Carmilla

by

Sheridan Le Fanu

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Dreams Symbol Analysis

Dreams Symbol Icon

Laura’s most formative memory was waking in the night as a young child to find a pretty lady caressing her in bed. Once she had fallen asleep once more, Laura awoke terrified with two stabbing pains in her breast. Though Laura’s father tries to convince her that this was all a dream, Laura is certain that her experience was real. In fact, all of Laura’s “dreams” in the book turn out to be somewhat real. Thus, her dreams symbolize repression—both the repression of female and homosexual desire (since her dreams are often sexual in nature), as well as repression in the form of denial (as the other characters refuse to acknowledge that Laura’s horrifying experiences are real). Laura’s initial “dream” begins with the soothing and pleasant experience of a pretty woman caressing her in her bed, which suggests a repressed sexual nature that Laura cannot reveal in her everyday life. However, once Carmilla gives her an outlet for this desire, Laura’s dreams turn more sinister, as large cats prowl her bedroom at night, ominous female figures appear and disappear, and she experiences more nighttime stabbing pains. Everyone tries to convince Laura that these are dreams, rather than sinister experiences. Carmilla herself comments that she “used to think evil spirits” caused dreams, but was told by the doctor “it was no such thing.” Laura’s father continually insists that Laura’s dreams are not supernatural, and Laura’s governesses try to manufacture rational explanations for her experiences. As it turns out, though, these nighttime pains and presences are Laura’s supernatural experiences of being bitten by Carmilla, and everyone’s refusal to believe Laura nearly leads to her death. Once Carmilla is exposed, these characters are no longer in denial about Laura’s dreams, but Laura’s sexuality remains unresolved. Even with Carmilla vanquished, Laura still exhibits some symptoms of the illness contracted from Carmilla’s bites, which suggests that her repressed sexuality lingers. In this way, the book suggests that dreams—and therefore repressions—are real presences in peoples’ lives, and they affect people in ways that are undeniable, whether or not they’re acknowledged as real.

Dreams Quotes in Carmilla

The Carmilla quotes below all refer to the symbol of Dreams. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wildside Press edition of Carmilla published in 2000.
Chapter 1  Quotes

The first occurrence in my existence, which produced a terrible impression upon my mind, which, in fact, never has been effaced, was one of the very earliest incidents of my life which I can recollect….I saw a solemn, but very pretty face looking at me from the side of the bed. It was that of a young lady who was kneeling, with her hands under the coverlet. I looked at her with a kind of pleased wonder, and ceased whimpering. She caressed me with her hands, and lay down beside me on the bed, and drew me towards her….I was now for the first time frightened.

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Carmilla
Related Symbols: Dreams
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

It would be vain my attempting to tell you the horror with which, even now, I recall the occurrence of that night. It was no such transitory terror as a dream leaves behind it. It seemed to deepen by time, and communicated itself to the room and the very furniture that had encompassed the apparition.

Related Characters: Laura (speaker)
Related Symbols: Dreams
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

….and of having spoken to people whom I could not see; and especially of one clear voice, of a female’s, very deep, that spoke as if at a distance, slowly, and producing always the same sensation of indescribable solemnity and fear…Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself.

Related Characters: Laura (speaker)
Related Symbols: Dreams
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dreams Symbol Timeline in Carmilla

The timeline below shows where the symbol Dreams appears in Carmilla. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Love and Lust Theme Icon
...everything was alright, but she didn’t believe him. He told her it was just a dream, but she says she knew that what happened had been real. That day, a kind... (full context)
Chapter 5
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...herself off of Carmilla. Suddenly, Carmilla once more becomes apathetic and asks if she’s been dreaming. Laura tells Carmilla that she looks ill, and they return to the schloss. Laura worries... (full context)
Chapter 6
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...where she has adopted Carmilla’s practice of locking her door at night. That night she dreams that she is lying in bed in her room when a sooty-black animal resembling a... (full context)
Chapter 7
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Recalling the experience of her dream, Laura knows that she couldn’t properly convey how terrified she had been. It was not... (full context)
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...terrible would have happened if she hadn’t been protected by her charm. She claims she dreamt that something black surrounded her, and imagined she saw a dark figure in her room... (full context)
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Laura relates to Carmilla the effectiveness of the charm, which Carmilla tells her is because dreams are nothing more than the result of a sickness, and not evil spirits as she... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...welcomes the symptoms, beginning to feel strange but pleasant sensations in her sleep along with dreams that she can’t remember but which leave a lasting impression. All she is able to... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...the peasants, as their sickness never lasted more than three days. Carmilla too complains about dreams and sensations, but they’re not as worrisome as Laura’s. (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Love and Lust Theme Icon
One night, Laura dreams that she hears a sweet female voice which tells her “Your mother warns you to... (full context)
Chapter 9
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...The doctor asks about the feeling of the needles piercing her skin after her first dream. She shows him the place where the sensation had occurred, revealing a small blue spot.... (full context)
Chapter 13
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
At the same time, Bertha began to grow ill and weak. She experienced frightening dreams, followed by hallucinations of both Millarca and a large black beast. One night she felt... (full context)