Friday, October 23, 2009

Bite-Sized Blogging: Dracula (Chapters 17-19)

23 October.

Ah, I love "the classics." Imagining a world where it's considered chivalrous to tell a woman that she has "man's brains" but nonetheless needs to stay home because she's the weaker, fairer sex; well, that's downright hysterical. Or is that the sort of horror novel that Stoker was really writing? Some sort of prescient neo-feminist tract in which its most liberated woman, Wilhelmena Harker, nonetheless politely acquiesces to absolutely everything asked, nay, demanded of her as a woman. She makes a pretty good secretary though, right? I mean, they at least let her type up everything for them, before they dispense with her.

I hazard this guess because Stoker's novel isn't actually scary at all. I'm too damned irritated by the characters, at this point, to empathize with anything. I mean, they've all read the record of Lucy's falling prey to sleeping sickness that leaves her pale, and Van Helsing has exposited his way through a description of Dracula's powers, which includes a thick, coalescing mist that creeps in through gaps of any chamber in the darkest hour of night. And yet, even when Mina faithfully records her dream of exactly this happening, even when her husband, Jonathan, observes how much she is sleeping, even when Van Helsing is prevailed upon to provide her with a sleeping draught, as she's not really feeling that refreshed, nobody even hesitates to consider that their next door neighbor--who was notably not at home--might have been the culprit.

Once again, we're back to this idea that unless we see the act itself, we don't believe in it. Which I guess brings us back to faith again; even given everything these four "vampire hunters" have seen, they're still supernatural atheists, and they refuse to believe what is not directly before them. This is why religion boggles the minds of so many "intellectuals": it's because you can't argue for or against it with facts, and the sooner Stoker's "heroes" realize that their precocious observations are doing very little, the better for all of us readers who are (un)dying for a little action. I'm sorry, but telling me that Dracula's crypt seemed as if "corruption had become itself corrupted" don't impress me much.

The one interesting bit is Mina's observation (back in Chapter 17) on the difference between the recorded word and the written word, and this is where Dracula falters as a novel (and perhaps may have set itself up to be a film). Seward's phonographs allowed Mina to "hear [his] heart beat," and must never be heard again. The written form, however, which has been stripped of some inscrutable level of "soul" is deemed appropriate to be processed. Guess which version we got? Journaling is already once-removed; now we're twice-removed. This is why I hate "the classics."

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