Sheridan Le Fanu

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Themes and Colors
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Love and Lust Theme Icon
Class and Class Warfare Theme Icon
Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Carmilla, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Women and Sexuality

Carmilla, a tale of a female vampire who preys on young women, centers on the anxieties associated with female sexuality. Le Fanu was one of the first writers to depict a female vampire, and he consistently associates vampirism with eroticism. The disguised vampire Carmilla’s longing for Laura is primarily sexual, and her craving for the blood of young women suggests that female sexual desire—particularly homosexual desire—is inherently threatening. Despite that Carmilla frames female…

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Loss of Innocence

Carmilla as a character is evocative of female sexuality, but her vampire bite has a broader meaning, as it brings about a loss of innocence, and the transformation from girl to woman. Laura begins the novel leading a largely sheltered life, protected from the harsh realities of the world. She lives in comfort and privilege, and she’s accustomed to getting whatever she wants. The only time Laura can remember being truly afraid is her first…

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Love and Lust

Carmilla frequently questions the distinction between love and lust, and condemns the failure to tell the difference between the two. Love is a powerful emotion throughout, but it is lust that often proves most dangerous and all-consuming, and therefore destructive. Through the relationship between Laura and Carmilla, the two emotions become increasingly tangled and difficult to distinguish, suggesting that it is not only lust that can be dangerous, but also the inability to differentiate…

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Class and Class Warfare

Carmilla is a story that is preoccupied with money and the benefits of wealth. The fairly well-off Laura and her father believe they are immune to the troubles that plague the lower-class, and the aristocratic Carmilla is particularly harsh in her views of the poor. While on the surface the language of the book seems to indicate a largely negative view of those that are less wealthy, Carmilla’s villainy combined with her hatred of the…

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Science, Religion, Nature, and the Supernatural

Like many other books of its era, Carmilla explores the relationship between science, religion, nature, and the supernatural. The Victorian era was a time in which science and technology were rapidly advancing. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (published 13 years before the publication of Carmilla) had begun to destabilize Christian ideas about the place of God in the universe, and the machinery of the industrial revolution was upending life in Europe for all…

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