The Vampire Lestat

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The vampire Lestat is a monster who has held a deep pull for audiences since his birth in the 1980s, at the hands of the acclaimed gothic novelist Anne Rice.  A charismatic and passionate antihero, he is characterized by his love of life and distaste for following the rules. He is extremely sensual, and prone to falling deeply in love with both men and women. This blond, gray-eyed vampire was originally a poor french nobleman living in the 1700s, who is captured by the 300-year-old vampire Magnus who drains Lestat’s blood and then makes him drink Magnus’s own blood, turning him into a vampire.  Magnus promptly commits suicide by jumping into a blazing fire, leaving the fledgling Lestat to fend for himself in a complex Parisian vampire community, of whose laws he is ignorant.  Lestat goes on to cause all sorts of trouble and survive countless disasters with the same mischevious, daredevil spirit, causing certain other vampires to affectionately (and with no little exasperation) nickname him “The Brat Prince.”   But this is only one of the many perspectives on Lestat which we are given throughout Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles.  Lestat is described by his fledgling and lover Louis as cruel and insane villain in Interview with the Vampire, described by himself as compassionate and danger-loving hero in The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned, and described by various other characters as either a powerful and seductive enemy or powerful and seductive ally in other books in the series.  The ambiguity and fluidity of his morals makes it hard for the reader to decide whether he is a good person or not (and whether he is sane or not) making him that much more mysterious and fascinating to observe.  As Lestat says in Interview With the Vampire, “evil is a point of view.”

When I first read The Vampire Lestat, I wasn’t sure why I fell so madly in love with him.  He was the only literary character who I’d ever wanted to kiss.   I devoured every form of media in which he made an appearance, wrote to my friends about how cool he was, and wished desperately that he would step out of the pages and turn me into his new vampire companion.  But now, after taking this course, I think I understand my attraction to Lestat a bit better.  He is like the villain in all the classic horrors films whom we fear and yet sympathize with—except unlike Nosferatu or Godzilla, with their physical monstrosity, he is outwardly perfect, entirely human in appearance.  He has the same intense, insatiable, destructive, and ungodly desires as does Vathek.  Both characters adore glamour and ornamentation and are always seeking out new pleasures and adventures on the dark fringe of society and morality.  Lestat’s physical beauty combined with his monstrous nature makes him attractive to his audience in the same way Carmilla was attractive to Laura.  He is a representation of the taboo desire for all things repressed.  Like Carmilla, Lestat enjoys seducing mortals of the same sex and draining their blood—or turning them into vampires like him, as he does with Louis.  He is capricious and cruel, and swings from exultant joy to morbid pathos.  He carries along those weaker than him in the wave of his powerful desires and emotions, and holds an irresistible charm because he offers pleasures and opportunities the civilized waking world would never allow.  But just as Carmilla is overthrown, so is he, in the book and film Interview with the Vampire.  His submissive playtoys become too disgusted with his excesses and revolt, trying to kill him.  But the magic of the monster is that it always comes back, and just as Carmilla lives on in Laura’s mind, returning to haunt her victim, so Lestat lives on, returning from the brink of death to attempt revenge upon his rebellious subjects—his lover Louis and their “daughter” Claudia.  Because the monster is a projection of society’s fears and desires, it can never be destroyed, and always returns when least expected.  Lestat is a representation of society’s fear of its own repressed homosexual and otherwise “deviant” or physically destructive sexual desires, and like these repressed desires, he can never be entirely purged from society (although this purging is attempted by self-righteous and ignorant crusaders time and time again). As Haggerty writes, “Lestat is queer… because heterosexist culture needs him as a reflection of its own dark secret.” (Haggerty).   Lestat always returns—throughout 10 books, 2 films, 1 comic, and a musical.  As I once saw a bumper sticker read, “Lestat Lives.”

Tags: Anne Rice, Vampire, The Vampire Chronicles, 1980s horror novels, Insanity

Bibliography:

Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture

George E. Haggerty

NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction , Vol. 32, No. 1, Reading Gender after Feminism (Autumn, 1998), pp. 5-18

Published by: Duke University Press

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1346054

“SUCH BLOOD, SUCH POWER”: THE LOT COMPLEX IN ANNE RICE’S “INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE”

Debbie Joyce Chung

Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS) , Vol. 6, No. 2, CHANGING PICTURE SETTINGS (Fall, 2000), pp. 173-181

Published by: Centre for Arts, Humanities and Sciences (CAHS), acting on behalf of the University of Debrecen CAHS

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41274103

Undoing Feminism: From the Preoedipal to Postfeminism in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles

Janice Doane and Devon Hodges

American Literary History , Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn, 1990), pp. 422-442

Published by: Oxford University Press

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/489948

Vampiremania Sparks Developmental Readers

Ellen Beth Kaiden

Journal of Reading , Vol. 37, No. 8 (May, 1994), pp. 688-689

Published by: International Reading Association

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172398

Women and Vampires: Nightmare or Utopia?

Judith E. Johnson

The Kenyon Review , New Series, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Winter, 1993), pp. 72-80

Published by: Kenyon College

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4336803

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