Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dr. Jack Seward: The Old and New Personified in Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula'

A piece of literary analysis...

Published in 1897, at the end of the Victorian Age and on the cusp of the modern 20th century, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story that is acutely aware of its place in time. The world of Stoker’s Dracula was both an example of, and at odds with, the distinctly Victorian sensibilities that were commonplace even a few years earlier. The cultural and definitively British way of life was undergoing a change that began with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, but was also being hastened out the door by a move towards more modern, secular, and scientific worldviews.
The unshakeable conviction that the British way of life -- both at home and in England’s far-flung colonies -- was undeniably right and good and God-given was butting up against the realities of an evolving world. Science was supplanting faith, and the works of Charles Darwin and other scientists were challenging the world order. Stoker saw and recognized this, and created characters that were archetypes of proper subjects of Queen Victoria in the age named after her. All of these characters were essential to the story, but none more so than Dr. Jack Seward. Jack Seward was an everyman who represented both the old and the new, and embodied the best of both. His interactions with the other characters showed this time and again.
As Quincey wrote early in the novel, when he learned that Art had won Lucy’s hand:

My Dear Art, --
We’ve told yarns by the camp-fire in the prairies; and dressed one another’s wounds after trying a landing at the Marquesas, and drunk health on the shore of Titicaca… there will be only one other, our old pal at the Korea, Jack Seward (62).

It is in this throwaway line that Stoker tells us much about the man Seward is. While Jack Seward represents the modern, staid, conservative English physician, he is simultaneously revealed as typical colonial adventurer of Victorian England. Much like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson, he is a man of letters and education, but one who’s dabbled in the violent and the adventuresome life of a British gentleman. He’s hunted, presumably on safari, in far flung corners of the empire and participated in conflicts and imperial skirmishes.
While Dr. Seward would seem to be a quiet, contemplative physician; Stoker left us further clues to the contrary. Quincey Morris is the personification of the rough and tumble American frontiersman who moves effortlessly, if a bit crassly, amongst his very English compatriots, and we learn through him that Dr. Seward is -- in fact -- an adventurer in his own right. After beginning their pursuit of Dracula and their race to beat his ship to Varna, Quincey remarks:

I understand the count comes from wolf country, and it may be that he shall get there before us. I propose that we add Winchesters to our armament. I have a kind of belief in Winchesters when there is any trouble of that sort around. Do you remember Art, when we had that pack after us in Tobolsk (282)?

Even though he is speaking to Art, it is implied that Quincey, Art, and Jack Seward have all spent some time together in dangerous situations, and this is confirmed when, later, Seward says, “I think I had better go with Quincey. We have been accustomed to hunt together and we two, well armed, will be a match for whatever may come along” (307).
            Stoker created a complex character in Seward and throughout the novel we get hints like this -- hints about a life that is much more than that of a simple doctor. He is the very modern man of science who embraces the newest technology and, rather than write out his journal, records it on phonograph. He studies the unique eccentricities of his zoophagous patient, Renfield, and is excited about a possibly new diagnosis of insanity. He relies on modern chemistry and chloral hydrate to sleep, and although he successfully runs his hospital and has the prestige that comes from it, he still attempts to woo Lucy and improve his station and fortunes by asking for her hand.
            At odds with this very modern man of the 1890’s, he is also comfortable with all things traditionally Victorian. He defers to Art as Lord Godalming; as is only proper given their different stations. While Seward is a doctor with a very respectable post at his hospital, Art is still nobility and is treated as such by Seward. When faced with a medical problem that he is at a loss to explain with modern treatments, he defers to his mentor, Dr. Van Helsing, who relies as much on myth and folklore as medical procedures like blood transfusions.  Van Helsing represents the old world and is juxtaposed against the new world that Seward embraces. And, although he is proud of his modernity, he also always acts like a proper British gentleman when it comes to the woman in the novel. To save Art’s feelings and Lucy’s honor, he conspires with Van Helsing to lie about having transfused Lucy and to also cover up the death of Lucy’s mother, respectively (137). He is always polite and respectful to Mina, and his treatment of her is both brotherly and paternal.
            At the climax of the novel, as the foursome of heroes converge on the gypsies carrying Dracula to his castle, the majority of the action focuses on Jonathon, who is driven by his need to avenge his beloved Mina, and Quincey, who strikes the killing blow to Dracula. Art and Seward are reduced to standing guard over the gypsies with their rifles. However, this course of action does not in any way change the importance of Jack Seward to the novel. While the wild American and the wronged husband strike the final deathblows, Jack Seward upholds the traditionally Victorian values the so perfectly personified throughout. While he is a man of science and seeming frailty, he is in fact anything but. Seward faced the danger bravely and with stereotypical British resolve. He followed the lead of the others, and proves critical in stopping the threat that was Dracula.
            Quincey and Art had spent time with him in dangerous situations – as evidenced by the hints peppered throughout the novel by Stoker – and they trusted him to be there as he had in the past. That trust in his backbone and strength, and the manner of man Seward was, was critical in their triumph of good over evil… and the redemption of Mina. By extension, Jack was a critical piece in saving Mina. Additionally, he was an exemplification of both traditional Victorian values, and the emerging cultural, scientific, and social changes that were on the horizon for England. 

