Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index

 
Chapter Five

The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula

 

 

     The horror thriller, both in its marvelous and in its uncanny forms, presents the implied reader with ideas and images of terror screened by various conventional and special techniques so that the real reader can experience power over these images and ideas. This is what we mean by safe thrills. Unless something in an individual reader leads to an anomalous response, this kind of literary structure allows the real reader to make a protected contact with that which should not be. The number of films and popular books that provide this experience in contemporary Western culture suggests that we value this kind of experience highly. Why?

     We can follow the hints offered by Andrew Griffin and Christopher Craft and hypothesize that the horror thriller offers a reenactment of repression. By bringing readers into carefully controlled contact with symbolic representations of the culturally forbidden and affirming that control, the horror thriller becomes one of a culture's instruments of repression. The reader of Lovecraft or Brown becomes better at repressing the forbidden by meeting it again in another identity -- the implied reader -- and repeating original acts of repression. Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, and others, including filmmakers such as Val Lewton, have helped to make us aware that horror images are most effective when minimally specified because the reader is then encouraged to read his own personal versions of cultural repressions into the images (Telotte on Lewton, 15-18). Now we may further hypothesize that works that encourage this kind of reading will be more greatly valued because the individual reader will be enabled to reenact his personal repressions. Both Lovecraft and Brown give the reader opportunities to meet the repressed and to reassert the power of identity over it. The power of choosing ourselves as individual personalities in whole bodies is one of humanity's major psychological accomplishments; it is something that, on the whole, humans do well. The main visible result of this activity is a rich variety of human cultures. It would seem natural, then, to take pleasure in "doing it again."

     Contemporary culture often devalues works that seem to be instruments of cultural repression and to praise those that seem more clearly designed to subvert culture. The truth is, of course, that we need both. Culture is what humanity makes; without it we are not only less interesting, but also without anyone to be interested in us. On the other hand, culture seems to want to stop being made. Our ideas of such monolithic, static cultures appear in dystopic novels in which the differences between humanity and ants tend to disappear, e.g., George Orwell's 1984. Therefore, culture also needs to be subverted continuously even as it is being continuously created and affirmed. Without subversion, there would be no creation.

     Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) is an excellent horror thriller with which to elaborate and demonstrate this hypothesis about the aesthetics of the horror thriller. It is a drama of reenacted repression that seems remarkably conscious of its purpose. By examining this text, we can see fairly clearly both how a self-conscious horror thriller deploys itself to reenact repression and the degree to which Stoker valued this reenactment.
 

I

     Dracula can be divided into four main parts. In chapters 1-4, Jonathan Harker recounts in his journal a trip to Transylvania and Count Dracula's departure from there. Chapters 5-16 center on the conflict between Dracula and a loose band of allies over Lucy Westenra. Chapters 17-23 tell of the drawing together of the loose band into an effective group of hunters as the center of conflict between them and Dracula shifts to Mina, newly wedded to Harker. Chapters 24-27 cover the pursuit and exorcism of Dracula. At the center of the plot, the point at which the hunters shift from a loose band into an organized group, is the recognition of Dracula, a protracted but absolutely crucial part of the novel. The hunters cannot conquer Dracula until they know him. Therefore, a central question of the novel becomes: who is Dracula?

