The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde

944 words - 4 pages

Gothic Literature

Mini Assignment

Compare and contrast the way the writers use plot, character and
setting to increase tension and atmosphere in the opening chapter of
‘Varney the Vampire’ and ‘Dracula’.

Both ‘Varney the Vampire’ and ‘Dracula’ create a tense and suspenseful
atmosphere in their opening chapters as the typically gothic language
(“solemn tones”, “air thick and heavy”) and imagery immediately
incites in the reader a sense of foreboding and unease. This is
particularly true of a modern audience familiar with the conventions
of the genre; the old castles adorned with “curious carvings” and the
dank, dark settings of musty “antique chambers” in ‘Varney the
Vampire’ are highly suggestive of imminent encounters with
unimaginable evil. Stoker echoes these conventions as he juxtaposes
the familiar backdrop of the Carpathian Mountains with the unnerving
superstitions of the local peasants; these strong supernatural
elements continue as Harker travels along the murky and desolate
mountain pass (“weird and solemn”) with alarming haste and endures a
terrifying ride to Dracula’s “vast ruined castle”, leaving the reader
with a feeling of doom and dread, eager to read on.

‘Varney’ opens with a very “ominous calm” immediately followed by an
all-consuming storm which invades the solitude and stillness of sleep;
the town is untimely awoken by this but return to sleep unaware of the
menacing figure looming over the girl’s window; this pathetic fallacy
alerts the reader to the horror about to be unleashed and heightens
the tension as his victim remains innocently oblivious to his
presence. The rich attention to detail in the descriptions of both
the storm and the room prolongs the tension as the sinister atmosphere
is built up more elaborately and the reader waits on edge for the
deadly action to begin. Similarly, the episodic first person
narrative administered through Harker’s diary extracts in Dracula
gradually builds up a sense of dread as he is increasingly exposed to
the mysteries of the land and the inhabitants’ strange fear of the
“evil eye”; his “paralysis of fear” of the drivers strangely
animalistic features and immense, curious power over the elements
heighten this anxiety and the “black heavy clouds” again signal the
true horror still to come.

Harker’s naivety towards his coming danger follows Dracula’s patient
and subtle luring of his victim as his friendly worded letter puts
Harker at ease and encourages him to view the Count favourably (“Mem.
I must ask the count”). In complete contrast to Varney, Dracula likes
to play psychological games with his prey and strike a bond with them
so that they fall victim to his thrall (“my master bade me take all
care of you”), he bides his time and is quite elusive and enigmatic to
begin with. Varney, on the other hand, prolongs the girl’s agony only
shortly as he captivatingly approaches the bed, but quite ferociously
and with a passionate...

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