Online Artifact Paper: Interview With The Vampire
"Who knew that better than I, who had presided over the death of my own body, seeing all I called human wither and die only to form an unbreakable chain which held me fast to this world yet made me forever its exile, a specter with a beating heart?" Louis struggles with this question throughout the entirety of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire. The theme of religion and the existence of a soul is the one that stood out to me the most while reading the novel. During my research for our Online Artifact paper, I came across a website built by someone who calls him/herself “Professor Vampire” dealing with vampires and religion. It has a special page focusing on vampires and their souls (or lack thereof) from which I’ve referenced.
Professor defines the soul as emotional, rather than logical (like the mind). Further, he says that the mind tells of what we want and is “more important than any other input.” The soul, on the other hand, “tries to put the needs of others before my [his] own needs and wants.” If humans turned vampires no longer have a soul, they would be unable to put anyone else’s wants and desires before their own. In the case of Interview with the Vampire, if any of the characters possessed a soul, it would be Louis. The taking of a human life is deeply troubling to him despite it being a “normal” action for a vampire. Since the possession of a soul is connected with the ability to put one’s needs before your own, it would be correct to say that Louis does in fact have a soul. As I stated before, Louis has a serious aversion to killing humans but he allows Claudia to do so because she wants to. Claudia is the person he loves most, even though he is somewhat fearful of her. The fact that he allows her needs to be fulfilled when they go against everything he believes in proves that he still has at least a little bit of a soul. One could counter this argument though and say that because he loves Claudia so, her needs become his and putting those needs before those of the innocent humans she kills is a soulless act.
The possession of a soul is seen as what defines a being as a human. Professor asks the question, “If the vampire’s soul is lost upon death and all that remains is the mind and body, is it yet human?” This answer to this depends on each person’s definition of human, he says.
“Without a soul the vampire loses all ability to connect with God since God seems to prefer talking to souls instead of minds,” Professor writes. His search for other vampires stems from his wanting to know about the history of his kind why he is the way he is. This longing for knowledge can be compared to man’s longing for the knowledge of how his world works and was created (this often leads to a religious explanation). Louis still has that basic human need for knowledge, which would lead the reader to believe that he still has a shred of humanity. Louis also continues to have human reactions to things of beauty. This brought to light when he is watching the French vampire’s sadistic play, "Something in me was responding now as the audience responded, not in fear, but in some human way, to the magic of that fragile painted set, the mystery of the lighted world there."
"And my heart beat faster for the mountains of eastern Europe, finally, beat faster for the one hope that somewhere we might find in that primitive countryside the answer to why under God this suffering was allowed to exist - why under God it was allowed to begin, and how under God it might be ended. I had not the courage to end it, I knew, without that answer." Louis wonders this while journeying to Europe. This highlights his desire to understand his world and become close to God again. With closeness to God, Louis would have salvation, death--an end to his sadness. At one point Louis expresses exactly what he wants, "I wanted love and goodness in this which is living death,' I said. 'It was impossible from the beginning, because you cannot have love and goodness when you do what you know to be evil, what you know to be wrong. You can only have the desperate confusion and longing and the chasing of phantom goodness in its human form. I knew the real answer to my quest before I ever reached Paris. I knew it when I first took a human life to feed my craving. It was my death. And yet I would not accept it, could not accept it, because like all creatures I don't wish to die! And so I sought for other vampires, for God, for the devil, for a hundred things under a hundred names. And it was all the same, all evil. And all wrong. Because no one could in any guise convince me of what I myself knew to be true, that I was damned in my own mind and soul."
Professor Vampire’s website is filled with ambiguity but that could be the point. We’ve learned that vampires are often a reflection of humans and the societal values important at the time. Since vampires are defined by humans, it makes all the sense in the world that they might retain the basic human characteristics. That Louis has all of these characteristics proves him to be more than just a merciless killing machine. Thus, I believe that the vampires we’ve read about are similar to humans in that they are all unique and motivated by a different force. Louis’s just happens to be guilt while Lestat’s motivation is power.