Reading in Progress: Dracula (Norton Critical Edition)

Dracula - Bram Stoker

I've been having a lot of fun reading this and had started thinking that I'd previously been too harsh on the book. Why didn't I like this more back in college when it was assigned reading? There are great scenes of spooky forests, a foreboding castle, a seaside town with a crumbling graveyard, and a ship with a dead man at the wheel - and then... Oh right.That.

 

As the character of Lucy became more involved in the story, by page 90ish I definitely remembered. Poor, poor Lucy, always so pale and ill and wasting away, yet never telling anyone what she's all nervous and dithery over. And always trying to escape her bedroom and sleepwalk. But she can't help it, poor thing, she has no will of her own and is like a butterfly fluttering about helplessly in a web. Meanwhile Mina is left to chase after her, and worry, and care for her in a way that seems very much like taking care of a small child that hasn't figured out it can hurt itself doing dangerous things. I'm also now remembering the happy Scooby gang of Men Who Love Lucy who band together to fight the evil - but I haven't read that far yet.

 

I will eventually also eyeroll more (it's too silly to really rant over) about the American/Texan/cowboy character of Quincy Morris. It's actually funny to read various European authors' descriptions of Americans in Victorian literature. The footnotes feel that Stoker had very positive feelings towards Americans - which I don't doubt. Doesn't make the "all Americans are cowboys" thing any less goofy. (I was asked about my cowboyish roots by non Americans back in the 80s, when they heard I lived in Texas - so that idea is apparently still around. Or maybe just about Texans? It is goofy with its state-attitude, I admit.)

 

Randomly there are a lot of references to poetry and literature (Shakespeare, Coleridge, Walter Scott, The Odyssey, the bible, etc.) in Dracula, that I didn't make a note of before. Again, this is why footnotes are fun.

 

Also thanks to the footnotes, on my list of Things We Think Are Old Vampire Legends But Were Really Made Canon/Popularized By Stoker (or so the footnotes tell me, though I remember many of these in an essay somewhere):

 

1) Garlic as a ward primarily against vampires. (Previously used more with werewolves, etc. in folklore) (p 33)

2) Vampires drink blood via two punctures in the neck. (Previous vampires would go for the breast area. Non neck examples: Coleridge, Le Fanu) (p 89)

3) Vampires using the form of/associating with bats. (p 90) (It's kind of odd that everyone got stuck on bats when Drac can turn into multiple things.)

 

We'll see how much more I can add to that list later...