Headscratchers / Dracula

Dracula during the day, or not
After Dracula arrives in England, he is sometimes seen during the day, which makes sense given that sunlight only weakens him and doesn't hurt him very badly. However, earlier in the novel, Jonathan had never seen Dracula by day (except later in one of his boxes), which was one of the oddities that aroused his suspicion in the first place. If Dracula had the ability to be out and about by day, why did he never take advantage of that ability when Jonathan first visited his castle?
  • He's gotta sleep sometime. He had a lot more to do once he came to England and began putting his plan into motion, so he got less rest.
  • Castle Dracula is also pretty big, and Jonathan notes that there are a lot of rooms he's prevented from entering. Could be Dracula is also just doing his thing in parts of the castle where Jonathan currently isn't and then seeks him out when he needs / wants Jonathan's services or company.
  • One critic speculates that his coffin has some power over him as well, restraining him from leaving outside of set times.

After all efforts to prevent Lucy being killed by Dracula have failed, van Helsing, who knew what was coming next, allows her to be buried, knowing she would rise again as a vampire, kill other people (children, in fact), and give the vampire hunters an extra - and dangerous - complication: in that they'd have to divert attention from the search for Dracula in order to hunt her down. Wouldn't it have been ethically, morally and practically better to have staked her right there, before she rose again as a vampire?
Although van Helsing knows how to fight vampires, it's not revealed if he has ever actually fought against one before the novel. Perhaps he doubted whether it was true that she would rise, and was unwilling to go to the extreme of staking her if he wasn't absolutely sure. Also, it would have been rather difficult to convince anyone else in the house that staking and beheading her was necessary at that point. If van Helsing had insisted on it they might have simply called him deranged and sent him off to Dr. Seward's care.
  • I second the problem in convincing everyone else. It's a gamble, but letting them actually see Lucy turn into a monstrosity would dispel any doubts about the necessity of their course of action.
  • Van Helsing does plan to do this in the original novel before Lucy is buried; he freaks Dr. Seward when he asks him to bring a set of autopsy knives one night and help him cut off her head, remove her heart, and stuff her mouth with garlic. In the meantime, for no clearly explained reason, he places a crucifix on the body. Later, he finds out a maid stole the (golden) crucifix and subsequently tells Dr. Seward there's no point in doing what he was planning now. So, yes, it would have made more sense to stake Lucy before she was buried and had time to rise and hunt, and Van Helsing planned to do this, but, for some reason that's not clearly explained, he can't. After she rises, he also explains that he doesn't want to stake her without Arthur seeing what she's become, or he'll spend the rest of his life thinking his fiancée either had her body desecrated or, worse, was Buried Alive and then killed later.
  • Note that in the novel, no children are actually killed, just bitten once, and they all get better.

OK, in the novel it's implied that Renfield ONLY eats his prey alive.
It's also implied that he doesn't eat them right away but saves them for later. I can see how this would work for sparrows, and maybe spiders. But how does he preserve the flies?
  • Well, he was catching them using sugar.
    • That doesn't answer my question. I know how he was catching them but how was he preserving them? its implied that he saves them for later but he couldn't keep them for more than 24 hours without them dying.
    • Why can't he? As long as they're still hanging about his cell, there will be more and more flies and thus lives. They needn't be the same flies.
  • As I remember it he was feeding the flies to the spiders so as to concentrate the life essence.

I'm confused about the effect sunlight has on vampires' shapeshifting abilities.
When Van Helsing explains that vampires can't change their form when the sun is up, does he mean that the sun causes Shapeshifter Mode Lock, trapping the vampire in whatever form they were in at the time, or that the sun triggers Shapeshifter Default Form, returning the vampire to human form?
  • It's more like the latter. During the day, Dracula is just like any human, except if I remember correctly he keeps his Super Strength. However he can't change his form at all during the day.
    • Van Helsing actually points out he can change at three times during the day; Dawn, High Noon (during which point his powers increase beyond even his night time capacity) and Dusk. Once the sun is fully down however, he can change at will.

The fact that the novel is composed almost entirely of journal entries, while awesome in its own right, seems to stretch the suspension of disbelief a little TOO much sometimes.

First, how are these people able to recall entire conversations verbatim, regardless of whether or not the conversations took place just before they started writing the entry? Human recollection can't be THAT accurate...

