o A querying of normative gender behaviour and sexuality pervades the 19th century gothic fiction text. What does this reveal about the cultural context within the tale exists?
This essay will attempt to discuss the two gothic tales ‘Carmilla’ and ‘Dracula’ in relation to cultural contexts in which they exist as being presented to the reader through the gender behaviour and sexuality that is portrayed through the texts. Vampire stories always seem to involve some aspect of sexuality and power.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu wrote Carmilla. It was first published in 1872 as part of the collection of short stories titles ‘In a Glass Darkly.’ Carmilla predates the publishing of Dracula by 25 years. Laura, who is also one of the main protagonists, narrates the story. She begins the tale by telling stories of her childhood and how she lived in a castle with her father on the outskirts of the forest. When Laura is just six years of age she claims to have a dream in which a visitor enters her sleeping chamber and bites her in the neck, but no wounds can be found on her. This is the background on which the whole story is set.
When a carriage crashes outside the castle, Laura becomes friends with the girl who was travelling inside it who is called Carmilla. There is an instant bond and attraction between the two females. Even though this text predates the modern day times of same sex relationships, and lesbianism by many years some readers may pick this relationship up to fall within this category. This may be surprising to many readers as this was a very secretive, taboo subject and was not talked about in public at all. It is never stated in the text that there was anything more to the friendship between Laura and Carmilla so every reader is entitled to their own opinion on the
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matter. Due to Laura isolation in life, as she does not attend any public school and mix with other children of her age, she gets the idea in her head that Carmilla is her loyal lover. This then poses the question that is there feelings involved in the friendship? This could be describes as the character of Laura being in a ‘dreamlike’ state and not being able to clearly define the boundaries of their friendship.
Later in the story it is discovered that Carmilla is in fact a vampire. The vampire is a phenomenon that has appeared in literature of different epochs. (Klüsener, 2010). She never is seen to consume any food only drinks, and Laura’s father has described Carmilla as a ‘late sleeper’ as she never rises too early in the morning. It would be fair to say that she is a ‘creature of the night’ or nocturnal.
Gender and sexuality is portrayed in this text as though the female plays a weak role in society at the time. Like many gothic texts the female protagonist is seen as portraying the repressed femininity. As Laura lost her mother at an early age it is very clear to the readers the Carmilla has taken on this role as she became involved...