Answering the Discussion Questions in the Back of My Copy of “Dracula”

I finally have my very own copy of Dracula as opposed to the ebook version I have, and this particular copy came with some discussion questions in the back. A couple of the questions I thought were actually fairly good, but there were also some that I thought were just plain stupid. In the enterprising spirit of blogging, I decided to answer three of the questions found in the back of my book. There will be sarcasm.

  1. Dracula has never been out of print, and more movies have been derived from Dracula than from any other novel. To what do you contribute this continuous popularity? The story, in one form or another, has been popular in many countries for a long period of time. Does that suggest that it answers some need that is simply human rather than social or historical?

    The reason Dracula remains so popular, I believe, is that at its core it is a tale of good vs. evil. These days, moral relativism is a big deal to most people; it’s nice to believe there’s no such thing as an objective, absolute truth because then we have to be answerable for our own actions. If there’s no such thing as absolute good, then evil doesn’t exist, either. It’s a popular theory nowadays, but I think deep down in the soul, people do long for clear cut, black and white scenarios. At our core, we do know that some things are inherently good and some are inherently evil, and Dracula illustrates that point.

  2. Lucy seems more susceptible to Dracula than Mina. What is it in Lucy that makes her more susceptible; what in Mina makes her more resistant?

    Lucy was a daydreamer and a romantic whereas Mina was more practical and more grounded in reality. Lucy’s daydreaming tendencies disconnected her from reality somewhat, and by having less of a grasp on the real world, she was more susceptible to Dracula’s influence. Mina, on the other hand, was firmly grounded in her life; I would even venture to say that having detailed plans (being a teacher, getting married, studying shorthand so she could help Jonathan with his work after they were married) were instrumental in helping her to resist Dracula for so long. She had goals; she had plans for her life that she didn’t want to let go, and people tend to be more determined to resist temptations or overcome obstacles when they have a goal that they want to accomplish.

    Moral of the story, kids–daydreaming and not having plans for your life can turn you into a vampire. Don’t be a daydreamer like Lucy. Be a doer like Mina.

  3. Could the end of the novel be fairly described as the triumph of scientific teamwork over superstition, the rational over the irrational, the light of modern Western European civilization over Eastern medieval darkness?

    Did whoever write this question not bother to read the book? Because science takes a pretty good beating by the end. Lucy died because science, rationality, and Western European civilization said that vampire’s weren’t real. Those so-called superstitions, however, that insisted that vampires were real–and they were right. Those so-called superstitions were what saved Mina’s life after Dracula attacked. Van Helsing realized that modern science was powerless against the ancient evil of the vampire, so he resorted to the ancient stories of how to defeat vampires. So, no, I do not think the end of the novel can be described as the triumph of scientific teamwork over superstition, the rational over the irrational, or the light of modern Western European civilization over Eastern medieval darkness. I think it can be described as a lesson in caution, namely that modern civilization can be so rational that it can fail to acknowledge the truth it has deemed too fantastic or impossible to be true.

There you have it, folks, my answers to the questions in the back of my copy of Dracula. I don’t think it was quite as sarcastic as I had anticipated, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway.

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Doctor Who Review: Under the Lake *Contains Spoilers*

There might not be as many spoilers in this review mainly because I don’t want to ruin too much for you–the episode was that good. It possessed a freshness and quality that I feel hasn’t been present in Doctor Who for a long time. And the cliffhanger of an ending–we haven’t had a cliffhanger that good in years.

“Under the Lake” sees the Doctor and Clara arrive at an underwater base in the 22nd century, and it’s got people from UNIT on board. And a mysterious alien craft. And, apparently, ghosts. One came with the ship, and the leader of the crew became one himself after his unexpected demise (there’s a third ghost later, too). The ghosts only appear in the night mode of the base, are trying to communicate something with the living, and only seem to be interested in killing you after you’ve had a chance to inspect the mysterious letters scratched on the wall of the spaceship. Are they real ghosts? If not, what are they? Who is using them, and for what purpose? Will the Doctor be able to find the answers by going back in time to the day the ship crashed?

