Candace Benefiel's critical analysis of the evolving idea of the vampire brings light to why Rice's novel is such a significant contribution to vampiric literature, "This breakthrough novel (Interview with the Vampire) focused not on vampire hunters, but on the vampires themselves - and what a different breed they are" (1). I find this conclusion to be true of Rice's work, because the main characters, Louis, Lestat and Claudia all have varying depths to their character. The reader really gets an opportunity to relate to the Vampire. For example, Louis's character provides a lot of room for analysis and interpretation, because so much content is provided on him. You learn a bit about him when he was mortal, how he learned to hunt and become a Vampire and through the structure of the novel (interview style) you learn his personal thoughts and reactions to the events that are unraveling.
I think another imortant Benefiel is making about Rice's work with the Vampire as a character is that focusing more personally on the Vampires has been tried before, but Rice was the first one to succeed, "they (Louis, Lestat and Claudia) may not have been the first sympathetic vampires, they were the first successful ones in their initial publication, and they have been followed by a host of others" (2). Rice paved the way for sympathy and Vampires to co-exist in a certain medium.
The idea of nuclear family among the Vampire characters is a theme that I recently dicussed in a previous blog and it has also been a topic of conversation in class. Benefiel also addresses this topic, "Rice, however, expanded on this considerably in Interview with the Vampire, making the nuclear family of vampires a major theme in her novel...The vampire family, incestuous and blurred as it is, presents a subversive alternative model to the nuclear family" (3). I agree with the idea of the vampire family being incestuous, because Lestat plays a dominant fatherly role, but he also played a nurturing mother role when raising both Louis and Claudia. Louis also intially harnesses a paternal role with Claudia, but then he develops a relationship that is romantic. I find that people's reaction to the sex and incest of vampires is not really questioned. It seems to me that these ideas can be safely teased out when addressed to the character of a vampire. I think this suggests that what is so captivating about vampires is they resemble a human (since they once were human) and are therefore capable of behaving in manners that, if we as humans behaved like would be revolting, but when a vampire does it - it is thrilling, exciting and fearful. I think they almost serve as outlet where forbidden human ideas can be exercised safely and constructively.
I think Benefiel also touches on this idea of the reader being able to act out irregular scenarios, "The family group of Interview with the Vampire, as well as subsequent iterations of the vampire family, allows the reader to explore issues of alternative family structures and incestuous attraction within the family, and to play out the consequences for good or ill of these imagined scenarios. The vampire, aloof from human considerations, nonetheless stands in for the reader" (10). Rice and other authors provide a world where the reader can experience such controversial, untouchable ideas in a safe, imaginative environment.
I found this essay to be extremely helpful in beginning to analyze and understand why vampires are so captivating for our culture; what it is about their role that attracts people to them. They have been a character that has evolved over the generations and is given other dynamics, but it is a character that never grows old (literally).