Thursday, 24 September 2009

Chapter 27: Van Helsing's Memorandum (Extract 5)

Terror and Horror

In this extract Van Helsing describes the killing of the three sisters, the Brides of Dracula, the extract begins; '5 November, afternoon...'

This is one of the few times that we get to hear the story from the point-of-view of Van Helsing, the significance of this is that we get to see the human side of Van Helsing because, up until now, he as been portrayed by those around him as a tower of strength ans the all-seeing, all-knowing leader. This extract also shows him at his weakest and the closer he gets to Dracula, the weaker he becomes.

When he enters the crypt and opens the coffin of the first sisters Van Helsing affirst, to himself mainly, that he must be resolved to do this and that he is however he says of a weaker man; '...he delay, and delay and delay, 'til the mere beauty and fascination... have hypnotize him.' In this statement Van Helsing is reaffirming his resolve by saying that a lesser man would become emotional, however, Van Helsing himself is delaying and therefore falling prey to his desires and allowing the evil his has come to destroy conquer him as appose to the other way around, this links to the Gothic theme of heroes and monsters. Also, reading that Van Helsing is giving-in to his desires would be horrific to a Victorian audience.

The idea that Van Helsing is being victimized by his lustful thoughts is re-enforced as he goes on to describe the vampire as having a 'Voluptuous mouth to present a kiss.' Throughout the novel the wold 'voluptuous is used regularly in connection with the female vampires. It is commonly believed that Stoker, uses the figure of the vampire to connotate sex and sexual desires and that blood is Representative of the disease syphilis which was rank in the Victorian era. That interpretation in mind, makes the vampires seem even more dangerous and Van Helsings's description of her seem lustful.

However, Van Helsing is brought back to the task at hand by saying; 'I bethought me of my dear Madam Mina.' This shows that the clarifying and purifying thought of her keep his mind focused and drives him to do what he believes is right. Also, there are links to Jonathan, the though of him and his experiences in Castle Dracula keep him going. 'Jonathan's bitter experience' makes him continue with is quest.

But throughout the extract the reader sees that Van Helsing has continuous doubts; 'The dilemma had me between his horns.' The personification of the dilemma makes it seem as though Van Helsing stands alone it is 'me against them' and he struggles to comrehend that. This also links to the Gothical and Fantastical theme of Good vs Evil.

The end of the chapter is where we really see the human side of Van Helsing and he feelings and behavior after he has slain the vampires is entirely different from when he had to kill Lucy he states that he was 'moved' this small act of emotion shows that he is human and does feel something when he kills. And finally at the end of the chapter he admits that; 'Man is weak.' This reveals even more of the human side of Van Helsing as it could be interpreted that here, he is admitting that even he, Van Helsing, is weak.

Chapter 18: Mina Harker's journel (Extract 4)

Fantasy and Reality

In this extract Dr. Seward, Jonathan and Mina Harker, Lord Godalming and Quincey Morris, led by Professor Van Helsing have gathered together to discuss a plan of action for killing Dracula, the extract begins: '30 September...'

The language used within this extract is very factual and informative, for example Mina begins; 'We med two hours after dinner which had been at 6 O'clock...' this give a sense of reality by evoking time and place and the detail used makes this extract seem more believable. However the factual language and the excessive attention to detail leads us to question the reliability of the narrator and the truth of the story- is the book as a whole too perfectly detailed to possibly be real?

She then goes on to say; 'We unconsciously formed a sort of board, or committee, Professor Van Helsing took the head of the table.' I think that this conveys a sense of reality as Professor Van Helsing taking the head of the table represents patriarchy within Victorian society. The majority of this chapter is Mina quoting the speech given by Van Helsing. He starts by asking; 'We are all acquainted with the facts in these papers?' This is one of many instances within the chapter where the fantastical figure of the vampire, Dracula, is brought into reality. As all the majority of the characters have documented their dealings with Dracula and comprised a book out of it it makes it seem more real because they can read the book, touch it and they've also experienced it. Another way that Stoker brings this creature into the real world is by having Van Helsing 'make known... some of the history of this man.' This also brings the fantastical vampire into reality. Van Helsing even presents them with evidence by declaring; 'See, see, I prove, I prove.'

When Van Helsing goes on to talk about Dracula he says; 'There are such beings as vampires , some of us have evidence that they exist.' Here, Van Helsing is referring to reality, however this quote is still fantastical in the sense that the tone is mystical and almost unreal. It is an unbelievable statement.

Van Helsing then list the supernatural powers of the vampire. He states that; '...Nosferatu do not die...' and that Dracula had; 'Divination over the dead.' These two quotes are dreamlike in the sense that both seem impossible, yet Van Helsing is assuring them that Dracula can do theses things. There is also the re-occurrence of the theme of religion in this chapter; 'He can direct the elements.' This is a reference to Paganism and again Stoker is twisting it. Whereas the elements we called upon to protect loved ones and oneself, here, Dracula is using them for evil means, this makes hum seem almost Godlike and therefore nearly unreal. In this extract Religion is empowered which would seem mystical to a Victorian audience and to refer to Dracula as 'The Devil in callous' makes him seem unreal. Another re-occurring theme used is the theme of evil; 'Become stronger and stronger, have yet more power to do evil.' Evil and the idea of Good vs Evil is a very prominent theme throughout fantasy. And finally, Van Helsing describes Dracula as having this power to 'control the meaner things' this supernatural and unrealistic power makes Dracula seem even more unreal.

At the end of this speech Van Helsing asks; 'How then are we to begin to destroy him.' This task seem virtually impossible because of the speech just delivered, it makes the very thought of it seem like a fantasy in itself. He also asks of those gathered; 'What say you?' He gives them a choice as to whether they want to step into this alternate reality ans fight a seemingly fantastical being.

At the end of the extract Mina states; 'Jonathan had taken my hand... it was life to me to feel his touch.' This statement can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly there is the feminist point-of-view, which would be that the act of Jonathan taking Mina's hand is putting her back into her place and bringing her back to reality (patriarchy.) Or, it could be interpreted as being very cathartic as this fantastical meeting has been brought back to Earth by something sweet.

The characters of Professor Van Helsing and Mina Harker could be described in this chapter as being two bookends; firstly we have Van Helsing who is discussing the fantastical and secondly there is Mina who seems more grounded and brings the reader back into reality, with the factual beginning of her entry and the sweetness of it's ending.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Chapter 16- Dr. Seward's diary (extract 3)

Victims and Femme Fatales

In this extract Van Helsing leads Dr. Sweard, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris into the tomb of Lucy, who is now a vampire and drive a stake through her heart. This extract begins; 'She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy...'

By describing Lucy as a 'nightmare' this shows that the men do not want to accept what Lucy has become, they want it all to be a dream. However, from a feminist point-of-view, it can also mean that the men believe that Lucy's voluptuousness and open display of sexuality is nightmarish, therefore these men are doing this, not to help Lucy, put to put her back into her place, as Van Helsing instructs Holmwood on how to do the deed and drive the stake through her heart, he says that it must be done in order to; '... restore Lucy to us.' This quote almost objectifies Lucy, and again, shows that the men are doing this for themselves.

They also objectify her by referring to her as a 'Thing' this paints a picture of her as grotesque and inhuman and no longer Lucy, but a creature as Dr. Swards says; 'I call the thing before us Lucy, because it bore her shape.'

Now that Lucy has become one of the Undead she is described as being more seductive and dangerously sexual; 'The blood-stained voluptuous mouth.' This makes her seem seductive and tempting, it's almost as though she is trying to lure the men off their task with her form and open sexuality, this would have seemed repulsive to a Victorian readership.

The process of staking Lucy through the heart is described as though preparing an operation; 'Van Helsing, with is usual methodicalness began taking the various contents... and placing them ready for use.' The men are here to 'heal' Lucy, to cleanse her soul. This links to the theme of modern Victorian Britain and the medical advancements that were going on within Stoker's era.

The main instrument used in this 'operation' is the wooden stake, described as being; 'filed to a sharp point' this could be a reference to the sharp fang of the vampire, this is one of the many links between Professor Van Helsing and Count Dracula. The Count used his sharp, pointed fangs and drained Lucy's blood, thus, making her undead. Now, Van Helsing with use is sharp, pointed stake to purify her and rid her of this 'disease' that is vampirism.

Another link between the Count and the Professor is the second mention of the 'blue flame' (chapter 1). In chapter 1, it was mentioned that a blue flame on St. George's Day signifies that supernatural beings can cross-over into our world, this is Dracula's flame, ancient, foreign and superstitious. In chapter 16, it is my belief that the appearance of the blue famle in this scene signifies the inhuman and supernatural Lucy's exit from our world, this is Van Helsing's flame which is a modern gas lamp, it is modern and healing.

In order to justify the actions that they are about to take Van Helsing tells Seward, Holmwood and Marris that they have 'blessed hands' and are doing 'God's work'. These sentences have dual meaning. One meaning could be that these four men are genuinely heroic and are trying to save Lucy's soul and restore her purity. However, they could be doing it for themselves and they are using God to make themselves feel better. This could apply to Van Helsing more so than the others as he is the leader and as we see later on in the novel her loves it when women live-up to their stereotypical role of being meek and obeying men, however, it could also be interpreted that Van Helsing is the anti-hero of the chapter as, like the others, he shows signs of not wishing to do this deed either, but as he tells the rest of his men, it must be done.

Chapter 3: Jonothan Harker's journel (extract 2)

Heroes and Monsters

In this extract Harker described a disturbing incidence in which he witnesses the Count crawling out of his window and down the castle walls and he realises he is trapped. The extract begins; 'When he left me I went to my room.'