Second, it's an automatic spoiler, in that when the characters are embarking on something dangerous or terrifying, you know at least whoever is writing the current entry made it out alive and with their mental faculties intact enough to write a journal entry.
  • We can still be surprised in other ways. For example, we knew the first time we read it that Mina Harker survived but not that Quincey Morris didn't. Actually, we only know that the person survived the events chronicled in the entry we're currently reading; until it's the last entry, we never know which entry up ahead will tell us of someone else's death besides that author.
  • also, 1st person narrative is fairly common, and this form allows the viewpoint to shift between characters as opposed to just one POV throughout.

Third, what's with the written stuttering? One character chokes up at the end of one of the entries, but s-stuttering t-typically isn't s-something you *write* down. And there's a part where Mina hesitates, triple-dots and all, to write the word "Vampire". When a person hesitates to write something, they stop their hand for a moment; they don't express the hesitation in the actual writing. I can't help but be reminded of the Monty Python line "Well, if he was dying, he wouldn't have bothered to write 'aaaAAAuuUGH', he'd just say it!"
  • But what we're reading aren't the original handwritten entries, as Jonathan laments at the end; they're Mina's typewritten transcripts. While typing the part where she remembered how she hesitated to write the word "vampire," she could have added ellipses to capture the effect. Also, Dr. Seward recorded his spoken diary on a phonograph, complete with pauses and stutterings that Mina had to translate into print somehow. She had to (well, she at least wanted to) express the act of hesitation within the limits of the print medium. If I were writing about a conversation I had with someone and remembered them or myself stuttering, I would indicate so in my writing, too.
  • Creative nonfiction can explain the dramatic use of ellipses. And from reading first hand accounts from the Edwardian era, people back then really did write like that. If someone talked funny, they damn well wanted to record it for future embarrassment. Also, ellipses were used as a writing trope in journals to pass over unmentionable things. In many WWI narratives, ellipses are used to pass over sources of intense trauma.
    • Also, in my personal diary, I do use ellipses from time to time to convey that I'm hesitant or uncertain about something. When I reread my diary in the future, I want my future self to remember that uncertainty. Would Mina have done the same thing? Maybe not. But it's not impossible.
  • Have fun imagining Mina transcribing the account of her husband's seduction by female vampires from shorthand.

  • For what it's worth, Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape kind of plays with the questions raised by the OP; Dracula himself often notes at times that he suspects that a bit of Unreliable Narrator was at work to make various parties sound better than they were, and it's revealed that several of the entries were concocted by Dracula and the entry-writer (who, unknown to the others, he'd won over to sympathise with him) to throw the others off the scent, and some of the more dramatic flourishes were thrown in because neither was exactly a master storyteller; the others were just too blinkered to notice. In either case, the entries are unrealistically detailed because the writer was at times essentially making shit up.

Which year this novel is set in? And what are exactly the boxes in Dracula's house?
  • The boxes are the easiest question to answer. They are boxes of earth as Dracula must sleep in the soil of his homeland/original grave/consecrated earth. The year is a bit trickier as the dates and information can be VERY contradictory. Popular speculation suggests either 1890, 1893, or 1888. the first for the simple reason that the afterword of the novel states "seven years later". Implying that the events happened around seven years before. The second is gathered from at least two different instances of the novel. One in which a date is given as a Tuesday and another where Van Helsing laments the death of a fellow physican named Charcot who died in that year. The last one is often an attempt at working with the first one and linking the events of the novel of that of the Whitechapel murders.
    • Based on Alan Moore, the events happened about a year ago (i.e, 1897).
    • Various scholars (notably Leonard Wolf and Elizabeth Miller) have looked at this problem, even checking dates against the phases of the moon mentioned in the book, and no answer emerges as entirely satisfying. One may speculate that this wasn't something Stoker cared that much about, and in Victorian literature it's not unusual for works to lack such specifics.
  • A study of the dates given would suggest that the book takes place in 1893. It's impossible to check the dates based on the phases of the moon mentioned in Dracula as Stoker's moon is always full for dramatic purposes.

Okay, so I get that vampires can be killed by cold iron, and that's why Dracula could die from being stabbed with a knife. But if it was that easy, why didn't they just stab Lucy, rather than go through the stake-and-decapitation shtick?
  • Maybe the stake was all they had? Van Helsing wanted Arthur to be the one to do it so using a stake could have been easier for him. All he had to do was bring the hammer down on the stake, when it was above her heart. Stabbing her with a knife might have been more difficult for him to do. Plus it is sometimes suggested that Van Helsing only knew the theory of vampires and had never actually killed one before. Using a knife could have worked but perhaps the books only said to use a stake?

