The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf
eyeteeth

Homophone joke



Ordinarily only substitute gets a nose, but a headshot like this seemed to call for one.

I still don't have the wherewithal to talk at length about the Count's vampire girlfriends, but last night I was looking through Dracula to see how Renfield is described, and I found some nice things. (No spoilers to follow, by the way.) He is introduced like this, by John Seward, the asylum administrator:

R. M. Renfield, age 59. Sanguine temperament, great physical strength, morbidly excitable, periods of gloom, ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out. I presume that the sanguine temperament itself and the disturbing influence end in a mentally-accomplished finish, a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish. In selfish men caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves.


Sanguine temperament, of course. And who remembered that Renfield is nearly sixty years old? I didn't. In fiction, delightful madmen are usually rather young. His age makes Renfield's tremendous physical strength all the more impressive; maybe it also lends urgency to his terror of death.

The case of Renfield grows more interesting the more I get to understand the man. He has certain qualities very largely developed, selfishness, secrecy, and purpose.

He has evidently some deep problem in his mind, for he keeps a little notebook in which he is always jotting down something. whole pages of it are filled with masses of figures, generally single numbers added up in batches, and then the totals added in batches again, as though he were focussing some account, as the auditors put it...


I like to think of poor crazy Renfield with his obsessive notebooks, tidily making note of all the spiders and flies he's eaten. He sounds rather bipolar, doesn't he? Only occasionally does he get violent; often he is merely fidgety, or even pretty normal. At times the most abnormal thing about him is his immensely erudite manner of speaking. He tends to put this on when he gets visitors, so maybe he does it to embarrass Seward.

Interestingly, Seward comes to refer to him as a "homicidal maniac," even though Renfield has never killed anyone. Seward thinks it's just because he's never had an opportunity.

My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac. What he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps?

It would almost be worth while to complete the experiment. It might be done if there were only a sufficient cause. Men sneered at vivisection, and yet look at its results today! Why not advance science in its most difficult and vital aspect, the knowledge of the brain?


Back away from the madman, Seward!

Finally, when Renfield is sanest, he talks like this:

"Let me entreat you, Dr. Seward, oh, let me implore you, to let me out of this house at once. Send me away how you will and where you will, send keepers with me with whips and chains, let them take me in a strait waistcoat, manacled and leg-ironed, even to gaol, but let me go out of this. You don't know what you do by keeping me here. I am speaking from the depths of my heart, of my very soul. You don't know whom you wrong, or how, and I may not tell. Woe is me! I may not tell. By all you hold sacred, by all you hold dear, by your love that is lost, by your hope that lives, for the sake of the Almighty, take me out of this and save my soul from guilt! Can't you hear me, man? Can't you understand? Will you never learn? Don't you know that I am sane and earnest now, that I am no lunatic in a mad fit, but a sane man fighting for his soul? Oh, hear me! Hear me! Let me go, let me go, let me go!"


Oh Renfield!

It's a funny thing about Dracula. It is not a great book, in some ways it is not even such a good book, but damn if it doesn't stick with you. I was twelve or something when I read it for the first time, and I remember distinctly how anxious I was about Van Helsing, wondering if he would be killed. I had never felt that way about a fictional character before. He and Mina and Renfield and the Count are all so vivid! What kind of a book might Dracula have been if Stoker hadn't felt compelled to bog it down with Jonathan, Quincey Morris, Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, and Lucy? What would that look like, Dracula without all the boring characters, just Mina and Van Helsing fighting evil with nothing but a typewriter and a crucifix? I think it would look like sheer unadulterated awesome.
Tags: bram stoker, dracula, franz liszt, stix, substitute, theflieslikeittooandiliketheflies, theworstjokeanyhumanbeinghasevermade, vampires
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