Mary Shelley : From Fun to Fame

Mary ShelleyWhile on holiday in the Swiss Alps with her lover, locked inside due to rainy weather, Mary Shelley was unaware that she was about to become famous. As they read ghost stories for their entertainment, Mary suggested to her lover that they write their own ghost story as a fun competition. Despite the fact that in 1815 women were discouraged to write literary works, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein not only was as good as other German writers, but it also became the bestselling novel of her time. Due to the characters, events, and the intriguing themes found throughout the novel, this novel is still popular today.

Though the novel’s author is female, there are no actual female characters, only three active male characters and two passive female characters can be found. Robert Walton, a sailor trying to find a passage to the North Pole, is the first character introduced. Walton stumbles upon the second character, a scientist known as Victor Frankenstein. Together the two men narrate the events of the novel- Walton’s letters to his sister echo the words of Frankenstein. However, neither of these characters is the main character. Victor Frankenstein confesses to Walton that he has done something really terrible in his quest for the knowledge of life’s secret; thus introducing the main character-Frankenstein’s monster. As Victor tells Walton about his creation Walton is telling his sister through letters. Through these two narrating characters Shelley’s ghost story begins to unfold. Continue reading

Romantic Themes from Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily BronteThe Classic, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, leaves you mesmerized by the actors. There are several themes about love from Wuthering Heights that are worthy of a second look.

Regarding her feelings for Heathcliff, Catherine she states that their souls are one and she loves him not only because he is handsome.

The depth of her love was revealed when she said that she feels as if she is in an abyss, that he can take any form, that she will be with him. Her love was so strong for him that she felt as if she could not live without him , “Be with me always…I cannot live without my life…without my soul!”

“I have to remind … my heart to beat!” Her love was all consuming.

Heathcliff is also very verbal about his love for Catherine.   His heart was broken by her, but he was willing to forgive her for anything that she had done to him because of the strength of her love for him. Continue reading

Why Bram Stoker Wrote Dracula?

Bram Stoker Wrote DraculaThe name Dracula conjures up thoughts of fear and terror. He is known as the Prince of Darkness or as the first vampire to have emerged from the darkness. Vampires are ghastly creatures that roam the world of the living in order to suck the blood from its many victims. Life is in the blood and it is the blood that undead vampires need in order to make themselves ‘feel’ alive. Count Dracula knows this truth all too well. This is why his name is feared all throughout the world. This is one reason as to why a 19th century author by the name of Bram Stoker created modern myth of Dracula.

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Ireland and he spent most of life as a writer living in London, England. Stoker had written many short novels in order to earn a living. He also worked in theater for many years as well. Stoker would also travel from time to time during the course of his life. One place that he visited during the later stages of his existence was a town called Whitby which was also located in England. Upon his visit to this area he received the inspiration to write the story of Dracula.

When Stoker was in Whitby he encounterd a man by the name of Armin Vambery. This man was from Hungary and he was an author. One day when these two men were talking Vambery told Stoker about a strange tale of vampires which were a common myth or possible legend from his part of the world.

Apparently, Vambery’s tale had helped to influence Stoker to write about these strange monsters.

Over the next seven years Stoker intensly studied the world of vampires. During this time he discovered that vampires were bloated and dark colored. They were mischievious and often remained in their homes after being turned into undead creatures. The original vampires would roam their neighborhoods looking for victims and they would even attack their loved ones. They could even inhabit a dead corpse and move around in it.

Stoker also realized that vampire like monsters were around for thousands of years. The Hebrews told stories of a vampire like demon lady named Lilith who sucked the blood out of babies. The Greeks told of the story of Empusa who was a demon that transformed into a beautiful woman in order to feed on the blood of young unsuspecting men.

Stoker knew that vampires were not pretty, sauve or sophisticated creatures. They were not glamourous or sexy and they probably would not appeal to the average person of his time. Stoker knew that he had to remake the image of the vampire in order for it to connect with modern audiences. Stoker decided to base his new vampire ruler off of a real life king or ruler from the 15th century named Vlad III.

Vlad III was a king of Wallachia and a Christian. When the Ottomans tried to over run parts of Eastern Europe, Vlad III was on the front lines stopping their advance. However, many legends claim that Vlad III was a ruthless god fearing king who impaled hundreds of thousands of people. Many of these individuals were his enemies but a lot them were criminals and other people whom he deemed unfit to live. Vlad III became known as Vlad the Impaler and he was also a member of the Order of the Dragon or Dracul. Stoker now had the inspiration for his leading character who would become known as Dracula.