What happened to all that gold Jonathan Harker took with him from Dracula's castle?
  • Dracula has a fair quantity of gold in his castle and when Jonathan Harker makes his escape, he pockets some of the gold to take with him. Later on, when Mina is contacted by a hospital where Jonathan is recovering, it is mentioned he doesn't have sufficient money with him. So what happened to the gold Jonathan took from the castle?
    • He must have used it all up traveling to that point. He had nothing on him but his clothes and his journal when he left the castle — no papers, no tickets, no food, nothing you would need for a long journey. Innkeepers, merchants, and coachmen aren't going to be very trusting of a distraught foreigner with no identification and no plausible explanation for where he came from or why he's so frantic to get home unless a lot of money vouches for him.

Where did the idea of Mina as Dracula's reincarnated wife come from?
  • Playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, I quickly realized that Strahd von Zarovich was an Expy of Count Dracula, so I sort of assumed that the plot element of Tatyana continually being reincarnated was an element taken from the original story. Bear in mind that I had never read or seen other versions of Dracula before. So when the Coppola version came out in 1992, I assumed the fact that Mina looked exactly like Dracula's dead wife was part of the original story, and that that was what TSR drew on for the Tatyana curse for Strahd. Imagine my surprise when I read the novel not long after that and discovered that that wasn't part of the original story. I thought it was weird but then sort of forgot about it until recently, when two other Dracula adaptations, Dracula Untold and Dracula used the same plot development. I thought this was kind of funny, because it seemed as though this idea has fully entered the Dracula canon from a possible plot for the original Ravenloft adventure module back in 1983. Is that right? Was there any earlier origin to this plot development?
    • So far, the earliest version of this story I can find — my research, admittedly, being mainly clicking on links to various adaptations on The Other Wiki — is a 1973 adaptation of the novel starring Jack Palance (also called Bram Stoker's Dracula, funnily enough), which suggests that Lucy Westenra is a reincarnation of Dracula's dead wife. Then there's Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, published in 1975, which involves a Relationship Upgrade between Dracula and Mina as part of the overall Perspective Flip on the original novel. I assume (although, given the earlier note on the depth of my scholarship, I wouldn't exactly stake my life and reputation on it) that it kind of emerged from those two works over time in the way that Word of Dante does.
      • A similar dynamic exists in the earlier television show Dark Shadows, created by Dan Curtis — the director of the 1973 adaptation.
    • It can be noted that an extremely similar dynamic plays out in The Mummy (1932), which is almost a remake of Dracula (1931) in many respects.

On that note, where does this notion of Dracula being "King" of the vampires come from?
We don't even see evidence of any kind of vampire society in the novel.
  • At one point Harker muses on "This was the being I was helping to transfer to London, where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless." Similarly, Seward writes, "He is experimenting, and doing it well; and if it had not been that we have crossed his path he would be yet—he may be yet if we fail—the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road must lead through Death, not Life." So the idea of him creating and ruling over other vampires is in there, even if it's just an idea. But yes, there's little enough evidence in the novel of a large number of vampires existing, though those that do appear (the three "sisters" and Lucy) clearly defer to Dracula.

The trip on the Demeter
In this world, vampires Cannot Cross Running Water. Doesn't this mean they need to be in their coffin to cross natural bodies of water? I gathered, yes, due to all the preparations Dracula needs to make to travel across the sea to England, and for his return trip back to Europe at the end. So, on his first trip to England, how was he able to leave his coffin to feed on the crew of the Demeter while it was still at sea?
  • My personal guess is that crossing an ocean, like sunlight, would weaken but not completely incapacitate Dracula, leaving him not quite at full power but still capable of sneaking around and feeding off the sailors one by one when they're alone and distracted.
  • I always thought oceans and seas do not count as running water because they're to big. When thinking in running water I always thought in rivers. If that wasn't the case then islands like Britain would not have vampires at all.
  • To be precise, Van Helsing says, "It is said, too, that he can only pass running water at the slack or the flood of the tide." Van Helsing is only relating a rumour here, nothing else in the story confirms or denies it, so it could be false. Or maybe it depends on when the ship embarks.

