Interview with the Vampire | Study Guide

Anne Rice

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Interview with the Vampire | Part 1, Section 1 | Summary

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Interview with the Vampire has four parts. Each part has from one to four individual sections, clearly marked by space breaks and narrative shifts. This study guide examines each of those sections for the purpose of summary and analysis.

Summary

Louis begins by saying he became a vampire in 1791, at age 25. In the present, late 20th century, Louis has agreed to be interviewed by an interviewer simply known as "the boy." Louis starts by discussing his family, originally from France, who owned two indigo (flowering plant from which dye is extracted) plantations outside New Orleans, Louisiana. After his father died, Louis cared for his mother, sister, and younger brother, Paul. Paul, from age 12, lives an intensely religious life, so Louis builds him an oratory, a place for him to focus on prayer. At age 15, Paul claims to have visions and urges Louis to sell the plantations, using the money to return the family to France, where Paul would become "a great religious leader." Louis scoffs at Paul. They argue about Paul's visions and Louis threatens to destroy the oratory. Paul leaves the room and falls down the stairs, breaking his neck and dying.

Louis blames himself for his brother's death. He spirals into a deep depression and seeks to be "thoroughly damned," yet he lacks the courage to kill himself. He leases his plantations and moves his family to New Orleans, where he lives a debauched life to bury painful thoughts of Paul. One night a vampire attacks him (although he doesn't realize it is a vampire at the time). While he recovers, a priest visits Louis, and, to Louis's surprise, says that Paul was possessed by the devil, negating Paul's visions, and calling them evidence of satanic possession. Enraged, Louis attacks the priest.

Lestat, the vampire who attacked Louis, visits again. Lestat offers to change Louis into a vampire in exchange for his plantation, Pointe du Lac, which he wants as a safe haven for his old, blind father. Enthralled, Louis accepts the change as a way to destroy himself and absolve his perceived sins over Paul's death. The next night Lestat and Louis visit the plantation. Lestat forces Louis to watch as he kills Louis's slave overseer, an initiation into vampire life. Louis feels tremendously guilty about his employee's unnecessary death. Lestat, however, doesn't give him time to change his mind. He bites Louis again, nearly draining all of Louis's blood, then forces Louis to drink vampire blood from his wrist. Louis feels shocked by how alive he feels drinking the blood, aroused by the pounding of Lestat's pulse in his ears. Afterward, the entire world looks more vibrant and interesting to Louis, even as his human body dies: "It was as if [he] had only just been able to see colors and shapes for the first time."

Louis's first experience hunting prey goes poorly because Lestat explains nothing to him. They hunt a group of runaway slaves in a swamp, and Louis accidently makes himself sick to the point of near-death by over-draining the slave he catches, which means continuing to drink blood after the heart of the victim has stopped beating. Back at the plantation, Lestat shows Louis they can survive on animal blood. Louis realizes quickly that he has no interest in or respect for Lestat, whom he views as crass, unintelligent, and immoral. Louis has a hard time letting go of his humanity, and struggles particularly with the sin of killing innocent humans. Time passes, and although Louis needs Lestat to teach him the ways of vampires, he dislikes Lestat's company.

Analysis

In Interview with the Vampire, Louis narrates his life story—spanning two centuries—for an audience of one: an unnamed interviewer, referred to as "the boy," who records the interview for later radio broadcast. Immediately, Louis's moral conflict becomes evident. His decision to become a vampire reflects a bastardization of his Catholic roots: overwhelmed with guilt over his brother's death, he desires punishment to alleviate his sense of sin, "to be thoroughly damned," rather than seeking forgiveness or redemption. This negative focus indicates passivity in Louis's personality, which will characterize him throughout the novel. More than actively saying "yes" to Lestat's proposition, Louis simply does not say "no."

Being damned requires less effort than redeeming oneself through action. He gives himself over to Lestat because "the moment I saw him ... I was reduced to nothing." Just as he did in religion, Louis wants to put his fate in the hands of a higher power. Only now, rather than God, Louis turns his fate over to Lestat. His reverence for the world around him, as he views it through the lens of vampire eyes, is also almost spiritual. Once he becomes a vampire what he feels "most profoundly ... [is] respect." He longs to experience the world "delicately and reverently, learning that from each thing which would take [him] best to another [thing]." Louis more greatly appreciates humanity after death. His conversion into a vampire brings him closer to God, or a sense of divinity in man.

Yet Louis does not immediately consider the consequences of his choice. His self-destruction will mean the destruction of all future victims and their families. Not only does Louis's decision punish him, it punishes humanity, a moral decision that will haunt him for the rest of the novel. Immediately, Louis fights against his vampire nature, disdaining the taking of human lives, and he will soon choose to feed off animals for as long as possible. He will quickly develop a self-governing rule to always respect his prey. Lestat, on the other hand, feels nothing. Completely detached from human emotion, Lestat dismisses humanity, and human life, without a second thought. This highlights the contrast between Louis and Lestat. Lestat has completely given in to his vampire essence, while Louis clings to his humanity and to morality: "Lestat was never the vampire I am. Not at all." Because he recognizes the difference in their outlooks, Louis feels increasingly isolated. He cannot connect to Lestat, yet he has forever disconnected himself from humanity. The novel focuses on Louis's struggle to find a place of belonging and an understanding of whether it's possible for an innately "evil" creature, like a vampire, to live a moral life.
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