The modern day vampire as we know it was in fact created by Stoker. Count Dracula was an aristocrat who was powerful and wealthy. The count lived in a huge castle, had lots of money, plenty of servants, dressed in nice attire and was a very charming and sophisticated individual. He loved the ladies and he was intersted in the business, political and social affiars of humans. In other words Stoker made the modern vampire a sociable, likeable and sensible monster who would be able to relate to the average person. Even though Dracula was a compatible monster for modern times, he still remained a blood sucking demon at his core.

Stoker wrote Dracula at a time when the British Empire was being threatned by many enemies. In the book, Dracula, leaves his his magnificent castle in Transylvania in order to wreak havoc in London. Stoker wrote Dracula in this way to reflect the threats that were common to England during his time. This style of writing is known as invasion literature. His work is also classified under Gothic, horror and vampire fiction.

Ultimately, this is why Bram Stoker wrote Dracula; he wanted to introduce an old myth to a new audience. Stoker also desired to make his mark as an author with this book. Though he received outstanding reviews for his work, the book did not sell well. Stoker’s book Dracula became famous after his death. Hollywood made three movies that were based off of this book. These films include Dracula (1931), Dracula: The Horror of Dracula (1958) and Bram Stokers Dracula which was released in 1992. Stoker’s work also influenced many other modern vampire fiction such as the Twilight series, the Blade films and even Halloween costumes and cartoons that feature Count Dracula.

Frank Norris’ intense novel McTeague lives on

Frank Norris’ second novel McTeague, first published in 1899 is a tough, grim, disturbing read but once you have read it the memory of it will stay forever.

You never learn the first name of McTeague throughout the entire book but Norris describes his eponymous protagonist so well he almost jumps out of the page at you. He is a huge, crude man with large limbs and heavy muscles and he moves as slowly and ponderously as his brain works.

dental horror novelHe is a cut-price dentist working out of one room in one of the roughest areas of San Francisco in 1890. The world McTeague inhabits is grim and gritty and revolves around little people living all their lives in small dingy rooms.

If you have a fear of the dentist perhaps, you should not read this book as McTeague often extracts teeth by just using his enormous hands. Patients only go to him when they cannot afford another dentist and he works slowly and laboriously. He keeps his charges low just making enough to live on as his only ambition is to purchase a huge gold-plated tooth to hang outside his window.

Nevertheless, his life changes forever when his friend Marcus Schouler sends his cousin Trina Sieppe to him for dental work. She is a very young girl from East Bay and McTeague is overwhelmed with feelings he cannot control. As she lies unconscious from sedation in the chair, he kisses her passionately and when she wakes up, he begs her to marry him.

It takes a lot of persuasion but eventually she agrees to become his wife and move into Polk Street with him. Schouler, who had previously had his eye on Trina, puts his friendship with McTeague first and the three get on well.

That changes when just before the wedding a lottery ticket bought by Trina wins her $5,000, which was a fortune in those days. Schouler considers McTeague has cheated him out of his share of the money and their friendship ends in a bloody brawl.

At first, the couple are happy until McTeague is barred from practising dentistry because he has no licence. Thinking his wife will help them out he discovers she wants to keep all her winnings to herself and they sink deeper into depression and poverty.

McTeague cannot cope with the loss of his livelihood and his wife’s greed and his former passion for her turns into murderous intent.

This is a novel about the lower echelons of society and in parts it is detached and clinical but in other parts it is pleasurable to read. The early days of the newly-weds marriage are winsomely described and there is an amusing reference to the courtship of two elderly neighbors.

Some of the critics described the novel as tragic when it first came out but it has more signs of pathos than tragedy.

It is a novel worth reading for serious readers, as the descriptions are vivid and the details superb, especially the colorful portrayal of life in San Francisco in that period. The suspense and terror builds up as the novel reaches its melodramatic climax in a hot summer in Death Valley.

McTeague was far more influential than the handful of books Frank Norris produced afterwards. These included his famous tale of the bloody war between the Southern Pacific Railroad and California wheat farmers Octopus followed by two more linked novels.

Frank Norris died of peritonitis at the age of 32 and he was buried in Mountview Cemetery, Oakland, California. His remains lie under a large obelisk erected by his UC Berkeley Fraternity Phi Delta Gamma who still hold an annual Frank Norris Dinner in his honor.

