Born in 1791, Louis was the head of his family, and of the Pointe du Lac plantation in Louisiana, before being turned into a vampire at the age of twenty-five. Like many twentysomethings, Louis is conflicted: What do I want to do with my life? Who am I?
But being a vampire, Louis is conflicted forever.
"I don't believe I want to give simple answers" (1.21), he tells his interviewer early on. And he doesn't. Louis is conflicted about everything. He's a man of principles, yet he is constantly questioning just what his principles are. He seems to hold mortals in high regard while pitying them at the same time. He lives off the blood of rats early on but later feeds off humans, though, like a vegetarian taking a bite from a Big Mac, he does feel bad about it.
Louis is also in torment about God. An event that colors his life forever is the death of his brother. His brother said he was having visions, visions that told him to "sell all our property in Louisiana [...] and use the money to do God's work in France" (1.38). Louis laughs at him, and his brother falls down the stairs, seemingly pushed by an invisible force.
This unexplained event—seriously, Anne Rice never explains it in this book—forces Louis to question the existence of God. On top of that, Louis himself is a vampire. Is he a creature of the devil? Is there a devil? Is there a God?
When Louis tells us "there was nothing extraordinary about me whatsoever" (1.33), we have to disagree. Louis, you are extraordinarily tormented. And, well… you're a vampire.
In the first part of the novel, the major conflict is between Louis and his maker, Lestat. Louis hates Lestat, and that's putting it mildly. He regards everything about Lestat with disdain. Louis respects death, whereas "Lestat felt the opposite. Or he felt nothing" (1.149). Louis is wracked with guilt about death; Lestat laughs at it. And although Louis is constantly worried about being guilty of egotism, he declares, "I was [Lestat's] complete superior and I had been sadly cheated in having him for a teacher" (1.149).
That may sound conceited, but Louis does have a point. Lestat manipulates Louis and deliberately withholds information from him. Lestat is like a ruthless slave owner who wants to prevent his slaves from becoming educated. Why? Because when they do, the slaves revolt. When Claudia comes along, that's what she and Louis do: they revolt against Lestat. Louis, like Claudia, grows sick of being "[j]ust some sort of mindless accomplice" (1.523).
Once Lestat is out of the picture, the novel's conflict derives from Louis' confusion about his own nature. He and Claudia are foils: Claudia embraces her vampire nature wholeheartedly, while Louis is conflicted about it. Claudia often encourages Louis to indulge in his vampy sensibilities, and when he refuses, it shows us just how much of a prude he is—in vampire terms, that is.
Lestat says to Louis, "In your romance with mortal life, you're dead to your vampire nature" (1.350). Louis distances himself so far from his vampire nature that at certain points in the novel he even speaks of himself in the third person. One notable instance of the POV shift comes after Louis's encounter with the primitive vampires of Eastern Europe. Louis has a sort of out-of-body experience, and maybe it's because he's starting to see himself as a primal monster, and he just can't bear it.
When Louis does unleash his vampire nature, it's not pretty. After Claudia is killed, Louis takes his revenge. Armed with fire and a scythe, he lays waste to Armand's Théâtre des Vampires. He has transformed into Death himself, and he doesn't even feel bad about it. Does this show that he is more of a soulless vampire than he thinks he is, or are his actions actually somehow good? None of us mortals will miss the Théâtre, after all.
In the novel's dénouement, Louis seems to forgive Lestat. By the end of the novel, Louis has chosen Armand over Claudia… and he ends up losing them both.
Louis realizes that his new mentor, Armand, knows just as much about vampires as Lestat did: not a darn thing. When Louis realizes this, he actually starts to feel sorry for Lestat, because Lestat is just as lost as Louis always felt. Unfortunately, Louis is still as lost at the end of his story as he was at the beginning… and maybe even more.
We have to ask, though: is the fact that Louis is lost and guilt-ridden a sign that he is a good character, despite all of the heinous things he sometimes does? Is his transformation at the end complete? Characters like Lestat and Armand might be sexier, but is their lack of consideration for anyone else a good thing? Louis is in an impossible situation. It's no wonder he's broody.
In a lot of ways, the vampire world isn't that different from the mortal, human world. A lot of the people who get ahead and make it big are just as lacking in empathy and conscience as Lestat. Louis' dilemma is really one that we all face every day. The world is a scary place. It has scary people in it. We all have the potential to be scary ourselves. So how are we going to handle that, all while looking for love, knowledge, and happiness?
Seen in that light, Louis doesn't seem so pathetic after all.