Why would Dracula go all the way across Europe (remember, travel is difficult for vampires, at best) to London, when Vienna and Budapest are so much closer, and he'd fit in better?
  • Because it was the place to be and the place where everything was happening. At the time, London was the centre of the most powerful and influential empire of the day. It was the world's biggest and busiest city, a global centre of trade and finance, a place of art and culture, a place full of new people and new things happening every day. And, of course, on a Doylist level because Bram Stoker lived and worked in Britain, and not in Turkey or Austria.
    • Another factor in his choice—albeit not one stated in the text, as he could hardly admit the motive to his Muggle solicitor—is that the English were much less likely to know how to recognize and kill vampires than were people in Eastern Europe, who were closer to those legends' point of origin.

Why didn't the Demeter crew search INSIDE the boxes in the cargo hold?
  • The crew of the Demeter conducts a search of the entire ship after one of them spotted Dracula. They search every inch of the ship...yet it never occurs to any of them to search inside the boxes of earth. Did it not occur to them that their mysterious stranger might have been hiding in one of those boxes? What is really surprising is that the ship set out from Varna, Bulgaria so some of that crew must have been Slavic natives; you wouldn't expect them to be Genre Blind in beliefs about vampires.
    • Well, no...after all, it's an earth box, a box of dirt; one look will tell you no living person would be hiding in there for any length of time; when the mate finally does start searching them, he mentions that they are screwed up so Dracula might even be shapeshifting to get in and out in the first place. And the captain specifically says that there are only nine people on board—five hands, two mates, the cook and the captain himself—one of whom went missing, so yes it's entirely possible that few or none were Slavic, and even if they were Slavic that doesn't mean they know much about vampires (bear in mind the ones in Transylvania actually live next to one, so their belief is to be expected). And the earth boxes are private property and it would be kind of criminal to search them. And besides all that, if one of the crew did find Dracula, he could always just hypnotise them to forget.

How on Earth do Arthur and Dr. Seward happen to know and be friends with Quincey, an American man, in the first place? Haven't the two of them presumably lived their whole lives in England?
  • Note this letter that Quincey sends to Holmwood: "“We’ve told yarns by the camp-fire in the prairies; and dressed one another’s wounds after trying a landing at the Marquesas; and drunk healths on the shore of Titicaca. There are more yarns to be told, and other wounds to be healed, and another health to be drunk. Won’t you let this be at my camp-fire to-morrow night? I have no hesitation in asking you, as I know a certain lady is engaged to a certain dinner-party, and that you are free. There will only be one other, our old pal at the Korea, Jack Seward..."
  • Far from having lived their whole lives in England, Holmwood and Seward have travelled the world, and Morris with them. Several times I have encountered this odd idea that people in the 19th century did not travel, when in fact, upper class males were expected to do so.
  • And even apart from that, clearly Quincey has travelled to England, so it's not exactly a stretch that he would be the one making friends.

Where do people get off saying this is about destructive female sexuality?
"The story is often interpreted as a metaphor for female sexuality and how a sexually active woman is dangerous to civilized Victorian society." By whom and how? The titular vampire is male. The female vampires are secondary antagonists. The two women in the story are both sexual (Lucy is sexually curious and Mina seems to have a healthy sex life with Jonathan) but are portrayed as virtuous and good. So what up? Sounds like someone was desperate for a term paper subject.
  • Do some actual research. Bram Dijkstra's Idols of Perversity and Christopher Craft's article "Kiss Me With Those Red Lips" are good starting places.
  • I haven't read those texts, but even to start with, though; Lucy's sexual curiosity eventually leads her to become an undead abomination parasitically feeding on children, and the operative words in the Mina example are 'seems to' — it's not like either go into lengthy detail about their sex lives. So the former example is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement or depiction of the "active female sexuality is awesome!" position, and the latter is at best ambiguous, since the standards for what was a healthy sex life for a married couple in late nineteenth century Britain were quite different for what they are today.
  • Also, if we stick with the Lucy example for a moment and look at what happens to her over the story while stripping away anything overtly "vampire-y", this is what we get: she starts off being a good, virtuous girl but allows her (sexual) curiosity towards a mysterious and beguiling stranger to lead her to imprudent actions which in turn ruins her health and cuts her off from decent society forever. The end result for her is becoming a fallen women, a lady of the night, wandering the streets using what remains of her charms and guile to survive by seducing people into her company so that she can get physical with them and they in turn can provide her with that which she needs to sustain her existence — and this, in turn, corrupts their innocence. And this physicality typically involves 'sucking' (nudge-nudge). Does This Remind You Of Anything? Either way, still not exactly a "Yay Active Female Sexuality!" message.
  • Considering how, in the original novel, Van Helsing laughs at someone who interprets blood transfusion as sexual or sexually symbolic, my theory is that Stoker laughed at the "it's symbolic of something related to sex" interpretation (even if his novel didn't exist yet, it's been overly common as long as humans have been writing books). Besides, Lucy, the virgin ingenue, dies; Mina, the New Woman and wife, survives. And neither of them pursues Dracula — he's a predator who hunts them down against their will (he assaults Mina and bites Lucy when she's sleepwalking, and therefore unable to consent). Dracula is not some symbol of assertive sexuality — he's a symbolic rapist and literal sexual assaulter. The women he bites remain locked in his castle for eternity with no freedom, not go on to university or get jobs and live independently and have as many sexual partners as they want. There's nothing "liberating" about Dracula's treatment of his victims. The brides are not independent women who are used to teach "this is an independent woman, and she's evil." Dracula is not portrayed as a just force punishing evil women but a monster whose controlling, forceful behavior towards unwilling victims is unquestionably wrong and evil and must be stopped. If you want a sexual moral from it, it's that rapists are evil and should be hunted down, and women should be free to choose their husband and help men get things done (as the heroes learn after they try to leave Mina out of things for her own safety), not enslaved to the will of another man.