     Of course, Dracula is a monster, a vampire, endowed with immortality unless killed in a highly specified and ritual manner. He drinks blood, not, it appears, because he is dependent upon blood to stay alive; he seems able to live indefinitely without blood. However, consuming blood seems to invigorate him and to make him appear younger. He can also replicate himself by drinking blood, but he never actually reproduces himself. In fact, rather startlingly, Dracula is shown, in Stoker's novel, only to generate "jackals," female vampires who, on the whole, do the Count's bidding. If he need not consume blood to stay alive, if taking blood invigorates him, and if the vampiric bite gives him reproductive power that he uses to create female minions rather than true rivals, then Renfield's pronouncement that "the blood is the life" seems to mean that blood is a source of power. While popular versions of the vampire myth imply that the vampire is dependent on human hosts for physical survival, Stoker modifies this view to reduce the appearance of Dracula's dependency. The irony of the dependency of the "master" sacrificed at this point reappears on a "spiritual" level, however. Mere physical survival is not enough for Dracula; to be without blood to drink is to be impotent. His spirit needs power. When we attempt to trace Count Dracula's central characteristic, his vampirism, to its final cause in Stoker's presentation, we discover that Dracula wishes to be master. In his Transylvanian castle, he is master, but he wants to extend that mastery out of this land of dreams, of superstition, paganism, feudalism, irrationality, and of life in the night. He aspires to extend his power over Western civilization, the too-rational, Christian, waking, modern, daylight world from which Harker is an emissary. On this most obvious level, then, Dracula represents the return of the repressed, an attempt of the unconscious to assert power over and to absorb consciousness.

     That Stoker encourages the implied reader to see Dracula as representing the repressed is clear from the beginning. Jonathan Harker's record of his journey to Transylvania, of his encounters with the vampires, and of his own successful resistance of the vampires is highly suggestive.

     Harker's journal is addressed to Mina, his betrothed. He repeatedly refers to her, thinking of her as a judging consciousness for whom he must get recipes and before whom he must be careful in expressing his sexual interests. The memoranda he makes show that he thinks of Mina as someone to whom he must account and of the Count as a source of knowledge. As he naively puts it, "I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem.,I must ask the Count all about them.)" (4, see also 9). In Harker's mind, Mina is one contact with the West, with repression. The other main contact is his work; he travels on business. However, while his business is a constant reminder of who he is and where he comes from, it also draws him toward the Count, propelling him onward despite the warnings of the natives. In this respect, he reminds one of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, off to the forest on night business, leaving the proper young woman behind.

     East and West, Count and Mina are set up in opposition to each other in the first chapter. In the East is dark knowledge from which the West would restrain Harker. The Count possesses what Harker wants, and knowledge is not all that Harker wants. In his notes he gives special attention to primal needs, to food, drink, and sex. Though all three are significant -- since he becomes a possible source of all three to his "host and hostesses" -- sex probably proves most important in the novel as a whole. Repeatedly he comments on the female natives during his journey, taking note of their sexual attractiveness: "The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist. They had all full white sleeves of some kind or other, and most of them had big belts with a lot of strips of something fluttering from them like the dresses in a ballet, but of course petticoats under them" (5, this passage varies, but not significantly, in different editions). The woman who brings him a message from Dracula wears an undergarment "fitting almost too tight for modesty" (6). These women do not satisfy Harker's probing eye, but they reveal its presence. They are the opposites of Dracula's ladies, who are more attractive at close range than at a distance and who provide the sexual experience his eye seeks with the native women.

     Harker goes to Castle Dracula hungering after knowledge of darkness and after sexual experience. He wants to see the repressed, to look into his own unconscious. The journey becomes explicitly a dream journey and remains so for him until Dr. Van Helsing and Mina are able to assure him, months later, that his experiences at the castle were real. In this dreamlike state, he undergoes the splitting of his identity. There are many symptoms of this split, but the most explicit one is the incident of the shaving mirror. In the "objective" mirror, there is only Harker, but in Harker's "subjective" vision there are Harker, the seer, and Dracula, the seen. Dracula's response to Harker's shaving cut, the result of a start upon seeing no Count in the mirror, is doubly or triply ironic: "Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country" (27). The Count then discards the mirror, calling it a "foul bauble of man's vanity" (27). One meaning of his statement, of which Dracula need not be conscious, is that the mirror, in affirming the unity of the psyche, deceives the individual into a belief in his absolute individuality. After Harker is seen to be split into conscious and unconscious, the unconscious waxes ever stronger. Harker becomes weak and realizes he is Dracula's helpless prisoner. Dracula takes over Harker's identity, wearing his clothes and acting "for" him outside the castle. And Harker takes Dracula's place, climbing the outside walls of the castle, lurking in its forbidden places, and meeting his women. Finally, their exchange of identities is almost completed as Dracula departs, and Harker is left to the ladies. By implication, Dracula usurps Harker's identity and takes his unconscious to England, leaving the conscious mind behind, trapped in Dracula's castle, where Dracula himself was trapped until something about Western civilization drew him out.

