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Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker 
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 Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker


Please use this thread to discuss Chapters 1 - 5 of Dracula by Bram Stoker.



Tue Mar 30, 2021 7:11 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
The first chapter of this novel is gripping with its suspense and tension. I will have to read the whole book now.

Jonathan Harker is a well to do Englishman, who for some reason is travelling to visit Count Dracula in his remote castle in Transylvania. As he gets closer to his destination in the wild Carpathian mountains, he meets local peasants who warn him off but won't say why, he is given a crucifix for protection, and then he experiences a blood curdling night time carriage journey pulled by four coal black horses through a moonlit midnight, surrounded by howling dogs and wolves, driven at breakneck pace by Dracula's red-eyed servant, whose teeth are strangely the brightest white of ivory.

Read Dracula for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345
Free audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjCorlz1P0g


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
A few things stood out to me in Ch1. First of all, I love the paprika. Blood red powder, instilling an unquenchable thirst in Harker...heat, food. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but the symbolism is stark.

As he leaves the town of Bistritz, the lamentations and goodbyes, along with the signs of the cross, reminded me of a funeral, as Harker enters his box to travel to his final destination.

The psychological journey of Harker is excellently laid out in his actual travels. The countryside goes from pleasant to rocky, confusing, and claustrophobic as they enter the pass. Darkness descends not only on the world but on Harker's soul. He becomes lost in the journey quite literally as he cannot see much of anything save what the light from the carriage lamps shine upon. He realizes they are traveling the same route in a loop for a while before coming upon the castle, which he remarks to himself that he did not notice until they had come upon it.

Excellent writing in using the prose as an emotional surrogate.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
A few things stood out to me in Ch1. First of all, I love the paprika. Blood red powder, instilling an unquenchable thirst in Harker...heat, food. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but the symbolism is stark.
Part of the scene-setting of the food is the sense of England as normal and Transylvania as incredibly foreign and remote. Harker associates the paprika dish with what he calls queer dreams, possibly also brought on by the eerie sound of a howling dog outside his window. It is rather like how drinking blood makes vampires thirsty for more.
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
As he leaves the town of Bistritz, the lamentations and goodbyes, along with the signs of the cross, reminded me of a funeral, as Harker enters his box to travel to his final destination.
This all sets an ominous tone. Part of the theme is that the stolid empiricism of British culture has no truck with superstition, unlike these priest-ridden primitive foreigners. And yet the reader clearly sees that his plucky indifference to the wailing entreaties not to lose his soul to the evil vampire marks Harker as a total fool, arrogantly blind to local wisdom.
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
The psychological journey of Harker is excellently laid out in his actual travels. The countryside goes from pleasant to rocky, confusing, and claustrophobic as they enter the pass. Darkness descends not only on the world but on Harker's soul. He becomes lost in the journey quite literally as he cannot see much of anything save what the light from the carriage lamps shine upon. He realizes they are traveling the same route in a loop for a while before coming upon the castle, which he remarks to himself that he did not notice until they had come upon it.
I liked the mention twice of frowning mountains, first as the wild carriage entered the Borgo Pass where Harker was to meet Dracula’s transport. His mood becomes steadily more terrified, not surprisingly especially when they are surrounded at close quarters by a pack of wild wolves. I wonder if the loop is his terrified imagination, as it seems to make no rational sense. Then we have the second mention of frowning rocks as he travels alone with the vampire’s assistant:
Bram Stoker wrote:
after going to the far side of the Pass, he suddenly turned down a narrow roadway which ran sharply to the right. Soon we were hemmed in with trees, which in places arched right over the roadway till we passed as through a tunnel; and again great frowning rocks guarded us boldly on either side. Though we were in shelter, we could hear the rising wind, for it moaned and whistled through the rocks, and the branches of the trees crashed together as we swept along. It grew colder and colder still, and fine, powdery snow began to fall, so that soon we and all around us were covered with a white blanket. The keen wind still carried the howling of the dogs, though this grew fainter as we went on our way. The baying of the wolves sounded nearer and nearer, as though they were closing round on us from every side. I grew dreadfully afraid, and the horses shared my fear. The driver, however, was not in the least disturbed; he kept turning his head to left and right, but I could not see anything through the darkness.


Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
Excellent writing in using the prose as an emotional surrogate.
Yes, there is a steady measured ratcheting of the foreboding as he moves ever closer to Castle Dracula. Here is a rough map of the journey.

Read Dracula for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345
Free audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjCorlz1P0g


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
I was unaware that Dracula was mustachioed. The classic image is always of a clean shaven face.

Chapter 2 firmly sets in Harker the realization that he is imprisoned...and in serious trouble. The shaving mirror was his first solid proof of something not being right. And we are quickly made aware of just how trapped he is, as he notes that the only means of egress that he can find are windows that open out upon a sheer drop of a thousand feet and 'doors, doors, doors everywhere, all locked and bolted.

He also realizes that there are no servants about the house...it seems Dracula is providing all the attention to his needs. So, not only is he a prisoner in the physical sense, but he writes in his journal (and as is alluded to in other lines about the sense of death around him and in his host) that he feels he is the' only living soul in this place.' Talk about the ultimate imprisonment.

Yet Harker is set on falling back on his sensibilities and rational mind, hiding his observations from his host and beginning to focus on his means of escape. Always the optimist, lol.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Robert Tulip wrote:
It is rather like how drinking blood makes vampires thirsty for more.


Exactly! The eternal thirst...insatiable. I have read other vampire stories and the act of drinking the blood is always described as intoxicating, warm, and mind altering. This brought all that to mind.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Part of the theme is that the stolid empiricism of British culture has no truck with superstition, unlike these priest-ridden primitive foreigners.


Yet he was concerned about accepting the crucifix, due to it being considered an idol. So there is obviously some truck with superstition...just another man's doxy. On a side note...it was always funny to me that Christian's drink 'blood' all the time. The drinking of blood is an odd human quirk to me...been around probably throughout our evolution. From priests and rituals to hunters. I get the symbolism, but its just creepy as heck.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I wonder if the loop is his terrified imagination, as it seems to make no rational sense.


Probably...but perhaps Drac was purposefully causing some sort of spatial confusion in his prey...toying with him...as we see throughout chapter 2, he is keeping him awake so he is in tune with Drac's schedule and keeping him off guard in many other ways...just like a predator toying with or tiring out his prey.

We also find out that Harker is here as a Solicitors clerk, coming to meet with the Count to discuss the purchase of property in London. The library Harker finds contains everything one would want to know about England...and Dracula discusses his desire to not be seen as a stranger is a strange land...I just wonder what he might be up to!? New feeding grounds I think.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Very good insights! The paprika reference went over my head.

I offer an amusing distraction. During the dark foreboding descriptions I kept thinking this reminds me of Frankenstein and various black & white movies. But once arriving at the castle we read this.
Quote:
Of bell or knocker there was no sign.

I thought, "OK that settles it, this is definitely NOT Young Frankenstein!" :lol:



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
LanDroid wrote:
I offer an amusing distraction. During the dark foreboding descriptions I kept thinking this reminds me of Frankenstein and various black & white movies. But once arriving at the castle we read this.
Quote:
Of bell or knocker there was no sign.

I thought, "OK that settles it, this is definitely NOT Young Frankenstein!" :lol:


FRAU BLUCHER!!!!

Hahahahaha

I was definitely reminded of all the old B&W horror cinematography.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
I am not digging the journals and letters from Mina and her friend. I understand they will move the story forward, but it's not engaging. The Steward journals on Renfield are, of course, more pertinent.

What I am sensing is that the overall atmosphere of these people's lives are all becoming a tad darker and more stressed. This presages the arrival of the Count, but no one knows this in the story. Is his power such that he can cast a pall over an entire area just by proximity? Or has there been previous infestation of his minions in the area that are taking hold and fomenting these changes?


