About Motifs in Victorian Literature

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The two main Motifs that occur in Victorian literature are “ shadows of the past” and “Demon lover”. When referring to “shadows of the past” this means the vampire has values that are not up to date or it’s oppressing to the society. It also means that the vampire is usually old, but prays on the young. The vampire could also be known as a aristocratic exploiter. When referring to “Demon lover” this means the vampire has passion that are not morally correct for the individual. The vampire is also known as being a corrupt seducer who prays on the pure and is usually known for being an attractive seducer ( Carmilla, slide 2 ). Carmilla’s character resonates with these motifs because in the story we learn that Carmilla’s victims were young ladies. Carmilla would visit these young victims at night and would drink their blood. As a rule, the girls would die within three weeks. Carmilla 8also shows romantic interests towards Laura who is disgusted by this, but is overpowered by the attention that she finds it hard to reject Carmilla. By doing this Carmilla is waking sexual desires in Laura that aren’t a taboo for a women to feel and express these emotions. This passion that Carmilla is expressing is a taboo in their society.

The vampire in the story is threatening to the social context because she doesn’t behave the way a lady should. Carmilla has done a taboo by expressing very romantic feels towards Laura. In their society a unmarried women is taught to refrain from sexual activity, but Carmilla threatens this because of how expressive she is towards Laura ( Carmilla, slide 5 ). She says things to Laura that awakens sexually desires, but the belief in the society is that women don’t experience sexual feelings. What Carmilla is doing is questioning the societies beliefs because it’s clear that Carmilla and Laura do actually feel sexual desires. The norms is also for a women and man to be together not two women so this type of romantic feelings is seen as something disgusting. Carmilla also holds Laura’s hand in a way that lover would and kisses her. Although Laura feels embarrassed by this she finds the attention satisfying.

Laura can be seen as luminal and unsocialized because she is innocent for her age and has never attended a ball before. During the story is seems like Laura is stuck between being an adolescent and adult. Not only is see very innocent, but she is also very lonely because she has no mother, an absentminded father, and she doesn’t talk to many people ( Carmilla, slide 13 ). In the story she even makes a point of how solitary her life has been by saying “ I was one of the happy children who are studiously kept in ignorance of ghost stories, of fairy tales.” She didn’t get a chance to actually be a child and she didn’t have neighbors so there weren’t many ways for her to have communication with others. Not having a lover also seems to make her feel lonely and makes her innocent because she doesn’t know what it feels like to have a lover.

The missing roles that Carmilla fills for Laura are mother, friend, and lover. Carmilla is able to invert the role of the mother because she is the representative of a bad mother. Carmilla attacks by inverse nursing when she draws from the victims breast instead of nourishing them ( Carmilla, slide 21 ). Carmilla inverts the role of a lover because she is not a man. Although Carmilla is able to fill a void in Laura’s life, Laura is reluctant about the situation. She even begins to wonder if Carmilla is a man in disguise. If Carmilla was a man in disguise than this behavior would be acceptable, but because she is not her being a lover is a taboo. Carmilla inverts the role of a friend because her intentions are not to simply be Laura’s friend. As we find out later in the story Carmilla is actually a vampire who wants to just take advantage of Laura. Carmilla also exploits Laura for her own needs and is willing to even destroy her. As Carmilla says in the book “ you will think me cruel, very selfish; the more ardent the more selfish..” (6). Carmilla was selfish and didn’t depict the image of a selfless friend.

LeFanu presents Laura’s sexual awakening as dying. In the book, when Laura is having sexual desires she says “… Dim thoughts of death began to open, and an idea that I was slowly sinking took genteel, and somehow, not unwelcome possession of me. If it was sad, the tome of mind which is induced was also sweet. Whatever it might be, my school acquiesced in it.” (7) This loss of innocence is seen as something negative because for Victorians innocence is something that’s idealized. That is why I believe LeFanu described the loss of innocence as death because the women losses value when this occurs. The girls innocence is what dies. If a women is also highly sexual there is a negative connotation attached that views her as animalistic.

