The theme of vampirism has emerged in literature throughout different ages. Sheridan Le Fanu was one of the pioneers who had written a Gothic story Carmilla, filled with horror. The work appeared to be one of the first stories based on vampire existence. The theme of vampirism was new during the times when Le Fanu had been performing, which made it pretty unique. The writer had used a great number of Gothic elements within the story such as cemetery, the funeral procession, ruined chapels, neglected estates, and ancient castles. Moreover, the plot of Carmilla itself captures the readers’ attention. The story is narrated by a young girl Laura, who represents her experience of meeting Carmilla. The meeting is accompanied by various difficult to explain changes. Carmilla is an outstanding character whose mystery engages the audience throughout the story.
Carmilla’s mystery is the most thrilling characteristic of the heroine that has engaged me at first sight. Moreover, Le Fanu had used this mystery to strengthen the story, and thus made it powerful. The mystery of Carmilla is pretty vampiric – the writer warms up the interest towards the character by not giving any evidences about her past and her family. Laura also admires the mysterious nature of her new friend by stating that she is “absolutely beautiful”; however, at the same time, she feels “faint antipathy” towards her (Le Fanu, n.p.). Undoubtedly, Carmilla intrigues readers and makes them emotionally attached to her mystical force, as well as to her intelligence, eloquence and ability to be a wonderful conversationalist. Furthermore, some particular features of Carmilla are also wrapped in mysticism – the girl does not eat regularly and enjoys night walks as she sleeps. In addition, Carmilla can be regarded as an emotionally unstable person because of her sudden mood changes from coldness to emotional outbursts.
While being a terrifying and mysterious character, Carmilla is also a pretty sensual and intelligent girl. The combination of these features captures the audience’s attention, and thus makes readers aware of vampires’ perfection in seduction and villainy. Therefore, all these aspects of Carmilla can be compared to those that can be observed in the film Gothic, as well as other aspects of the gothic movement. For instance, the author had not provided the reader with any information about Carmilla’s life, which made her even more mysterious. Le Fanu also admitted the seductive nature of the female vampire that, to a great degree, supported the establishment of invisible link between Carmilla and her victims. In addition to this, the emotional instability of Carmilla could be attributed to her moral insanity – although the girl seemed to behave normally, she was frequently unable to control herself. Thereby, Le Fanu created the world of vampirism and sensuality in his story, and the similar gothic aspects could be seen in Gothic, which also provided the audience with mystery, a taste of witchcraft, and not hidden sexuality.
It should be noted that, Carmilla is one of the first literary attempts to display the theme of vampirism and motives associated with it. I can undoubtedly state that Le Fanu’s story has greatly influenced modern gothic culture. The classic horror literary pieces, as well as movies, have borrowed many ideas, motives, and themes from Carmilla. Some of the borrowed features include mystery, transformation into animal (Carmilla has an ability to transform into a black cat), emotional instability, and sensuality in combination with intelligence. Moreover, the persecution of vampires and exotic horror landscapes such as the funeral procession and ruined chapels have created frightening atmosphere that can be recognized in many modern representatives of gothic culture. Therefore, Sheridan Le Fanu can be regarded as the founder of gothic movement whose ideas and motives of vampirism have greatly influenced modern gothic culture.
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