In 1924 director Eric von Stroheim adapted McTeague into a ten-hour epic film called Greed but it was cut down to two hours by MGM studios and has long been forgotten. In 1982, the novel was turned into an opera directed by Robert Altman but the story of McTeague and people’s fear of the dentist is best portrayed in Norris’ intense novel.

The Classes of Pride and Prejudice

Classes of Pride and PrejudiceThere were many different social classes in the novel Pride and Prejudice written in the nineteenth century by Jane Austin. There are small themes that are circulated through the entire book. Although, the main themes consist of pride, prejudice, family, women, class, individuality and society and virtue. The value derived from these themes were very important to much of society at this time in history.

Pride was the foundation to the barriers that most people possessed, specifically the two main characters of the book. People of the times had so much pride that it blinded them from the honesty that could enlighten them beyond any comprehension that they could have imagined. Even today our pride get in the way of the truth like a wall that is impassible at all costs.

There is not just one type of prejudice and is usually taught through life experience as we grow up or try to. For some, growing up is extremely difficult. Prejudice was taught everyday from the moment people were born. When an entire family is feeling a certain way and have the same views on their place among their own family and fellow society members among them, it is almost impossible to get out from under that weight. For Darcy and Elizabeth, taking down the veil of a lifetime of conditioning was extremely difficult. They had odds to overcome that could not be harder.

This novel is very clear and distinctive pertaining to all relationships present in the novel. This includes all relationships from familial to societal. When families from different classes try to mingle together it is found to be very arduous and frowned upon by the majority of society. Being different from the norm in that time was not something that people took lightly and those who chose to be different had consequences such as being shamed or shunned. There were pocket watches that were worn which showed where you stood in society and how much wealth you had. Coming from a wealthy family held a great standing in the community among the rich, but made little impressions on the less wealthy. Click here to view sample pocket watches from the 19th century that were made by the Japy Freres.

 

The fact that Darcy and Elizabeth allowed themselves to change even though they would be facing the admonishment of those close to them is what made them virtuous individuals. They made their own individuality instead of waiting for it to be given to them through acceptance. They chose not to wait for other to make them feel that they could without the possibility of feeling ashamed of what they were doing as if it was for some reason wrong. They did not feel that they needed to feel accepted by other members of society because the only acceptance that they needed and wanted was from each other. When they reciprocated each others feelings is when they found true happiness and peace. If this book is meant to teach us anything, it is to teach us to embrace all differences and especially our own. You cannot make things acceptable in life if you cannot own up to your own individuality.

Character Analysis of Helen Huntingdon

The Tenant of Wilfred HallHelen Huntingdon in The Tenant of Wilfred Hall was a tale that took place in the early 1800s. This novel was written by the English author Anne Brontë, but was published under the pseudonym of Acton Bell, in 1848.

This was during the time in which women had very few rights outside of the home. Most women at that time went from their father’s home to their husband’s home, and the only rights that they were allowed was the ones that were granted to them by their father, brother(if adult) or husband.

Since women had no legal standing in society, they were not allowed to own property nor were women able to sue for divorce. The husband retained all rights in the marriage, and he could do pretty much whatever he liked. During this era, women cannot sue for divorce, or get out of a bad marriage, regardless of the way they may be treated.

According to the story, a mysterious young woman appears one day at an Elizabethan mansion by the name of Wildfell Hall. Now this home had sat empty for many years prior to her arrival. The woman is said to be a widow, and has brought with her a young son and a servant. She lives in the old hall in the strictest seclusion and solitude. She is going by the assumed name of Helen Graham. Unfortunately, due to her mysterious nature, the townsfolk start vicious rumors about her character. But this does not stop a young farmer from finding out for himself. Gilbert Markham discovers her secrets and still displays interest in her.

Although the story is the epitome of marital betrayal, the author has a firm belief in universal salvation.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is thought of by many to be one of the very first serious feminist novels ever written. Many years later, it was noted that when Helen escaped from her abusive husband, she not only violated the social morays of the time, but was considered to have went against English law during that time as well. Women had little to no rights or any type of independent legal standing up until the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in 1870. Until this law was passed, women were not allowed to enter any sort of legal contracts, or own any type of property, outside of with their husbands. A woman could not petition for the custody and control of her children nor even file for divorce.

In the novel, Helen is depicted as an independent and courageously, brave woman, way ahead of her time. She has a thirst for autonomy, rather than “buckle under to the male authority figures” of the time. The woman’s role was to care for a man, do what he wanted, and follow whatever orders he gave, regardless of how he treated her. Helen followed the conventional belief system at the beginning of her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon, and was a good wife. She found herself so busy taking care of her husband that she did not have the time to follow her own pursuits, such a painting. Helen used to enjoy painting very much, but according society’s rules, only the man could do as he pleased, and Helen’s needs/pursuit of happiness came last after her husbands wishes.

