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Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker 
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Hi Harry, great to see you are reading along. I see the famous Thomas Cook tourist guide books that popularised the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe in the nineteenth century did not include any Slavic countries, which it seems may have been too wild and foreign. Stoker’s placement of Dracula in Transylvania seeks to draw upon British prejudice against the broader Slavic region, as noted in his comment that the roads are not maintained because that would enflame war tensions with Turkey.
Harry Marks wrote:
We are going to be treated to an experience deeper than the narrator's stiff upper lip is really ready for
“Stiff upper lip” is a classic phrase of the British Empire, how the aristocratic school system inculcated resolute concealment of emotion and stoic indifference in the face of adversity. Dracula was written at the end of the Victorian Era, the very height of empire, like War of the Worlds by HG Wells. Both books present an incomprehensible adversary, a fear that the sense of control that the Empire had created was illusory, because reality was far more powerful and frightening than the complacency of England could see. Another great book of that period is The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, which similarly challenges the power of conscious rationality to explain reality. The theme is the complacency of British arrogance in the face of powerful mystery.
Harry Marks wrote:
, 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.
I don’t understand the ‘indulgence of chthonic spirits’ reference. Skepticism about the occult was a longstanding British and wider European trait, seen in the widespread witch burnings of early modern times, involving a rejection of magical traditions in favour of the simplicity of Christian dogma, which had a sort of authorised magic in its miraculous supernatural content. Newton’s mechanistic philosophy put the empirical temper of Britain into overdrive, with the sense that mystery could be completely excluded from philosophy through rational observation. An irony is that the supreme British rationalist, Sherlock Holmes, was invented by the highly credulous occultist Conan Doyle. Booktalk discussed Heart of Darkness in 2008, but sadly my posts at that time became mysteriously truncated.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.
Good comparison with the pandemic. The theme is that allegedly rational complacency is anything but rational, ignoring the need to be ready for unknown threats.
Harry Marks wrote:
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?
Dracula was based on the infamous Vlad the Impaler, the notoriously cruel ruler of Transylvania in the fifteenth century.

The blood sucking image of capitalism as a vampire system was one that Marx had used extensively. http://gretl.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/OPE/ ... heDead.pdf provides the following examples, which illustrate how Stoker’s book came at a culmination of the Victorian Gothic Horror tradition.

Quote:
Terrell Carver has suggested that Marx uses the vampire metaphor three times in Capital. 6 Marx claims that ‘capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks’. He also comments that the prolongation of the working day into the night ‘only slightly quenches the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour’; thus ‘the vampire will not let go “while there remains a single muscle, sinew or drop of blood to be exploited” ’.7 But if one also explores the text for comments that appear to derive from the vampire motif but fail to mention the vampire explicitly, one finds a wealth of additional material. Capital ‘sucks up the worker’s value-creating power’ and is dripping with blood.8 Lacemaking institutions exploiting children are described as ‘blood-sucking’, while US capital is said to be financed by the ‘capitalized blood of children’.9 The appropriation of labour is described as the ‘life-blood of capitalism’, while the state is said to have here and there interposed itself ‘as a barrier to the transformation of children’s blood into capital’.10

So the thrill of the imaginary vampire in the novel provides a psychological sublimation of observation of economic exploitation into the fantasy of supernatural horror, perhaps providing a way to respond to people's emotional repugnance at the market system without explicitly criticising it.
Harry Marks wrote:
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.

Similar examples of the trope of the rational fool that were prominent in the British mind of the time include the murder of Gordon in Sudan, the meeting of Stanley and Livingstone in darkest Africa, and later the death of Scott of the Antarctic. Harker is the colonial adventurer, the pioneer explorer finding strange mysteries in unknown lands.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Not jumped into a serious book discussion on here before, but I been following this forum and refreshing myself with the book.

What stands out to me is how the story rockets off when Jonathan Harker begins to feel a prisoner. It's a lonesome feeling as he's very far from home. Things get even more dire when he counts the dates on the letters and realizes in doing so, he's learning the time ofhis demise. What a powerful writing mechanism that is.

I know my views on the book are somewhat tinted by the movie adaptions, Nosferatu being the one that stands out the most, so I can't even imagine how early audiences perceived the suspense, but for me, I felt it really come alive with those bits of info.

Not to throw the discussion off, but I find it disappointing that it's super easy to self-publish now but very few people take time to explore classic fiction. One need not have a treasure to find quality books. Library cards are free and virtual cards plentiful.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Brooks127 wrote:
Not jumped into a serious book discussion on here before, but I been following this forum and refreshing myself with the book.


Well that's a shame since it seems from the following comments that you have a lot to offer.

