Memnoch, The Devil

“Heaven would be Hell in no time if every cruel, selfish, vicious soul went to Heaven.” 

–          Anne Rice, Memnoch, The Devil

Memnoch, The Devil is the novel that should have been expected by every avid reader of The Vampire Chronicles from the inception of the series. Wherever one encounters vampires, one encounters the obvious question, the natural uncertainty, of the religious conundrum.

Are vampires evil?

Throughout literature, vampires differ. Some can cling to a crucifix with no discomfort, whilst others cannot stand to enter a church. Some are struck down by the name of ‘God,’ whilst others have little to no understanding of the monotheistic deity to which mortals now bend their knees. In Anne Rice’s novels, we are constantly reminded of the possible presence of God. Our first guide into this world, Louis, is obsessed with a revelation that he never has; the need to know if he is evil, if God exists. The Children of Darkness are moulded around the presupposition that God exists, and that they have been created by Him in opposition to His goodness.

Memnoch investigates, once and for all (or so it would seem), the presence of God in the universe of The Vampire Chronicles, and attempts to answer the age-old question that becoming a vampire inevitably asks: Are vampires evidence of evil?

Once again, the story is told to us by Lestat. Because, if the devil were to choose one immortal as his quarry, who else would he possibly select? The Brat Prince has been known to call Lucifer out, as they say, on more than one occasion; dare him to a challenge, unafraid of being dragged kicking and screaming to hell. Or so we are led to believe in the face of Lestat’s bravado.

It can be said that the novel is separated into three facets: Lestat’s human interaction, his interaction with other immortals, and his interaction with the spirit, the ‘man,’ the devil, himself.

The story that unfolds in the novel begins with a simple hunt. The evildoer being targeted by our illustrious hero is a big-time crime lord, a symbol of pure evil, if one is to believe that good and evil are nothing more than black and white concepts. Lestat, while stalking his prey, finds himself to be stalked in turn, by an unknown ‘entity.’ A man, but not a man. This person never approaches him, and never makes to injure him, but ensures that his presence is noted by our hero throughout the chase. Things do not unfold as Lestat expects they should, as, when he finally culminates the chase, killing his selected prey, Roger, he finds himself haunted by the man’s ghost. Roger has a request of Lestat, that he care for his daughter Dora, a woman in such sharp contrast to her father that she is the pure white good to his dark, dark evil.

Lestat makes a valid attempt to carry out the task his brief tormentor would have of him, but the thing that has been stalking him all this time chooses this approximate time to make its presence known. The devil, or Memnoch, as he refers to himself, wishes to garner Lestat’s assistance in his battle against God, an entity that he claims to be less savoury than he has publicised himself as.

Employing the assistance of David and Armand in caring for Dora in his absence, Lestat acquiesces to Memnoch’s wishes, allowing himself to be spirited into the realms of Heaven and Hell, and to times and places in history that no mortal (or immortal for that matter) should ever be privy to.

There are a number of questions that do arise through the course of the novel.

rice_memnoch-the-devil

“How could anyone love Him? What did you just tell me yourself about the world? Don’t you see, everybody hates God now. It’s not that God is dead in the twentieth century. It’s that everybody hates Him! At least I think so.” 

–          Anne Rice, Memnoch, The Devil

Initially, the case that Memnoch sets before Lestat holds merit. That God and The Devil have some semblance of an agreement going to assist the process of ushering souls into Heaven, and to ascertain who can claim the greater portion of humanity. The visions Memnoch shows Lestat, and the stories he is told paint a poor picture of God. Certainly not the loving father many Christians believe him to be. He sends his angels to interact with humanity, this strange race of creatures that are blessed with this alien concept known as free will, and then punishes those that try to amalgamate with these humans that he wants them to love. Punishes them for feeling for these creatures being tormented with pain and death. This, combined with the ideas being instilled in Lestat, that God could end the wager at any point, could prevent further evil in the world whenever he would choose to, shifts the perspective from the traditional side of ‘good’ rather drastically.

However, when Memnoch takes Lestat into Hell and Lestat – having seen the crucifixion through the Devil’s manipulation of time, or simply by placing the image within Lestat’s mind – rejects his offer to work against God as an adversary, Memnoch becomes enraged. And his true colours are revealed. In the utter violence and cruelty for which he is famed, he takes Lestat’s eye and crushes it. Lestat finds himself, having fled the battle-field, back in the physical world with David, Armand and Dora, clutching Veronica’s Veil in his hand.

The simple statement herewith being made is that the devil lies. Christians are taught this fact from a young age, but, in this novel, the water becomes murky, Memnoch is a master manipulator. And it almost feels easier to believe him. It is always simpler to side with evil rather than good, especially when evil is so convincing at pretending to side with humanity in the place of an absent God. But in the end, evil is proven false. Eventually, Memnoch is revealed for what he is, and Lestat, a vampire, a supposed monster, rejects him in light of the goodness that is Jesus, a relatable manifestation of the divine.

