Male Opression in Carmilla
—> The following article contains spoilers of the entire novella.
The novella Carmilla, written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, presents a female vampire who begins a peculiar relationship with her victim: instead of treating the young Laura just as prey, Carmilla tries to befriend her. For the female vampire, sucking blood is not enough; she must enter her victim’s private life, becoming a part of it. However, that intimacy, homosexual in its nature, is considered the most egregious crime by the male figures of the narrative, who do not hesitate to violently reject the vampire’s behavior, fighting to maintain their hold on the feminine.
The plot of the gothic novella is simple: Laura is a young girl who lives in a remote castle in the forests of Styria alone with her father, a widower. When she was six she had a vision of a beautiful person in her bedchamber and claimed that she was punctured in her breasts. Now when she is twelve years old a carriage accident occurs close to her home, which makes a mysterious girl called Carmilla, who is the same age of Laura, to live temporarily in her castle. The two girls become close friends and Carmilla tells Laura that she had the same vision when she was younger.
As is typical of Victorian vampires, Carmilla calls forth what is considered unspeakable for its time. Through her relationship with Laura, she animates an element of homosexuality: from the places she bites Laura – the breasts – to their dynamic of trust and mutual comfort, the two characters quickly become more than friends, forming a bond with lesbian connotations. Carmilla, therefore, represents transgression fully, bringing that hidden element of homosexuality to life – an element so unspeakable that even Laura, who feels it more closely than everyone else, discovers herself incapable of saying it out loud in front of her father.
Although the vampire considers this homosexuality natural – she thinks that everything comes from nature – the father figures of the story strongly disagree with her, instead seeing Carmilla as a threat. They basically form an erotic triangle between Laura and the vampire, fighting for control over their girl. This group of men treats Carmilla’s vampirism as a disease – indirectly putting homosexuality in the same condition – and their solution is not even a cure, but extermination.
The power of the novella comes from the fact that even though they succeed in murdering Carmilla, Laura keeps thinking about her still, through reveries, when she imagines the vampire visiting her at night so many years later. In other words, the male figures can silence, kill and oppress, but are still unable to vanquish the vampire’s influence on Laura: the desire that Carmilla represents and embodies still endures through time.
December 08, 2018.
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