During the course of the episode, I thought Clara seemed a little…off to me. She seemed far too eager to go rushing off into danger–almost manic, I’d say. I wasn’t the only one who noticed; the Doctor actually took her aside and expressed his concern, even suggesting that she get into another relationship (implying that she hasn’t yet gotten over Danny Pink’s death). Clara assured the Doctor that she was fine, but I still say something is off with her. That something may even factor in to her departure later in the season.

All in all, I’d rank “Under the Lake” very highly indeed, and I can’t wait to see what “Before the Flood” holds in store for us next week.

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Doctor Who Review: The Witch’s Familiar *Contains Spoilers*

Before I begin this week’s review, I’d like to share with everyone that the season 9 episodes of Doctor Who are starting to be released on the BBC America YouTube channel. Last week they posted “The Magician’s Apprentice”, so I’m assuming they’re going to post “The Witch’s Familiar” as well. They only leave the episodes posted for about a week–“The Magician’s Apprentice” is gone now–so you have to be quick!

Okay, onto the review. This was certainly a vast improvement over last week; the pacing felt much more even, and it felt like stuff was actually happening in this episode in general. There wasn’t as much off-keel, out-of-character wackiness for the Doctor this week, just regular wackiness–like stealing Davros’s chair.

Davros himself was something of a surprise this week. He opened his real eyes for the first time since he was introduced in 1974’s immortal “Genesis of the Daleks”, and there was something oddly poignant and tragic about it. The same could be said of his statement of having given the Doctor “the only other chair on Skaro”. That chair was a stark reminder of what the Daleks used to be and how much they’ve lost. Davros appeared to understand the magnitude of this loss…but it was all just a ruse to trick the Doctor into giving regeneration energy to the Daleks (which, by the way, the Doctor knew was a trick). Julian Bleach did an outstanding job in that scene of taking Davros from a pitiable and sympathetic character back to the cold-hearted villain we all know and love.

Missy went on to prove that either as a man or a woman, she will always be rotten to the core. Her attempt to trick the Doctor into killing Clara in her Dalek disguise was one of the worst subterfuges she ever tried to pull on the Doctor. Missy may claim to be the Doctor’s friend, but at the end of the day, the only person she cares about is herself.

Speaking of Missy, it was established today that she, too, had a family on Gallifrey; she mentioned her daughter in passing to Clara. Although it’s well known that the Doctor had a family on his home planet, this is the first time we received confirmation that the Master had a family as well. I mean, yes, in season 3 he was married to Lucy Saxon, but they did not have any children. On Gallifrey, however, he had at least one child.

Circling back to Clara now, it struck me today that Moffat is wasting an opportunity with her. Why does Clara never flash back to what she’s seen in the Doctor’s time stream? She saw all of his past lives, so she should have known about the Master, the Daleks, and Davros all along. Also, it would have been interesting to see her flash back to being Oswin when Missy made her climb into the Dalek container.

All in all, I think “The Witch’s Familiar” was much better done than “The Magician’s Apprentice”. Here’s hoping they can keep up their streak with next week’s “Under the Lake”.

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Tolkien Week: The Tales That Really Mattered

It seems hard to believe that Tolkien Week is over already–we need at least two weeks. Or maybe a celebration that’s held twice a year.

Either way, it seemed apropos to end Tolkien Week on a high note–a reminder of why, at its core, The Lord of the Rings is one of the Tales That Really Mattered.


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Tolkien Week: Blunt the Knives!

It’s the Friday of Tolkien Week, and what better way to celebrate Friday than by partying with Thorin Oakenshield and Co.?

For all of my complaints about the Hobbit trilogy, this was one scene I thought they did well.

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Tolkien Week: The Battle of Dol Guldur

When I first learned of the plans for a movie adaptation of The Hobbit, one of the scenes I was really looking forward to seeing was the White Council’s attack on Dol Guldur. Granted, the scene did not play out in the movie the way I had envisioned it in my head, and there were supposed to be a few more people here, but all in all, I did kind of like this part.

And for an added bonus, we have some examples of Catholic prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish. Ever wanted to know how to say the Hail Mary in Quenya Elvish? Well, now you can learn.

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Tolkien Week: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Today for Tolkien Week, we commemorate one of the most epic scenes not just in the Lord of the Rings films but in any movie ever made: the charge of the Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields.

The raw epicness of this scene gets me every time. Every. Time.

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