Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Close Reading Questions for Dracula, Chs.IV - X, pp.83-134

(at left: Turner's The Slave Ship (1840), which we discussed in class; a vision of the Demeter's last days at sea?)

1. How does Lucy Westenra’s illness compare to Laura’s in Carmilla? How does she record her descent into vampirism, and what images or symbols document this journey? You might particularly consider the dream she relates to Mina in Chapter VIII.

2. Why might Stoker introduce the character of Renfield and Dr. Seward’s copious notes on Renfield’s behavior and condition? Though a literal character, how might he reinforce ideas of the “uncanny” and the Gothic?

3. In Chapter VIII, Mina mocks the so-called “New Women” of late 19th century society, writing, “Some of the “New Women” writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the New Woman won’t condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself” (Bedford, 109). From these early chapters, what kind of woman does Mina strike you as? On the scale of traditional Gothic heroine (aka Walpole’s heroines) to the “New Woman” where does she fall? Is she contrasted with Lucy Westenra, or are they both conservative women waiting to be rescued by the virile men in the novel?

4. Stoker (or Mina, if we take the narrative literally) often includes bits of tangential information from outside sources, such as the Letter from Samuel F. Billington & Son (Chapter VIII), and the Log of the ill-fated ship, the “Demeter” (Chapter VII). Why do you think he wants us to see these narrative tidbits? While many modern readers might skim over them (especially the shipping receipts!), why should the English scholar take careful notice of them?

1 comment:

  1. 3. Mina seems like the kind of woman who can and will stand up for herself. She takes care of both Lucy and Lucy’s mother all she can, all the while still worrying about Jonathan. She is very heroic, yet not in the traditional way of a heroine as seen by Walpole, and yet not so far gone as the “New Woman.” She lands somewhere in the middle, sturdy, yet not manly, feminine, yet not in the slightest weak. She is somewhat, it would appear, contrasted with Lucy. Lucy is weaker and more of the traditional woman; she needs to be taken care of. Lucy needs to be rescued by, yes, the virile men in her life whereas Mina will be fine on her own.

    4. The idea that these, miniscule though they may be, bits of information are unneeded is to say that Stoker did not know how to write. These bits give us the ideas and thoughts of everyone in Dracula’s path, not merely the main characters. These pieces show, for example, that most people had the same reactions, even though they were unaware as to what they were reacting to. They show the lives of the characters and allow us a more intimate look into their dealings. This not only tells Dracula’s route, but also makes the characters and their lives more real to us as the reader. In this way we can delve deeper into the story so that we will not only be able to know about Dracula, Mina and Jonathan: we will be able to see them right before us.