Poe, Dickinson, Polidori, Stoker, Shelley, and Le Fanu. All of these authors have written about immortality, both as a gift and as a curse. The nineteenth century was a big time for supernatural tales, as a reaction to all of the technological advancements.
The curse of immortality has been used in literature featuring vampires for over a century. The vampire may not always view it as a curse, some of them revel in their nature, but others know that taking life from others is not a good way to live! The figures who are victims of the vampire know how unfortunate this form of immortality can be. Lucy in Dracula becomes a vampire and loses everything, her future, her love, and (in Stoker’s world) her soul!
The gift of immortality is being able to live on, or return to your loved ones. We see this in Poe’s Ligeia where she comes back with her own will, and likely supernatural powers, to be with her husband again. Ligeia died but is returned after the death of her husband’s second wife. She essentially takes over the body of the new wife in order to live again. This type of immortality is unclear, will she need to change bodies over and over as the current body grows old? That would be more of the curse aspect of immortality!
All of these authors I mentioned in the first paragraph have an obsession with death and immortality. They all see both positive and negative aspects to the idea of living forever. In the modern age as we have our live expectancies forever growing longer, we too have to question if immortality is a gift or a curse!
Most of us do not want to die young, obviously, but how long of a life is preferable? I have wondered about this very much, and I usually come to the conclusion I would like to live any length of time, so long as I would still have my loved ones with me. I personally see the greatest curse of immortality to be losing everyone you have ever known and loved, and having to forever live with that loss. If you can live with them for eternity, then immortality would be a perk. You could have all the time in the world to see and do everything you dreamed of! With that being said, the knowledge of our own mortality is what makes life worth living (to most of us at least). So I say cherish the time you have (no matter how long or short), and remember not to take your loved ones for granted!
I hope you have enjoyed my short rumination on immortality. Let me know you thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Lucy from Dracula. I found the image on giantbomb.com.
- The Vampyre by John Polidori
- Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
- Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson
- The Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe