The theme of anti-heroes in literature always brings me back to the first anti-hero novel I read: The Vampire Lestat. Instead of talking about that particular book, though, I come to another, lesser known Anne Rice series: The Mayfair Witches. I do this in part because someone invariably compare the Vampire Chronicles to Twilight et. al. and piss me off and in part because the Mayfair Witches played a more dramatic role in my development as a writer (while the Vampire Chronicles played a bigger role in my development as a person).
My sophomore year of undergraduate school, I registered for a class called ENG201: Seminar in Literary Theory. The object of the class was to engage in intensive literary criticism using 1) an existing critical theory and 2) a self-identified theme. The first day of class, there were 32 of us. The last day of class, there were 6 of us.I learned more in that semester from that class than I learned in several other classes combined, but it wasn’t just the rigor of the class itself. I chose to complete my assignment on the Mayfair Witches series, the last two of which I hadn’t yet read.
As I reread The Witching Hour and to think about a theme for my study, I began to see the way that Rice used symbols and rituals to convey meaning that wasn’t present on the surface. I started seeing characterization in nonhuman and inanimate objects – houses, spirits, artifacts, and even social institutions. As I started looking at theories about names as symbols and outlining the use of names in The Witching Hour, Lasher, and Taltos, I began to see where my own fiction writing often went wrong. I also began to see the interplay between characterization and the characters of life that we deal with every day and why it is so difficult to really understand another human being. Their symbols so often differ from our own.