One of the major things that stood out to me while reading Dracula this week was how its epistolary form uses multiple narrators, creating several different lines of thought and perspectives throughout the novel. In one of my other classes, the professor was talking about how one thing a reader should always do is consider the narrator and ask questions about them. Who are they? What is their relationship with other characters? Can you trust them? This last question in particular jumps out at me in relation to Dracula, especially because of the different voices coming at you from different angles all throughout the story. Now, I’m not saying that the characters can’t be trusted. But I think one thing this novel did for me was make me consider the power of being able to manipulate people through words.
This whole idea of verbal manipulation is, of course, a hallmark of the Count. He’s a smooth talker. He can get people to do what he wants. This is especially apparent in the beginning of the novel when Harker is stuck in his castle. But even Van Helsing, though his intentions are good, at times seems to play on the nobility and chivalrous nature of the men to rope them into his schemes. For instance, in the scene when he wants to kill Lucy-the-vampire, he talks about duty and his love for Lucy and all of these things that will pull at the emotions of the men. He doesn’t just leave it at, like, “Yo, Lucy’s a vampire and she’s terrorizing children and that’s a really bad thing, if you didn’t know, so we need to chop her head off and stuff it with garlic, otherwise we’re complicit pieces of human trash.” It’s little moments like this that make you see how words have the power to instigate very drastic events; all it takes is figuring out which specific words will affect the recipient the most.
I know this element of Dracula seems a far cry from the feminist and racial arguments that usually ensue (like everything we talked about in class). And while I love taking a deep dive into those conversations, for some reason this more subtle (and definitely not fully thought out on my part) one peaked my interest as I was reading.