At the beginning of this extract Harker has been left alone by Count Dracula. Feeling nocturnal Harker gazes out of the window and to his surprise and horror witnesses the Count emerging from his window and crawling down the walls of the castle, heading towards the courtyard below. Here, Harker compares the Count to a 'lizard' and says, about his cloak; 'spreading around him like great wings.' This description makes Dracula seem inhuman and grotesque, typical features of a Gothic monster, there's also the element of deception, Harker asks; 'What is this thing with the semblance of man.' This re-enforced the idea that the Count is a non-human being. But it also shows that he is very deceptive, as he has managed to fool these intelligent, Victorian British men into thinking that he is, thus gaining their trust, they then send Harker to do business with him, who he then traps within his castle, thus, stripping him of his manliness. By trapping him, Dracula has victimized Harker, making him seem effeminate.

By taking the role as jailer, Dracula evokes a feeling of fear and unease, Harker states that; 'This nocturnal existence... It is destroying my nerve. I start at my own shadow.' This shows that this imprisonment is having an effect on our narrator's state of mind, this links to the theme of insanity. A recurring image that shows madness, within this chapter and chapter 1, is the moon. Within this extract the moon is mentioned twice: '...bathed in soft yellow moonlight...yellow moonlight flooding in through the diamond pane.' Like the wolves in chapter 1, the moon seems to be representative of Harker's failing nerves.

Despite being a prisoner in Castle Dracula, in this extract we do see some elements of heroism within Harker's character. For example, he seems to be strong-willed and determined in spite of his captivity; 'I knew he had left the castle and thought to take the opertunity to explore.' This quote shows that despite having just described and disturbed the reader with his depiction of the in-human Count, he is still determined to break-put of his prison, a characteristic of a Gothic hero.

We also see his determination to cling-on to his sanity; 'sitting at the little oak table... writing in my diary.' For Harker, his diary is his only comfort and possibly his saviour, as it keeps his mind active, thus, keeping him sane. We also see him trying to comfort himself with thoughts of Mina, these thoughts also show him to be a typical romantic hero; '... possibly some fair lady sat to pen... many blushes, her ill-spent love letter.' I believe that this is possibly a reference to Mina, if she were writing him a love letter it would be 'ill spent' as he is imprisoned and unable to receive it.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chapter 1- Jonathan Harker's journal (extract 1)

Setting and Atmosphere
The chapter starts-off with Jonathan Harker giving a detailed description of his journey through Romania on his way to Transylvania and, eventually, to Castle Dracula. The extract beings; 'Soon we were hemmed in with trees...'

The language used by Harker throughout the chapter is factual and scientific this style is used to justify the supernaturalism of the chapter.

The opening paragraph personifies the woods around Harker this brings a typical Gothic setting to life. The opening sentence '...hemmed in with trees...' presents the recurring theme of entrapment. The statement itself is anthropomorphic, making the trees seem uncanny, this links to the idea of things not being quite dead, but undead.

The theme of entrapment is further enforced when Harker mentions the barking of dogs becoming fainter and the 'baying of wolves' sounding 'nearer and nearer'. This indicates that Harker is leaving a place of safety and walking into the jaws of danger.

The wolves are used throughout the extract for numerous reasons. One is that they represent superstition which links to the theme of the foreign, earlier on in the chapter when Jonathan is offered by a local gypsy lady a rosary for protection he turns his nose up believing it to be superstitious nonsense and himself to be good 'English Churchman'. Within this extract the theme of the foreign presents itself. Pathetic fallacy is used to show a foreign lad, for example the closer that Harker gets to the castle the colder the weather becomes, showing that he is moving further and further away from safety. The darkness of the woods (a typical Gothic setting) is also representative of the foreign as entering darkness shows that someone is entering the unknown and the foreign is unknown.

He then goes on to talk about the appearance of 'a faint flickering blue flame', the flame is also used to show the superstition of Romania. The locals believe that the appearance of a blue flame on St. George's night means that the dead can pass into the mortal world. The flame's colour is also highly uncanny. Blue is a very cold colour whereas fire is warming and comforting, in this chapter the flame provides no comfort for Harker.

It is at this point that the reader questions the reliability of the narrator. Harker does not know whether or not he is asleep and imagining or awake and experiencing. This shows that he cannot properly distinguish reality therefore neither can the reader.

Throughout the chapter, we have this constant mention of 'circle' and 'ring'. In the Pagan religion, the circle is used to protect those inside but here we see that it is being used to remind the reader of the entrapment theme, the circle of wolves is trapping Harker.

It is at this point that the wolves move-in closer. Harker says that ; 'the wolves began to howl as though the moonlight had had some peculiar effect on them' This is representative again of superstition that the moon is causing the wolves to do bizzar and strange things, this stereotypical Gothic element is used here to scare both character and reader.

Then the calech ascends on Castle Dracula which is described as being; 'a vast ruined castle... tall black windows... broken battlements showed a jagged line...' this description makes this typical Gothic setting seem forbidding and frightening and gives the scene an air of danger and unease, this is again, representative of the foreign, as this description shows that the castle is very ancient in comparison to modern Victorian Britain.