Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Close Reading Questions for Dracula, Chs.IV - X, pp.83-134
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?