, however, the sense of attraction immensely prevailed. She interested and won me; she was so beautiful and so describably engaging.”
LeFanu paved the way for many vampire novels and now they’re seen everywhere from the big screen to TV shows.  One show in particular that I feel has some influence from Carmilla is True Blood.  It is full of seduction, forbidden desires, sexuality, eroticism and unexplainable deaths.  There’s also the feeling of not being able to resist something that is known to be wrong but feels so right.  The characters of Bill and Sookie and their looked down upon open relationship is one representation of this.  But the relationship between Tara and Pam is more fitting when it comes to comparison with Carmilla.  Tara, a newly created vampire wants no part of her new lifestyle but through the manipulation and power of her maker Pam, she has no choice but to partake.  Pam is Tara’s maker because she transformed Tara from a human into a vampire in turn Tara becomes some what of a servant to Pam for the entirety if her vampire life.  She is forever indebted to Pam unless she is released by her or until one of them dies. In the world of True Blood, Carmilla would somewhat be Laura’s maker because of the power she has over her and Laura isn’t free from her until she’s dead.  Here is a clip from True Blood that shows the power and manipulation a maker has over their subject.
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4 thoughts on “Forbidden Fruit

  1. Jason Tougaw

    This is a really interesting thread. I do think there is a connection between the lure of the Vampire and electromagnetism in Carmilla. The overt sexuality is fairly surprising. It was pretty common for Victorian writers to portray intimate and physically affectionate friendships between women, but Le Fanu goes further, really emphasizing the erotic element of Carmilla’s and Laura’s relationship. There are plenty of examples of Victorian writing that depict overt sex–remember Autobiography of a Flee, from our first class meeting?–but Victorian erotica was a subcultural phenomenon and Carmilla was a mainstream, popular, serialized novel.

  2. Nathan

    I wonder if the sucking metaphor can be expanded to this concept of magnetism. I would say that its this image of a vacuum pulling someone in and sucking them dry. The alternative is that the genesis metaphor is extended which would imply that we are all our own worst enemy, harbingers of our downfall. This, while pessimistic, resonates with me somewhat. The concept of overwhelming responsibility can be paradoxically empowering.

  3. Clémence

    I totally agree when you talk about Carmillia’s attraction power; everyone is drawned to her, partly thanks to her extraordinary beauty. This thematic of the evil as “beautiful” and attractive reminds me of Charles Baudelaire’s poem “Hymne à la beauté” (Hymn to beauty), where he wonders about the origins of beauty, thinking it has to be evil, considering the power of its attraction. Here is the last stanza, which, in my opinion, echoes the novel :
    “From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
    Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
    Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
    The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden?”

  4. alixg

    I completely agree with you when you talk about how everything about this novella was unexpected for the time period. When I was reading, I was shocked by the overt sexuality. In fact, I read the first few pages of Major’s article first and only after started reading the book, and I just assumed that everything Major was saying about the sexuality was implied through the text rather than outright depicted as it in fact is. Also, you bring up how she’s drawn to Carmilla and can’t help but to partake in the seduction; this reminded me of how Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” makes a deal with Ursula even though everyone knows she’s evil. Ursula, like Carmilla, sucks an aspect of Ariel’s beauty from her: her voice. As Ariel can’t talk, she can’t win over the prince and so as she ‘weakens,’ Ursula is ‘streghtened’ and able to seduce the prince; as Lauren gets sicker, Carmilla gets more beautiful.

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