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 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.
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.
….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.