“I know nothing, because I know too much, and understand not nearly enough and never will.”
Generally when readers try to understand child-like vampires in Anne Rice’s literature, they focus particularly on Claudia. Mostly because she’s an extreme character in this regard. Very young; too young to be self-sufficient in a world where children stand out. But in nature, her ‘youthful’ qualities do not compare with those of Armand; an under-acknowledged child-like vampire in the Vampire Chronicles series.
Even today, seventeen-year-olds are young, boisterous and possessed of a self-assuredness that adults and very young children do not have the capacity for. Children are almost always bashful and shy, and adults are almost always broken by the ways of the world. Armand is a character caught between these two universal truths. Made a vampire at seventeen, he retained his child-like nature, while breaching maturity. It is this quality, combined with his strange history, that has made him one of the more eccentric and intriguing of vampire characters.
When we first encounter him, it is his youth (regardless of his obvious power) that Louis hones in on in his description. He is a youthful sage in Louis eyes. The ‘oldest’ vampire in existence, in a world which is so very small for poor Louis who can’t even hear the thoughts of others. One must consider Louis’s predicament here, he is completely isolated from any form of vampire society, so when he meets Armand, this boy-ish vampire becomes his mentor. And because he is so incapable of reading others, he has no notion of the history that exists between Armand and Lestat.
“How can so much beauty hide such a bruised and steely heart, and why must I love him, why must I lean in my weariness upon his irresistible yet indomitable strength? Is he not the wizend funeral spirit of a dead man in a child’s clothes?”
And so it is a surprise to the reader when The Vampire Lestat is encountered. There is a long, tumultuous history between the two vampires. Clashing personalities maybe? Or just miscommunication. Both vampires are orphans in their own rights, but how they handled their abandonment is completely polar.
My heart goes out to Armand, as I have stated before when discussing Marius. Many readers see him as either weak, for falling into mind-bending propaganda (delivered in the harshest fashion, I may add), or cruel. But what choice did he have? Never the most emotionally stable of characters, it is unsurprising, really, that Armand’s mind snapped under the tender ministrations of Santino, who tortured him, body and soul, through starvation and murderous acts of survival.
Armand was swept from a comfortable life with a simple family, and even a clear future as a holy artist, to a life of sexual slavery and degradation. Saved from this by Marius, his religion was shaken, along with his mental stability. Suddenly, this impoverished, broken boy is lavished with affection, jewels and leisure that he doesn’t think – at first – that he deserves. As an impassioned character, we can clearly understand that Armand would choose to replace his previous ‘God’ with this new Master.
And then Marius was taken away from him.
It is undeniably cruel on the part of those that ‘killed’ his master, but what is worse is what we discover later with Blood and Gold. Marius could have taken him back again. But instead he chose to abandon him. To see him as a failed project.
Of course Armand then finds another ‘God’ to bend his knee before, only this one is a twisted mockery of the heavenly father he knew as a child. It doesn’t matter though, he needs something to put his faith in.
And it is in this spirit that Armand tries to end his life. When Lestat returns from hell with Veronica’s Veil clutched in his hands, Armand’s beliefs are finally verified and he gives himself over to the sun.
Only to find he cannot die. Fate, the powers-that-be, or maybe just the strength of his blood, prevents him from attaining salvation. From entering death and thus heaven.
Abandoned by all his ‘Gods,’ Armand chooses to spend his time in the company of mortal children, the two that saved him from a long, torturous stay in the sun. By this point, it feels as if Armand has given up hope on any form of divinity, just as he believes Marius always had.
And then Marius is responsible for taking that away from him as well.
The most beautiful reunions, for me, are the ones between Armand and his maker. But at the same time, they are the hardest to read, the most difficult to sit through. Purely because I always feel that, considering what he has suffered, Armand deserves to be treated better by his peers and the people who claim to love him.
Ah yes… Reviews. How I loathe thee…
“I felt little or no sympathy for the characters. Armand was not the alluring devil with an angel’s face as he was in previous novels, but an oversexed brat. I felt he got what he deserved when the englishman attacked him.”
Written by A Customer and entitled A poor novel considering Anne Rice’s previous works
Why, oh why are so many reviews of Rice’s work uninspired and hateful? I spent the majority of this book crying or putting the book down and walking away to stop from crying, yet this individual felt “very little sympathy?!”
As I have said previously, I believe this may come down to individuals who are not thoroughly acquainted with the series, who have not burgeoned a love for these characters within their hearts. Again, this review, amongst others, makes me feel as if the person responsible merely skimmed the book, neglecting to take in the richness of plot, the exquisite nature of the setting, and the beautiful madness of Armand, himself.