Interview with the Vampire | Study Guide

Anne Rice

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Interview with the Vampire | Part 1, Section 5 | Summary

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Summary

Lestat befriends a young, gifted musician, with whom he spends many nights but does not kill. Lestat gives the composer money and expensive outings in exchange for his compositions. One night, Lestat invites Louis to the composer's home, but Louis declines, irritating Lestat. That night, Louis senses Claudia plans to kill Lestat. He hears her talking to an unknown person in her locked bedroom, although she has never brought prey home before. When Lestat returns in a good mood, with a new composition, he cheerfully demands Louis guess whether he killed the musician.

Claudia emerges from her room, and asks Lestat for a truce. Lestat threatens to make a new vampire so she won't be an "only child" any longer, but Claudia persuades Lestat to enter her bedroom. She has a present for him—two beautiful sleeping orphan boys. Lestat can't resist them, immediately biting one of the children. Lestat suddenly becomes sluggish and realizes Claudia has poisoned him with absinthe; she tells him she gave the children laudanum, too. Claudia orders Louis to stay away as she stabs and violently bites Lestat, whose body shrivels like an old corpse. She urges Louis to help her move the bodies, which Louis does without speaking, dumping the bodies in a swamp. The next evening Louis finds Claudia sifting through Lestat's things for any indication of how Lestat was created. Louis can barely look at Claudia, but she reminds him Lestat deserved to die. When Louis remains unresponsive, Claudia panics and cries, worrying Louis will leave her. Moved by her emotional outburst, Louis forgives her.

Louis goes out to feed and finds himself at a cathedral where people have lined up for confession. Haunted by thoughts of his brother, Louis enters the cathedral, wishing God would punish him for his evil nature. Suddenly, he senses God does not exist at all. He has a vision of a funeral procession led by Claudia for Lestat's body, but as Louis approaches, he sees his brother's body in the coffin. The vision ends when Louis reaches out to touch Paul. As the cathedral is locked up, the priest notices Louis and asks if he'd like to make confession. Louis follows the priest into the small confessional and fully confesses his sins, but the priest thinks he is mocking the sacrament. When the priest gets closer to Louis outside the confessional, he becomes frightened and calls Louis a devil, just as Babette had. Louis kills the priest.

Louis throws himself into the plans for Europe, excited to return to the continent where he was born. Claudia feels certain they will find more vampires, which she considers "her kind," in eastern Europe. Lestat's musician visits, distraught over Lestat's sudden disappearance. Louis gives him money, telling him Lestat will return to New Orleans soon; the boy seems more happy to know Lestat spoke of him than about the money. Louis notices two puncture marks on the composer's neck, and wonders what Lestat was planning. When Louis wakes the following evening, he discovers Claudia gone, and he worries they will miss their ship to Europe. Suddenly, he sees her sprinting down the sidewalk, terrified because someone has followed her. Peeking through the window, Louis discovers it is the musician, now a vampire. They hear someone on the steps and know before he appears that it is Lestat, who is scarred but alive. Louis throws a lantern at Lestat and fights with him, while the musician attacks Claudia. As a new vampire, the musician is clumsy, and Lestat is still weak from the drugs, so Louis and Claudia are able to escape. They beat the vampires with pokers and set the house on fire as they flee.

Analysis

In interviews Rice has called vampires the perfect metaphor for religious outsiders, and in this section Louis returns to the church searching for answers. Despite giving him time and opportunity, Lestat has not proven to be the benevolent, guiding "creator" Louis and Claudia long for, so Louis returns to his roots, to his original creator, God. Hampered by a Catholic sense of guilt, Louis desires punishment for his sins. When the priest cannot provide it and instead taps into Louis' greatest fear—that he comes from the devil—Louis lashes out murderously. This directly contrasts the compassion Louis showed Babette when she called him a devil, and it highlights Louis's growing disillusionment with morality. Louis's sense that God does not exist sends him further into existential despair. Without a hierarchy of good and bad, Louis, naturally passive and desirous of structure, cannot find meaning in immortality. While he fears God's wrath, disbelief in God isolates Louis. If there is no God, Louis is fully responsible for his choices and without hope for forgiveness. He feels "cursed from the earth ... a fugitive and a vagabond."

Without a benevolent creator in either God or Lestat, Louis clings to Claudia as the only escape from the crippling loneliness of immortality. For this reason, he stands idly by while she exacts her plan to kill Lestat, just as he stood idly by while Lestat turned Claudia into a vampire. Later in the novel, Louis cites this passivity as the true core of his evil, comparing "that weakness, that refusal to compromise a fractured and stupid morality" to pride: "For that, I let myself become the thing I am." Although it was morally wrong to kill Lestat, just as it was morally wrong to kill the priest, Louis allows Lestat's murder to happen because he cannot bear to lose Claudia.

As Louis and Claudia prepare to leave New Orleans, Louis ruminates on the city itself: once part of a French colony, it has shifted to a Spanish influence. It is a city Louis claims was burned and has been reborn as something new, and in this way, the city is a metaphor for Louis himself. Louis seeks to be reborn in a positive way, though the swamp that lies outside the city perpetually threatens to encroach on it. Louis feels this polarity within himself, which ties the city to him as his muse. The symbolism also creates foreshadowing—just as the city was burned and reborn, so will Lestat return as something unrecognizable.

Finally, it is worth noting that this section occurs around the time of the American Civil War (1861–65). Given the characters' immortality, Rice could have set the conflict anywhere in history. The family split directly mirrors the internal conflict of America during the war: each side fighting for its survival and for opposing ideologies. While the vampires are too self-absorbed to notice the greater world of politics and social justice, readers should note the significance of the timing.

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