In the novel Carmilla is revealed to have a relationship with Millarca that isn’t just pure coincidence. It turns out that Carmilla is a vampire, but not only that she is the same vampire as Millarca. Both vampires are just incarnations of Countess Karenstein who died many years ago. As Laura mentions in chapter 15 all that has happened to her makes it hard to believe that vampires aren’t real “If human testimony, taken with every care and solemnity, judicially, before commissions innumerable, each consisting of many members, all chosen for integrity and intelligence…it is difficult to deny, or even to doubt the existence of such a phenomenon as the Vampire.”

In the novel the relationship that Carmilla has with Laura is that Carmilla is Laura’s send self. Carmilla was a projection of the needs that Laura had at the time of transition. Carmilla, like Laura, was abandoned by her mother and says that she saw Laura in her dreams. This is a representation of the divided self because Carmilla works as the depiction of Laura’s inner conflicts.

I believe that the novel is hostile to female sexuality because in the novel Laura’s coming of age is seen as death in the sense that she’s losing her innocence. This expression seems to be a depiction of the male anxiety that was occurring at the time. In the novel Carmilla is also killed by patriarchs because they are angered by her violation of innocence. But Laura is considered saved from sexual awakening but we still continue to see that she feels repressed. Laura is still kept in isolation and none of her feelings are taken into consideration throughout the killing of Carmilla.

The vampiric love of Carmilla can be seen as an abusive relationship because Carmilla objectifies others. She treats other humans as if there objects that can be used up so that she can fulfill her needs. There are many attitudes that are objectifying such as instrumentality, denial of autonomy, inertness, fungibility, violability, ownership, and denial of subjectivity. One of objectifying attitudes that Carmilla portrays is ownership because she tells Laura in chapter 4 “you are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one forever”. Carmilla treats Laura as if she is not allowed to have an opinion or other choice. By doing this she is claiming Laura as if she is property which isn’t something that occurs in a healthy relationships. Relationships are not supposed to be one sided and they certainly shouldn’t be dangerous. But Carmilla’s love is cruel because she attacks young women to recycle the her own feeling of assassination by an impassioned lover. Carmilla even talks about cruel love in chapter 6 saying “Cruel love—strange love, that would have taken my life. Love will have its sacrifices. No sacrifice without blood.” Her view of love is very skewed and isn’t selfless love, but instead destructive. She believes that to love people need to suffer because love can be cruel. This view of love causes Carmilla to be unable to see the destruction that her love has.

During the Victorian Era in Britain there were a couple of sociophobics at the time. Some of the sociophobics was reversion to the primitive, being ignorant, returning to tyranny, having enslaved citizens, immortality, being selfish, and devolution. In the novel Dracula represents some of these sociophobics because he is able to draft civilization and is able to overcome freedom. The evil that he causes in the novel is also able to overcome the good. Dracula also has the ability to overcome evolution.

Dracula’s allusion to Huns and Vikings is significant because Dracula is seen as the past Barbarian who was invading civilization so that he could conquer them. Attila the Huns was known as the king of the Huns. He was the king of the Huns that was able to invade Europe. Attila the Hun is known for being the most successful invader ( Dracula, Slide 36 ). Vikings were also known as Berserkers that were known for being destructive. They were warriors that had great strength and lots of courage. Berserkers equals both Viking shaper and shifters. Dracula was viewed as having these characteristics ( Dracula, Slide 37 ). Other traits that characterize Dracula is that he doesn’t use technology very much.Dracula’s form of transportation throughout the books consists of boats and carriages. His form is transportation is used to symbolize the past. The vampire hunters on the other hand use science as there source. The use of blood transfusions and lecturing on hypnosis is an example of this source of science ( Dracula, Slide 42 )

The idea of Atavism also reflect Dracula. Atavism is when there is tendency to avert to things that are ancient or ancestral, but in a biological sense. Dracula reflects this because as a human he is able to revert to animalism. Dracula is able to do things such as shape-shift, take telepathic control of animals, and does movements that are inhuman. Dracula is also classified as a “criminal type” and as being atavistic. In the book, it mentions that Nordau and Lombrosos would agree with this classification. Lombrosos is thought to believe this because of his anthropological criminology. He believes that any features that are reminiscent of lower animals are people who were born to be criminals. Dracula has these lower animal traits because he has a beaky nose, hairy but beardless, bushy eyebrows, long canine teeth, and pointed ears. Nordau would agree because of Dracula’s prehensile feet. Nordau believes that any contamination by atavistic vampires will lead to degeneracy. Degeneracy is when qualities that are thought to be normal in species is lost. Nordau believes that this can only occurs when having an immortal lifestyle. The vampire is able to attack the body and control the mind of its prey. This ability to cause degeneracy in others is why Nordau would agree that Dracula is the criminal type.

