Solitary Locations

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s very apparent early in Carmilla that it is a very different world than the one in which we live.  If you think about it, it is very rare that most of America is unconnected from the rest of society.  Between cell phones and Facebook (and other sources) it is very easy to keep in touch with people, and to see how they’re doing.

The characters in Carmilla are not afforded this sort of luxury to which we have become accustomed.  It is very clear, given the descriptions in the books, that all the people living at the castle only have each other to socialize with.  “I have said that this is a lonely place.  Judge whether I say truth.  Looking from the hall door towards the road, the forest in which our castle extends fifteen miles to the right, and twelve to the left.  The nearest inhabited village is about seven of your English miles to the left.  The nearest inhabited schloss of any historic associations, is that of old General Spielsdorf, nearly twenty miles away to the right.” (page 244).

This situation is made even more solitary by the fact that not a lot of people live in the castle. “I must tell you know, how very small is the party who constitute the inhabitants of our castle.  I don’t include servants, or those dependants who occupy rooms in the buildings attached to the schloss.” (page 245)  Added to this the fact that the narrator only is able to visit with her friends occasionally.  “And there were two or three young lady friends besides, pretty nearly of my own age, who were occasional visitors, for longer or shorter terms; and these visits I sometimes returned.  These were our regular social resources; but of course there were chance visits from ‘neighbors’ of only five or six leagues distance.  My life was, notwithstanding, rather a solitary one, I can assure you.” (page 245)

While I was reading this, it made me think of how connected we are to each other and how dependent on that sort of connection that we have become.  Even if we tried to disconnect ourselves, I doubt it would be successful.  Now, I am aware that the world is not all the same as us, and not all places have the sort of connection that we do.  But for America, the majority of us depend on our socialization.  Think about it, talking to the people in your class, talking to your teachers, talking to your friends.  How desolate it would seem to only talk to the same few people day in and day out! Yes, our narrator does not seem that bothered by it, the descriptions just seem to be telling us of her life and the fact that it does get lonely.

It’s interesting to think about the clash of our modern society with the one this book describes.  Would we be able to handle the solitary location?


Colleen said...

I can see what you're saying about how "connected" we are, but in many ways the vampire novel allows us to explore themes of modern alienation. Vampires are oftentimes solitary creatures that struggle with relationships (both human and non-human!). Could we see the vampire as symbolic of our struggles to "connect" with other human beings? You say that we all have these nifty gadgets and social networking sites to keep us connected, but then why have feelings of social isolation tripled in the last two decades?

Here are some interesting stats from this source:

"Discussion networks are smaller in 2004 than in 1985. The number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled. The mean network size decreases by about a third (one confidant), from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. The modal respondent now reports having no confidant; the modal respondent in 1985 had three confidants."

The nineteenth century was a time of sweeping social change. Could the elements of isolation so present in the vampire novels we have read so far be symptomatic of this economic and social shift? As people move farther away from tight-knit agricultural communities to work in cold, dark factories, does the vampire novel say something about the human condition in terms of deepening isolation?

Duquaine said...

Lindsay, you made a great point that it is clear that modern society is very different from the one that Laura lives in. It is evident that the inhabitants of the castle are separated from most civilization and have only each other to rely on for socialization. While it is true that many of us live in communities where people are very close by, Colleen made a great comment about the increasing isolation in today's society despite being in constant contact with others. While we do have many more options for communicating now then the inhabitants in the castle did, it seems as though people in modern society are not gaining the same type of socialization skills that used to come naturally to many people when one of their only ways of communicating was face to face communication. Today's technology allows many people to go without the face to face contact that used to be necessary. So although it may be easier to communicate with more people, the depth of the relationships formed through technology may not be as deep as many relationships once were. Because the inhabitants of the castle have only each other to rely on for interaction, this may be why Carmilla and Laura become such close friends so fast, and why Laura begins to experience the feelings she does for Carmilla.

cedes said...

I never thought about the connection aspect you bring up. I think it is definitely something to be thought about though, because it could explain different themes in the story.
Could isolation be the reason Laura attaches to Carmilla in the way she does? Could this also be the reason that Carmilla has been so successful all those 100 years seducing so many girls?
I do think that if Laura hadn't been so desperately lonely, she wouldn't have felt so strongly about Carmilla. This could have definitely saved a lot of trouble.
This also leads me to think about the lonlieness that Carmilla may have felt. A lot of what she says is very emotional and sounds like genuine affection for Laura. This also goes back to the Byron packet we read and how even vampires crave that human connection. This just furthers the idea that vampires aren't all bad. They have different sides and are, in a way, very similar to humans.

Emily Zettle said...

I think I can see both perspectives on the isolation issue. Facebook and social networking are huge now and we are all connected via the web or through texts etc...and yet I don't keep in contact with a lot of people anymore face to face, through letters or via the phone. So yeah, I guess we are all kind of growing apart as well. I know I hear from people who do not indulge in modern technology (such as my grandmother) that we are all losing contact with one another and the family bond is failing. I guess it's a debatable issue.

I like cedes' point about vampires craving human connection and contact. It definitely makes characters like Carmilla seem more human and likable. That might just be for us as readers to relate to them, or it could be the author's personal preference dealing with vampire myth. Vampires were once human after all, maybe retaining some of their human soul romanticizes the character.

Colleen said...

"I do think that if Laura hadn't been so desperately lonely, she wouldn't have felt so strongly about Carmilla."

Exactly. I think we should take note of human characters that are attracted to and/or eventually become vampires. It would seem that many of them reveal a tendency towards isolation and are in some ways social outcasts (Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood comes to mind). How does the vampire become a panacea for modern loneliness? What is the allure there, I wonder?

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