Abracadabra: Language, Memory, Representation


Chapters 1-4: Jonathan Harker at the Castle.

What actually happens in the first four chapters? Jonathon arrives, eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps. Dracula crawls down the building.

There's not much action in the first part of the book, and yet all of the crucial elements are introduced.


  • Who is Jonathan?
  • How does he prepare for his trip?
  • Why does he bring a letter with him, from Peter Hawley?
  • What is Count Dracula reading?
  • How does Jonathan's writing style change? What does he emphasize
  • What does Dracula want with Jonathan?
  • How does he control him?

Chapters 5-9: Mina, Lucy and Dracula's arrival in England

Our first introduction to Mina is a kind of technical foreshadowing. In the short letter we learn that she: knows shorthand (stenography), types well, writes diaries, seeks to imitiate the skills of the "lady journalists" (who can "remember all that goes on or is said in one day." What is the purpose of this kind of character introduction? Why do we not learn about?

Lucy on the other hand is introduced as a swooning, girlish and conspiratorial who--strangely-- writes in italics.

Lucy's three suitors

We are introduced to most of the remaining characters through lucy: they are all her suitors. This sets up a nice tension, not a love triangle, but a kind of multi-dimenional love-graph.

The three suitors seem to all know each other independently, or so Stoker suggests, through a letter form Quincey (p. 62, 25 May), through some kind of masculine imperialist drinking adventures. Though this is never made quite clear.

Dr. Seward's Studies

Seward's diary is kept in phonograph form, making him the most modern and up to date of the characters. Not only his method of diary keeping, but his psychiatric studies mark him as cutting edge: he is studying the "unconscious" mental life of Renfield just before Freud begins to explicate a theory of conscious and unconscious behavior.

Public and Private Spheres

In these chapters we have two kinds of sources: the private diaries and letters of the protagonists and the publicly circulated informations of the newspaper, which in turn publishes (makes public) a private (in the sense of business) Ship's log.

What difference does it make for some information to be public, or to make information public? What's the difference between a private letter, a ship's log, and a private diary?

How does the danger of miscommunication, or the reliability of a report change the nature of a situation? What trust and what suspicion are attributed to these different communications (by the reader and by the protagonists)?

More questions for today:

  • What is Renfield doing (prior to becoming Dracula's servant), and why is it significant to Seward?
  • What is the point of the long discussions with the local men about the grave sites and the lies written on them?
  • How do the Newspaper article and the Ship's log differ from the diary and the letter? What differences make a difference?
  • Who is the "New Woman"? Why is Mina concerned about her?
  • What do the communications between Billington and Sons and Carter, Peterson and Co. tell us (92-93)?
  • Why does Jonathan give Mina his diary, and why does she wrap it up and seal it?
  • Who is Quincey?
Christopher M. Kelty
Last modified: Wed Apr 9 09:46:12 CDT 2003