Change of Perspective
Throughout this course our class has been greatly encouraged to consider the perspective in which the story is told and especially how it affects the way in which the reader perceives it. When an author writes the story from only one character’s perspective, it can severely limit what the reader can derive from the story as a whole. The reader can only know what the character who is telling the story knows. That means that the reader can never be completely aware what other character’s are thinking/feeling and what they’re true intentions are. The author could enlighten the reader through the main character at some point but perhaps the author wants the reader to remain in the dark. Their could be any number of reasons as to why a mystery is placed in a story but then goes unanswered; it is not necessarily the author’s lack of attention or indolence.
A good example of a story that is written from only one character’s perspective and therefore leaves many questions unanswered to the reader is Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. He wrote Carmilla in the perspective of Laura, the victim, but because of the way Carmilla is vanquished there are many questions about incidences in the book that are left unanswered. For example: who are the people in the carriage that leave Carmilla with Laura, especially the “mother”? Who is the frightening black woman that does not get out of the carriage, even though it was tipped on its side and why does she appear to be angry?
Most likely Le Fanu left these questions unanswered for Laura because it makes the story more mysterious. Throughout the book Laura’s story is intimidating and this mysterious ending goes well with the sinister feel the book invokes in the reader. The story is also more realistic because while an ending where everything is answered and accounted for is ideal that is not real life. Books that end in a way where everything is answered give the impression to reader that in the end all questions are answered but is that real life? In the case of the character Laura it is not because it is state that she has included everything she knows and the “person” Carmilla. At the beginning of Carmilla Dr. Hesselius writes this not about Laura’s account of her experience with Carmilla. “She, probably, could have added little to the Narrative which she communicates in the following pages, with, so far as I can pronounce, such conscientious particularity.”
How much more interesting would the story be, though, if Carmilla’s side were accounted for? What light and understanding would it shed on the story Laura has already told but has also left many incidences to the imagination of the reader? It just so happens that Carmilla, or Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, as she is truly known, did recount her experience with Laura and part of her story was discovered after much intense searching; although it is believed that not all of her accounts were found. Below are all the accounts from Mircalla that could be found thus far and it has been put into a similar style as to how Carmilla was composed by Le Fanu.
Prologue: The Visit
I have waited many years to find her. I knew that once I saw her it would be plain that she was the one. My family is ancient and strong, but the lineage that has followed me has left more to be desired than I can describe. I have visited the women of my line for the last fifty years and when I do find her I will place on her the same blessing that I have been given; the gift of eternal life. I have decided to visit her. I have observed her from afar since she was an infant and I am convinced that it is her I have been waiting for. Upon my many observations I have learned that her name is Laura. Why Laura you might ask? It is nothing that can be put into words, this feeling I get when I observe her. I simply know to the core of my being that she should be my mate; that she was meant to spend eternity by my side. She will feel the same way I am sure.
I came into her room the first time while she was asleep. I kept hidden as she awoke from her slumber but when she began to weep I made my presence known to her. She was only a child of six yet she was not afraid as you might expect any child to be. She regarded me with interest and did not pull away when first I touched her. I soothed her gently and joined her on the bed, where soon after she fell asleep in my arms. I knew she was the one I was waiting for and so I marked her. I let myself transform into my other nature and I glided back towards the bed, drew the collar of her nightgown back slightly, and struck! The response from the child was immediate and dramatic. Her eyes flew open, she shrieked and I was gone.
I have only a few years now to wait before I can claim her. I know she felt the connection, as I did, and I know she will remember me when again I come into her life.
Madame Sheridan said it was a mistake to visit Laura, and perhaps she was right, but there was no helping it. I had to see her close up, had to know her and mark her as my own. Madame knew, even though I had not shared it with her yet, that I would one day return to Laura. She asked, “What will you do when she does recognize you, for surely she will not forget such a trying occurrence.”
I did not respond for to give Madame too much information on the subject of Laura would prove disastrous. I needed her. For now anyway. She must not know my obsession with finding a true mate because she would then know that I plan on one day leaving her and I am sure she would not bear that truth well. So for now I keep quiet, make my plans and let Madame know only what she needs to know.
