Re: Ch. 21 - 27: Dracula - by Bram Stoker
Good to see these comments on the ending from Mr. P. I tend not to read comments until I have read the chapters they are about, so have only just read them now.
Having just finished reading Dracula, I thought I should reflect on some points including some of the ending. I realized about halfway through that when I first read it back in 1974 I had abandoned it early on, being too terrified to continue. I seem these days to be more inured to scariness.
The Wikipedia entry on Vampires https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire
and some of the related pages on vampire literature and Dracula show what a popular and imaginative theme Stoker established. The recent vampire books of the Twilight series sold more than a hundred million copies, showing the strangely seductive allure in the vampire myth.
While there was a range of earlier vampire books, Dracula remains the classic masterpiece of the genre, definitive and iconic, establishing numerous popular modern vampire myths, and also conflicting with others such as the ability of sunlight to kill vampires, as Mr P notes.
Again as Mr P mentions, one strange point that attracts little comment is that the Christian communion ritual of drinking the blood of Jesus Christ has a vampiric overtone. And yet the communion bread, in the form of the consecrated wafer, plays a major role in the book, regularly used by Van Helsing to sterilise vampire lairs and prevent their passage.
I found Dracula compelling to read, although there were some weaknesses in the plot, and the ending is somewhat predictable and lame.
Count Dracula lives alone in his castle with his three ‘brides’, with support only from random paid gypsies, going out at night to prey upon infants. Why the locals tolerate this is never discussed. An armed siege of the castle could easily winkle the monster out, in a region where warfare is continual. The ability of Count Dracula to travel by boat to and from England with his coffins of earth is something even the most failed of states should have been able to notice and prevent. Even accepting that the English imagined Romania as a rather backward region, the idea that Dracula had long continued this reign of terror with impunity requires a significant suspension of disbelief regarding Romanian tolerance of vampires. Only by going to England did he encounter people able to challenge him. This seeming prejudicial contempt for Balkan indifference and incompetence shows Stoker assuming the prevailing British imperial arrogance as normal. There is something formulaic in the gang of four – an American, a solicitor, an aristocrat and a doctor – who work with the Dutch vampirologist to kill the beast by stabbing it with their steely knives.
A second questionable point is that when Madam Lucy becomes a vampire, and the maid steals the cross from her corpse, Van Helsing seems to give up, stating “now we must wait”. This is strange, considering he had already explained the dangers of allowing Lucy to emerge in her undead state, having gained the agreement of Lucy’s grieving husband to exorcise the vampire spirit. The result is that he allows the vampire loose to prey on the innocent people of London when he could have easily prevented it as he planned. Stoker could have found a better way to explain this failure by Van Helsing.
The third plot weakness arises after Mina is forced by Dracula to drink his blood, giving him partial control of her mind. Mina is allowed to accompany the vampire hunters to Transylvania, due to her telepathic communication with the vampire in his coffin on the high seas, even though they know this will allow Dracula to read her mind and avoid them, which he duly does. This is a case of dramatic emotion getting priority over logical sense, but hey, that is the whole point of the genre, so all these dubious points don’t really matter.