Dracula Critical Thinking Questions For Children

Buffy the Vampire Slayer(1997-2003)

Adapted for television from the 1992 film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer told the story of Buffy Summers, a teenage girl who slays vampires. The show was extremely popular, eventually spawning a spin-off, Angel, and an expanded universe of comics.

The dual nature of vampires is not as clear on Buffy as it is in Dracula. Originally, vampires were humans possessed by a demon spirit, completely obliterating the original human spirit. Another theory, however, states that vampires are humans transformed by demon physiology – specifically, the human conscience is gone, leaving behind the basic human, driven only by instinct. There are also numerous other theories as to what exactly constitutes a vampire and debates over just how human they are. According to Buffy, a human becomes a vampire when there is an exchange of blood between a vampire and said human. First, the vampire sucks the human’s blood; then, the vampire must feed the human its own blood. Much like in Dracula, humans must be in a weakened state for this transition to be effective. As also seen in Dracula, vampires often live in packs, with the leader being called “the master,” something that is seen in Dracula in the relationship between Dracula and Renfield. Other aspects of vampire lore that are found in both Dracula and Buffy are that vampires can only enter a private residence if invited (though the inviter does not have to know that they are inviting the vampire in) and that vampires do not have reflections.

Source: Vampires in the Buffyverse
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118276/

Twilight(2005)

In 2005, Stephenie Meyer published Twilight, the first in a series of four books about the love between vampire Edward Cullen and teenager Bella Swan. Reviews of the book were initially positive, and the books were a wild success, resulting in a series of films being made. The first, also called Twilight, was released in 2008.

Though there has been much scrutiny over Meyer's portrayal of vampires, her vampires do share some similarities with those found in Dracula. They have super strength and various powers, though their powers are very individualized in that they are often simply the strengths they had as a human magnified. Additionally, vampires primarily live in clans. Those that do live alone, known as nomads, tend to be much harsher. However, the most famous aspect of Meyer's vampire lore is something not found Dracula – vampires have a sensitivity to sunlight that causes them to sparkle.

Source: Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown and, 2005. Print.
Official Website: http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight.html

True Blood(2008-present)

In 2008, The Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris was adapted into a successful television show, True Blood. The series chronicles Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress living in a small town. When vampires go public, announcing that they have found a synthetic blood (Tru Blood) that they can live off of, Sookie is drawn to them due to the fact that she cannot read their minds.

As in Dracula, the vampires of the True Blood universe are physically dead – they do not have any bodily functions or brain activity. Despite this, they are susceptible to illness, particularly to a mutation of hepatitis known as “Hep D.” These vampires, like Dracula, also have a type of mind control over humans, known as “glamoring.” Interestingly, vampires can also lay claim to humans to keep other vampires from feasting on them. However, vampires who live together in dens tend to be much more vicious than vampires who try to live alone.

Source: True Blood Reveals Rules of Its Vampire Universe
Official Website: http://www.hbo.com/true-blood/index.html#

The Vampire Diaries(2009-present)

Adapted from the book series by L.J. Smith, The Vampire Diaries tells the story of Elena Gilbert, a teenage girl who falls in love with Stefan Salvatore, a vampire. The show focuses around their relationship, the complications caused by Stefan’s brother, Damon, and the supernatural occurrences prevalent in their small town. 

As in Dracula, vampires can pass as normal humans, though they have fangs and their faces change when they are preparing to feed. Feeding can be painful if the human victim struggles too much, but if the victim is willing it can be pleasurable for both parties. Vampires have super speed and strength, and sharper senses. These include numerous mental powers, including the power to influence humans, telepathic communication with each other, and the ability to read humans’ minds. However, they do have a fatal weakness to sunlight, though they can go into the sunlight if they wear the gemstone lapis lazuli on their person, usually in the form of a ring. In the books, vampires can also shift into animals, though the number of forms they can shift to is limited. They most often shift into bird forms. They must also be invited into a place before they can enter, though they do have reflections and are not affected by crucifixes.