     Near the end of the book, Van Helsing is quite specific about what drew Dracula out. Again, he begins in terms of blood; Dracula saw rich possibilities of life among the teeming Western nations, but, of course, he could have gone to India or China. What attracts him to England and the West is the skepticism of an enlightened age. Van Helsing says, in his always interestingly ungrammatical way, that they must hunt Dracula in secret because of this skepticism: "Our toil must be in silence, and our efforts all in secret; for in this enlightened age, when men believe not even what they see, the doubting of wise men would be his greatest strength. It would be at once his sheath and his armour, and his weapons to destroy us, his enemies, who are willing to peril even our own souls for the safety of one we love" (282-84). Notice that skepticism is Dracula's sheath, his hiding place; skepticism makes Dracula invisible. Where Dracula is invisible, he sees his chance to gain mastery.

     We have seen that Dracula represents the repressed unconscious. Even to Harker, Dracula suggests the unconscious. Dracula's departure for England is represented in part as a split in Harker, resulting in Harker's unconscious being incarnated and unleashed on Western civilization. What can be said about the content of that unconscious? In Harker's experience of vampires, what does one learn about what is forbidden to Harker?

     Certainly the most lurid and revealing passage in Harker's journal of the Transylvanian sojourn is his encounter with Dracula's ladies. The passage has been much studied, and the "perversions" found have varied greatly. Critics have seen interest in oral sex, homosexuality, blurring of gender distinction, incest, and plain old lust. We will see evidence that all these aspects of forbidden sex are indeed present. There can be little doubt that lust arises in this passage on the approach of the "fair girl":

     I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The fair girl went on her knees, and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one's flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer -- nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dent of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited -- waited with a beating heart. (39-41)
Stoker reserves such detailed descriptions almost exclusively for encounters with vampires, especially the exorcism of Lucy and the blood baptism of Mina.

     Though these detailed accounts are never explicitly sexual, it is hard for an alert reader to avoid noticing their sexual suggestiveness. When Harker first becomes fully aware of the ladies' presence, he thinks, "There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina's eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth" (39). Harker is clearly aware of sexual desire in himself, which he feels is wicked. This very desire is then actually enacted by the fair vampire. She does kiss him with her red lips, but she represents his desire more fully than with her kiss. When they make contact, Harker plays the passive and receptive female, and the vampire takes the role of aggressive penetration. This is not simple role reversal, however, because the purpose of her penetrating him is to take rather than give fluid. Yet by taking fluid, she can "infect" him. Not only is this wicked kiss lustful, but it also confuses, perhaps even eliminates gender difference. Role reversal and confused gender point toward homosexuality, a suggestion that becomes more explicit when Dracula stops the women and claims Harker as his own. The idea of homosexuality becomes even more explicit in the conflict over Lucy, where transfusion comes to be defined as marriage and where Dracula absorbs through the medium of Lucy the blood of three men: Arthur Holmwood, Dr. Seward, and Van Helsing (Craft). Incest may be suggested when Lucy receives blood from Van Helsing (a father figure) and when Dracula "nurses" his "bride," Mina, at his bloody breast (Twitchell, Dreadful Pleasures 137-39). The sexual suggestions of these scenes are also predominantly oral. The penetrating teeth, the churning tongue, the voluptuous lips, the tingling throat -- these are the organs of pleasure. Furthermore, sexual pleasure is connected with the other primal pleasures of sucking and eating; all three are to be gratified simultaneously.

