Carmilla

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Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla,” In a Glass Darkly, ed. Robert Tracy (1872; rpt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993), 242-319. Carmilla is a Gothic novella written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu during the Victorian Era. The duration of this time is marked by sexual repression and the near absence of “sexuality.” This suppression, founded on the principles of religion and “traditional” gender roles, did not leave room for independent women. The subjects in Le Fanu’s discussed work were not often experienced in the literature of the Era. Le Fanu’s tale focuses on the encounters between the ominously mysterious stranger, believed to be named Carmilla, and the privileged yet naive Laura. We follow a poisonous blossoming of emotions between the women that develops into a lustfully intimate disaster. Laura finds herself captivated by Carmella’s intimate friendship. As time passes, Carmella’s erotic advances on Laura become more apparent while Laura’s heath begins to decline (281). Not long after the arrival of Carmella, the audience begins to question her intentions. Tensions raise though the scenes as we begin to consider Carmella’s involvement in Laura’s illness. In this response to the first nine chapters of Carmilla, I am going to address the characteristics Laura and Carmilla that develop perceptions of their moral and socially regulated conduct. The result of this analysis is to provide an understanding of how a story as provocative as Carmilla still adheres to the societal moral codes for women of the time. Laura reveals that she was 19 years old when she began her involvement with Carmilla. Even though Laura’s age is known from early on in the story, it proved difficult to imagine her as an adult. For instance, Laura and her father are anticipating the arrival of General Spielsdorf and his niece Bertha (249). The intentions of this meeting are in hopes of a friendship between Laura and Bertha. It may seem strange to a contemporary audience that a mature woman would need...
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