How Innocence can Kill
Have you ever been afraid of the dark, or the boogeyman under your bed, or the monsters in your closet? Most likely when you grew older, you became less afraid because you knew they didn’t exist. But what if they did? In Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic 19th century novella Carmilla, Laura’s monsters are very much alive. Sadly, no amount of innocence is able to protect her from the monster that is Carmilla. As a mirror, Carmilla cast back the idea of how dangerous innocence is. If the men in Carmilla had not been shielding the women, they could have saved Bertha and Laura from their ‘affliction’, kept the many peasants from dying, From the very beginning, Laura has been shielded by the people around her. For instance, when Laura first meets Carmilla, she is told, as many children are, that everything will be alright: I yelled with all my might and main. Nurse, nursery-maid, housekeeper, all came running in, and hearing my story, they made light of it, soothing me all they could meanwhile. But, child as I was, I could perceive that their faces were pale with an unwonted look of anxiety, and I saw them look under the bed, and about the room, and peep under tables and pluck open cupboards. (Le Fanu 4) Laura knows that something is up, despite how young she is, but all the adults play it off as if it were nothing. Her father even does “patting me on the shoulder, and kissing me, and telling me not to be frightened, that it was nothing but a dream and could not hurt me.” (5) In fact, Laura actually admits,
I was one of those happy children who are studiously kept in ignorance of ghost stories, of fairy tales, and of all such lore as makes us cover up our heads when the door creeks suddenly, or the flicker of an expiring candle makes the shadow of a bed-post dance upon the wall, nearer to our faces. (3-4) Laura was shielded multiple times in the novella. For instance, when Laura starts to feel sick, her father sent for a doctor to check up on her, after which the doctor and Laura’s father discuss what might be wrong with her: He and the doctor talked for some time in the same recess where I had just conferred with the physician. It seemed an earnest and argumentative conversation. The room is very large, and I and Madame stood together, burning with curiosity, at the further end. Not a word could we hear, however, for they spoke in a very low tone, and the deep recess of the window quite concealed the doctor from view, and very nearly my father, whose foot, arm, and shoulder only we could see; and the voices were, I suppose, all the less audible for the sort of closet which the thick wall and window formed. (50)
Keeping the young aristocrats Laura and Bertha innocent caused the death of Bertha and nearly caused the death of Laura. However, there is a good chance that no one in the nearby villages knew anything about any type of vampire, unless they happened to travel around the world. And here we have our mountebank, which not only traveled but was also probably well-versed in the folklore of the places he passed through. When he visits Laura and Carmilla at the manor, he even notices Carmilla’s striking teeth: Your noble friend … has the sharpest tooth, - long, thin, pointed, like an awl, like a needle; ha, ha! With my sharp and long sight, as I look up, I have seen it distinctly; now if it happens to hurt the young lady, and I think it must, here am I, here are my file, my punch, my nippers; I will make it round and blunt, if her ladyship pleases; no longer the tooth of a fish, but of a beautiful young lady as she is. (29) If the mountebank noticed her teeth, he almost assuredly knew that she wasn’t exactly human, but for some odd reason chose not to disclose that information with Laura, her father, or the governesses.
If the peasants in the village had also been a bit more enlightened, their daughters and wives may have also survived. As previously mentioned, most people that...
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