That Question I Just Deleted
[So @zimtkind (at least I think it was you) sent me an ask a gazillion years ago talking about their shifting ideas about who Lucy Westenra should end up with and asking if any of my Dracula opinions had changed over time. As usual, I took forever to answer it, but as is not usual, I ineptly deleted the entire thing a few seconds after posting it when I tried to adjust the tags. I fortunately had written most of it up in a word document, however, so have this somewhat context-light ramble on changes in Dracula-related opinions.]
Oh gosh! This (like almost everything else) took a while for me to answer because some of my core opinions on Dracula have changed really radically over time. When I first read it, in fact, I was sixteen, found it sort of dull, and felt it didn’t live up to the experience of watching Dwight Frye looking gorgeous and chewing the scenery in the 1931 film.
When I really delved back into Dracula the novel a few years, what initially captivated me about the book was actually the possibility that the narrators might be unreliable. I was not, and probably never will be, okay with narrative that the Count’s assaults upon his victims were –in fact– consensual trysts mischaracterized by others, but I found Jonathan’s statements regarding the possibility of the protagonists potentially having to stand trial for murder to be uniquely unsettling, and following this first re-read, I was rather convinced that I would convict them should I have served on their jury. I spent a lot of time early on in my Dracula obsession contemplating ways in which everyone might be mistaken, trying to see if I could tease out a narrative in which a bunch of neurotic, mentally ill people had worked themselves into some sort of hysterical frenzy and convinced themselves it was a good idea to murder a foreign nobleman.
Eventually, however, after examining and re-examining all of the minutiae and fun, puzzle-boxy secrets of Dracula, I pretty much ditched this edgy, dark reading of the text entirely. I found, in the end, that the evidence presented to me was convincing. This shift was uniquely satisfying on a meta-level, as I had basically met the characters’ challenge in a very in-universe way in allowing myself to be swayed to their side, and the general change in perspective also carried a lot of personal significance, as I allowed myself (somebody with their own demons re: mental illness, abuse, and self doubt) to believe in the validity of these characters’ accounts and experiences. One of the reasons that Dracula will probably always be so dear to my heart is that the text can feel like a very real exchange between the protagonists and the reader; despite Jonathan’s protestation that he asks nobody to believe them, the novel does just that, and for me that exercise proved to be a useful step into believing certain truths about myself and my own life.
On a less dramatic scale, most of my shifts of opinion about the book have trended towards me finding more things to like in it that I previously did not like in earlier readings. Despite finding him impenetrable and frustrating the first few goes, I’ve developed into something of a Mr. Swales fangirl, and I’m generally much more of a fan of lots of the “tedious” bits of the book nowadays than I used to be (I might someday warm up to the whole boxes segment, @chthonic-cassandra made some good points when I derided it previously). It’s probably also significant that I have vaguely stepped back from my complete revulsion towards the idea of reading any sort of romance between Dracula (I wrote about it here and here), but I’m not sure if having almost complete revulsion towards that idea is really all that dramatic a change.
Oddly enough, my opinions on who Lucy ends up with have never really fluctuated all that much. While I find Arthur’s personality about as exciting as a moistened paper bag (and who knows… this too much change), I like tropey unrequited pining too much to really wish that she ended up in an exclusive relationship with anyone else, even though I maintain that Quincey is objectively the best pick. This is all sort of irrelevant, however, in that Lucy Westenra and romantic exclusivity aren’t things I am terribly fond of having go together.