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Robert Tulip wrote:
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
A few things stood out to me in Ch1. First of all, I love the paprika. Blood red powder, instilling an unquenchable thirst in Harker...heat, food. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but the symbolism is stark.
Part of the scene-setting of the food is the sense of England as normal and Transylvania as incredibly foreign and remote. Harker associates the paprika dish with what he calls queer dreams, possibly also brought on by the eerie sound of a howling dog outside his window. It is rather like how drinking blood makes vampires thirsty for more.
I like this observation. I was struck by the "travel writing" sense with which it started out, noting foods to pay attention to, etc. It was written at a time when prosperous Brits were becoming the travelers of the world, especially of Europe, being able to afford it just for the experience. We are going to be treated to an experience deeper than the narrator's stiff upper lip is really ready for, but this is not "Heart of Darkness" where greed is leading to indulgence of chthonic spirits, but rather a path to re-discovering occult powers that include the Christian ones those Brits are beginning to view with a skeptical eye. I think it is a bit like Jekyll and Hyde, another exploration of the shadow side of reason and enlightenment.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
As he leaves the town of Bistritz, the lamentations and goodbyes, along with the signs of the cross, reminded me of a funeral, as Harker enters his box to travel to his final destination.
This all sets an ominous tone. Part of the theme is that the stolid empiricism of British culture has no truck with superstition, unlike these priest-ridden primitive foreigners. And yet the reader clearly sees that his plucky indifference to the wailing entreaties not to lose his soul to the evil vampire marks Harker as a total fool, arrogantly blind to local wisdom.
The blend of "local" with superstition is significant, but this dreaded power is going to emerge and infect London, like some plague from the bush meat eaters. I am leaning toward thinking of it as an atavistic image of the capitalists' adopting the ways of inhuman feudal lords. And was it not industrial capitalism that was leading up to the slaughter of WWI, in which science proudly offered poison gas to defend the boys in the trenches, and promoted jingoistic nihilism?

Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
The psychological journey of Harker is excellently laid out in his actual travels. The countryside goes from pleasant to rocky, confusing, and claustrophobic as they enter the pass. Darkness descends not only on the world but on Harker's soul. He becomes lost in the journey quite literally as he cannot see much of anything save what the light from the carriage lamps shine upon. He realizes they are traveling the same route in a loop for a while before coming upon the castle, which he remarks to himself that he did not notice until they had come upon it.

Yet Harker is set on falling back on his sensibilities and rational mind, hiding his observations from his host and beginning to focus on his means of escape.

The imagery is deliciously oppressive, and the treatment of rationality as double-edged is delightfully intriguing. Rationality gives Harker the nerve to boldly go where no Englishman has gone before, and gives him the foolishness to assume he can deal with whatever arises. We can see this two-sided nature in the contrast with his growing foreboding.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Introducing Count Dracula:
Bram Stoker wrote:
I heard a heavy step approaching behind the great door, and saw through the chinks the gleam of a coming light. Then there was the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn back. A key was turned with the loud grating noise of long disuse, and the great door swung back.
Within, stood a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere. He held in his hand an antique silver lamp, in which the flame burned without chimney or globe of any kind, throwing long quivering shadows as it flickered in the draught of the open door. The old man motioned me in with his right hand with a courtly gesture, saying in excellent English, but with a strange intonation:—
“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!” He made no motion of stepping to meet me, but stood like a statue, as though his gesture of welcome had fixed him into stone. The instant, however, that I had stepped over the threshold, he moved impulsively forward, and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed as cold as ice—more like the hand of a dead than a living man. Again he said:—
“Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!” The strength of the handshake was so much akin to that which I had noticed in the driver, whose face I had not seen, that for a moment I doubted if it were not the same person to whom I was speaking; so to make sure, I said interrogatively:—
“Count Dracula?” He bowed in a courtly way as he replied:—
“I am Dracula; and I bid you welcome, Mr. Harker, to my house. Come in; the night air is chill, and you must need to eat and rest.”
This dramatic introduction has a number of points of interest.
  • The rattling chains, clanking bolts and long disused lock create an oppressive atmosphere of imprisonment.
  • Dracula is tall, old, moustachioed and clad entirely in black.
  • His instruction that Harker should enter freely of his own will has a magical quality of entrapment, as though the foolish decision to step freely across the threshold of evil creates a power of control by the dark forces that would not happen if he had been forced to enter.
  • It reminds me of one of the legends of Lancelot of the Lake, where the hero enters the castle of the Black Knight and immediately finds he has lost all courage and will, by black magic.
  • Fixed into stone like a victim of the Gorgon’s stare, Dracula waits until the liminal point is reached before moving impulsively like a striking snake.
  • His icy cold dead hand (hello Charlton) has supernatural strength.
  • His cryptic instruction to leave some happiness sounds like code for leaving his blood.
  • The dramatic tension peaks as Harker and Count Dracula courteously introduce themselves, seemingly beginning the dance of the doomed as the cat plays with its victim.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Physical features of the vampire are described as including hairy palms, sharp fingernails, rank breath inducing shuddering nausea, and protuberant canine teeth. Count Dracula also explains his love of hunting, on hearing the howling of wolves, putting the reader in mind of his predatory plans.
Bram Stoker wrote:
Hitherto I had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they had seemed rather white and fine; but seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse—broad, with squat fingers. Strange to say, there were hairs in the centre of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal. The Count, evidently noticing it, drew back; and with a grim sort of smile, which showed more than he had yet done his protuberant teeth, sat himself down again on his own side of the fireplace. We were both silent for a while; and as I looked towards the window I saw the first dim streak of the coming dawn. There seemed a strange stillness over everything; but as I listened I heard as if from down below in the valley the howling of many wolves. The Count’s eyes gleamed, and he said:—
“Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make!” Seeing, I suppose, some expression in my face strange to him, he added:—
“Ah, sir, you dwellers in the city cannot enter into the feelings of the hunter.”