Another issue which arises through the course of the novel is the presence of menstruation as a temptation and an offering. The character of Dora is experiencing her menses at the point where she meets Lestat. He makes note of it, but it seems of little import until he returns from his sojourn into the metaphysical realm, at which time he takes Dora’s blood, however ‘soiled’ as it may be, into himself. A means of feeding from her, without causing harm to the girl he swore to protect. It is curious that this scene comes so shortly after the incident of the crucifixion, where Lestat witnesses the creation of Veronica’s Veil. There are similarities – Veronica cleans the face of Jesus with her cloth, her veil, as a means of offering herself, all that she has to give of herself at this point in time, to her saviour. In the same manner, Dora, almost as helpless, a young, human girl in the midst of immortal men, offers her blood, the blood that flows freely from her to Lestat, her saviour. And, in a manner of speaking, Veronica hides the pain of Jesus – for a brief spell – with her veil. Dora, too, hides Lestat’s anguish from the eyes of their companions with the veil of her skirts.

The final, and most influential question must still be answered through all of this, are vampires evil in this universe?

The only acceptable answer is that, as with mortals, vampires are varied, and their decisions create their whole. If a vampire chooses evil, then evil they shall become. Lestat could have opted to side with Memnoch in the end, as an adversary of God. But he does no such thing. He chooses goodness. And that is what detracts from his ‘evil,’ if, indeed, he ever was such. Armand is also touched by the goodness with which Lestat returns. He snatches the Veil from Lestat and runs into the sun, believing he will find goodness in death, or salvation, perhaps, or even an offering of faith to show those that stand by him that God does exist, that goodness is apparent.

As with mortals, these vampires are constantly searching for a sign of the divine, an answer to the questions of their existence, an indication of a higher power. Of all vampire literature, Anne Rice has created the most human of any blood drinking monster. Thus, it stands to reason that they would progress spiritually as humans have; constantly searching, and disbelieving if something resembling the truth should ever appear to them. Lestat believes he went to Heaven, and he went to Hell, but many of the others do not believe his mad ravings, as he should have known they would not.

Whether or not he did go to these metaphysical realms, and conversed with the very core of good and evil is irrelevant. What does matter is that the sense of good and evil carried back with him, altering or affirming the beliefs and certainties of his fellow immortals.

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27 Comments

  • Reply Todd B June 21, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Another wonderful essay, Carmen. You truly have a gift for analyzing Mrs. Rice’s work.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 21, 2013 at 1:53 am

      Thank you, Todd 🙂

  • Reply Andre June 21, 2013 at 2:22 am

    The moral of Memnoch the Devil is that the christian God and his devil are on the same side

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 21, 2013 at 2:25 am

      I disagree. I would say that is what Memnoch wants Lestat to believe. But the moral is quite the opposite.

  • Reply Devika Fernando June 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Yay, you have reviews my favourite of Anne’s Vampire Chronicles. I always earn irritated reactions when I admit to my favourite because sadly even many of Anne’s and / or Lestat’s fans don’t like or misunderstand the book. Not being a Christian, some of it might seem different to me but still, I tend to agree with what you have said.
    I love the book for so many facts. It shows how nicely we all for evil and to what lengths evil will go to seem good and that sometimes it’s a more than fine line between evil and good. It also gives Lestat even more human qualities without making him too human to be the vampire brat prince. Furthermore, I was fascinated with the creation of people and the angels’ reactions as well as the way Memnoch portrayed helping the human race along. As usual, Anne uses her incredible gift to make the unreal seem real and the impossible seem possible.
    Memnoch as a “person” or the mix of fallen angel and devil that he is, is one of her most fascinating creatures to me.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 21, 2013 at 11:11 am

      You put it so perfectly, Devika. Yes, this book was strangely received by any audience, and I cannot really understand why. It is not a book about the triumph of ‘evil’ at all, but about the constant existence of ‘good.’

    • Reply Barbie June 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      This book is also one of my favorites. I was deeply touched by it . The title was was “off-putting” at first, but I am so glad I gave it a chance and the review made me want to read it over again 🙂

      • Reply Carmen Dominique June 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

        It is a magnificent novel.