How does Dracula turn people into vampires?
This has always confused me. It seems that when Dracula drank Lucy's blood, she turned into a vampire after a while. But if that is so, how did Harker not become a vampire when the Brides fed on him? Or, for that matter, how did the baby not become a vampire? Is there something else to the process?
  • One thing worth noting is that unlike the other examples, Dracula feeds off Lucy over a prolonged period of time. Presumably vampirism (in this telling at least) is not a one-bite-is-enough deal but is a relatively long process.
    • This might tie into the generally-accepted "you become a vampire if they drain you unto death", and also takes care to account for the fact that a human-sized stomach would have trouble accommodating about 2.5 liters of blood in a single sucking. Especially if you plan on flying off afterwards.
  • Harker never tastes the blood of the three vampires the way Mina does Dracula's; presumably that means that she'll become a vampire upon death. Lucy must have gotten her helping of the same stuff off-page.
  • The brides never got to "bite" Jonathan all the way — Drac pulled the first one who tried off him before they could drain any blood. I always assumed Jonathan felt her lips or even the tips of her fangs touch his throat, but she never got to break the skin or draw any blood. As for the baby, they didn't just drink its blood — I got the impression they tore it to pieces like a wolf eating its prey, that they ate it. My interpretation of how vampirism spreads in Stoker's universe is:
    • Once the vampire bites you and sucks your blood, you slowly become a vampire (the transformation takes a long time, and only 1 bite is necessary).
    • If the vampire that bit you is killed before you fully turn, you become human again.
    • If you die of something else after being bitten, you instantly become a vampire — this is what happened to Lucy (she died from loss of blood because Dracula kept returning to feed on her more, apparently just for his own pleasure).
    • If you drink a vampire's blood, the vampire forms an unwilling mind link with you, allowing him to control and read your mind (but, if you know what you're doing, the link works both ways) — this is what happened to Mina.

What did Drac DO all day for 500 years or so?
Assuming he is Vlad III, he must have been in Romania for about that time. Just... alone in a huge castle with no servants and just three concubines he's losing interest in? How could he even have kept himself fed for all that time, when the neighboring villages demonstrate sufficient knowledge of folklore to take the adequate precautions against him? Even if they didn't, Drac would either have an army of vampires by now, or people would have worked out what was going on and fled town. Neither appears to be the case. What did he do before it occurred to him to spread out to England?
  • He has a large library already before Jonathan Harker comes and so on, if you track the history of those lands and cultures, that he must have spent his time hiding from the Ottomans (who after all conquered his land and nation), and then trying to hide himself from the authorities, and the Ottoman State and others. Maybe Dracula in the first hundred years or so tried to lead La Résistance against the Ottomans but he realized soon that the experience of becoming immortal had removed the human sentiments of Romanian and feudal nationalism, and then like most lazy aristocrats of his time and place, he didn't like the Enlightenment, and nationalism, and the liberal democratizing turn either, so he stocked up on books and so on, becoming a relic and in the course of Dracula, he saw Victorian Britain and its Empire as a new base from which to spread its power, learning the ways of capitalism (hence purchasing property and so on).
  • Hyperlong hibernation? Also is it ever stated that he has to feed to survive? Vampires on Buffy can't starve, after all.