DAVID SAUNDERSON continues counting down the days until his Transylvanian holiday by reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. Today, he discusses Chapter 11!
Films based on Dracula tend to merged characters from the book, the most famous case being the characters of Jonathon Harker and Renfield in Dracula (1931). In that film, based on the Hamilton Deane stage play, Renfield takes the place of Jonathon going to Transylvania and on his return starts eating bugs. It was an effective way of getting rid of the Harker character and still retaining the cool bits of the book.
Having said all that, now that I am good way into the book, I am longing for a film version that is true to the original text. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a good contender for that but it still falls short.
Why I am talking about this for Chapter 11 is because Lucy Westenra’s mother is floating around doing nothing much in the book until she balls up Van Helsing’s plans by inadvertently removing the garlic and opening windows in Lucy’s sick room because she thinks she is helping. In the Hammer version in 1958, it was Gerda the servant who does this balling up, which was equally annoying but not in the book. With each chapter I read, I think I am becoming a Dracula purist.
Also worth noting from this section is Bram Stoker’s love of reproducing local dialect – he writes the way the character would speak. This makes it very hard to read though. The case from this chapter is from the Pall Mall Gazette report: THE ESCAPED WOLF – PERILOUS ADVENTURE OF OUR INTERVIEWER – INTERVIEW WITH THE KEEPER IN THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS. The reporter interviews the old zoo keeper Thomas Bilder about how a large wolf escaped from its cage, only to return the next day with its head covered in glass. It is a long drawn out article and I had to read and re-read it over again because the cockney-type dialogue. All its missing Hs etc was very ‘ard to read.
The chapter itself builds up with a crescendo. The later part of the chapter sees Renfield more mad than normal, attacking Dr Seward and licking up his blood; Van Helsing telegrams Carfax telling Seward not to leave Lucy alone tonight and Lucy leaves a long drawn-out letter telling of her horrible night. A wolf had smashed through her window, giving her mother a fatal heart attack. The wolf disappears and the staff run in. Lucy tells them to calm down and go have a drink. For some reason, the sherry appears to have been spiked with laudanum and puts the staff to sleep. So the chapter ends with Lucy alone in her house with her mother dead and her staff asleep. Oh yeah and for a second time through the action of the wolf attack, Lucy lose her garlic protection. The chapter ends on a real bonafide cliffhanger! (It was also quite clever the wolf escape article came before the attack – a la Quentin Tarantino!)
What I’ve learned from this chapter: Dracula has a power over animals. The wolf attack is the best example of how Dracula can have other creatures do his bidding. Also Dracula is a lot more sordid and nasty than the films every portray.
Favourite Quote: Lucy leaves a “memorandum” indicating that she knows she is in mortal danger. It ends with: “Goodbye, dear Arthur, if I should not survive this night. God keep you, dear, and God help me!”
DAVID SAUNDERSON is the founder and managing editor of The Spooky Isles. In the daylight hours, he works in marketing. By night, he organises ghoulish and frightful ghost tours and events with Spooky London.