She was misled at the start by romantic notions of love and duty. Like many women, even today, Helen believed that she could change her husband’s behavior for the better. But when his drinking got out of hand, he allowed the alcoholism to take over his life, and he became increasingly abusive to her, Helen finally had enough and left him.

The prevailing morals of the era were seriously challenged when the novel was released for publication. When Helen slammed the door in her husband’s face after he continued to abuse her, this was so shocking to society at the time, that some critics felt the material in the book should not be allowed in the hands of young girls and women. Although, interestingly enough, there were a few critics who actually found the novel to be refreshing and entertaining. Many people considered this to be a feminist novel,

The heroine of our story was uncharacteristically forthright and spirited, and not afraid to speak out frankly to the men in her life she came in contact with. This was quite a contrast to her close friend Milicent who was pretty much ignored or treated like a doormat by her husband. Helen leaves her abusive husband, and takes her young son with her. as she does not want her son to grow up like his father.

There are several themes that run throughout the novel; alcoholism, animal abuse, unhappy marriage, emotional abuse and physical abuse. These ideas were not uncommon for the time period in history, but the actions and behavior of Helen then, are glaringly apparent in that prim and proper society.

We see glimpses of the ever present struggle between good vs. evil, as it is pointed out how those who conform to society are accepted, while those who do not are treated poorly and seem to experience unpleasant events and circumstances. Our heroine, Helen one must admit, is a woman of uncommon courage and bravery for stepping outside the norms of society. We also see how difficult it must have been for her as the people treated her shabbily and spread vicious rumors and gossip about her character, just because she did fit the mold society expected of her.

It is easy to go along with the crowd or the group, it is an entirely different matter to stand up for your beliefs and convictions, especially when you have to stand alone. Helen was a pioneer for the rights of women everywhere, whether she was aware of it or not. Her bold, unheard of actions only proved that women did not have to downtrodden by their husbands, and they had a chance to make decisions for themselves.

Religious Themes in Dracula

The classic story of Dracula is one that’s rife with religious themes of all sorts. One of the first religious themes in Dracula has to do with salvation. For example, Van Helsing talks extensively in the book about the common ways to fight supernaturally evil creatures, and they all have to do with using supernaturally good symbols.

dracula and godThe vast majority of them involve Christian symbol of some kind. The crucifix, for example. This is the major symbol of the Christian faith, and it’s used to repel vampires. Helsing brings Communion wafers, even. The way Helsing’s mission is talked about by Stoker implies that Van Helsing’s mission is primarily a Christian one. The implication is that the Christian religion is true, and that vampires are the way they are because they have abandoned this faith. What they seek beneath the surface is salvation.

In fact, the novel focuses so much on these symbols that in many ways it functions as a sort of handbook for how to avoid damnation and how to find your way back to god through salvation. Dracula is portrayed as something of a satanic figure, especially in the way that he’s portrayed visually. He has the flaming eyes, invoking a hellish image, he has the pointed ears just like many depictions of the devil. He has pointed fangs which are often associated with demonic creatures due to their violent nature.

Dracula’s obsession with blood is also a demonic characteristic as well. The idea here is that this is something of a twisting of the traditional Christian ritual of the Eucharist which involves consuming blood symbolically. Dracula’s blood urges allow him to keep his body alive but have the side effect of making him completely cut off from God and the spiritual side of life.

The theme here is that focusing on earthly desires such as those that come from the preservation and focus on the body are inherently dangerous, and that they are ultimately something that will condemn you and cut you off from what’s really important, namely spiritual salvation.

Religious salvation is a relentless focus in the book. Even when the undead Lucy dies, she goes from being corrupted and bad into a completely pure creature and her soul is returned to her. Only those who subsist with their bodies and focus on them are “undead” and are kept apart from the peace of salvation. AS soon as any of these die, including Dracula, they are described in a more positive way.

In general, modern day pastors can find plenty of religious themes for talking points in Dracula, if they are so inclined. This type of in depth analysis of the themes in Dracula, may even help them to get a job as a pastor since it’s a book that completely takes the Christian perspective in exploring evil and those who go against the will of God. The author portrays disobeying God’s “natural order” as a kind of agony that people only think that they want without it actually being truly positive since in many cases the only time that the undead characters are described in a positive way is when they are dead in a natural way.