Interview with the Vampire | Study Guide

Anne Rice

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Interview with the Vampire | Part 1, Section 3 | Summary

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Summary

Louis and Lestat arrive in New Orleans and move into a hotel. They hunt, Lestat for people and Louis for rats or dogs. After the conflict with Babette, thoughts of the evil within him consume Louis. He wants to die, but his thirst—and therefore his desire to live—sends him in search of a victim. He happens upon a young girl, around 5 years old, crying over her mother's corpse. Louis cannot contain his hunger and bites her, intoxicated by her small, steady heartbeat. Lestat discovers him and revels in Louis's reduced morals. Outraged, Louis tries to kill Lestat, chasing him back to their hotel and fighting him, unintentionally leaving the girl still alive on the floor.

When Louis wakes the next night, Lestat is already up and feasting with two well-dressed prostitutes. Louis spies on them as Lestat drains them both of blood, killing one but leaving the other alive. He wonders why Lestat treats humans with such cruelty and disrespect. Louis announces his plans to leave Lestat and live alone, but Lestat turns uncharacteristically serious and tries to change his mind. Lestat urges Louis to embrace his vampire nature, that of a killer with the power of God to take a life. Lestat refutes Louis's idea that an increased appreciation for life will increase his humanity, insisting Louis will never again be allowed to live among humans. He points to Babette's reaction as an example of Louis's monstrous nature. He forces Louis to acknowledge animal blood doesn't satisfy him and feeding on the girl brought tranquility. Lestat places one of the prostitutes, who is still alive, in his coffin, torturing her and making her beg for her life until Louis steps in and puts her out of her misery. With this small taste, Louis craves more human blood and Lestat takes him out hunting. Confused and entranced by Lestat's smooth logic, Louis follows him into the streets.

Lestat guides Louis to an orphan's hospital, hoping to find Claudia, the little girl Louis drank from the previous night. Upon discovering her, Lestat poses as her father and carries her back to the hotel. Lestat urges Louis to give in to his desire for Claudia, to finish what he had started. Louis, overcome with hunger, gives in, though the girl's heart refuses to stop beating. Lestat cuts his own wrist, forcing Claudia to drink his blood. To Louis's horror, she transforms into a vampire. When she wakes, Claudia asks for her mother, but Lestat proclaims he and Louis are now her parents. Lestat believes Louis will no longer try to leave, and satisfied that he has accomplished his mission, he pawns Claudia off on Louis to share a coffin for the day.

Analysis

Claudia's transformation further conflicts Louis's complicated character. As a vampire, he must feed on humans—he must be "evil" by his own moral code. Yet he feels compassion and sadness for wasted human lives, and with the presence of his "child," Louis once again feels love. Lestat urges Louis to embrace his base desires. Although Louis now questions whether his essence is evil, he continues to fight against immorality, such as when he puts the suffering prostitute out of her tortured misery. Lestat wonders why Louis would torment himself. Drinking human blood completes the act of being a vampire, and to deny oneself that fulfillment seems absurd: Why would Louis have chosen to become a vampire if he weren't going to participate in vampire behavior? Louis would rather use his heightened senses to appreciate the frailty and beauty of life rather than to destroy it. Louis disdains Lestat for following his evil inclinations, but Lestat is content. Louis, for all his high ideals, remains tortured and unfulfilled. He clings to his childhood Catholicism, keeping track of good and bad behavior on a kind of a scorecard, wallowing in guilt, and wondering if the possibility of redemption is possible. Lestat, on the other hand, lives only in the present moment, accepting himself as he is. "Evil," he says, "is a point of view."

Louis's character experiences another conflict when he actively chooses to bite Claudia. He bites her because he's hungry and his bloodlust cannot resist her tiny, strong heart: "I wanted her! And so I took her in my arms and held her." When Lestat turns her into a vampire, Louis feels outrage but does nothing to stop the transition. His passivity immobilizes him. Weighing evils, a swift and merciful death would be better than turning the girl into a vampire, but Louis cannot make that choice, so he lets Lestat do as he pleases. Once again Louis fails to consider the consequences of his passivity. Claudia will forever be a child, unable to live on her own without attracting suspicion. By leaving the decision to the "higher power" Lestat represents, Louis tries to negate his own responsibility. As the novel progresses, his guilty nature will drive him to have tremendously mixed emotions about Claudia.

In this way becoming a vampire has solved none of Louis's problems. He still has self-destructive thoughts, particularly living a life driven by Lestat. His encounter with the fearful Babette forces Louis to confront the essence of vampire nature for the first time, which comes into fruition with Claudia's human death. Now he considers an absolutist view of vampire nature: as a vampire, he must hate; he must feed on human blood; he must be evil. He feeds on Claudia to push out the human sympathy he has for her, but only ends up with more self-loathing for giving in to this other, baser instinct. Just as Lestat accuses him, Louis is most certainly "in love with [his] mortal nature" and cannot fully accept himself as a vampire.

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