In the book, Dracula has Lucy and Mina as victims, but these two victims symbolize the ideals of Victorian femininity. In the Victorian era Lucy is viewed as being redeemed as a polluted bride by symbolic marriage. Although Lucy is innocent like Mina she is more sexualized and is not afraid to display comfort from being desired. She has desires that are troublesome to men because women are not supposed to have sexual desires. Mina is seen as the ideal woman that is being saved by the violence of men. Lucy is pure, innocent, and has Christian faith which is exactly what an ideal women was during the Victorian era. On the other hand, the female vampires in the novel are contradicting the ideal of femininity in the Victorian era. The female vampires are highly sexual women which was seen as animalistic in the Victorian era. The female vampires were described as gazing with passionate satisfaction, showing pleasurable relaxation, and flirting with the opposite sex.These were all things that women were not supposed to do. Women were supposed to stay pure and innocent. They were supposed to stay virgins till marriage because this was the ideal.

Jonathan ends up having an encounter with Dracula’s wives that affect his character. A man’s duty is for him to have the strength to resist the temptations of women who are immoral. If the man is unable to do this he is succumb to degeneracy and will become less of a man. Jonathan ends up giving into the animalism of Dracula’s wives and as a result he become unmanned. He became thin, pale, and weak-looking. But Jonathan is able to be re-manned when he does the role of hunter/fighter. Jonathan begins to focus his manly virtues on being able to fight evil. Johnathans encounter with Dracula also had the ability to change his character. Jonathan used to be a naïve person before he meet Dracula, but after his encounter with him he emerges as a brave and strong person. When Jonathan first meet Dracula he thinks nothing of him, but then begins to notice that Dracula is not human. This concern becomes great when Dracula attempt to drink Jonathans blood when he cuts himself while shaving.

The ideal of manly ideals and manhood helps against the struggle of evil because Men are expected to save women. Men are responsible for fixing any of the imbalances that occur in the society. This type of thinking is evident when they mention man’s blood is the best thing for women. The women who are turned into vampires leave their role in society and this imbalance is what the men are supposed to fix. They even mention that Lucy is better off dead if she isn’t able to follow societies rules. Dracula ends up getting defeated because the men are able to cleanse castle Dracula by killing the three female vampires. The men used their manliness to get rid of these women who were not following the norms of women. By doing this they were maintaining balance in society.

In the book Dracula there are many struggles that occur between good and evil. One of the struggle seen is Christianity vs black magic. Christianity is seen as good and black magic and things like superstitions are considered bad. Johnathan for example does not listen to the warning that the townspeople give him when his heading to count Draculas castle. The townspeople give Jonathan Christian symbols because symbols were used to ward off the undead. Dracula on the other hand has dealt with black magic. Dracula’s family is known for having had dealing with the evil one. Count Dracula also attended a school were black magic was taught. Another struggle that occurred was purity vs promiscuity. Purity is viewed as being goodness while promiscuity is viewed as evil especially when females are sexualized. An example of this was when Jonathan woke up to three female vampires in his room. He felt a desire to do things with them, but also knew that it wasn’t right because something about them left him uneasy.

Lucy is an example of purity at first because she is sweet and pure. She is desired by many, but not sexualized until she becomes a vampire. When the evil vampire taints her she becomes adamantine and cruel. But the novel does offer some solutions to the problem of evil. One of the solutions given is to see suffering as having meaning. There is hope that they will win because God is watching over them. Another solution is that suffering occurs because faith is being tested. They believe that keeping their faith in God will help them get through the suffering. The last solution involves fighting the evil because it’s a mission that has been given to you. They believe God has chosen them as an instrument to fight the evil. These solutions are seen when the men defeat evil by saving the women in their society. The things put in jeopardy when evil was occurring was a loss of freedom, degeneracy, and atavism. Evil is something that is alluring so having strong willpower is necessary to tame the animal that’s inside. The good ends up winning, but many are harmed in the process of defeating evil. Although this struggle does occur we learn that good defeats evil.

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About Motifs in Victorian Literature. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/about-motifs-in-victorian-literature/

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