Official Website: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/the-vampire-diaries
Sources: The Vampire Diaries: Vampire Lore 101
Vampire Lore 101: The TV Series Edition

http://www.vampire-diaries.net/tv-series/vampire-lore-101-the-tv-series-edition

Harry Potter (1997-present)

While there is no mention of vampires in the Harry Potter series, there are many parallels with the world of Dracula.

In the Harry Potter series, the protagonist Harry has a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead from an early battle with the Dark Lord, Voldemort. With this scar, Harry is able to sense when Voldemort draws near, can see glimpses from Voldemort’s eyes and can hear Voldemort’s thoughts.  Likewise, Mina has a telepathic connection with Dracula. After a holy wafer burns her forehead, Mina is able to be properly hypnotized by Van Helsing, and she experiences the same surroundings as the Count. This ultimately allows Mina to narrow down the Count’s location and trace his escape.

Both the series and the novel feature a strong female character. In the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger is consistently the brains of the operation. She is at the top of her class, and frequently called the brightest witch of her age. She is always prepared and solves many of the problems Harry faces. Mina is the heroine of Dracula. She compiles all the letters, newspaper articles, and journals to create cohesive evidence for the men to follow. Through her telepathic bond with Dracula, Mina is able to locate the monster and advise the men during their hunt. It is rather debatable if the men would have succeeded without her help.

Shape-shifting elements come into play as well. There are many animagi, wizards or witches who can transform into animals at will, in the Harry Potter series. A professor at Hogwarts Minerva McGonagall can change into a tabby cat, Sirius Black can transform into a black shaggy dog, the reporter Rita Skeeter can secretly turn into a beetle and many more. In Dracula, the Count is able to morph into wolves, bats, and can even disappear entirely into a mist.

The Dark Lord Voldemort and Count Dracula are very comparable. Both immortal, through horcruxes or otherwise, they are known to drink blood to stay alive. In the first book Harry Potter’s and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Voldemort possesses Quirinus Quirrell and forces him to drink unicorn blood on Voldemort’s behalf. Unicorn blood is said to “keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price” (Rowling 258). As a vampire, Dracula needs blood to survive.

Additionally, both villains control hoards of loyal underlings, whether they are nefarious Death Eaters or a ferocious pack of wolves. 

Source: Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. New York: A.A. Levine, 1998. Print.

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In Chapters 22 and 23 of Dracula, on whom does the blame for Mina's plight primarily fall, and why do some characters object to this assignment of accountability?

Chapters 22 and 23 present several candidates for blame (beyond Dracula, the perpetrator of the horrible actions). Renfield lets Dracula in and realizes his mistake too late. Seward fails to connect the clues that link Dracula and Renfield. Van Helsing overconfidently thinks Mina safe and unwisely isolates her. But the blame falls mainly on the victim, who embraces it, crying out self-condemning words like "Unclean!" and declaring herself worthy of death. When the communion wafer burns Mina's forehead, she knows God has rejected her and her polluted blood. Van Helsing doesn't object to Mina's self-judgment; he doesn't deny her assertions. The only comfort he can offer is the hope that on Judgment Day, God will forgive Mina, implying strongly that her condition is her fault. Some readers may find this scene baffling. Yet the events in Mina's bedroom are staged to suggest not only a physical assault but a sexual one. Harker is sleeping, entranced, on the bed. Mina kneels on the bed itself as Dracula, having drunk her blood, holds her in a rigid embrace to his bare chest. For a late Victorian novel, the scene is as sexually charged as it can be. Dracula wants to transform Mina into a bride-maiden, like the voluptuous, insatiable, desirable women in his castle. In Victorian culture, women had to guard their chastity. Whether through choice or force, chastity, once violated, marred a woman's reputation; and women who dared to engage in men's business, as Mina has, were already suspect. Dracula targets Mina for his own reasons, but for Mina, the assault is God's judgment, and the mark on her forehead is evidence of her fallen state.

How does Jonathan Harker change in Chapters 21 through 23 of Dracula, how does his transformation parallel Mina's recent experiences, and what does the change suggest about their marriage?

