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Carmilla Romance

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ameliaeirynn
Words 1727
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Dracula by Bram Stoker is most definitely one of the most well-known vampire books of all time. Stoker is known for introducing vampires to gothic horror, but 25 years prior, Carmilla was written. Not only does Carmilla predate Dracula, but the novella also contains a romantic interest between the two main characters, which both happen to be female. Even today, in the 21st centaury, same-sex relationships are not seen to be customary. To this day, over 200 years after the book was written, people still argue that the relationship between the two women is not a romantic one. Their romance is made apparent in; Carmilla and Laura’s strong initial and quickly intensifying relationship, Laura’s disgust for her feelings, and Carmilla’s defiance towards her mothers orders to protect Laura, which ultimately lead to Carmilla sacrificing her life. Laura and Carmilla’s relationship begins when they only first meet. The girls met twice, once when Laura was only a young girl, and again when the girls are 16. In both instances the girls have an immediate bond. When Laura was very young, she recalls a, “pretty face looking at [her] from the side of the bed” (Le Fanu 10). Even though a strange person startles Laura in her room she says the girl made her feel “a kind of pleased wonder,” and “delightfully soothed,” (10). This early encounter plays a strong roll in the growth of their relationship.
The girls meet each other again, 12 years later, and recall seeing each other’s faces from what they recall to be a “dream”, Laura states, “what was it that, […], struck me dumb in a moment, and made me recoil a step or two from before her? […] I saw the very face which had visited me in my childhood” (26). Moments after this, Carmilla exclaims, “How wonderful! Twelve years ago, I saw your face in a dream” (27). This is a beginning of a deep conversation between the two girls. As Laura was speaking, she “took her hand” (27) and Carmilla “pressed (her) hand, laid hers upon it, and her eyes glowed, as, looking hastily into mine, she smiled again, and blushed” (27). From this moment on, the girls continue to create a physical and emotional relationship, which will continue to grow quickly.
Through the next few chapters, their relationship continues to grow, and Laura becomes more aware of her feelings, and Carmilla begins to express hers further. The two girls often express how beautiful they think the other is. Laura often says Carmilla is “certainly the most beautiful creature [she] had ever seen” (29). Laura continues to be sweet and subtle about her feelings, since she is still obviously conflicted about them.
Carmilla confronts her feelings much differently. She is much less. Laura recalls that Carmilla used to state,
“Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die--die, sweetly die--into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.” (32).
As Carmilla said these things, she would “place her hands about [Laura’s] neck, draw [Laura] close to her, laying her check to [Laura’s], […] press [Laura] more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon [Lara’s] cheek” (32). Laura expresses her feelings about Carmilla doing this, and states,
“In these mysterious moods I did not like her. I experienced a strange tumultuous excitement that was pleasurable, ever and anon, mingled with a vague sense of fear and disgust. […] I was conscious of a love growing into adoration, and also of abhorrence. This I know is paradox, but I can make no other attempt to explain the feeling” (32).
In this quote, Laura clearly describes her confusion with her feelings. It is clear that Carmilla makes her feel good, and that she cares for her, but it is these feelings that scare are give her a feeling of abhorrence. As earlier discussed, Laura is aware that feeling this was for a woman is not the societal norm, and is therefore conflicted with her feelings of love.
Carmilla and Laura continue with their deep conversations. In on instance, the girls begin to speak of death. Laura tells Carmilla that she is afraid to die, and Carmilla “passed her arm around [Laura’s] waist lovingly,” (40) and states, “But to die as lovers may--to die together, so that they may live together” (40). Carmilla wishes that when her and Laura leave this world, they will leave as lovers, meaning Carmilla wants romance with Laura. As the girl’s conversations intensify, their feelings continue to become clearer.
Although not all of these instances seem to be an extreme indicator of romance, many other who have studied the novella agree that what the two women share is romance. Laura Kranen states, “Indeed, there are many homoerotic scenes in the story of Carmilla and Laura” (Kranen 11). Their love was sometimes subtle, and I believe that is what sometimes gave it its gentle romance. In another study Sam Jordison states “Sheridan Le Fanu arguably started the trend of associating the vampire and bloodsucking with sex and sexuality, repressed or otherwise – she develops a passionate attachment to her victim, and her language is often quite erotic” (Jordison theguardian.com). Not only was their romance clear, it was bold and continued to influence many vampire novels. The girls’ romance was made very clear by their actions, in the beginning and as it continued to grow.