     In Harker's journal, vampirism becomes associated with sexual pleasure. Stoker makes the ladies into repulsive images of horror, but because his presentation is so suggestive of sexual pleasure, they should also be attractive to the implied reader. Stoker seems to want a reader who will recognize the attractiveness of what the ladies offer, but who will want Harker to resist, nevertheless. To resist is to be loyal to Mina and to preserve his own endangered identity. What do the ladies offer in exchange for Harker's self? Not mere sexual pleasure, but forbidden sexual pleasure. While Harker's society prescribes monogamy, they offer promiscuity -- or at least polygamy. While Harker's society prescribes heterosexual relations with clearly differentiated gender roles, they offer the elimination of gender roles. While his society prescribes genital sexual contact, they offer at the least oral and possibly polymorphous sexual contact. The sexual alternatives the ladies promise, when taken together, suggest infantile sexuality: undifferentiated sexual pleasure orally centered, sometimes called polymorphous perversion. Finally, as Norman Holland implies in The I, Harker's society (perhaps all societies) prescribes the maintenance of identity (74-76). Harker is tempted at Castle Dracula to surrender his self, to accept a transformation into a preverbal, selfless state.

     Who is Dracula? He is the repressed unconscious of Harker's society, especially that part concerned with infantile sexuality. He is the child in Harker (and in the other men of the novel) with which he must come to terms before he can marry. Harker becomes a solicitor just before leaving on his trip, which is presented as a rite of passage into the professional life. When (and if) he returns from this business trip, he plans to wed. On the trip he meets his own shadow in Dracula. In the form of Dracula, that infantile self, what Van Helsing calls a child brain and a criminal brain, is turned loose. Until it is recaptured and controlled, though Harker may legally marry Mina, he cannot really possess her. It is significant that the book ends with a last entry in Harker's journal, in which, among other important matters, he tells of the birth of his son and of how his son must come to understand what Harker has learned from hunting vampires.

     Harker's problem is to come to terms with his own unconscious. This problem is externalized in the struggle over Lucy and Mina between Dracula and a group of good men. To succeed, Harker must repress Dracula, not by driving him back into the land of dreams, but by transforming him. We learn that it is the nature of vampires to be transformed when they are properly, ritualistically killed. By repressing Dracula, Harker accomplishes what we usually think of as the repression of infantile sexuality in favor of genital sexuality and reproduction. What, then, is the right way to kill/transform a vampire?

     The remaining three parts of the novel deal primarily with this problem, recapitulating and completing what Harker has begun. The struggle over Lucy repeats Harker's discovery of the vampire. The battle over Mina in England culminates in the recognition of the vampire. Only when the recognition is complete can the hunt succeed in the final chapters.

     The discovery of the vampire in England elaborates on the wish fulfillment pattern we saw in Harker's journey to Transylvania. An especially significant addition to this pattern is feminine wishing. We saw what Harker wanted, but could not have when he met Dracula's ladies. The pattern of wish fulfillment in England reveals what Lucy and Mina want but cannot have.

     In chapters 5 and 6, Mina and Lucy are placed in opposition. Mina's man is absent. She is a working woman and expects to become her husband's working partner. She has been Lucy's teacher and remembers that life with pleasure. She wishes to return to it (57) and, in making such a wish, implies her desire to be like Lucy. Lucy is surrounded by men who wish to marry her. She belongs to the leisure class and promises to be more an ornament than a working partner in the marriage she plans with Arthur, the future Lord Godalming. While Mina wishes to be like Lucy, Lucy wishes for the forbidden. She laments that she cannot marry all of the three men who propose to her on the same day. She even expresses a wish to marry all the men who want her. In addition to these central wishes, both Mina and Lucy wish to return to their innocent childhood, to the times they have spent together free of thoughts of marriage and womanhood. Mina also expresses a desire to travel in foreign lands with Jonathan.

