Female power is suppressed by men in vampire literature. I will analyze the idea of women treated as inferior by men through psychoanalysis mainly based on Freudian concepts. The topics of psychoanalysis that I will be using to look at the texts are the ‘monstrous feminine’, the castration complex, and masculine instinct. The two texts that will be analyzed are the short stories ‘Carmilla’ and ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’.The short story ‘Carmilla’ was written by Joseph LeFanu in 1871. This was during the Victorian Era where strict laws of gender roles and sexuality were present. For example, “Being ‘forward’ in the company of men suggested a worrying sexual appetite” (web p 1).
This information is important to the story because the character Carmilla redefines gender roles during this time period as a homosexual woman with masculine traits and is demonized because of this by men. One way that ‘Carmilla’ displays female power being suppressed is through the demonization of women’s sexuality. In the text, Carmilla is seen as a sexual monster who only preys on young girls and once the girls are seduced by her, they turn very ill.
This happened to General Spielsdorf’s daughter, Bertha, who had a homosexual relationship with Carmilla and because of this, she became ill and died. After she died, the General claimed “I devote my remaining days to tracking and extinguishing a monster”(LeFanu 5). Carmilla is depicted as a monster because of the way she is rebelling against Victorian beliefs and how women are expected to act. In ‘Horror and the monstrous-feminine’ Barbara Creed, a famous psychoanalyst argues that women are considered scary and “monstrous” by men in horror films because the men fear that women might castrate him. The monstrous-feminine is defined as “what it is about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrifying, abject” (Creed 67). Creed states that “in some horror films the monstrous is produced at the border which separate those who take up their proper gender roles from those who do not; or the border is between normal and abnormal sexual desire” (Creed, 71). Carmilla rebels against Victorian society gender roles and this concept of representing homosexuality through a vampire “monster” shows that men fear women showing power through sexuality and feel the need to destroy it.
The short story ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ was written by Neil Gaiman in 1994. The story is a re-telling of the fairy tale Snow White from the step-mother’s perspective. Gaiman is considered a feminist writer and this is shown in ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ where he brings awareness to the removal of women’s power by men in vampire text. In 1990, third-wave feminism had just begun. This wave involved “eschewing victimization and defining feminine beauty for themselves as subjects, not as objects of a sexist patriarchy” (Rampton 1). This differs from ‘Carmilla’ because LeFanu supports oppression of females while Gaiman is a feminist aiming to expose stereotypes of gender roles. Female sexuality is condemned in ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by displaying women who only take interest in pleasuring men, and not themselves. In the story, the queen talks about her husband and says “when he wanted me he would send for me, and I would go to him, and pleasure him, and take my pleasure with him” (Gaiman 2).
Also, when the stepmother becomes Queen and leads her people, it is because the King died and not because she earned it. It is provocative that the Queen leads her people alone because she is in control of her people, and does not receive a man’s insight. When the Lord of the Fair came for advice he said “I do not come to you as my queen, I come to you because you are wise” (Gaiman 5). This is a disrespect to her power, and the Lord of the Fair is uncomfortable with asking “the Queen” for advice, so he makes it clear he is not requesting a “higher powered” woman’s help. Men are afraid of being dominated by women and “losing” their phallus.
Castration anxiety is a Freudian theory where A male child commonly suffers from anxiety lest his father rob him of his male member; and so castration anxiety is on of the strongest influences on the development of his character, and decisive for his sexual tendencies later (Freud 19).Freud’s idea is often interpreted in a broader sense as the developed character of the man, influenced by the “phallic stage” of development. The castration complex is then described as a man’s fear of damage or loss of function to their phallus. Michael Kahn who wrote the book Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the 21st Century said that once boys learn that there are people without a penis they become frightened this may happen to them and “he might then become cautious and fearful or he might defend himself against this fear through aggressive phallic pride” (Kahn, p. 50).
In Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality the author states that the conviction which is finally reached by males that women have no penis often leads them to an enduringly low opinion of the other sex” (Strachey 61). This is because men may think that women’s phallus was taken away and that they are superior, because the woman is not “whole” anymore. The castration complex is present in ‘Carmilla’ because she is an empowered woman associated with masculine qualities. Carmilla goes against Victorian beliefs, which is unheard of for women in those days. She is seen as a threat to General Spielsdorf and Laura’s father for encouraging their daughters to embrace their sexuality and have lesbian relations. In Creed’s ‘Monstrous-Feminine’ she says that a man “fears that woman could castrate both psychically and physically” (Creed PAGE WATEVER).
The men feel the need to take back their power from Carmilla. They invoke the help of Herr Vordenburg and stake her and burn her body. The text reveals the loss of Carmilla’s power after she is dead, because she is referred to as just a body using only the word “the” to describe her. The text statesThe body, therefore, in accordance with the ancient practice was raised, and a sharp stake driven through the heart of the vampire, who uttered a piercing shriek at the moment, in all respects such as might escape from a living person in the last agony.
Then the head was struck off, and a torrent of blood flowed from the severed neck. The body and head was placed on a pile of wood, and reduced to ashes… p. 51The men gained their power back, and Carmilla was barely referred to as a person.
The men no longer fear castration from Carmilla, because she no longer dominates them.In ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ the prince displays the castration complex. In the story, the prince has peculiar sexual relations with the queen, where he asks her to make her skin cold and she recounts Then he asked me to lie upon my back, with my hands folded across my breasts, my eyes wide open – but starin only at the beams above. He told me not to move, and to breathe as little as possible.
He implored me to say nothing. Freud’s concept of phallic fixation is when a child “fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality” (Stevenson 1). The book Basic Freud states that “serious phallic fixation interferes with sexual fulfillment. The person may be totally inhibited or may be able to perform the sex act only mechanically and without emotional contact” (Kahn, 50). The prince is considered phallically fixated because he did not want the queen to move or speak during sex and once she moaned, “he had lost whatever force it was that had made him virile” (Gaiman, 9). Once she showed any sign of humanity or emotion towards the act, he became sexually incompetent.
The prince also was angry with the queen because she was to blame for his loss of erection. This could be considered a “castration” because he lost control of his phallus and was not sexually dominant anymore. The prince had to “take back his masculinity” by humiliating the queen at the end of the story by stripping her and having four men carry her “two men at each hand, two men at each leg – utterly exposed” (Gaiman 11). They then threw her inside a kiln and burned her to death. The feminist twist in the story is that the queen realizes that the men are taking their power and she says “I will not scream.
I will not give them that satisfaction. They will have my body, but my soul and my story are my own and will die with me” (Gaiman 11). While feminism is displayed in this story, female submissiveness is still emphasized.
The queen loses all power and Snow White “stood there with her prince. She watched the queen , in her indignity but she said nothing” (Gaiman 11). The differentiation between men and womenAt the beginning of the story, Laura, one of the main characters, recalls a dream she had about Carmilla visiting her when she was younger. In the dream, Carmilla enters her bedroom and Laura recalls “she caressed me with her hands and lay down beside me on the bed and drew me towards her, smiling; I felt immediately delightfully soothed, and fell asleep again” (LeFanu 3). Laura then feels two needles impale her breast and was extremely frightened. She was later treated by a doctor and Laura stated that “he came and gave me medicine, which of course I hated” (LeFanu 3).
This can be read as a sexual scene where Laura is punished for engaging in sexual activity with Carmilla and is given medicine she dislikes, by the doctor.