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More thoughts on Dracula

October 21, 2009
draculaNote: Please don’t read this if you haven’t read up to the spoiler line given at Infinite Summer. I talk about plot in this post.

In case it wasn’t obvious from my previous post, I am really enjoying Dracula. At first, I wasn’t so sure about it. I found the main character insipid and the plot rather predictable. Now that I’m further along in the book, I have come to like many of the characters, and I find the plot much scarier than I thought I would. That being said, here are three main things that I’ve been thinking about:

1. What the heck, boys? Mina basically helps you put together some major clues and now you leave her at home at night while you go off to do the man’s work? Not cool. Also, not smart. While you’re out hunting Dracula, he’s off sucking Mina’s blood. Obviously. Why on Earth would you leave her alone while she sleeps after what happened to Lucy whenever she slept alone? (Also, minor quibble/question: why can Dracula get into Mina’s room? I thought that Van Helsing said that vampires can only enter homes that they are invited into. I was also confused about this with Lucy, but since Drac sucked her blood out in the graveyard first, I figured that he must have had enough power over Lucy that she invited him into her room at night. But Mina certainly never did such a thing. So how does Dracula get in? Does it have something to do with the fact that she’s staying at Dr. Seward’s house, which is attached to the asylum, which is also maybe attached to Drac’s house, so it’s like one big campus?)

2. I’ve been noticing a lot of anti-science-y rhetoric in the book, some of which is obviously necessary to get some of the main characters in the book to go along with all of the supernatural events. I do find it intriguing, however, that Stoker chose two very scientific characters to do most of the storytelling. What is most striking, and what I think is almost certainly unintentional, is that after a bunch of rhetoric about “keeping an open mind” and not being blinded by science, Van Helsing then essentially uses the scientific method to convince everyone that Lucy really was a vampire. He produces visual evidence to Dr. Seward, who mostly believes but is not fully convinced. In order to get everyone on board, he conducts an experiment.

Question: Is Lucy a vampire? Hypothesis: YUP! Procedure: Van Helsing shows everyone that Lucy’s not in her grave. He then seals the door with holy communion wafers (control!) and waits for a couple of hours to see if a vampire Lucy will arrive or if nothing will happen and the corpse has just been stolen. Data: Lucy comes back, she’s vampirey, with blood on her teeth, and she can’t get through the door because of the holy wafers. Conclusion: Whoa, Lucy’s a vampire.

I think that this rather undermines a lot of the anti-science talk that happens in the book, because in the universe of Dracula, vampires are a scientifically provable phenomenon. Stoker actually helps the scientific cause more than he harms it because he simply demonstrates how much scientific reasoning has become ingrained in the public conscience.

3. I’ve been curious about how much of the vampire lore Stoker invented for this book and how much was simply research on old stories. And how much of this was the first time the lore was available to the typical British reader? I would imagine that there were eastern European myths, stories, and songs about vampires, but how specific were they about the things that we now so closely associate with the basic story: garlic, crucifixes, stakes, bats. How much of that specific story already existed pre-Dracula? How much did the British know about it? I don’t know the answer, but I hope to dig a bit deeper into this.

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