     These are the wishes of the women. What of the men? Quincy, Seward, and Holmwood all wish to marry Lucy. When Seward is disappointed, he wishes to dedicate himself to an unselfish cause; this desire leads him to the study of his mad patient, Renfield. All of these wishes are granted -- by Dracula. By means of the vampire attack on Lucy, Mina and Lucy are drawn together again in something like their old childhood innocence. Mina is called to Hungary to care for Harker and bring him home. Lucy gets to marry, by means of transfusion, all the men who want her, and all of them, of course, get to "marry" her in the same way. Mina gets to become like Lucy in almost every way. Dracula is not apparently responsible for her ascension to the leisure class upon the death of Harker's father figure, Hawkins, but he does make it possible for her to move into the center of Lucy's group of men. His attack threatens to make her Lucy's double.

     Dracula "grants" other wishes as well, but these are enough to establish the pattern. By and large, these wishes are infantile and individualistic: dreams of gratification without serious regard for the consequences to others. Gratifying those wishes gives power to the unconscious and can destroy the wishing individual. This is Lucy's fate, which also teaches those who care about her that Dracula is present. They vow to destroy him, but to do so, they must not only find him, but recognize him. Identifying and killing Dracula prove to be a single act viewed from two perspectives.

     To find Dracula, the initiates or discoverers must first form a community. Van Helsing leads, first gathering the three suitors together in the revelation of Lucy as vampire and in her exorcism, then drawing Mina and John into the group. We should notice that Dracula's victory over Lucy coincides with the deaths of all the parental figures in the group except Van Helsing. After she is "dead," Van Helsing and Dracula remain as good and bad parental figures; the question of who is to be master is simplified. Will the members of the group enter adulthood under the influence of Van Helsing or Dracula? As Gregory Waller in The Living and the Undead and others have argued, the confrontation that follows is not, however, between Van Helsing and Dracula, but between a community of hunters and Dracula. Furthermore, Mina's gathering of the narrative fragments into a whole history is as crucial to the community's union as are Van Helsing's knowledge of tradition and the ritual of freeing Lucy (Waller 30-48). When the group is gathered, Van Helsing summarizes the nature of the conflict he sees: describing what is known of Dracula's powers as brutally evil -- to be defeated by him is to become him -- and listing the group's special strengths: "We have on our side power of combination -- a power denied to the vampire kind; we have resources of science; we are free to act and think; and the hours of the day and the night are ours equally. In fact, so far as our powers extend, they are unfettered, and we are free to use them. We have self-devotion in a cause, and an end which is not a selfish one" (211-12).

     Though they know and agree that the power of combination is central, they have the most difficulty in actually realizing this power, because they are so slow to recognize Dracula after they discover him. And one reason for this slowness is that they are unable to find the proper place for Mina in the group.

     As William Patrick Day has pointed out, Mina is presented as the group's intellectual and spiritual center (In the Circles of Fear and Desire 57). Van Helsing, as father figure, provides the values of tradition and technical knowledge. The other men mainly provide action. Mina is the mother who provides a home and an emotional center for the men. She transforms their male bonds into domestic loyalty, which is represented as devotion to the highest ideals of Western civilization: Christianity, family affection, unity of action for the good of the community. But, very importantly, she is also the scholar. At every crucial point, from the beginning of their forming a community of vampire hunters, she is the one who by careful research and thinking solves the apparently impossible problem. She compiles the narrative that establishes Dracula's presence in England and the truth of Harker's Transylvania experience. This discovery not only makes the hunt possible, but also leads directly to curing Harker of his enervation, making him, in his words, potent again. She realizes after her "baptism" [baptism] that she can reveal Dracula's whereabouts by being hypnotized. Mina, with Van Helsing, solves the problem of where Dracula will go when he evades them in Transylvania, and she alone reasons out his route.