The first changes readers see in Harker are hardly surprising. He's worried about Mina because she is pale and tired, and he feels separated from her because Van Helsing isolates her. He spends too many hours investigating and too few eating, so he is exhausted (just as she is), and he experiences sleep disturbances, courtesy of Dracula (just as she does). Most striking, however, is that he changes physically. After Mina narrates the details of Dracula's final assault on her, which she can bear to do only because Jonathan holds her tightly and supports her, Seward reports that Harker's face shows "a grey look which deepened" as the sun rose, and Harker's hair becomes white, perhaps from shock. As he learns more fully what's happened to Mina, Harker seems to age. He becomes thin and pale (just as she does). Later in the novel, when the team divides into three groups to pursue Dracula, Harker struggles with drowsiness when Mina, traveling with Van Helsing, can hardly wake up; and when she's alert at night, he's uncannily alert as well. These parallels suggest a deep emotional connection between husband and wife. When Harker writes that if Mina "must be a vampire in the end, then she shall not go into that unknown and terrible land alone," it's easy to believe he's willing to continue his parallel transformation and become a vampire with her.

In Chapters 24 and 25 of Dracula, what are the competing views of Dracula and can they coexist logically?

Van Helsing doesn't know how Dracula became a vampire, but his research and the team's experience suggest several views of what and who Dracula is. A brute: Driven by his need for blood, and allied with other brutes (such as wolves), Dracula is like a predatory animal, such as a tiger in search of prey. Dracula is supernaturally strong, like a tiger or a pack of wolves, so mere men need special weapons to destroy him. An able scholar and adept leader: As he was in mortal life, Dracula is intelligent and curious. He learns foreign languages, researches London, and prepares his move carefully, and he achieves his goals "all alone! from a ruin tomb in a forgotten land." A lost opportunity: If only a being of Dracula's talents used them for good, Van Helsing laments, what could he not accomplish on the side of the right? A miracle: Dracula can "smile at death," Van Helsing says, and is immune to diseases capable of wiping out populations. A forerunner: Perhaps Dracula is a new species; if he's successful in establishing a new realm, he will populate it with others of his kind. A child: Perhaps Dracula's brain is still childlike. In the centuries since he became a vampire, he's had to learn everything anew. A criminal: Mina advances this view. Dracula's flight is cowardly and self-centered; and rather than innovating in the face of new challenges, he merely repeats patterns from his earlier days. Clearly, these views jostle for dominance during the discussions about Dracula and contradict each other, but Mina's view—that Dracula is "of criminal type"—is the final word and the assumption on which they base their successful pursuit of the vampire.

In Chapters 23 through 27 of Dracula, how does Dracula's absence shift the novel's focus, and how does Stoker maintain Dracula's influence and threat despite his absence?

Dracula knows he's been outfoxed and cornered when Van Helsing and the young men confront him in the house in Picadilly, but he has a contingency plan: one final box of Transylvanian earth in which he can travel home to regroup and mount a new attack. He bullies his way through obstacles with the determination of a hunter who knows he's become the hunted. Until the last sections of Chapter 27, readers don't see him at all. In fact Dracula's absent for much of the novel, a plot choice that many movie adaptions reject, keeping the charismatic monster before audiences' gazes. His sudden flight conflicts with the proud statements that Mina will one day feast on the men who "played against me ... who commanded nations ... and fought for them, hundreds of years" ago. Is his flight cowardice or strategic regrouping? Regardless, Van Helsing, Mina, and the young men can't escape the threat and danger Dracula poses, despite his physical absence. His control over Mina grows; she senses that one day he will call her, as he said, and she won't be able to disobey. The idea that the heroes might have to confront Dracula in his stronghold, with wolves and hungry bride-maidens and intimidated Szgany at his command, drives the urgency of their plans, ratcheting up the tension during the pursuit. That Dracula's stuck in a box of dirt doesn't lessen the potency of his blood-lust, either—as the workers who cart the box toward Castle Dracula know, their master will wake up famished. Absent, Dracula looms in each character's imagination as a threat specific to his or her vulnerabilities.

What are the inconsistencies in Mina's behavior in Chapters 25 and 26 of

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