Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: The Dracula Theory

Into the wee hours of last night and into this morning, a young Facebook friend and I started a thread on my page. The status update was quite silly: "Happy International Jugglers' Day" it said. Andy left a response saying the only thing he was good at juggling were ideas. From there, the conversation shifted to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The book, btw, is available FREE on my Pinterest Board. Follow me while you're there.



In any case, here's the Facebook thread (leaving out the unnecessary beginnings and in between shenanigans) with Andy's review, from a Christian's world view, of Dracula with a few comments from fellow author Mary Findley at the end.

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Andy Poole: He's EVIL and no vampire since has ever surpassed his literary power of persona. But even he couldn't topple the power of the cross or sever the bond between Mina and Jonathan!


Debby de Quilettes-Alten: Okay, backtrack a little. Expound on why you like this book.

Andy Poole: Oh wow. It's my second favorite below LOTR. I love the Gothic atmosphere in this book, and it's set in England (land of my ancestors) and Transylvania (I love, love, love Eastern European history!!!). The love story between Mina and Jonathan Harker, unshaken by the colossal evil set against them, is so beautiful! The characters are so well-written and believable, and the narrative itself is through their different POVs via diary entries, letters, phonograph transcripts, telegrams, and newspaper articles. There is also the ominous threat by an ancient demon, there's clear good vs. evil, and there are Christian themes.

Debby de Quilettes-Alten: What are the Christian themes?

Andy Poole: Well, as a Protestant, some of them aren't very applicable to me since Bram Stoker writes from a clearly Catholic point-of-view. Characters can drive the evil back with a crucifix, which I personally think is silly since I've seen churches hit by demonic attack from within. But Dracula is more than just undead, if I remember a quote right--he's an ancient demon that's been at work for centuries--a different take on vampires in my experience. Probably the most blatant Christian theme I've seen in Stoker's writing was actually his short story "The Judge's House" in which the hero throws a book at a ghost in the form of a rat, which runs away in horror. Then the hero realizes that the book was a Bible.

Debby de Quilettes-Alten: Ah, very interesting. Okay, haven't read the book. How does it compare to the movie. I think Gary Oldman was in it?

Andy Poole: Oh man, I couldn't even finish the full version of the Francis Ford Coppola film (starring Gary Oldman, as you said, and Anthony Hopkins , Cary Ewles, and Keenau Reeves) because of the content. I watched it edited on TV and it was better but I still felt gritty. That was the closest to the original story but it also had serious departures, morally and in theme. For me, the romance plot was ruined. It went from the faithful, unshaken sacrificial love of Jonathan and Mina to Mina falling for Dracula's advances. Then in the last scene Johnathan allows Mina to go and spend time with Dracula as he's writhing in his death throes. Are you kidding me?

What it got right--Arthur's trip to Dracula's Castle, Dracula's crossing to England on a Russian ship, Lucy's vampirism and staking at her tomb, part of the asylum subplot, and that the heroes fought gypsies in Transylvania in their pursuit of Dracula after his departure from England.

I have yet to see any film that faithfully captures the book. The Christopher Lee/ Peter Cushing "Horror of Dracula" is my favorite so far, though it is a major plot departure.

BTW, when I was debating someone else about whether Christian horror is Christian, I said the following bit about the novel.


"Dracula was not the object of a glorified teenage date, but portrayed as a demonic creature at war with humanity. Mr. Renfield, one of Dracula's servants, hungers to consume life, but winds up losing his sanity, is housed in an insane asylum, and Dracula kills him in a very inglorious way when he offers information to the heroes on Dracula. Mr. Renfield's lust for immortality and pact with Dracula did not pay off--instead of becoming an immortal, he's leveled prostrate on the floor of a loony bin. The heroes stood against Dracula at great risk to themselves and defeated him, one character even giving his life in the final battle to allow it to happen. One of the most powerful things I take away from that novel is the beautiful love story of Jonathan and Mina Harker and their unshakeable bond that holds through the stress of their ordeal. I really fail to see how all of this glorifies evil; rather, I see it as ever bit of a depiction of the battle between good and evil."

Mary Campagna Findley: I missed this whole *splutter* thing. But Andy said it excellently well. Judge's House, a version of Dracula for us non-Catholics, and we're all set. And I loved what John Silver said in Treasure Island when the pirates gave him the Black Spot. "Who's been cutting a Bible?"

Andy Poole: I wouldn't say "The Judge's House" is a non-Catholic Dracula. It didn't end with any hope like Dracula did. So far, it's the most depressing of Stoker's work I've read.

Mary Campagna Findley: No, I meant the Judge's House was good for what it was, mentioning the power of the Word of God. What we need is a non-Catholic Dracula with substance over symbolism.

Andy Poole: If I ever write a story with actual vampires I've thought of a scene where one would laugh at the showing of the cross, saying "Do you think a mere trinket can ward me off?" I accepted it as a plot element, but really mere metals have no spiritual impact, it is by the power of God alone that demons are driven out.

I don't really remember there being Catholicism in "Dracula's Guest," though that is thought to have been the original first chapter of the novel. That story was visually RICH...

Mary Campagna Findley: Have to look that one up ... Your idea of vampires scoffing at crosses is not original. In our materialistic age it's been done. We need to emphasize the reality of spiritual power.

Andy Poole: Ja.

Debby de Quilettes-Alten: Yeah, I think these high school vampires like on Vampires Dairies don't need the cross anymore. Heck, they've got these vamps walking around in daylight.

Mary Campagna Findley: There was a lot of symbolism in Dracula that could be used for real spiritual meaning, just as Jesus spoke in parables. The cross, the water, etc. all stand for the power of God, His Word, Christ, the Holy Spirit. It's worth a thoughtful-Christ-minded read. The ability of sin, like that of the maid stealing the cross from Mina's friend's body, to pollute the efforts of righteousness. Never-say-die courage. Reliance on age, experience and wisdom. It goes on and on.

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Debby A.

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