     When we can see so clearly in retrospect the importance of Mina to the group's success, then it becomes especially clear how mistaken the men are to try to exclude her from the hunt. Van Helsing argues that even though she has a man's brain in a woman's body, she ought not to be risked: "We men are determined -- nay, are we not pledged? -- to destroy this monster; but it is no part for a woman. Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer -- both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams" (209). The consequences he describes are almost precisely those that occur as a result of keeping her in the dark. As they make this resolution to repress Mina, they are repeatedly described as boyish. Their keeping her "in the dark" has at least two important meanings, in addition to the main one of failing to be a true community. They are returning to the boyish pleasure of the hunts the three young men have shared in the past. They are denying Mina's personhood and her stake in the outcome of the hunt. The consequences of repressing her make their error clear. She stays alone in her room at Seward's asylum while the boys go out hunting at night -- Harker has no sooner regained his potency than he devotes it to activities other than intercourse with Mina. Left in the dark, ignorant of their activities, she pines away in uselessness. Unsatisfied natural desires -- these are Dracula's domain. Therefore, the ultimate consequence of the repression of Mina is that Dracula takes possession of her; if she is repressed, she is forced to become Dracula's jackal. She is given to him. Once he takes possession, she becomes almost a parody of the domestic woman, weeping, depressed, and weak in her lonely asylum.

     Because the men have been boys and have failed to make Mina a full partner in the group, they lose her to the enemy. The loss is not complete, however. In fact, it becomes a blessing because it teaches them what they did not know.

     After Mina's fall, she asks what she could have done to deserve the fate of being alienated from God despite her attempts to be good. We can see that she has done nothing to deserve such a fate. Rather, on one level, she is, like all mankind, a victim of original sin. On another, she is, like all mankind, split into conscious and unconscious. Repressing her has led to making this split visible, just as it makes her original sin visible in the scar produced by the Host on her forehead. If the visible symbol for the men of what is best in their civilization is split, then, of course, so are they and their civilization.

     The visibility of this split leads directly to the recognition of Dracula. Even before her fall, Mina was inclined to pity the hunted and lonely Dracula. Then she pulls back from this pity, as do all the others whom he has hurt. To them, at that point, he is merely an external enemy to be destroyed in vengeance. After her fall, the motive of revenge is even stronger, especially in Harker. But when the hunters return to Mina after Dracula escapes them and taunts them, saying he possesses their girls, Mina identifies Dracula as herself. To the angry and exasperated men, she says: "I know that you must fight -- that you must destroy even as you destroyed the false Lucy so that the true Lucy might live hereafter; but it is not a work of hate. That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all. Just think what will be his joy when he too is destroyed in his worser part that his better part may have spiritual immortality. You must be pitiful to him too, though it may not hold your hands from his destruction" (272). When Harker demurs, she reminds him: "Just think, my dear ... I too may need such pity; and that some other like you -- and with equal cause for anger -- may deny it to me!" (273). When the men see the vampire in Mina, they can pity Dracula and can carry out the new covenant they made after discovering the Count with Mina. Though they are tempted to exclude Mina again because the Count can use her against them, they soon abandon the idea as impractical. To deal with the unconscious, we must accept its presence, and we must bring all of our mental faculties into play.

     The proper way to kill a vampire, then, is with love. Though Lucy was exorcised with love, the men do not understand the importance of this ingredient in the ritual until after Mina's fall, for only then can they begin in any way to understand the vampire as a part of themselves. When the vampire is killed with love, he or she is not really killed at all, but transformed.

     The characters in Dracula discover the monster in the appearance of their childish wishes. At first, they think of the monster as another being, but eventually they recognize the monster as related to themselves. Finally, the external embodiment of the monster, the incarnation of the repressed, is destroyed, its heart stopped, its head separated permanently from its body. When this ritual is complete, the repressed returns transformed or neutralized to the unconscious, and they are free. Healthy sexual relations commence, and the dark Eastern land becomes a vacation spot and a reminder of what all must go through in one form or another in order truly to love others.