While I waited to join Laura I made my preparations. Carefully I explained to Madame that we needed to appear like gentry. This would not be a difficult feat for Madame since before I had transformed her she was an aristocratic lady herself; indeed we are at this moment living in her estate house. Madame was not surprised at my declaration to appear genteel since this is how we usually manipulated persons of quality to take me into their home. We normally used some extreme pretense that would not allow Madame to stay but would require me too, and I saw no reason why this same scheme to deposit myself into Laura’s home would not work just as smoothly. The only problem is the schloss in which Laura resided was very secluded and the residents even more so. This meant that I must arrive by carriage and I must devise a plan to get the attention of the residents and a plausible reason for me to remain behind, while Madame continued on.
For my charade I needed men. Madame and I must appear genteel which means we shall need a full entourage of footmen and horsemen in noble liveries. Also there was the issue of what to do with Bess for Madame is so attached to her, although for what reasons I do not know, that she will not go anywhere without her. Madame had taken such a liking for Bess that I could not understand, for she is quite demented, although perhaps this may be from shock of being in Madame’s company, for she regularly feeds on Bess and is not always so successful in controlling her. I have tried to teach Madame how to feed without alerting her prey, but she never seems able to apply this skill, and usually the outcome is similar to Bess’ behaviors; complete lack of sanity after a period of time. Normally I do not concern myself with Madame’s conquests but since Bess could possibly foil my plans of being positioned into Laura’s home I must figure out what to do with her. I suppose she must go, for Madame will be most disagreeable if I say Bess cannot, but I will stress firmly that Bess must stay out of sight for what would I do if anyone does see? Her presence would be difficult to explain since the very nature of her appearance would be quite frightening to a person.
My plans are set and ready. I approach Madame and tell her we must again deposit myself in the presence of humans, in a very similar fashion as before, for I am in need of sustenance which can not be provided any other way. I tell her I have found such a place and though she looks surprised at the location and isolation of the place she does not question me for she knows better. She knows it is Laura I will be visiting, and she will soon realize that this one is very different from the others if I am not careful. I tell her of the plan, which is very similar to past plans, and we ready the carriage and the men. Since the footmen are so young and weak they are much easier for me to handle than Madame, who I must manipulate more and more as she gets stronger. When I have safely deposited myself in the house I will dispose of them all, since I have told them all to wait for further instructions from me at a designated spot a few miles past the schloss. I know that Madame will cause problems for me if I do not deal with her soon; she suspects that this Laura is different. The males will not prove to be a problem but I have no need for them and if I set them free they will only cause disaster and inquiry in the surrounding villages.
My plan is set into motion. We are very close now to the schloss and it takes all my power to hide my anticipation from Madame. The carriage ride is rough and jarring which, of course, does not bother Madame or myself, but Bess seems to get more and more agitated at each collision with a rock or rut. I give Madame a look and she instantly tries to soothe Bess and keep her quiet.
We are approaching the schloss now. I close my eyes and sit so still that I could be asleep, but of course I am not. The carriage begins to speed up quickly but the only one that appears startled is Bess. Shortly the carriage is at such an alarming speed that it rocks back and forth frighteningly. Bess begins to make noise and I open my eyes, look at Bess and she is instantly quiet. There! I can smell her. She is close! I close my eyes again and the horses rear and the carriage falls to its side. As it falls I let out a long drawn out scream that seems, for a moment, to surprise Madame. All the occupants of the carriage are jostled and tossed violently but, of course, Madame and I are unaffected. Bess appears to not even have noticed the carriage tipping but I know once the trance has broken, which will be soon, she will be in pain and most likely angry. I pray the trance will hold until the carriage is on its way again and I am safely deposited into Laura’s home.
The liveried footmen do as they were instructed before the carriage left and lift me carefully out of the carriage; I appear to be stunned to all who view me. Madame had already removed herself and was being consoled by the master of the schloss. The remaining footmen quickly and expertly right the carriage and prepare to leave immediately. Madame carries out the plan although she gives me some fright when she displays less than motherly affection on me. Still, the plan works for the most part and in no time at all she has arranged for me to reside at the schloss until she can return for me, which, of course, she never will.
My plan is finally set into motion and soon Laura will be mine, and I hers.
My goal for this project was to have a similar writing style as Le Fanu but to create a darker feeling for the reader and really give the reader the impression that Carmilla is passionate about Laura but also heartless about who she must use to get to Laura. I wanted to answer many questions that went unanswered, but in such a way that the questions weren’t just plain answered; the reader is given more information on parts in Carmilla that were very murky but they must still come to there own conclusion. The majority of my basis for my addition to Le Fanu’s Carmilla was from the scene where the carriage crashes and Carmilla is left with Laura and her father. Here is a passage that gave me a great amount of inspiration for my project.