Brooks127 wrote:
What stands out to me is how the story rockets off when Jonathan Harker begins to feel a prisoner. It's a lonesome feeling as he's very far from home. Things get even more dire when he counts the dates on the letters and realizes in doing so, he's learning the time of his demise. What a powerful writing mechanism that is.


Yes!!! I did indeed say the same thing to myself... And now I am disappointed that I didn't mention it here. His realization of his doom was heartbreaking to me. I am not one who admits defeat and I felt that hit home. But...he overcame and made it. So that's heartening at least.

Brooks127 wrote:
Not to throw the discussion off, but I find it disappointing that it's super easy to self-publish now but very few people take time to explore classic fiction. One need not have a treasure to find quality books. Library cards are free and virtual cards plentiful.


I am on the fence about this. Fact is, people are not going to read what they do not want to read. But what is good is that authors that get overlooked by the machine of the publishing industry get to show the world, or at least a few folks, what they have to offer. There was one post on here promoting a self published book that I checked out. It seems to have a good premise and it read well for the first chapter or two (Boys of the Breach. ) So I am happy it was made available and I will be reading it.

But like what happened to music...it does tend to dilute the quality, IMO. So I put the onus on me to still seek out what makes me happy.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
Well that's a shame since it seems from the following comments that you have a lot to offer.


Thanks for the acknowledgement. I feel the same towards your commentary.

Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
I am on the fence about this. Fact is, people are not going to read what they do not want to read. But what is good is that authors that get overlooked by the machine of the publishing industry get to show the world, or at least a few folks, what they have to offer.


Thanks for sharing that. It puts things in a better perspective for me and brings to mind a sobering conversation I had with a friend at Universal Records. We got to talking about what makes a great band. I brought up desert rock and Kyuss, a band I first heard on cassette as a teen and one that caused my mouth to drop the same way Alice in Chains and Spread Eagle did. I argued that bands left to their own devices sometimes come up with the most unique sound. The counter argument to this is bands need the competition that a vibrant club scene fosters. I see both sides but concede there's something magical about isolation's affect on creativity.

Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
There was one post on here promoting a self published book that I checked out. It seems to have a good premise and it read well for the first chapter or two (Boys of the Breach. ) So I am happy it was made available and I will be reading it.


Thanks for sharing the title. I looked up the book. If I got the right title, it has West Virginia as the backdrop. Yeah, I really like it when authors mix SF/FF with contemporary sociopolitical issues. It's got an edge.

I got some thoughts on Chapter 6 of Dracula. I'll share them in the appropriate forum.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Chapter 3 begins with Count Dracula recounting his high noble history, as the Dracula family has led the Huns of Transylvania over the centuries in war against enemies such as the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk. There is a sense here that the author Bram Stoker is channelling the vampire spirit, imagining how such a monster would think. It contributes to the steady rise of a creepy tension, a sense of grave foreboding.

The reputed hot blood of the Balkans emerges in Dracula’s statement that “We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship.” The magical mythical sense of European ancient heritage appears in the statement “Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, ay, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the were-wolves themselves had come.”

For Dracula in this way to acknowledge the real existence of the violent Norse Gods Thor and Wodin in the ‘fell intent’ of the Berserkers, who fought like werewolves, helps to build the supernatural imagery.

The constant refrain of blood continues with Dracula asking “What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?” The chill fear of the name of Attila the Hun, spoken here with pride and reverence, fills Harker with a cold dread.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
I'm a little mystified as to the reason the Count is so insistent on keeping up the pretense of politeness with Harker. It may be nothing more than a plot device, spun from the way the nobility would follow the forms of good manners and gentlefolk no matter what their true practices and personal rot.

The scene in which Harker proposes to leave early and Dracula, intent on his own plans, assures him he need not stay longer than he wishes, is a marvelous piece of stage business - the wolves come and Harker changes his mind in pre-destined desperation. It establishes the Count's command of the wolves, if that were not already expressed, but in terms of the interaction between predator and prey it just reiterates Dracula's willfulness and resort to uncanny powers, and Harker's helpless situation.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker Chapter Three wrote:
As I leaned from the window my eye was caught by something moving a storey below me, and somewhat to my left, where I imagined, from the order of the rooms, that the windows of the Count’s own room would look out. The window at which I stood was tall and deep, stone-mullioned, and though weatherworn, was still complete; but it was evidently many a day since the case had been there. I drew back behind the stonework, and looked carefully out.

What I saw was the Count’s head coming out from the window. I did not see the face, but I knew the man by the neck and the movement of his back and arms. In any case I could not mistake the hands which I had had so many opportunities of studying. I was at first interested and somewhat amused, for it is wonderful how small a matter will interest and amuse a man when he is a prisoner. But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow; but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall.

