Interview with the Vampire | Study Guide

Anne Rice

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Interview with the Vampire | Symbols


Porcelain Dolls

The porcelain dolls symbolize longing and stasis. Both Madeleine and Claudia obsess over the dolls, but each has their own reason. For Claudia the dolls represent her perpetual state of childhood. At first she plays with the dolls as any child would, but as she ages, she becomes fascinated by the dolls for another reason. Just like her, the dolls will never age. They are both locked in childish bodies. Realizing this, Claudia feels like Lestat's plaything. Indeed, he enjoys dressing her in the latest fashions, accessorizing her, and tying bows in her silky hair. He plays with her like a toy, never realizing, or caring, that her longing outgrows her body. In Paris Claudia has a "ladydoll" specially made, yet when she brings the doll home, she crushes it in frustration. She desires the doll as a metaphor for what she will never have: an adult female body. Unfortunately, the anguish of her permanent childishness makes loving the doll impossible.

For Madeleine, the doll maker, the dolls represent another type of longing. Her daughter died at six years old, and Madeleine "goes mad" from the loss. She obsesses over recreating her daughter in doll form—the porcelain symbolizing life's fragility—filling her entire store with replicas of her daughter. When she meets Claudia, a living doll, she longs to be with her forever. She begs to become a vampire because this doll, this daughter, will never leave her.


Rosaries and other religious symbols such as crucifixes represent the futility of religious faith against evil. Despite having decided himself to be an evil creature, Louis tells the interviewer, "I rather like looking on crucifixes." Louis spends much of the novel debating the nature of evil, so an interest in religious iconography seems fitting. The two most religious characters in the novel, Paul and a priest, both die horrific deaths—their faith offering no escape—with Louis to blame for each. Paul dies mysteriously after an argument with Louis about his religious future. Paul seemed so devout, even fanatical in his faith, that his death comes a shock to everyone. Paul spends hours in his rectory, kneeling in front of the crucifix, his rosary always at hand, yet he dies young without a religious legacy. How could a man of such great religious promise die without fulfilling his purpose?

Louis spends years contemplating his role in Paul's death, fearing himself evil, a child of Satan, until he experiences an awakening in church. After hallucinating Paul's funeral, Louis attacks a priest. Louis literally grabs the priest by his rosary and pulls the old man toward him. Louis realizes religion, and the symbols of that faith, cannot offer protection from evil. In the same way, Louis agonizes over his morality for most of the novel. He doesn't live in peace until he ignores his religious upbringing. Therefore his human morality comes when he fully embraces his vampire nature.

Finally, the futility of hiding behind religious iconography can be seen in the village of Varna. When Louis and Claudia arrive, the terrified villagers huddle in inns adorned with crucifixes. They pray for protection against the evil there, but the vampire kills Emily, Claudia nearly kills Morgan, and the vampire would have continued killing indiscriminately had Louis not destroyed him. While the people put all their faith in their religious symbols, they offer no protection against evil.


Fire symbolizes destruction in Interview with the Vampire. It comes into play whenever Louis needs a fresh start, but it ultimately represents destruction, not rebirth or growth. He burns down the townhouse and the plantation's mansion in New Orleans, Madeleine's doll shop, and the theater. While Madeleine's shop burns, Claudia muses, "Fire purifies," to which Louis responds, "No, fire merely destroys." Claudia's view about fire is as idealistic and naïve as she is. She believes in rebirth, particularly after Louis turns Madeleine into a vampire, which Claudia believes will give her a new start, an escape from Armand's murderous jealousy. Although Louis seeks the same kind of atonement, he recognizes its impossibility. Fire can only destroy—it is one of only two ways in which a vampire can be killed. Indeed, Claudia will be destroyed by fire, as will the coven vampires after her. The fire in the New Orleans townhouse likewise destroys Louis's hope for morality. He passively aids Claudia in a murder attempt upon Lestat, which will later result in her "execution." Similarly, the theater fire destroys Louis's hope for love. The last vestiges of his morality of humanity go up in smoke as soon as he sees Claudia's scorched body.


Blood represents both life and death: the blood that sustains vampires does so only at the cost of other, human lives. Vampires are born through the loss of their own (human) blood and the taking of another's (a vampire's) blood. This cycle of creation and destruction symbolizes the moral questions that surround all vampire existence.

Questions for Symbols

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Read the following passage and identify at least 3 elements of figurative language; explain how each element brings out the theme of the passage. "The Wrong Place" by Susan Michalski Lana woke up, cur
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