Work Cited:
Stoker, Bram. Dracula: Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Auerbach, Nina and Skal, David J.  New York.    W.W. Norton and Co. 1997. Print.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Box of Dread - June 2014 - Unboxing

Box of Dread - June 2014!

Box of Dread continues to be the best $20 a month I've spent. It's not crazy expensive stuff... but it's a surprise and it's a bunch of cool little things that add up to some groovy, geeky, horror-themed goodness.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Project Spooky Door - Week Three

So, my sign made it up a whole week this last time. I replaced it yesterday and found it had been removed over the weekend. Someone has no sense of humor.

In an interesting quirk of fate, the company I work for, here in evil corporate world, is a subsidiary of a larger conglomerate. They dabble in the financial industry, but their bread and butter is manufacturing.

They make all kinds of interesting things, things like ion/nuclear based terraforming generators, planetary mining equipment. They also dabble in commercial space vessel building, colonizing outer rim worlds, and private off world prisons. That's not to mention their lucrative government contract. Their massive synthetics program has both commercial and military applications, and the fact that they have their own private army - The Colonial Space Marines - makes them a true multinational/trans-galactic conglomerate of immense reach.

That's right, we are a lesser known branch of the Weyland-Yutani corporation. 

I've heard strange things around the water cooler. I've heard that they've a secret facility out in Nevada, in the Groom Lake area. They took it over from the US Government some years back. They're doing strange weapons research out there. The words gotten out to the peaceniks too. The company, in order to make sure there's no homegrown terrorist shenanigans that might derail their not-so-secret xenomorph weapons research, have decided to spread the research - and its disturbing and alien specimens - amongst its cast corporate holdings.

Which brings us to this week's Spooky Door.

Could there be things lurking back there? Alien things?

Things with acid blood and sharp, metallic teeth?

I don't know. Maybe. Nobody knows what truly may be hiding behind the Spooky Door.  That's all I'm saying…

Mostly they come at night.


Author's Note: I posted the Alien sign on the Spooky Door yesterday, not having any idea that H.R. Giger - the xenomorph's delightfully twisted creator - had passed. 

Giger was a talented artist who had such an insanely unique vision. His art has been, and continues to be the stuff of nightmares… and I love it. 

My brother, Richie, has a copy of Giger's book, 'Biomechanics', and it is something that I - to this day - covet. Giger's weird mix of the organic and the mechanical, the hard metal and sensually fleshy is unlike anything any artist had ever done… and his grotesque, ultra-modern demonic imagery became one of the most iconic horror monsters of all time. Alien remains, to this day, one of the best horror movies ever made. And my unconditional appraisal of it as such, is largely because of how incredible Giger's designs were. 

H.R Giger will be missed. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Project Spooky Door - Week Two

I came in on Monday, and someone had removed last week's Spooky Door sign.

It's really early in the game, and I've already made an enemy!

 I'm used to that, though. Someone's got to be the good guy, the Dudley Do-Right, the hero… and someone's got to be the villain, the bad guy.

For the record, I'm the bad guy here. I wanted to be clear about that.

So, like Moriarty and Holmes, our battle of wills has begun. I'll warn you though, faceless do-gooder, you have underestimated your opponent. As your newfound nemesis, you'll find yourself unworthy of my evil -- due to your undoubtedly limited intellect, creativity, and laziness. So it has begun, so shall it end…  in your grisly, painful death!

Anyway, melodramatics aside, Week Two of the Spooky Door project finds us giving into my own proclivities. There's not REALLY a Death Ray in the electrical room with the scary sign. If someone, say an undead evil genius who's name rhymes with… I don't know… Moctor Crombie? Anyway, if this mad scientist had himself a really real Death Ra, he most definitely wouldn't store it at work.

It'd be stored deep in his underground… well, never mind where he'd store it. The point is, as far as I know, there really may be one in there. Hence the need for PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT.

So, this weeks sign…

And a better picture of the bald, evil genius on the sign…

Should this whole door thing be as funny as I think it is? I think I'm getting way more amusement out of this than I should. Seriously. 

 Of course, if you agree that I am, in fact, getting way too much amusement out of something so simple as this, you probably suck. If that's the case, stand still and wait a minute… Imma get mah Deaf Ray and liquimidate you! MUWAHAHAHAHAHA! 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Box of Dread - April 2014 - Unboxing

Spent a few days camping in the Wayne National Forest this weekend, and came home to find the April 2014 Box of Dread waiting for me.

