Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We ask none to believe us! - the last page of Dracula

That last page of Dracula.  A little epilogue by Jonathan Harker. Four paragraphs.

I was joking, kind of, about the novel as a polyamorist tract. But the first new piece of information we get is that Harker and Mina have a son "whose bundle of names links all our little band together."  Huh.  So he's everyone's son.  Somehow.

The next paragraph brings back the travel-writing theme, which I haven't mentioned before.  Transylvania is once again safe for Baedeker.  "Every trace of all that had been was blotted out." 

Well, almost every trace.  Because the third and longest paragraph is all about - I can hardly believe it - the paperwork, the "mass of material," "nothing but a mass of typewriting."  Harker worries that there is "hardly one authentic document," no proof of anything.

But sweet old Uncle Van Helsing ends the book with this:

"We want no proofs. We ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care. Later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake."

This is where Stoker wants us to stop - back with strong Mina and her courtly knights.  Mina's story is important for the future.  The whole business with the supernatural monster is important only as a part of that story.  Is this a clue to the book's meaning?

Last pages can be dangerous.  To the reader pursuing the transgressive Dracula, the epilogue might look like a travesty, maybe a deliberate travesty, a mockery of the real meaning of the book.  The subconscious sexual predator in us all, or the fear of the unknown, or whatever it is that makes the novel psychologically effective.  Or does Stoker mean it all - the enemy is, or can be, crushed, after which we're all safe and happy.

I have no idea. It's a strange book, not strange in the way I had expected (uncanny weirdness), but slippery, hard to interpret. The ending is just one more puzzle. I'm more comfortable with the straightforward ambiguty of the ending of Frankenstein, which is a culmination of the meaning of the book, not a reversal:

He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.


  1. Neither DRACULA nor FRANKENSTEIN as novels end in ways that most readers (and especially movie viewers) expect. Your intriguing encounter with DRACULA convinces me that my rereading of Stoker's novel is long overdue. So, with my gratitude extended, I adjourn now to the easy chair with DRACULA in my hands. Now, imagine Bela Lugosi saying (on my behalf), "Good evening."

  2. Glad to be of service.

    The only Dracula movie I've ever scene, I think, is Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre which is only barely related to Stoker. It occasionally gestures towards Stoker.

  3. There are so many (from my perspective) bittersweet and vaguely unsatisfying endings involving the next generation in Victorian novels. There's the end of Great Expectations, where Pip drops in at Joe and Biddy's to fondle baby Pip since he doesn't have his own happy home; and the end of Wuthering Heights, where Lockwood claims that Catherine & Heathcliff's spirits are finally at rest, now that their kids are engaged (I find this so unconvincing! What does Lockwood know about it?). There's the end of Jane Eyre, where the appearance of the fruit of his loins is supposed to bring Rochester's power of sight back. It seems like Dracula is one more to add to the pile. Interesting that there should be this desire to believe that a new generation makes everything alright, and simultaneously a kind of bittersweet, not-quite-believing quality about that belief.

  4. As you know, I found the book unsettling and unsatisfying as a whole. But you have certainly convinced me I need to reread it with more of a humorist's eye, for it is mostly ridiculous.

    I do think it has a suggested polyamorist message, though, you don't have to joke about that.

  5. One quibble, Emily - Lockwood is an idiot, deliberately unconvincing. But he has intuited something true, that the younger Cathy and Hareton are merely normally unpleasant people. The elves and ogres have returned to their own world.

    And, again, I'm not sure that Dracula's ending is not mocking normality rather than embracing it.

    Come to think of it, I have a different theory about Rochester's sight as well, but that will have to wait for a re-read of Jane Eyre

    Rebecca, you're right, parts of the book are unsettling. But how seriously should we take those parts? Is the author just playing around with the idea of polyamory, shocking the bourgeoisie, or does he mean something by it? I found it so hard to tell.