“If goodness does exist,” he said, “then I’m the opposite of it. I’m evil and I revel in it. I thumb my nose at goodness.”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
Nicolas de Lenfent is the son of a draper, he is middle-class (thus wealthier than Lestat) and educated (another thing in his favour over his friend). Beyond this, Nicki has been out of the village, he has been to Paris, and this, combined with the fact that Nicki is in disgrace just as Lestat is, urges Lestat to initially befriend him. Their commonalities seem to outweigh any differences they have with one another, at first. Nicolas is enamoured with Lestat who has been near to death, fighting the wolves, battling alone as he clung to the hope of life, but Lestat sees his time with the wolves as an incident which changed him, made him darker – perhaps this darkness, which we are already starting to see as so prevalent in Nicki, is what draws him closer.
Lestat, on the other hand, sees Nicki as something sublime amidst the depressive atmosphere of his home, a creator of beauty with his violin, and a worldly, travelled young man. And Nicki sees this part of himself as a rebellion against his family, his morals, and ‘goodness.’ A rebellion which he cannot control. He believes himself to be making that which is bad or evil with his music, not the purity of soul that Lestat believes his music to be. Early on, at this point already, Nicki balks against Lestat’s opinion that evil and goodness are merely the creations of mankind. And he cannot understand how his friend does not hold to the Christian values instilled in both of them as children.
When the two run away to Paris, it is Nicolas’s hope, though he keeps it tight to his chest, that they will meet with ruin. He almost imagines that this is what he deserves; poverty, misery, and starvation. He and his closest companion who have chosen to live a godless life, disowned by their families. He, in no way, intends to make this misery apparent to Lestat, but regardless, his friend has begun to see the darkness in him, which cannot be illuminated, despite the beauty of Paris and the miracle of having escaped their home. Nicki does not tell Lestat why his dissatisfaction prevails, but it becomes apparent that the more successful Lestat becomes the deeper into despair Nicki slips.
“The is the witches’ place! Lestat, do you hear me! This is the witches’ place!”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
It would appear that, in the hopelessness of his own mind, Nicolas grows to be bitter of what Lestat achieves. He does not see that he has skill and talent, or that his music makes the crowd at Renaud’s still in a manner that the actors’ performances never could. What he does see is that Lestat is becoming brighter and in the shadow of his light Nicolas withers. His secret hope that he would be proven right, that they will not succeed because they are both doomed to failure by their behaviour, is starting to appear more and more unlikely. On the wings of his burgeoning depression, he even begins to lose his faith in the existence of good and evil. Albeit briefly. He claims that there is only good and bad art. This is short-lived however, when Lestat is ripped from their bed in the night, out the window, and over the Paris rooftops, screaming his name.
His faith is further affirmed in the cruellest fashion when he discovers some months later – after much drinking and theorising on what occurred that night – that Lestat has been living evidence of something greater than the misery he is feeling, something which virtually verifies (in his mind) the existence of true evil. In all fairness, Nicki’s first experience of vampirism is brief as Lestat terrorises Renaud’s theatre with a gaudy display of his abilities. But when he is fully forced to face it, he is kidnapped and tortured by the Children of Darkness, those in adamant belief of their own dedication to the service of Satan.
Lestat makes a horrendous error in giving in to Nicki’s demands, giving him what he wants, the thing that will allow him to be the living proof of the evil he always believed existed and provoked him to make beautiful music. When Nicolas becomes a vampire, he becomes a monster. At first he refuses to speak or react in any form other than to sustain himself. But when Lestat puts a violin in his hands, Nicki begins to play with a renewed fervour and speaks for the first time. What he has to say is enough to cripple Lestat, who already cannot stand his company by this point – in fact, from the second he was made a vampire. It is evident that Nicolas hates his maker, that he hates the sparkle of Lestat’s personality, the fact that Lestat seems to get whatsoever he desires, and that Lestat allowed him to wallow in misery for so long.
“‘All a misunderstanding, my love,’ he said. Acid on the tongue. ‘It was to hurt others, don’t you see, the violin playing, to anger them, to secure for me an island where they could not rule. They would watch my ruin, unable to do anything about it.'”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
It is clear to everyone that Nicki has lost his mind and that the two will never be able to stand one another’s company again. He remains in Paris while Lestat takes his mother and leaves, and becomes the playwright for the Theatre of the Vampires, driving them to ever greater heights of madness and beauty, all in the name of, what Nicolas sees as, the glory of evil.
Nicki was doomed from the moment he subconsciously decided that his and Lestat’s escape to Paris would be their downfall. He did not allow for the possibility of success and thus, when it did occur, he refused to see his own. He saw only Lestat’s and this drove him further into despair. The more his companion succeeded and ascended, the further he fell to his own sorrow. And, as Lestat has a thoroughly expansive personality, Nicki had a long way to fall.
Nicki’s end is only documented in a letter sent to Lestat by Armand. It is not mentioned in later novels, nor is it brought up after that point, other than in Lestat’s reminiscence in the company of Louis who he claims is Nicolas’s double in his beliefs, his cynicism. It might give some validity to the air of dissatisfaction between Lestat and Louis, if one considers that Louis was only ever intended to fill the chasm left by Nicolas.
Nicolas de Lenfent is the Moon to Lestat’s Sun. He is drawn to Lestat as everyone else is, drowning in his companion’s exuberance, his motivation to live even the most miserable of existences just to be a part of the beauty happening around him. But in comparison with Lestat, he is an opposing force. As Lestat rises so does Nicki sink. And as Lestat affirms himself as a monster, verifying his place in the world as a new type of ‘haunt,’ Nicolas reverts to old worship and mannerisms. Even their appearances stand in utter contrast with one another.
Where Lestat aspires to thrive anywhere, knowing he will dominate just by being the force that is himself, Nicolas fought just to keep himself from drowning. If Armand’s letter to Lestat was, in fact, the truth, it is clear that he lost the fight. Though what he was fighting was never the external, despite the horrors he may have endured. Nicolas’s most cruel enemy was always himself.