Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bite-Sized Blogging: Dracula (Chapter 8)

12 October

How fitting that the first thing I read--after lapsing in my entries for a week--is an admonition from Mina Murray: "If it were not that I had made my diary a duty I should not open it tonight." I love to read, don't get me wrong, but it does seem that sometimes I only get things done if I make them duties first. But to Dracula: Mina's entry, which promises to be daily, proves what I've been saying--Stoker is editing the entries that he chooses to show.

This being a work of horror, this selection is clearly done for suspenseful reasons. (As is the choice to write horror at all--according to Stoker-as-Murray, "personal fear...seemed to wipe the slate clean and give us a fresh start," that is, horror as the positive effect of forcing us to see things anew, with clear eyes, and is that not the goal of all novelists?) In Chapter 6, we watch, in weekly entries, as Mina continues to record Harker's absence. Were this to be shown to us in daily increments, we'd swiftly grow bored. In Chapter 8, Stoker sticks to the day-to-day because he's chronicling the rise-and-fall of Lucy's health as she is preyed upon (in secret) by Dracula. Now we actually get multiple entries on the same day, and the element of horror now has turned from suspense to panic--it's more immediate.

Here's a clever stylistic thing: whereas the Harker chapters wrote supernatural things off as being mundane, Murray's chapters detail ordinary things--that will grow to become supernatural. To wit, she really does prick Lucy's neck with a safety-pin; but Lucy will soon be fed on in that exact location. Dracula's eyes really are "great eyes like burning flames," but that dark figure we see is clearly not him--after all, the natural event is the glint of red sunlight off St. Mary's Church." No wonder Dracula makes Mina sleepwalk to him, though he could just as easily flit to her window and feed on her; no wonder he takes the form of an obvious giant bat, though he can assume any shape--he knows no polite Englishman will raise questions. (And he's killed off the old man in the graveyard who might have.)

Two quick things which I'll end with because I'm not sufficiently educated in these subjects:
  • Murray's seeming disdain for "the 'New Woman'" seems in itself to be more of a mark of the "New Woman" than anything else. She has liberated herself from the need for self-defining labels, and is clearly the most independent person in this book.
  • Dracula has taken up residence in the chapel of a mansion, only a few pages after Dr. Seward had written of Renfield's growing fixation on a "Master," which Seward mistakes for delusions of becoming God. The only thing--aside from what we so far interpret as "evil"--that makes Dracula less than a God is his vanity: "The real God taketh heed lest a sparrow fall; but the God created from human vanity sees no difference between an eagle and a sparrow."

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