07 October 2009

Dracula - Chapters 3-6: Is everyone a vampire?

So Jonathan Harker seems to be in a bit of a pickle (either dead in a ravine or being chased by angry Hungarians through Eastern Europe). Mina is dealing with death and tempests. Dr. Seward is helping a man upsize his pet collection. Where to begin?

Well, Harker seems the logical place, since he is where we left off. Our "hero" is told by the Count to continue to explore the locked up castle, but to make sure he doesn't fall asleep anywhere but his room. Harker is obviously new to this whole genre of Horror, because he decides to fall asleep in a room not his own as an act of rebellion. Now we get to see the Count's sweet side, as he saves Rip Van Winkle from becoming a drinking fountain for the three vampire women. But, before we get too comfortable with the image of Dracula as a savior, he tells the women that Harker is his for the eating, eventually. I was conflicted here. It seems obvious that the Count wants to take a bite out of Jonathan, but he seems almost genuinely concerned about him. Are we seeing a real side of the Count? We certainly have before, when he was busily and happily telling his family's history. So can we be led to believe that the Count is even slightly normal?

I'm going to quickly sum up the next bits, because this is already getting long and I haven't even gotten to Mina yet. Jonathan's explorations into Dracula's room give us the idea that maybe he's been a coin collector for a few hundred years now, and he likes a firm bed of topsoil. These scenes are unbelievably creepy, as is the scene in which Jonathan is seduced by the dancing dust in the moonlight. (Side note: Jonathan has obviously been warned of the dangers, and he obviously already has a healthy fear of both Count Dracula and his castle; so why is it that he always seems to be falling asleep? I mean, I understand that there is dust in the moonlight, and "oooo, dust!" Nevertheless, given the situation, if you are Jonathan Harker, don't you do everything in your power not to fall asleep outside your room? If I knew that three women, and possibly a Count were trying to make Cartoid Cocktails from me, I'd be darn sure I wasn't too busy watching moonlight theatre to get back into bed. Just saying.) One last note from the castle, we begin to see Stoker's (seeming) infatuation with the theme of life. Dracula regenerates his and this is part of what convinces Jonathan to flee. More on this in a bit.

We leave the castle with Jonathan (not knowing if we'll ever see him again) and head northwest to England where we meet a cast of characters guaranteed to keep this story creepy. For now, I'd like to focus on Dr. Seward, Mina, and the old fisherman. Seward's experiments with Renfield seem shocking today, but my guess is they were well within acceptable norms in Victorian times. But the truly interesting this here is Renfield's desire to upgrade his pet collection. First flys, then spiders, then sparrows, and finally the desire for a cat. After Seward learns that Renfield has eaten his sparrows (raw), he comes to a diagnosis of sorts for the madman:
My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac; what he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps?
Renfield planned on ingesting life. We don't yet know his motives, but from what I know of vampire lore (which, granted is only loosely based on this novel, so my conjecture may be significantly off), this is the premise behind vampires. Are we, then, to believe that Renfield is some form of Vampire? That's certainly what I'm leading towards. Seward has (as do I), a sort of macabre fascination with what Renfield was going to do next.

Lastly, I'd like to turn to Mina and the incomprehensible fisherman (seriously, I'm all for dialects, but dear god reading notes to understand what someone is saying is frustrating). Here again we see a fixation with life or, rather, with the end of it. The fisherman makes light of death, only to reveal on the eve of what seems to be a massive storm, that it was only because he knows it will be coming for him soon. The imagery of Death (capitol D intended) here stands in such stark contrast to the earlier talk of gaining life. And at the same time, that too was centered around death. For Renfield to gain life, countless other things had to die. But the fisherman puts into words what I think will become the defining characteristic of the divide between vampires and normal people.
For life be, after all, only a waitin' for somethin' else than what we're doin': and death be all that we can rightly depend on.
The normal people accept Death (and death) as natural, and maybe even wanted. The vampires (at least Dracula) seem to be avoiding it at all costs. What for? Are they doomed to Hell and scared of their fate? Or, alternatively, is it just a desire to stay in the corporeal world? I'm leaning towards the former explanation, but I wouldn't be surprised to change my mind as the work goes on.

As a final question: is the Russian boat coming into the harbor Dracula? I say yes.

Alright, that's a mouthful. But that's what happens when I go four days without blogging. I'll try and be more punctual in the future so as to keep these to a more controllable size. Be sure to keep following along at VPO and IS:Drac as well! And let me know what you think in the comments.


  1. Yes the boat is totally Dracula.

    Also, can we talk about Mina's friend Lucy and her "sleepwalking" b/c that doesn't seem suspicious at all right? or is that just me?

  2. I was going to talk about that, but look at how long this was already. I think in honor of you the next post will focus on the sleepwalking.