“At this moment the unwonted sound of carriage wheels and many hoofs upon the road, arrested our attention.
They seemed to be approaching from the high ground overlooking the bridge, and very soon the equipage emerged from that point. Two horsemen first crossed the bridge, then came a carriage drawn by four horses, and two men rode behind.
It seemed to be the traveling carriage of a person of rank; and we were al immediately absorbed in watching that very unusual spectacle. It became, in a few moments, greatly more interesting, for just as the carriage had passed the summit of the steep bridge, one of the leaders, taking fright, communicated his panic to the rest, and after a plunge or two, the whole team broke into a wild gallop together, and dashing between the horsemen who rode in front, came thundering along the road towards us with the speed of a hurricane.
The excitement of the scene was made more painful by the clear, long-drawn screams of a female voice from the carriage window.” (Carmilla)
This whole process seems so elaborate to set up Carmilla into Laura’s house that I thought an actual explanation for such drastic measures would make the story more interesting. The passage I wrote also explains the women in the carriage, along with the frightening footmen and horsemen. I wanted to hint at the fact that Madame Sheridan (the name being a tribute to Le Fanu) and the footmen and horsemen were all vampires, but I also wanted the reader to be left somewhat in the dark about it too so that the story is still mysterious, like Le Fanu’s. I got the idea to make them all vampires, except for Bess (the frightening black woman) because of Le Fanu’s description of them in Carmilla.
“’Did you remark a woman in the carriage, after it was set up again, who did not get out,’ inquired Mademoiselle, ‘but only looked from the window?’
… Then she described a hideous black woman, with a sort of colored turban on her head, and who was gazing all the time from the carriage window, nodding and grinning derisively towards the ladies, with gleaming eyes and large white eyeballs, and her teeth set as if in fury.
‘Did you remark what an ill-looking pack of men the servants were?’ asked Madame.
… ‘Besides looking wicked, their faces were so strangely lean, and dark, and sullen. I am very curious, I own…’” (Carmilla)
I felt that my passage went somewhat smoothly although it was difficult for me to get all of my ideas that I had from reading Carmilla into the passage that I wrote. A lot of times it was hard to figure out how to word it. For the most part I think that I accomplished my task. I wanted the story to tell Carmilla’s side of the story but I also wanted it to be mysterious like Le Fanu was. I still want the reader to be able to use their imagination about what I wrote because I think it makes the story more realistic. Carmilla would not explain everything that would happen to her in detail because she is not writing this for anyone to read; therefore it must be written down as if they are Carmilla’s thoughts on the subject.
I really enjoyed doing this project. Once I am given an idea on something to write about I tend to run away with it. I pretty much wrote this straight through and changed very little from the first draft. Usually when I write I think about it for a long time until I figure out what I want to write. Then I’ll sit down and write everything out. I usually do not change much after that. I had fun with the style of writing I was trying to attempt, which was to make Carmilla’s story believable by writing the passage how it most likely would have been written in that time period. I was trying to make it similar, but not an exact copy, of Le Fanu’s writing. One part of my passage that I particularly liked was the one that showed Carmilla’s powers and the control she possessed.
“We are approaching the schloss now. I close my eyes and sit so still that I could be asleep, but of course I am not. The carriage begins to speed up quickly but the only one that appears startled is Bess. Shortly the carriage is at such an alarming speed that it rocks back and forth frighteningly. Bess begins to make noise and I open my eyes, look at Bess and she is instantly quiet. There! I can smell her. She is close! I close my eyes again and the horses rear and the carriage falls to its side. As it falls I let out a long drawn out scream that seems, for a moment, to surprise Madame.”
Overall the project went smoothly. I enjoyed the book so much that it was very interesting to try to recreate it the way I did. I hope that I at least did Le Fanu justice with my passage, although I do feel that since he leaves so much to the imagination, I could have really gone in any direction I chose. I did use part of my post from my blog titled “The Visit” because it was a good set up for the rest of my passage, but I did change it slightly. I felt it could be polished up a little bit and I wanted it to flow really well with the rest of my passage. To really make sure I had an understanding of the book I did reread a lot of Carmilla and I don’t think that any part of my passage would not coincide with Le Fanu’s book.