The story “Carmilla” begins with the introduction of Laura and the background of her childhood reoccurring dream of a woman coming into her room and biting her chest. Laura is a lonely teenager that desires friendship. In a carriage accident that is supposed to bring the General’s niece, Bertha, to visit Laura, Bertha dies and instead brings Carmilla into their home. Laura immediately recognizes her from her childhood dreams, and it is revealed that Carmilla had the same dream when she was a child too. As the story progresses, the two girls become very close which progresses into a more romantic relationship. Carmilla is very private about herself, leaving Laura with little information about who she really is. She embodies some characteristics of a traditional vampire: she sleeps during the day, sleepwalks at night, and she doesn’t pray. Laura stumbles upon a portrait of Countess Karnstein, also known as Mircalla who looks exactly like Carmilla. While Carmilla stays with Laura and her father, Laura has dreams of an animal entering her room, biting her chest, then transforming into a female that disappears. Her health starts to decline rapidly and her father takes her to Karnstein. When they get there, the General explains how his niece, Bertha, died at the beginning of the story. Just like Laura, Bertha was being visited by the vampire Mircalla. In the end, Carmilla is killed with a stake through her heart. Laura's health is impacted by this relationship, but she survives the attacks of Carmilla. Le Fanu uses the names Mircalla and Carmilla to represent the same vampire, with different arrangements of the letters.
Historical Context and the Theme of Sexuality Edit
According to Holly Furneaux’s “Victorian Sexualities” and Kathryn Hughes’ “Gender Roles in the 19th Century”, women in the Victorian era period were expected to be pure and domestic. Furneaux discusses how “the enjoyment of sex was exclusively male prerogative” (Furneaux). It was thought that women should not feel sexual feelings and that wives were supposed to maintain the image of “Angel in the House”. Women during this time period were supposed to be uphold the gender role of a housewife. During this time period, it was very clear that women were “physically inferior yet morally superior to men which meant that they were best suited to the domestic sphere” (Hughes). It was a woman’s job to manage a household and raise a family so that the next generation would be able to follow in the same footsteps. It was considered inappropriate if a woman was too eager to find a husband because it was perceived as sign of a “sexual appetite”. Given this background information of the time period Le Fanu wrote “Carmilla”, it can be concluded that Carmilla was a taboo story written for its time. Not only does Carmilla explore her sexual feelings, she is exploring them with another woman. This idea of homosexuality wasn’t as easily accepted during the Victorian era. Even though Laura may not be as comfortable exploring Carmilla sexually, she often finds herself lost in the moment while Carmilla seduces her.
Similar Characteristics Between Vampires and Werewolves in Regards to Sexuality Edit
Similar to “Carmilla”, the theme of sexuality is present in tales about werewolves. In “Little Red Riding Hood”, the young girl preyed upon is a beautiful and vulnerable. The werewolf in the story targets Little Red Riding Hood because she was “the prettiest girl of the village” (Perrault). The werewolf is seen as the bad guy who victimizes Little Red Riding Hood’s innocence to satisfy his sexual desires. Like Laura in Carmilla, Little Red Riding Hood easily trusts the werewolf in the moment. Perrault’s moral of the story is to warn young children from interacting with strangers, because no one can be trusted. He emphasizes that attractive children are especially targeted. While vampires and werewolves may have completely different appearances, the authors of these various folktales incorporate sexuality into these creatures in a way that connects them together as supernatural beings.
"Victorian Sexualities" https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/victorian-sexualities
"Gender Roles in the 19th Century" https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/gender-roles-in-the-19th-century
"Little Red Riding Hood" http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html#perrault