Friday, September 10, 2010

Borrowed Fire: Does Dracula have a psychology (part 2)? Or: the Gothic John McCain

As we make our way toward the final confrontation with you-know-who, we are once again treated to one of Van Helsing's patented info dumps, i.e. stuff it might have been good to know earlier. I suppose I should not complain. After all, I've been on Van H repeatedly for always going off to do research at the very moments when he ought to be vigorously pursuing Dracula with a stake. So now he's found out something kind of interesting about Dracula's psychology, and I guess it's better late than never. Besides, don't we all have the same problem--preparation vs. action? Research vs. writing? No matter what we're doing, it seems like the wrong thing at the wrong time, doesn't it?

Anyway, here's what he's learned:

"I have studied, over and over again since they came into my hands, all the papers relating to this monster, and the more I have studied, the greater seems the necessity to utterly stamp him out. All through there are signs of his advance. Not only of his power, but of his knowledge of it. As I learned from the researches of my friend Arminius of Buda-Pesth, he was in life a most wonderful man. Soldier, statesman, and alchemist--which latter was the highest development of the science knowledge of his time. He had a mighty brain, a learning beyond compare, and a heart that knew no fear and no remorse. He dared even to attend the Scholomance, and there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay.

"Well, in him the brain powers survived the physical death. Though it would seem that memory was not all complete. In some faculties of mind he has been, and is, only a child. But he is growing, and some things that were childish at the first are now of man's stature. He is experimenting, and doing it well. And if it had not been that we have crossed his path he would be yet, he may be yet if we fail, the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road must lead through Death, not Life."

As before, this is not exactly a psychology. We're learning this info primarily so we can see what a formidable enemy Dracula is. He's extremely smart, and, for the first time, we understand he has a Plan.

Interestingly, vampirism seems to be akin to a brain injury--it causes faculties usually present in adults to vanish. I'm not quite sure what the reference to his being childlike means, but we might assume it's a radical narcissism, which doesn't recognize the existence of others as others. That obviates the need for any conscience, and explains his desire to populate the world with mini-Dracs. In his mind, everyone is either him, or should be him.

Yeah, this is overstated. Van Helsing's insights don't raise Dracula beyond the level of extra-scary monster. However, this description put me in mind of another character who could become a truly tragic monster, if someone wants to write that particular novel. I am thinking of John McCain. I have no evidence one way or the other to indicate whether he once was smart. However, like Dracula, he was a proud warrior. He was laid low by his enemies. At some point--perhaps as a result of torture, or that combined with years in the strange and stultifying castle of the U.S. Senate, plus two (or more?) failed runs for president--he developed a burning desire for vengeance. What he may once have been, he is no longer. He bides his time, learning and plotting as his conscience withers away. Until one desperate day, faced with what could be his final defeat, he makes a bargain with the devil. And unleashes a red-suited, bee-hived demon upon the earth...

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