Points to Ponder
Stoker constructs the narrative of Dracula from a variety of documents: letters, journals, telegrams, newspapers, and so on. There is no central narrator or main character (except, possibly, for Dracula himself). What effect do these features have on the story? Do they make it more or less believable? More or less exciting? Is it harder to follow the plot because of all of the switching between narrators? Why might Stoker have chosen this structure for an action/adventure story?
Dracula demonstrates an ambivalent attitude toward women. On the one hand, women, represented by Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra, are pure and virtuous, and must be protected from harm. On the other hand, women's sexuality, illustrated by the female vampires in Castle Dracula and by the vampire-Lucy, is seen as threatening, though strangely attractive. Most of Dracula's victims are women - Lucy, Mina, even the nameless woman at Castle Dracula, and the men in the novel are unable to protect them (although Mina is eventually saved, largely through her own actions). Why are women so problematic for Stoker? What fears about women and their sexuality go unsaid in the novel? Van Helsing means it as a compliment when he asserts that Mina has a "man's brain," but how would Stoker's readers have understood this statement? A hundred years later, how have assumptions about men's and women's minds changed? In what ways have they stayed the same?
Two of the novel's heroes, Seward and Van Helsing, are scientists. Each is confident of his ability to solve problems rationally, but neither one is able to save Lucy from Dracula, and Mina is nearly made a vampire as well. The group uses deductive logic and new (at that time) technologies (telegrams, voice recording, steam-powered ships) to hunt down Dracula. At the same time, they use garlic, holy water, and wooden stakes to fight their enemy. How do we explain this apparent contradiction? Does the novel ulimately put its faith in science or in superstition? Dracula himself is shown to be a masterful planner and strategic thinker; does his defeat represent the success or the failure of reason?
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Chapter 5 and 6
Chapter 9 and 10
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 24 and 25