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Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker 
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
I'm wondering about Dracula's many uncanny powers. Not only can he change into animals, he can seemingly influence a "tuned in" madman from afar, can induce sleepiness and even stupefaction in his prey, can cause wolves to obey him, and maybe can control the weather. Some of this may be just trading on "lore" - there were tales of vampires, including a possible connection of the aversion to sunlight from Vlad III, a victim of porphyria
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porphyria
and Stoker is going out of his way to make use of the alleged powers and weaknesses in spinning a tale about traditional Christian symbolism having power over the forces of darkness. The exotic seems to feature almost as much as the occult or the metaphorical. In more modern horror tales there seems to be more effort to set up "rules of the game," even in some of Stephen King's really off the wall stuff.

But Stoker is at a disadvantage here, because his readers would probably not have known much about the lore. So he can gradually bring it forth, with one unexpected trick after another emerging in the gradual overpowering of Lucy and of Harker before her, but we are left scratching our heads some of the time as to whether, say, the bumbling of Lucy's mother or the procrastination of van Helsing are influenced by his uncanny powers or just happen to come along at unfortunate times.

Maybe it doesn't matter to the story. Maybe we can just suffer with plot devices that may or may not be powers of the vampire, as the author weaves a chilling story in which the extent and the strategies of the contesting powers are meant to remain mysterious and we just get a sense of relief to have escaped, in the end. But to this modern reader it does feel a little cheap.



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Robert Tulip
Fri Apr 23, 2021 10:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Responding to Harry (not using the quote function because it is so tedious when on my phone)

The point you make about how folks of his time might not have been well versed in the lore he was using for his plot devices is interesting. You mention this as possibly having been to his disadvantage, but perhaps it actually helped his story in becoming so well received and considered a classic now.

Very interesting take on why the actions of the characters were either silly or downright irresponsible. I hadn't looked at it from the perspective of Dracs control.

He did seem to have more control over certain types: a somnambulist and the insane. And this did cross my mind. The other characters were supposed to be on their game and strong. I guess that's why I hadn't considered their misses as something Drac may have influenced.


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Harry Marks
Sat Apr 24, 2021 6:53 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Mr. P wrote:
He did seem to have more control over certain types: a somnambulist and the insane. And this did cross my mind. The other characters were supposed to be on their game and strong. I guess that's why I hadn't considered their misses as something Drac may have influenced.


Yeah, I am going to think some more about the susceptibility. Just some Victorian version of "weak minds"? Or something subtler? Lucy's mother seems an obvious possibility for susceptibility, but as you say, some pretty resistant characters also dropped the ball.



Wed Apr 28, 2021 7:58 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Perhaps a connection to the netherworld? Souls touched by damnation of some sort?


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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Mr. P wrote:
Perhaps a connection to the netherworld? Souls touched by damnation of some sort?


Well, if so, I hope Stoker has some point to make about these connections. I don't really mind if the connection is just "people I am turned off by" to help increase the shudder-power of the story. But I would feel more gratified if he had something sort of Jungian or Freudian to connect to.



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Post Re: Ch. 6 - 10: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Harry Marks wrote:
we are left scratching our heads some of the time as to whether, say, the bumbling of Lucy's mother or the procrastination of van Helsing are influenced by his uncanny powers or just happen to come along at unfortunate times.


I am finding this book utterly compelling. The response to Lucy Westenra turning into a vampire is a great example of how when an explanation is obvious and singular, but clashes with strong beliefs, it is automatically excluded from consideration. This is an important principle in psychology which Stoker uses to great effect.

First we have Lucy’s good friend Mina chasing her to the clifftop while Lucy is sleepwalking.
Quote:
At the edge of the West Cliff above the pier I looked across the harbour to the East Cliff, in the hope or fear—I don’t know which—of seeing Lucy in our favourite seat. There was a bright full moon, with heavy black, driving clouds, which threw the whole scene into a fleeting diorama of light and shade as they sailed across. For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary’s Church and all around it. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and the churchyard became gradually visible. Whatever my expectation was, it was not disappointed, for there, on our favourite seat, the silver light of the moon struck a half-reclining figure, snowy white. The coming of the cloud was too quick for me to see much, for shadow shut down on light almost immediately; but it seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell; I did not wait to catch another glance, but flew down the steep steps to the pier and along by the fish-market to the bridge, which was the only way to reach the East Cliff. The town seemed as dead, for not a soul did I see; I rejoiced that it was so, for I wanted no witness of poor Lucy’s condition. The time and distance seemed endless, and my knees trembled and my breath came laboured as I toiled up the endless steps to the abbey. I must have gone fast, and yet it seemed to me as if my feet were weighted with lead, and as though every joint in my body were rusty. When I got almost to the top I could see the seat and the white figure, for I was now close enough to distinguish it even through the spells of shadow. There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, “Lucy! Lucy!” and something raised a head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes. Lucy did not answer, and I ran on to the entrance of the churchyard. As I entered, the church was between me and the seat, and for a minute or so I lost sight of her. When I came in view again the cloud had passed, and the moonlight struck so brilliantly that I could see Lucy half reclining with her head lying over the back of the seat. She was quite alone, and there was not a sign of any living thing about.


This episode is the first instance of Dracula sucking the blood from his victim, observed directly by the victim's best friend. But rather than report the observation of the vampire, Mina determines that Lucy’s reputation requires that the whole incident be hushed up. This is an appalling failure on Mina's part, rather like how child sexual assault gets ignored due to concern for reputation.

Stoker continues to adduce strong evidence of the cause of Lucy’s illness, with the vampire bite marks on her neck metastasising into horrible wounds, the dramatic loss of blood requiring multiple large transfusions, the large bat repeatedly beating angrily at the closed window, the dog breaking the window, and the protective effect of garlic. Then, as Lucy is turning into a vampire, her canine teeth become long and sharp, her eyes go dull and hard, she speaks in an evil voice and her corpse takes on a radiant beauty. But somehow none of these obvious signs enable anyone to reach the obvious but unacceptable conclusion that the folk stories about vampires are in fact true, other than of course Herr Dr Van Helsing, who insists on confiding in no one at all. It is as though the feeling that others would view raising such suspicions as clear evidence of mental feebilitude leads to total repression of the thought.

The tragic result of Helsing's secrecy is that Lucy’s mother removes the garlic he brought to protect her, and opens the window, allowing free access for the vampire. If only Helsing had sternly instructed the mother not to meddle, perhaps the daughter would have been saved. But he seems to find discussion of vampires so embarrassing that he suppresses any mention of this reason for the condition.


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