     Dracula, then, presents a reenactment of repression. The repressed is released in order that we may, in the guise of the implied reader, repress it again. Stoker explicitly, perhaps even consciously, develops this structure. Though he is not explicit about the content of the repressed, he has brought it near the surface, making it easy for critics to discover. This technique suggests that Stoker did not fear that his thrills would be too much for his audience. Though he skillfully uses conventional devices of distance and closure to maintain the separation between implied reader and real reader, he does not set up additional screening structures to the extent that Lovecraft does. Like Lovecraft, he creates an implied reader who is superior in knowledge to his narrators. Though it is possible to read the first four chapters naively, discovering Harker's position as Harker discovers it, it is impossible to miss dramatic irony while Dracula is in England. Stoker also may create a more secure distance between implied reader and text by specifying his horrors in rather great detail. The most graphically rendered scenes are confrontations with vampires: Harker's with the ladies, meeting Lucy in the graveyard and her exorcism, and the blood baptism of Mina. The latter even has the advantage of being described twice, from the outside by Seward and from the inside by Mina. Though these scenes are highly suggestive, they are definite enough to limit to some extent what may be read into them from the reader's unconscious.

     This novel offers the same general pleasures of all good novels, the aesthetic pleasures of making a concretion out of the signs provided by the text. The pleasures specific to it as a horror thriller are those of reenacting repression. Just as we take pleasure in the exercise of imagination to convert language into images, images into characters and actions, characters and actions into a plot, which is a concretion of the whole in which all the prominent features we have noticed have a place, so we also enjoy the similar exercise of imagination in meeting, recognizing, and replacing some of the main repressions we have made in becoming adults. These activities of the imagination combine in the best horror thrillers to produce an especially strong feeling of mental power, of being in control of one's ego or identity. Indeed, some horror thrillers, like Dracula and Ann Radcliffe's The Italian include a kind of celebration of this feeling of power at their ends.
 

II

     The horror thriller, in all three of the forms we have examined, offers an opportunity to reenact repression. Examining Dracula suggests the possibility that this reenactment may take place at two different levels. Insofar as we perceive the monster as evocative of all that we repress during what Jacques Lacan describes as the mirror phase of the development of the self, we reenact not particular acts of repression, but the primal general discovery of repression as a means of achieving selfhood. At a less universal level, we may relive repressions specific to our individual cultures and personalities. Presumably this would take place if something in a particular image evokes a cultural repression or strikes a personal chord without destroying aesthetic distance. The primal reenactment would seem the more important because it should be universal, but unique, cultural and personal responses should add to the pleasure of completing the work. Griffin says such experiences may soothe our fears about "loss of control and loss of identity" (17). Craft suggests that some kind of "play" is taking place in this controlled release of monstrosity (107-8). In The I, Holland presents two arguments that suggest the seriousness of this kind of play.

     First, Holland argues for an identity principle to replace Freud's idea of a death instinct to explain our compulsion to mentally repeat traumatic experiences. Drawing on the work of Heinz Lichtenstein, Holland argues that to explicate human motivation, we require not only the pleasure and reality principles, but also the identity principle. Humans, indeed all living organisms, need to maintain identity. This need is strong enough to override the pleasure principle. Hence, we will endure pain if necessary to maintain identity. Furthermore, humans will not surrender identity completely, even in brainwashing or in psychoanalytic cures (74-76).

     Second, Holland develops Freud's discussion, in "Analysis Terminable and Interminable," of defense mechanisms. Repression is, of course, a defense mechanism by which we hide our unacceptable wishes from ourselves or subordinate them to acceptable wishes. Freud, as quoted by Holland, points out: "The adult's ego, with its increased strength, continues to defend itself against dangers which no longer exist in reality; indeed, it finds itself compelled to seek out those situations in reality which can serve as an approximate substitute for the original danger, so as to be able to justify, in relation to them, its maintaining its habitual modes of reaction" (109). In this passage, Freud is discussing "abnormal" behavior, but we all use the defense of repression; our concern with what our culture as a whole more or less agrees to repress seems normal. The horror thriller, then, provides most members of our culture with a game, a safe, bounded process into which we can enter. By participating in the game, we do what our less fortunate fellows, as described by Freud, do in their lives. We seek to repeat those acts by which we establish and maintain our identities. Day also argues that by making our fears and desires a source of pleasure and by asserting the imagination's power over them, the horror thriller of the Gothic tradition can be therapeutic (67-74). J. P. Telotte goes a small step further when he argues that the confrontation in art between the ego and its unconscious can be liberating insofar as it reveals the psyche's power of creating order (187-89).

