I apologize in advance for the lack of a newsletter being sent out Thursday. There wasn’t enough news to warrant a newsletter, plus last week’s jury duty stint sorta deprived me of the stamina needed to write really anything last week.
Now that I am done with my short-termed civic duty, it is with great aplomb that I post my own thoughts on this week’s round of discussion questions for the coven’s slow, analytic look at Interview with the Vampire: the first novel in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicle series
To continue reading my thoughts on this week’s discussion questions, click “read more” below!!
Here are my thoughts on this week’s discussion questions:
1.As a reader, what are your first impressions of Louis’ fleeting affection for Babette? Do you think this segment of the book serves as an occurrence of foreshadowing about any future scenes within the book?
My own first impressions of Louis’ fleeting affection for Babette has been incredulity. Before reading Interview with the Vampire, I have read other vampire novels, where the vampire resolutely utilizes their strong, manipulative command of human emotions to masterfully seduce the stereotypical maiden. This iconic trope of the vampire seducing the wanton mistress is best captured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Anne Rice subverts this, and allows us to analyze this trope with more nuance and introspection. When we are first introduced to the Frenieres, they are introduced as a very important French family that owns a sizable, lucrative sugar plantation within New Orleans. The patriarch of the Freniere household (unassumingly named Freniere)gets into a fight with a Spanish Creole, and Lestat plans to kill Freniere at the height of Freniere’s own vainglorious victory over the Spanish Creole man.
To Louis, (the detached observer in this segment of the novel)Frenier represents the caprice of a willful, heroic life. Essentially, Freniere is the type of male character that is emblematic of masculine strength that typifies the type of male character that Ernest Hemmingway championed in his own novels. Detached, Louis observes this life, and tries to contextualize it through the perspective of an immortal being. Except, Louis doesn’t really try to be a vampire in this part of the novel. It is this sequence of the novel that shows Louis slowly succumbing to the psychological death of his own mortality.
Louis’ unwavering captivation with this family, and his obsession with Babette is a futile attempt to recover the mortal life that he once had. Of course, it was Paul’s death that metaphorically swallowed up any chance for Louis’s life to return to its same state of glory.
This entire segment of the novel, which depicts Louis haunting the Freniere household, serves as Anne Rice’s chance to convey the dramatic, interminable way that our minds adapt to the unreal sense of grief over the death of someone. The word “detached,” is used so often by Louis because “detached” is the word that fully describes that indescribable state of grief that makes the material world around you feel like it is bound to vanish entirely from existence. Except, Louis will always be paradoxically there, near his brother’s oratory and the plantation that once thrived with life, waiting in the shadows of death, as he observes the vanishing life of other mortals around him. This profound vampire sense of feeling detached or being acutely aware of the transience of life itself is captured multiple times throughout Interview with the Vampire.
In a sense, this entire segment foreshadows Louis’ own internal battle over the meaning of life in the context of being an immortal “monster” or “devil” of some kind. If he begins observing human life from the shadows of death too much, that detachment of a vampire that is so pivotal to a vampire’s psychological well-being will be broken by extreme sorrow and emotional brokenness. When he begins to show too much affection for Babette and tries to contrive for her a new life as the caretaker of the Frenier household, he tries far too much to intervene with life too much from the shadows, even though he is practically dead from the viewpoint of a human being. Much like Frankenstein’s monster who begins to try to form a relationship with a human family that he has been observing for months on end, Louis learns that it is impossible for him, as an immortal killer, to have any sorta emotional attachment with the very type of life that he lusts after only to kill and destroy, in some sense, in the end.
2. Explain the importance of the scene, portraying Lestat’s father death, in connection with many of the other scenes of death that precede this scene.
Upon re-reading this scene for the sixth or seventh time, I have become much more attentive to the parallels between the death of Lestat’s father and Paul’s death at the beginning of the novel. Guilt is an important force within the psyche of the various vampire characters in this novel. From a Freudian perspective, Lestat deals with the guilt of never being able to live a full mortal life, as it was taken from him both figuratively and literally without his own consideration into the matter. Louis observes that Lestat acts with a perverse impetuosity towards life, as if he lives life in active vengeance against the various restraints of his mortal life that stole away his life.
Conversely, Louis lives a life that is marked by guilt, he lives it precariously as all those consumed with grief over the lost of a love one lives it. Louis feels that he deserves to live life like, as though it were a punishment for the sins he committed against his own brother (doubt towards the validity of Paul’s religious visions). Some people, who are grief ridden, often feel resentful over those, who are able to enjoy life without any remorse. I think Louis seems to deplore Lestat’s wild, unruly behavior, because he just can’t fathom someone living with the preternatural senses and insights of a vampire and have no sense of the sanctity of life and moral guidelines that pervade Louis’ perspective of life . Instead, Louis resolves to live life, like someone suffering with the perpetual feeling of Catholic guilt over unresolved sins; he lives a life of “detaching” himself from all contexts of life and trying to be the super-ego figure that wishes to only engage with the lives of mortals he wishes to save. He tries to intervene in Babette’s life, as a way to atone for the destruction of his own life that he feels was brought about by his ignorance of his brother’s religious visions.