I'm not sure how much my regular readers enjoy these unboxing videos, but I do have to say I'm loving the video format of these posts. When I originally envisioned my Doctor Zombie persona, it was within the frame of being a horror TV host. You know, like in the 70's and 80's? A bunch of guys, dressed up like mad scientists who took over the local TV affiliate after the 11 o'clock news on Friday or Saturday night… and made bad jokes and played kick ass horror and monster movies; things like classic Hammer films, or Night of the Living Dead, or classic Universal monsters flicks, or even Grindhouse-style films.

I could see this becoming a more structured show, and I'm kind of playing with the format with these unboxing videos. Perhaps you're seeing the unnatural mutation of Dr. Zombie's Midnight Theater of Terror?!

But I digress. Check out the unboxing video and, if you haven't put down the $20 drachma or shekels or whatever to get on the Box of Dread bandwagon… do so now! I LOVE ME SOME BOX OF DREAD!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Project Spooky Door - Week One

So, I work on the third floor of my building here at Evil Corporate World. I have a cool job. I'm an editor and writer for a lot of our internal communications, so it's pretty neat that I get to do what I love and get paid well for it. Of course, that's not to say I wouldn't give my left nut to be a full time fiction writer… but Dr. Z's got to pay the bills because he likes to have a house, a Jeep, and a wife who'll, you know, actually swallow her disgust enough to have sex with me every now and then.

The thing with working in Evil Corporate World, however, is that one has to find alternative ways to entertain one's self lest said individual becomes dead inside.

Which brings us to my newest fascination and idiocy at work here.

You see, there's a door across the way from my office that, according to the tag, says it's an electrical room.

Makes sense. We have a metric fuckton of computer networks, and the same equivalent electrical needs as an aircraft carrier. Seriously.

So an electrical room makes sense. I understand the purpose of the room. I grock that there might be phone lines, or network servers, or telecomm junctions… or other fancy techno things that my creative right brain wouldn't understand, or give two steaming monkey shits about.

Until you see the sign that they just posted on the door a few weeks ago.

Here's a copy.

What in the holy hell?!? Right?!?

That sign cracks me up. Suddenly a room that is probable the size of a closet with a shitload of wires and that is only visited a couple times a month by some fat, neck-bearded IT guy has taken on a whole new dimension. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick… that sign is bat-shit crazy!

The problem, when presented with a sign of such immense exaggeration is that the creative side of old Dr. Zombie goes into overdrive. I already have trouble NOT slacking and screwing off at work… but the introduction of this weird, alarming, and utterly hyperbolic variable is almost overwhelming to my never dormant sense of laziness. Plus, I'm a writer, and the creative gears are always turning in the vast empty warehouse of my skull. So, I spent several minutes delighting in imagining what might be lurking behind the door, what might ACTUALLY be there, just behind the nondescript yellow door with the klaxon-like, red warning sign. What secrets are hiding there? Is it a CIA safe house? Could it be a portal to another dimension - a portal requiring the added safety of some special portal-proof suit that is inventoried and assigned by Jim… our main facilities guy?

Because if that's the case, I think they're seriously overestimating Jim's abilities. I've been down to ask Jim things, down to his dank office in the basement of the building. It is small, cramped, and overfilled with boxes and tools. It smells bad because it's right next to the loading dock, and I think that the constant saturation of poor Jim's already taxed brain with the diesel fumes that roll off of the Fed Ex trucks may have caused some serious mental injury. Either way, do we want to trust poor, addled, diesel fuel-goofy Jim to protecting us from whatever it is that sits ominously behind the third floor spooky door? Whatever it is, waiting there ominously, champing at the bit to release it's malevolence upon the world.. because NO ONE HEEDED THE DANGER AND WORE THE PROPER PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT!

So… what's a poor undead drone to do. Well, let Doctor Zombie tell you, dear reader.

I am - right now - officially announcing the inception of Project Spooky Door. Or Project Not Doing Any Work.

Whichever. They both work.

I spent about 10 minutes making up some signs and have decided to indulge my reckless imaginings and - in so doing - maybe add some levity to the workplace. At the least, one should look at it like it's a piece of performance art.

I will be updating the sign to the Spooky Door in the hallway on a weekly pass. The sign will hopefully explain what's going on in the room that such strident precautions must be taken.

I'm curious about two things… first, how long before someone actually catches on and pulls the signs down; and second, who'll actually notice.

This is how I entertain myself, and hopefully you'll be somewhat entertained as well.

So, kicking off Project Spooky Door -- here's our first guess at what might actually be behind the door.

Watch out. They're bite-y and know how to open doors!!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Box of Dread - March 2014

Video blog! I came home to find my monthly mystery box - Box of Dread - waiting for me! 

Check it out! 

Another great month… TOTALLY WORTH THE PRICE! 

Any horror fan would LOVE this!