     In the horror thriller, we make a kind of game out of what in our lives is deadly serious, the creation and maintenance of a self in culture. The game gives a brief license to the culturally forbidden, allowing it to take form in monsters to which our responses are, inevitably, ambivalent. Dracula makes especially clear that these monsters come out of the self and, therefore, belong to it. This discovery becomes part of the game. Essential to maintaining the game as game are all the traditional literary conventions that sustain the aesthetic relation between reader and work. To play the role of implied reader in such a work is to volunteer for a test of strength, a comparatively easy one for most readers. The work challenges the real reader: can you play this game? Can you look on the forbidden and maintain your mental balance? At the same time that the work issues this challenge, it also provides a redundancy of safety equipment, thus making the reenactment fairly easy. To make the reenactment more difficult, perhaps even impossible, is an alternative some artists might intuitively perceive. We have seen in Brown a certain desire to disrupt the pattern by "fiddling" with the safety equipment.

     Any serious use of the fantastic seems to draw the author toward such tampering. It may have struck the reader that we have said little about the presence of the fantastic in Dracula. Harker experiences the fantastic at Castle Dracula, wondering whether Dracula is really a monster and whether his ladies are dreams. His experience of the fantastic continues until Mina's scholarship and Van Helsing's assurances based on that scholarship convince Harker that the whole Transylvanian adventure was fact rather than dream. The implied reader's hesitation is harder to specify. As Tzvetan Todorov implies, it is quite difficult to reread fantastic texts. Coming to the text in full knowledge of how the fantastic will be resolved greatly changes how one can successfully construct the implied reader. It seems clear, however, that the "original" implied reader is to share Harker's initial confusion about his experiences. Without this confusion, it would be more difficult to notice how Dracula connects with Harker's unconscious wishes and embodies them. Therefore, the hesitation of the implied reader can hardly extend beyond Lucy's first transfusion, even though the men continue to be skeptical until Lucy's exorcism. Hesitation between two interpretations is not foregrounded in this text to the degree that it is in Wieland or in Radcliffe's novels. The fantastic seems more important in fantastic/uncanny horror thrillers than in fantastic/marvelous horror thrillers. Brown's "fiddling" with closure, in fact, may be seen as an effort to extend the experience of the fantastic by locating it decisively and permanently in Clara rather than in her world.

     In Stoker's novel, the fantastic seems to be a means of creating mystery and suspense. It is, therefore, an important effect in the novel, but not nearly so important as in Wieland. The use of the fantastic primarily for the creation of mystery and suspense seems characteristic of the fantastic/marvelous horror thriller. In Théophile Gautier's "The Dead Lover," the narrator's youthful double life -- priest when awake and lover when asleep -- may be dream or reality. As in Stoker's novel, the vampire, Clarimonda, proves real. The implied reader's hesitation, like the narrator's, is more a source of wonder and mystery than of fear. In Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows," the fantastic hesitation of narrator and implied reader leads primarily to suspense. It is resolved by the confirmation of the intimations that he and his friend have come to the wrong place at the wrong time, thus making themselves the objects of supernatural powers.

     We are ready now to turn our attention to texts that aspire toward or realize the pure fantastic, sustaining the hesitation between natural and supernatural interpretations throughout the text so that no resolution takes place. As we examine these texts and ask what sorts of pleasure they offer, we will see that they develop some of the potentials present in the uncanny tales and in the horror thrillers we have examined. We will also see that the pure fantastic seems to demand of its users experimentation with the safety equipment usually provided in this game of reenacting repression. What happens when this equipment is sabotaged or cast aside?

End of Chapter 5.

Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index