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Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker

#174: April - June 2021 (Fiction)
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Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker

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Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker

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

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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
Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Apr 03, 2021 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ch. 1 - 5: Dracula - by Bram Stoker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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