What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man? I feel the dread of this horrible place overpowering me; I am in fear—in awful fear—and there is no escape for me; I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of....


This episode of Count Dracula crawling down a high vertical stone wall outside his castle window is an image of terrifying vertigo that somehow stayed vividly with me since reading the book fifty years ago. The face-down technique is another of Bram Stoker’s remarkably powerful narrative images. This dreadful abyss puts free solo rock climbing into a new light, or maybe darkness. Perhaps all those crazies who climb el capitan without rope could learn something from the undead methods, including the spooky cloak, like bat wings. This relatively unknown ability of vampires to creep along walls like lizards creates quite a disturbing and chilling sense of vulnerability.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Robert Tulip wrote:
This episode of Count Dracula crawling down a high vertical stone wall outside his castle window is an image of terrifying vertigo that somehow stayed vividly with me since reading the book fifty years ago.


Oh yes. This brought some rumblings in my belly and weakness in my knees. I am deathly afraid of heights. Paralysis afraid.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
A principle of story telling that Bram Stoker achieves with masterful ability is known as Continuous Tension Escalation. After Dracula has left his castle, we will discover his evil mission was to prey on a local village by capturing a child to provide blood for his fiendish vampire witches. No wonder the locals had tried to warn Harker not to go to the dark haunt.

The escalation of tension continues with Harker foolishly disobeying Dracula's instruction not to leave his safe rooms. The reader understands this will not end well, after Harker manages to find an old door that he can open. Here is the result, an intensely erotic horror encounter related with the most fearfully blood-curdling, spine-tingling, hair-raising, knee-knocking, bone-trembling, eye-popping writing skill you could ever imagine.
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I was not alone. The room was the same, unchanged in any way since I came into it; I could see along the floor, in the brilliant moonlight, my own footsteps marked where I had disturbed the long accumulation of dust. In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, for, though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me, and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together. Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. They whispered together, and then they all three laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on. One said:—
“Go on! You are first, and we shall follow; yours is the right to begin.” The other added:—
“He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.” I lay quiet, looking out under my eyelashes in an agony of delightful anticipation. The fair girl advanced and bent over me till I could feel the movement of her breath upon me. Sweet it was in one sense, honey-sweet, and sent the same tingling through the nerves as her voice, but with a bitter underlying the sweet, a bitter offensiveness, as one smells in blood.
I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer—nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super-sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.
But at that instant, another sensation swept through me as quick as lightning. I was conscious of the presence of the Count, and of his being as if lapped in a storm of fury. As my eyes opened involuntarily I saw his strong hand grasp the slender neck of the fair woman and with giant’s power draw it back, the blue eyes transformed with fury, the white teeth champing with rage, and the fair cheeks blazing red with passion. But the Count! Never did I imagine such wrath and fury, even to the demons of the pit. His eyes were positively blazing. The red light in them was lurid, as if the flames of hell-fire blazed behind them. His face was deathly pale, and the lines of it were hard like drawn wires; the thick eyebrows that met over the nose now seemed like a heaving bar of white-hot metal. With a fierce sweep of his arm, he hurled the woman from him, and then motioned to the others, as though he were beating them back; it was the same imperious gesture that I had seen used to the wolves. In a voice which, though low and almost in a whisper seemed to cut through the air and then ring round the room he said:—
“How dare you touch him, any of you? How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me.” The fair girl, with a laugh of ribald coquetry, turned to answer him:—
“You yourself never loved; you never love!” On this the other women joined, and such a mirthless, hard, soulless laughter rang through the room that it almost made me faint to hear; it seemed like the pleasure of fiends. Then the Count turned, after looking at my face attentively, and said in a soft whisper:—
“Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will. Now go! go! I must awaken him, for there is work to be done.”
“Are we to have nothing to-night?” said one of them, with a low laugh, as she pointed to the bag which he had thrown upon the floor, and which moved as though there were some living thing within it. For answer he nodded his head. One of the women jumped forward and opened it. If my ears did not deceive me there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child. The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror; but as I looked they disappeared, and with them the dreadful bag. There was no door near them, and they could not have passed me without my noticing. They simply seemed to fade into the rays of the moonlight and pass out through the window, for I could see outside the dim, shadowy forms for a moment before they entirely faded away.
Then the horror overcame me, and I sank down unconscious.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Perhaps I am jaded, too realistic, not very prone to supernatural tensions...Perhaps this was more impactful at that time? I wish I could find the awe... But to me he is just a mediocre writer. But that's just my opinion.


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