Any homosexual person is never completely comfortable with their sexuality at first. In the 1800s, homosexuality would have been seen as a great sin. Laura, being a well-raised catholic girl, was confronted with many concerns when she began to accept her feelings for Carmilla. In one instance, Carmilla tells Laura that she will feel “drawn towards her” (Le Fanu 28), and Laura realises that she does feel this, but she also states, “there was also something of repulsion” (28). In this moment, I believe that Laura is realizing that her feelings for Carmilla are not customary. She begins to understand that these feelings are romantic, and not just friendly, and being a homosexual was not something that was looked upon highly.
Laura’s realization does not only express a lot about her, but it also creates a deeper understanding of what LeFranu is trying to make clear. He understood while writing this novel that having two females in a romantic relationship in his story would not be customary for his era, but he challenged his society’s views anyways. All of these relations between the two girls happened within their first conversation with each other, and before Laura even knew Carmilla’s name. It is already noticeable that they have a strong connection.
Danbee Moon’s thesis mentions Laura’s inner turmoil, and how by the end her feelings for Carmilla aid in the growth and acceptance. They state, “the strong, desirous relationship between Carmilla and Laura ‘frees’ Laura from many of the inevitable domestic, societal, and sexual constraints she must face” (Moon 9). In the beginning Laura is confined by her beliefs and what she has been taught, but Carmilla’s love and affection helps free her from the need to be society’s standards.
The novella does not end with your classic “happy ending”. Laura does recover from her illness and the threat to the rest of the young girls is demolished, but sadly, part of this threat is Carmilla. Becoming fast friends with the girls she was supposed to murder was usual, and she was used to it, but Laura was different. She fell in love with Laura, and in the end could not kill her lover. Instead, Carmilla states, “But to die as lovers may--to die together, so that they may live together. Girls are caterpillars while they live in the world, to be finally butterflies when the summer comes” (Le Fanu 40). The statement has been mentioned previously, but I believe there is another motive to this statement. Carmilla is not speaking of “killing” Laura, but rather turning her, so that she may also be a vampire and live with Carmilla forever. The caterpillar she refers to is Laura in her human form, and the butterflies the vampiric form. Although this may seem morbid, you must think of it from Carmilla’s perspective. She is firstly defying what her “mother” had wanted her to do so that she can be with Laura. Secondly, Carmilla knows that Laura can never truly love her for what she is, so she wants Laura to understand, and be the same as her. Finally, Carmilla wants to turn Laura so that they can forever be in love. Sadly for Carmilla, in trying to save Laura, she sacrificed herself.
In conclusion, Carmilla is an intense and spellbinding romantic novella in which the two female main characters fall in love. It is made clear that this love was not customary in the 1800s, by Laura’s confusion with her feelings, but this only intensifies the reality of these feelings. Carmilla’s romantic gestures continue to grow as her feelings for Laura become stronger. Unfortunately for Carmilla, her final gesture of love is sacrificing herself to save her lover, resulting in her death. Throughout the story, all of the girls’ feelings are made very clear by their actions as well as words; they were in love. Works Cited:
LeFanu, Joseph Sheridan. Carmilla. London: Hesperus Limited, 1872. Print.
Jordison, Sam. "Vampires: More to Read and Watch | Books | The Guardian." 19 Apr. 2012.
Web. 11 Apr. 2015. .
"Sheridan Le Fanu: Google Goes Gothic to Celebrate a Horror Pioneer | Books | The Guardian."
28 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. .
Moon, Danbee. "What Will Not Be Named: The Girl And The Other In Carmilla And Alice’s
Adventures In Wonderland." 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. .
Kranen, Lauren. The Evolution of The Female Role in Nineteenth Century Literature (2014): 11,
12, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23. Print.…...

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