Louis begins to treat Lestat more unfairly in these pages, as a result of feeling smug over having restraint over all the wanton behavior that he feels Lestat engages in. When Louis implores Lestat to kill his father for him, Louis sees it as an opportunity to commit another self-gratifying moral act that will help him on his imagined journey of redemption from the Inferno that he has fallen into.
He only vacuously understands Lestat’s reasons for not liking his father, and offers forgiveness to Lestat’s father dying requests for forgiveness not to help Lestat, but almost to self-righteously show Lestat the proper way to behave. This smugness is another defense mechanism that Louis creates, from the very deep guilt that he feels about Paul’s death. He almost acts like feigning to show forgiveness to Lestat’s father will somehow help him allay his own guilt for being just as hateful of his brother Paul, as Lestat appears to be towards his father.
More importantly, the way Louis seems to proudly show his sympathy towards human beings around him, like his sister, Babette, Frenier, and others, are Louis’s implicit way of reproving Lestat’s Id-ish disregard for the moral boundaries of the vampire life (that he inexplicably feels are the same as the Catholic moral system that he feels is applicable to vampires, as well). Except, he never really wants to listen to what Lestat even wants to say, instead making baseless moral judgement of Louis’s behavior. He interestingly treats Lestat, in much the same way that he treated Paul. He thinks he understands the depth of other human beings, even though he doesn’t have the gift of telepathy that Lestat has. When Lestat wishes to tell him what people he may kill and other vampire-related advice, Louis ignores it and construes Lestat advice as being devoid of moral substance.
Overall, this scene shows us the dynamic psychological relationship of these psychological twins: Lestat and Louis. It shows a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy that exists amongst both of them (Louis being Dr. Jekyll and Lestat being Mr. Hyde). Belying Louis thoughts are many contradictions, such as some of the ones explained above. He is not entirely a reliable perespective, and we cannot entirely trust the way he perceives Lestat.
3.Do you think Babette’s “Get thee behind me Satan!” serve as an example of a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” in relation to Louis’ core ethical dilemma in the story?
One of the most interesting conditions of the “self-fullfilling” prophecy is that it is not some supernatural incident, but a psychological incidence that is manifested by our own manufactured self-delusions. It is remarkable that Louis creates his tragic circumstances, and even forces himself to become the very embodiment of Satan. By ignoring Lestat and resolving to understand him only as some impetuous fool, he relies instead on the moral ideals of his French Catholic morality. Even more pereplexing, Louis tries futilely to intervene in the lives of other human beings. Throughout this entire section, Louis tells us many times that he continues to have a relationship with his sister by making a pretense of still being a human being. For Babette, he makes the pretense of being an angel. Moreover, it is a very gratifying thing for the grieving, morally despondent Louis to hear Babette describe him in this favorable light .
Later in this sequence, Louis and Lestat are running away from the burning plantation. Louis leads Lestat to the Freniere’s plantation, and Louis implores her to give them a room to shelter themselves in. Once Babette sees Louis in his monstrous glory, Babette screams at Louis to “Get thee behind me Satan.” This particuliar sequence becomes the final stage of the psychological death of Louis’ humanity. The scene, where Babette is frightfully swing the latern at him and yelling this, interestingly takes place once again on a pair of stairs. In the beginning of the novel, Paul falls from a pair of stairs, resembling a metaphorical plummet to his death. When Louis is transformed into a vampire by Lestat, he is also on a pair of stairs, portraying Louis’s supernatural transformation into a immortal being.
Throughout this entire section of the book, Louis is “detached” because he wants to live a life that has the pretense of being “human.” In some ways, he is more of a ghost in essence than a vampire, because a vampire may hide in the shadows but they are also the bringers of death. This is something that Louis wishes to abstain from, so he instead observes life occurring from the shadows, and even pretends to be ghost whenever he is observing Babette during the summer nights.
Anne Rice vividly writes this scene, as if it were a ghostly scene from an Algernon Blackwood story. When Babette calls him a devil,this is the moment where Louis must come to grips with the idea that he is not human, and that he can no longer engage with human life unless he means to drink a human’s blood. It is only as a “monster” (to the perspective of other humans) that he can relate to human beings, but he cannot relate to them without bringing death to them.
Rather than understood himself as a different breed of humanity, he instead begins to force himself to adopt the monstrous qualities of the vampire instead. He subconsciously believes that a vampire is a creature of Satan, as dictated by his Catholic beliefs. Babette’s declaration of him as “Satan,” is a self-fullfilling prophecy, not because Louis is literally a creature of Satan, but because her sharp rejection of any human qualities Louis believes to have are ignored in the face of this terrifying epiphany. For now, he must bid farewell to his plantation (burned to ashes) and mortal life. The slaves were right about him; he is a “monster” and will be ostracized from human life for being just that.
Most of our discussions have been taking place at our Facebook Group Page, which can be found here: This will start, after this post is published on this blog. You are invited to post your thoughts on the comment section below for this post or on the Facebook Group;s Wall
The book will be released October 28, 2014!!!!!!