Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dates, lapses in time, confusing bits in Dracula

Dracula begins with the journal of Jonathan Harker, who is a diligent diarist. There are entries for 3/5, 4/5, 5/5, 7/5, 8/5, 12/5, 15/5, 16/5, 18/5, 19/5. Suddenly there's a jump straight to 28/5, followed by a 31/5 entry. Again there's a lapse, the next entry is dated 17/6, then Harker writes on 24 and 25/6, then 29 and 30/6, and Harker's narrative ends. 
Perhaps on those days he doesn't write. Or maybe the entries have no relevance as documents and are disregarded altogether. It makes me wonder, however, about what he does during those days; in fact, what he does the whole time he's at the castle. At the beginning he does write down, in details, the paperwork and discussions with Count Dracula. Afterwards, there is no more- what does he do when not watching the weird creatures of the castle or trying the locked doors? 
After Harker's narrative is the correspondence between his fiancée Mina Murray and her friend Lucy Westenra between 9/5 and 14/5. This placement is an understandable choice, because Bram Stoker now introduces a bunch of new characters and a different setting and another storyline. There's another shift with Dr Seward's diary (kept in his fancy phonograph) and the introduction of Renfield. The date is 25/5. 
After some exchanges between the men, Stoker gives us Mina's journal. The 1st date is 24/7, about a month after the last entry in Harker's journal. After that is 1/8. This is when she mentions Jonathan. 
"Lucy and I sat awhile, and it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat; and she told me all over again about Arthur and their coming marriage. That made me just a little heart-sick, for I haven’t heard from Jonathan for a whole month." 
Then her narrative, before we know much of her, is cut off. Stoker directs our attention to Dr Seward and Renfield. The dates in the diary are 5/6, 18/6, 1/7, 8/7, 19/7 and 20/7. We're hooked. At least, I'm hooked. This business with Renfield is fascinating, I don't know what he has to do with anything in the plot, but it sure is fascinating, but before anything happens, Stoker brings Mina back. Now the date is 26/7, followed by 27/7. Here she talks about worries for her fiancé, and for Lucy's sleepwalking. What is this moving back and forth? The next entry is dated 3/8. 
Why this arrangement? I'm quite confused. 


  1. Patience, Di. I think we get better perspectives on such questions when we have completed the reading (and rereading) of certain novels and stories. Perhaps Stoker has a reason for provoking your confusion. Patience.

  2. Oh all right. Thanks for that.

  3. Lest you think my comment was dismissive of your concerns, let me add something else. William Faulkner in "A Rose for Emily" speaks of narrators' memory as being a bit like an open meadow rather than a straight-line. I take this to mean that stories involving multiple narrators sometimes include some not-so-linear, not-so-orderly, and perhaps not-so-reliable presentations. So we need to consider (reconsider) the narrative after we have finished and can see the whole picture of the open meadow rather than the clearly marked roads on a map. Does this make sense?

  4. Yeah I see your point. Will keep that in mind.
    I haven't seen anyone that looks like an unreliable narrator yet. In The Moonstone I saw that right away in Miss Clack.