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Quote:
I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky.
P.26

This was Jonathan Harker's initial impression of Count Dracula's residence. Later on, Dracula states the following.
Quote:
Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken. The shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements.
P. 40

Presumably the Count is quite wealthy, yet his castle is in marked disrepair. So why is he buying a 20 acre fixer-upper in England if he can't maintain his current domicile? This is very strange... :hmm:



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
The invisibility of Count Dracula in the mirror is a very creepy and spooky story, that starts Harker on the terrifying thought that his host is not a living human being.
Bram Stoker wrote:
I fear I am myself the only living soul within the place. Let me be prosaic so far as facts can be; it will help me to bear up, and imagination must not run riot with me. If it does I am lost. Let me say at once how I stand—or seem to. I only slept a few hours when I went to bed, and feeling that I could not sleep any more, got up. I had hung my shaving glass by the window, and was just beginning to shave. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard the Count’s voice saying to me, “Good-morning.” I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him, since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me. In starting I had cut myself slightly, but did not notice it at the moment. Having answered the Count’s salutation, I turned to the glass again to see how I had been mistaken. This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror! The whole room behind me was displayed; but there was no sign of a man in it, except myself. This was startling, and, coming on the top of so many strange things, was beginning to increase that vague feeling of uneasiness which I always have when the Count is near; but at the instant I saw that the cut had bled a little, and the blood was trickling over my chin. I laid down the razor, turning as I did so half round to look for some sticking plaster. When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.
“Take care,” he said, “take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.” Then seizing the shaving glass, he went on: “And this is the wretched thing that has done the mischief. It is a foul bauble of man’s vanity. Away with it!” and opening the heavy window with one wrench of his terrible hand, he flung out the glass, which was shattered into a thousand pieces on the stones of the courtyard far below. Then he withdrew without a word. It is very annoying, for I do not see how I am to shave, unless in my watch-case or the bottom of the shaving-pot, which is fortunately of metal.
In this episode, we see our first clear direct evidence of the supernatural demonic powers that the story is describing. The totally astounding observation of a person who creates no reflection generates extreme anxiety. But then, the blood dripping on Harker’s chin from his shaving cut sends the vampire into a murderous frenzy, only halted by the next supernatural thing, accidentally touching the rosary beads that hold the cross of Jesus Christ. Here the crucifix, which Harker had dismissed as nothing but a primitive fetish, displays its power to bring the presence of the holiness of God into the world. By connecting our fallen situation to the eternal truth of divine goodness, the cross stands as symbol of defiance against the powers of evil. The dramatic shattering of the mirror on the rocks a thousand feet below the window symbolises the evil intent of the vampire to destroy any connection to the divine. With a mastery of understatement, Harker’s prosaic description of this frightening experience as “very annoying” underscores his desire to hang onto some semblance of normality in a deeply abnormal and scary situation. Our world is not as it seems.

The vampire's advice to take care of the dangers of his country continues his charade of polite nobility while positively dripping with menace and threat.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Lan Droid wrote:
Presumably the Count is quite wealthy, yet his castle is in marked disrepair. So why is he buying a 20 acre fixer-upper in England if he can't maintain his current domicile? This is very strange... :hmm:


I am thinking, and in no way sure, that the decrepit nature of his castle is a complement to his existence. Or... His decrepit existence spreads to his environs.


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