Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dracula, Part 3

'...Oh, but I am grateful to you, you so clever woman. Madam'he said this very solemnly'if ever Abraham Van Helsing can do anything for you or yours, I trust you will let me know. It will be pleasure and delight if I may serve you as a friend...all I have ever learned, all I can ever do, shall be for you and those you love. There are darknesses in life, and there are lights; you are one of the lights. You will have happy life and good life, and your husband will be blessed in you.'

In the last installment concerning this topic (previous posts on Dracula can be read here: Part 1 and Part 2), I expressed my doubts that Bram Stoker was making any sort of point about female sexuality in his classic horror novel.

Of all the commentary presented in the edition of Dracula I recently read, the material I can most readily accept as being part of Stoker's intentional vision for the material is the inclusion of possible jabs concerning the tensions between Ireland and England. As a writer, I have included names or versions of events that are jokes or jabs or homages, and it's kinda fun when a reader recognizes them, too, and tells me so.

But over-analyzing the work of a long-dead author can lead us in directions he or she never intended. And he or she, being dead, cannot correct our errors.

I find it interesting that, with all the history and scholarship revealed in the commentary, no mention was made to the Biblical allusion in the above dialogue from Van Helsing, which also later includes this:
'Your husband is noble nature, and you are noble too, for you trust, and trust cannot be where there is mean nature.'
The Biblical reference that came to mind when I read this passage is found in Proverbs 31, verses 28 and 29:
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Funny. Among all the other bits of trivia, historical references, suggestions of repressed sexuality, that didn't make it into the notes at the back of the book.

The volume's commentary was prepared by Joseph Valente, a professor who has studied and written about Stoker. That means his word is gospel, right?


Euripides, a Greek playwright from way back, said this: "Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing." So, I'm questioning.

Valente also asserts that, since Dracula casts no reflection in a mirror, he doesn't really exist.

The notion of the immortal count being only a projection of one's inhibitions or subconscious desires doesn't stand. After all, Stoker writes that Dracula has been around for centuries before the novel's characters meet him, and he has been served by the gypsies for generations. Sounds pretty corporeal to me.

Valente states in the notes, "The manner of Dracula's death tends to confirm his status as a psychic emanation rather than an autonomous being."

Uh, you sure about that? He crumbles into dust. As in "from dust we were made, to dust we shall return." Again, sounds pretty corporeal to me.

There is also an argument made that blood in the novel can be seen as a metaphor for racism i.e. "bad blood" that is undesirable for mixing with one of pure blood. That, and the fact that Dracula is proud of his varied and warrior heritage. I can sorta see that idea (refer to my above remark about the conflict between Irish and English, that is referenced subtly in the book), but it has the look of reaching about it; as if, once again, more is being read into Stoker's words than he may have intended.

to be continued


Anonymous said...

I tried to leave a comment earlier today, but Wordpress was down.

Anyway, I agree with you that Dracula was no metaphor or dream. I dislike critics who over-analyze authors and project their own agenda over the writer's. I've read a book that treated CS Lewis that way, and I didn't like it at all!

Excellent series!

Keanan Brand said...

(doffing my cap) Many thanks.

It seems like "serious scholars" have tried to explain away an already fictional character, so that any power he had in the original story is diminished or buried under mountains of various "studies", histories, comparisons of literature or themes, et cetera.

Betcha the same folks who can't leave Dracula alone to be big, bad, and scary are the same types who have to explain away God. If they can't leave a fictional monster alone, they surely aren't going to pass up the Deity.