  • Reply Margaret June 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I have not read any of your essays until now. Ms. Rice gave you a very good recommendation; I thoroughly enjoyed reading this you had very good insights.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you, Margaret. I appreciate it 🙂

  • Reply Amanda June 22, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Mrs. Rice I honestly Feel u r A great writer! I have read all ur Vampire books & da entire Witching Hour Set, i Enjoy Reading all of Ur book! U amaze me so Much how u Go n 2 detail so well! Thank u so Much! Love ur Fan! Amanda Loft (dogg5622)

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 22, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Reply Sintagma Sixx June 22, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I have recently read the book and I enjoyed it a lot. I don’t agree with all Ms. Dominique’s essay, maybe I understood the book in a different way, but I think it’s a good effort 🙂

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Reply Mandy Spray June 23, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Yes!! finally! I was hoping you would write an essay on this book! You did, and it’s great!! I love it! I was so confused at the end of this book, I could not tell if Memnoch had lied or he was telling the truth, and what of that message Lestat received from Memnoch at the end? The one Maharet had given him? That may be the true source of my confusion. Do you have any explanation about that?

    • Reply Carmen Dominique June 23, 2013 at 8:20 am

      Thanks Mandy, I’m glad you enjoyed it :). I would say that the message is meant to, firstly, throw Lestat off balance. He thinks that Memnoch is furious with him, that was the implication when he fled, but now heis being told something quite different, isn’t he? Secondly, and this is the part that I am shaky on, Lestat came back with all these grand tales which led to a number of occurrences including doubt with regards to how evil the devil is and Dora running off to church with the veil. As well as Armand giving himself over to this ‘goodness,’ despite the uncertainty of what Lestat has said. In other words, what he has said has caused utter anarchy, and perhaps that is all Memnoch wanted all along. It is all conjecture, I suppose.

      • Reply Devika Fernando June 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

        This is a part that has had me confused for years, too. 😉 I still change my opinion on it again and again – but I tend to stick with what you suppose, especially on the veil and anarchy part. Though sometimes I wonder whether Memnoch has told the truth after all and it’s only about sending the believers to heaven and with the veil, more believers and so more people who can be sent to heaven have arisen…

        • Reply Carmen Dominique June 27, 2013 at 9:17 am

          It’s true. There are so many ways of interpreting it. And that, I do believe, was the intention behind it. We can never know, we must learn to trust our instincts.

          • Devika Fernando June 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm

            Amen to the last sentence which basically is what Anne’s Vampire Chronicles tell us again and again and again – and now the Man Wolf Books, too.

            On a totally different note: Are you by chance on Facebook? It just struck me how fascinated I am by your writing on Anne’s writing and how many opinions we have in common, so I’d like to “connect” to you. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂 After all, you DID steal my name for one of your novels!!! 😉

          • Carmen Dominique June 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

            Haha! You are so correct on that last point, and yes, I am on Facebook. You can find me here: Carmen Dominique Taxer

            I’m looking forward to connecting with you 🙂

  • Reply rozy March 11, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Was the character Nicolas really evil or was this just what he thought of himself in self hatred?

    • Reply Carmen Dominique March 11, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Personally, it is my belief that evil people cannot recognise that they are evil. It takes sheer inhumanity to be evil. It takes the lack of introspection through the ‘good and evil’ filter. If Nicolas could bemoan the loss of his own goodness, then he was not evil. Just as Louis is all the more human for constantly reminding himself that he is not.

      • Reply Hook in Mouth May 24, 2014 at 9:42 am

        So only sociopaths can be evil? I’m sure there are serial rapists and killers that know damn well what they do and that it’s wrong- and they enjoy it. They KNOW.

  • Reply Hook in Mouth May 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

    “Lestat believes he went to Heaven, and he went to Hell, but many of the others do not believe his mad ravings, as he should have known they would not.” In the last one though he seems to doubt it. Not in all parts of it, in the first part he sounds like he very much believes it but in one part he is talking to Rowan’s husband and he calls the angels half baked and seems to doubt it. haha!

  • Reply Rodolfo October 10, 2014 at 3:59 am

    I just finished the book 10 minutes ago, and I don’t mean to be rude but certain scenes you described didn’t happen the way you mentioned, or didn’t happen at all.

    Memnoch didn’t take Lestat’s eye and crushed it. He tried to grab Lestat while he fled and by mistake he poked his eye out. The eye fell on the stair steps and the souls that chased Lestat (to stop him from taking the veil) said “crush the eye, smear it”. Lestat left his eye on the step as a diversion and that way he escaped. He also clearly describes Memnoch’s surprise at this accident, and even shock for what he had done. Memnoch himself yells at the souls -when they try to crush the eye- “Not in my kingdom!”.

    Also, Armand never snatched the veil from Lestat’s hand. It was Dora. Lestat even says that the only reason why he allowed such a thing is because it was Dora who did it.

    I don’t think you have an unbiased perception of this tale. It sounds to me you’re too focused on the stablished religion part.

    I do not claim to know the true meaning of the book, I’m still debating that. But I think it has to do with several things said many times on the book, such as:

    1.) Roger got Dora a fake Veronica’s veil at the beginning of the book, as a gift. A good replica. – Dora says on the last chapters something like “Roger you did it! You got me the veil”.
    1.1) Roger states that Dora will change the world with her religion and that he wants to help her.

