Dracula’s Dust

draculaYesterday I finished my reread of Dracula. Just to reiterate:

  1. This time I approached it as 19th-century invasion literature.
  2. I’m reading it as research for an upcoming poem and an in-progress rpg.
  3. I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by Stoker’s writing.

If you’re curious about any of those points, please see the earlier posts on the subject.

Pretty much all that’s left to be said on the subject is that the chase of the Count is one of the more exciting parts of the book. But it still ain’t that exciting. At least, not enough to keep a few nagging questions from popping up even during the action:

  • How could Van Helsing expect the Host (Catholic wafer) to bar the Count forever from his grave? Couldn’t someone just remove it for him? Wouldn’t it decay over time anyway? Actually, this whole “he has to sleep in holy earth, but not too holy” rationale seems a bit thin.
  • Why did Jonathan and Quincy push through the armed gypsy’s instead of ordering them away with their rifles? (Answer: Because Stoker felt it necessary to have at least one of his heroes die, for veracity’s sake, and this way Quincy—a veteran of numerous other combats, mind you—could get knifed and die in Mina’s arms. *Ptooey!*)
  • How did Jonathan manage to lift by himself the “big square box” containing the Count (a box of the sort the novel has repeatedly described as too heavy for any but the Count to lift alone) and throw it off the wagon?

Add in the timing: The sun sets just as Harker and a bleeding Quincy wrench open the box (Godalming and Seward idly watching, apparently, even if you assume that Van Helsing and Mina are farther away), leaving Dracula to open his eyes in triumph just as Harker’s kukri severs his head and Quincy’s Bowie knife punctures his heart.

It’s a staged ending, to be sure, capped by the last rays of the sun shining through the now empty castle high above.

One more question in general: How is it that Dracula, who is apparently centuries old, has only recently decided to leave his barren home for richer lands? Stoker himself seems to be confused about this, sometimes claiming that in former times there were many vampires spawned by him, and then having Van Helsing go on at length about how the Count’s “child brain” has not yet developed to match their adult brains, which is why they have any chance of thwarting him at all.

I’ve said it before, but let me summarize it here: Dracula is a flawed novel, written by a relatively untalented one-hit-wonder. But don’t take my word for it: Read it yourself!

—Lester Smith