Interview with the Vampire | Study Guide

Anne Rice

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Course Hero, "Interview with the Vampire Study Guide," July 13, 2017, accessed September 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Interview-with-the-Vampire/.

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

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Summary

Louis feels renewed by Paris, a city full of antiquity and culture similar to New Orleans but more constant. Claudia secures them a room at a luxurious hotel, the Hôtel Saint-Gabriel in the Boulevard des Capucines. Though Louis feels content, he senses Claudia's dissatisfaction and worries because she won't discuss what troubles her. She arrives back at the hotel one evening with a porcelain doll molded into the form of a woman rather than a baby. Rather than cuddle the doll, Claudia crushes it. Louis feels overwhelmed with guilt for the role he played in Claudia's unfulfilled life.

After a tormented conversation with Claudia about her state of "living death," Louis leaves the hotel and walks the Parisian streets. He senses something follows him, but the stalker's footsteps exactly mirror his own. Even when Louis stumbles or quickly changes step, the shadow copies perfectly. The stalker is another vampire, who reveals himself and attacks Louis. Louis tries to fight back but cannot touch the swift creature. Before much damage can be done, another vampire intervenes, silently sending the other away. This new vampire—later known to be Armand—hands Louis a card inviting him to visit the Théâtre des Vampires.

Louis and Claudia arrive at the Théâtre des Vampires the next night and are surprised by the entirely human audience. They sit in a private box for a strange pantomime. Louis immediately recognizes the violent vampire from the previous night as the figure representing Death. People who want to die, old women and sick men, chase Death around the stage, but Death avoids them. A young woman appears, and Death cannot resist her beauty. The other vampires, costumed as skeletons, join them on stage. The girl begs for her life, but the vampire talks in circles, reminding the girl of death's inevitability and defying her to pick someone to die in her place. As the vampires undress the girl, her fear and desperation resonate through Louis. Armand appears, casting a spell that relaxes the girl. Armand promises her a painless death as he bites her and passes her around to the vampires. The audience cheers, awestruck, but Louis feels tortured. He lusts after the woman's blood and hates himself for it. He finds the vampire games repugnant.

The applauding crowd remains completely unaware of what they have truly witnessed. Armand escorts Louis and Claudia backstage, and then into rooms under the theater, where the walls are covered with artistic scenes of death. Louis becomes delirious in Armand's close company. This heightens as Armand brings out a young man, Denis, who takes erotic pleasure in being bitten. Louis feeds off Denis despite himself, enjoying Denis's arousal and heartbeat.

Armand then takes Louis and Claudia to his subterranean living space, also decorated with pictures of haunting devils. Claudia feeds on Denis while Armand questions Louis about their origin. Though Louis feels the compelling power of Armand and often finds himself getting hazy and confused in Armand's presence, Armand refuses to explain their birth. Sensing Armand harbors information, Louis demands to know whether vampires come from Satan. Surprised, Armand tries to point out the gradations of evil that exist just as they do in goodness. As the oldest vampire in existence at over 400 years old, Armand has seen no evidence of God or Satan in his time. After such a long journey, Louis feels devastated by this answer. Louis contemplates the meaninglessness of existence. He finds himself thinking of Lestat, realizing he had hated him for the wrong reasons. Santiago, the vampire who attacked him the evening before, approaches and tries to manipulate Louis into revealing his origins. Armand appears and warns Louis not to trust Santiago, or anyone else, with his history. Later Santiago reveals that, in vampire society, the only sin a vampire can commit is to kill another vampire, which will result in the killer's execution.

Analysis

Once again readers ponder the paradox of Louis's existence: immortal but afraid of death, afraid to be a child of Satan but equally afraid Satan doesn't exist at all. Whichever way Louis spins his outlook, he loses. Until now Louis has had only shallow Lestat and childish Claudia to discuss ideas with, but he meets his match in Armand, an intelligent, detached vampire who can help Louis allay his lingering Catholic guilt. Louis believes himself to be evil and wants desperately for someone to dispute him. Armand steps in, using logic to unravel Louis's arguments. They discuss the nature of evil at length, with Armand chastising Louis for what Armand perceives to be petty fears: "Children of Satan! Children of God! Is this the only question you bring to me, is this the only power that obsesses you?" Armand sees no reason to "make us gods and devils yourself " when the power of gods exists "inside ourselves." Louis has finally found the "creator" of his dreams—a powerful being willing, for better or worse, to take away Louis's responsibility, to free Louis from an obligation to a higher power, to life's deeper meaning and purpose. Armand declares no evidence of God, shattering Louis's theological beliefs, but from the broken pieces Armand offers to help Louis use his power guilt-free.

Meanwhile, Claudia continues to obsess over her stunted life, which makes sense since what is important for Claudia is the body and physical sensations. She fills the hotel room with flowers, which symbolize her state: flowers have a short lifespan and die once they have lost their bloom. Claudia herself lives in a perpetual state of bloom, bearing all the markings of youth and beauty, but without the ability to die. She appears bitter about her frozen development and somewhat envious that flowers get to complete their life cycle. Similarly, the adult shaped "lady doll" reveals evidence of her frustration with her suspended state of being. She will never know what it feels like to have fully developed female features, nor know the sensual pleasure of a man's touch. She loves Louis, but he cannot provide what he took away from her, and she takes bitter pleasure in reminding him of it. Claudia remains dissatisfied despite the opulence she forces on Louis in their accommodation and lifestyle. Just as with any mortal, she learns money can't buy happiness. Louis, too, discovers the frailty of happiness: he has been content to lavish Claudia with love, but because she becomes unhappy, his sense of inadequacy heightens. He cannot be happy while she lives in misery. His only desire is to make her happy.

Just as the fight with the Varna vampire subverts the vampire expectation, the theater scene illuminates the innate evil of humanity. The audience attends a murder without knowing it. They witness the young girl begging for her life, yet despite Louis being able to "taste" the girl's fear, the audience is titillated by her screams. They witness her destruction on stage without recognizing it, simply because they cannot comprehend that such violence arouses them. They don't question their arousal, and return night after night for the "show." Similarly, the grotesque artwork hanging in the vampires' living space provides further paradox: humanity, which Louis loves so much, destroys itself and causes more pain than even vampires are capable of causing.

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