    I don’t know what to interpret from
    These two points, but I know there’s something there.

    2.) Memnoch states several times throughout the book that he is winning, but that he is also tired – and on the note given to Lestat he declares Lestat did a good job.

    I’m not sure what to interpret from this. Maybe it’s sarcasm, or maybe he did want to lose and that’s what Lestat helped him do. I just know this is one of the key points.

    3.) On the first chapters there’s a reference to uncle Mickey’s eye and how he lost it. Even Memnoch tells Lestat of this… – Lestat, like I said, loses his eye on hell, but unlike Mickey gets it back.

    I’m sure this must be some kind of metaphor we are not grasping. Whether it means Memnoch tricked Lestat into helping him, the lost souls, or god, or all of them? I don’t know. Maybe it means Memnoch is truly a fiend and it was all a lie, but I’m not too confident on this theory.

    4.) Wynkel’s books seem to explain the phylosofy in everything Memnoch said. Love through the flesh, put bitterly. – Roger makes great references to this books throughout the first chapters, a lot. This plus the fact described in points 1 and 1.1, and Lestat eagerness to read the books after he got locked up, leads me to think there’s an answer in those books.

    But again, it’s all terribly confusing. It all leads to the same basic two conclusions: either it all was a trick to let Lestat hear and see what he Needed… Or it all was a trick and Memnoch is truly a fiend who burns souls in hell.

    5.) Roger was in hell and he seemed to be suffering some how, so in a way this seams to take the burden or responsibility off him and Dora. Meaning that perhaps they were simply more pawns in the whole development of the game.

    6.) The Helper Souls in hell told to Lestat something like “stay and help us. Make our time shorter”. What I got from this was that he would somehow help this already in hell get to heaven faster… So, doesn’t this mean that Lestat’s help was more than just help the living go straight to heaven (through acceptance of pain and Jesus’ sacrifice, caused by the veil, as many have proposed) when they died?

    7.) At some point Lestat quotes god saying “you wouldn’t be my adversary!”, more like a statement than the question it seemed to be at first. This might mean it was a plan all along.

    8.) Maharet says after she gives Lestat his eyes that not everything was a lie, or something of that sort. Doesn’t this suggest there was trickery involved?

    9.) Lestat refuses to help Memnoch not because of god’s supposed goodness, but rather because he couldn’t stand the all the pain there was in hell. – At some point Memnoch asks Lestat to describe how he thinks hell should be in order to help the souls get to heaven, and he did describe it as it turned out to be. So this seems to indicate that Memnoch (at least until that point) hadn’t lied or tricked Lestat, but rather Lestat couldn’t bear the ugly truth. In fact, at some point he calls both Memboch and god madmen, for their games and their ways. So no preference here.

    10.) Lestat did seem to show some sentimentalism towards Jesus’ pain. This could be simply because he was raised a Christian an the image was shocking, or because he did find some goodness in good. Though personally I couldn’t pick this goodness in this god, not conventionally at least. This is something to ponder, Lestat’s sympathy for Christ. This indicates endorsement of some sort, I think. Or maybe he was just as confused and we all are.

    Tiresome,
    There are many other things to point out which in my opinion lead to the true meaning of the book… But I can recall them all just now. Maybe collectively we’ll get to know what it all meant.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 23, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      It has been a long time since I read this novel, so, perhaps, yes, there may be a scene or two that I am misperceiving. I, however, do not intend to have an unbiased view. As I believe such a thing is both difficult to attain, and unnecessary for my purposes here.
      But I do appreciate that the forum, thus, lends itself to talk and debate. I will take your changes into consideration for the encyclopedia. Thank you for bringing them to my attention.

  • Reply Rodolfo October 10, 2014 at 4:14 am

    Oh, and of course I’m missing two important points:

    11.) Memnoch asks Lestat to help
    Him destroy god’s Chruches (for reason you already know). One wonders now how would this help Memnoch’s endeavor, but how was Lestat to accomplish this? This is a key point.

    12.) Lestat not only witnesses the horrors of hell, but suffers them himself. It seems he is forced to face his own dead and errors, as did the rest of the souls. One wonders why would he need to live hell (specially when he wasn’t dead and had come there on Memnoch’s request). This implies some kind of teaching imparted on him through experience (of course he learned from it), but why would he need this sort of hellish epiphany to do the job, I don’t know. This arises the theory again of it all being just a trick to let Lestat see and hear what he Needed in order to accomplish a goal seems to have nothing to do with what was said of god, or memnoch, but of Lestat himself! Kind of like, this was a lesson Lestat needed to learn? I don’t know. My head hurts. Lol

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