Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chapter 7: In Which the Story Might Be More Suspenseful if Everyone Weren't So Predictably Stupid

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Exposition, and... yeah, that was pretty much it.

First, I want to say a word of thanks to James Malcolm Rymer for making me laugh again. I was afraid the comically bad writing was gone for good, but Chapter 7 (THE VISIT TO THE VAULT OF THE BANNERWORTHS, AND ITS UNPLEASANT RESULT. -- THE MYSTERY.) is beginning to prove me wrong, if only for its awkward dialogue.

Henry and George wake Flora up, but don't tell her anything about the vampire, because she's a girl and girls are delicate and stuff. (Actually, it probably has more to do with the fact that Flora, being the one who was actually attacked by a vampire, is less invested in the it's-not-a-vampire-if-I-stick-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-hum-loudly routine that's infected the rest of the characters.)

Henry decides to visit the family vault to make sure their ancestor is Really Dead, not just Mostly Dead. Marchdale arrives and advises them that checking out the vault can do no harm. But here's where they go wrong:
"Why should it not be done secretly and at night? Of course we lose nothing by making a night visit to a vault into which daylight, I presume, cannot penetrate."
There's only one problem with that, says George: they must leave Flora unprotected. ("We do, indeed," said Henry. "I did not think of that.") The solution is just to make sure that Flora feels safe on her own, with just her elderly mother to protect her from the vampire. Nothing can possible go wrong with this plan.

Seriously. Nothing can go wrong! There's absolutely no reason why they should go visit a potential vampire's lair at night, leaving their sister unguarded from the vampire which roams around at night, because it's silly to go in the daytime since it's dark anyway.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call the Idiot Plot. That is, a story which cannot progress properly unless the characters are dumb as rocks for no reason other than to make the readers want to smack them over the head while typing furiously with excessive use of italics.

And there's still ten pages to go in this chapter. God help me.

They discuss how to get into the vault, and decide to ask Chillingworth to come with them, since he's a doctor and can identify the remains. Then they go ask Flora if it's okay for them to go out at night and leave her unprotected, and there's this awesome scene:
"If fire-arms were left you, do you think you would have courage to use them?"
"I do, Henry."
"Then you shall have them; and let me beg of you to shoot any one without the least hesitation who shall come into your chamber."
"I will, Henry. If ever human being was justified in the use of deadly weapons, I am now."
Flora is getting kind of badass, and I approve of this character development wholeheartedly. So do her brothers, apparently, because as they go on their Vampire Hunt of Sheer StupidityTM they are suitably impressed by her wish to do violence rather than laying there helplessly, as most women presumably would.
And so, after some to-do about forgetting matches (luckily Chillingworth always has some on hand), they get into the vault. Then there's some more to-do about matches and the chapter ends on an astoundingly unsuspenseful note:
Mr. Chillingworth lit the wax candle which was now handed to him by Marchdale, and in another moment the vault from one end of it to the other was quite discernible.
This might have worked to create suspense if we were given a clue of what they saw in the vault (or if we weren't already sure that they'd find evidence of the vampire they want so much to believe doesn't exist), but like most of the chapter ends it just fizzles. It's a wonder people kept coming back to read more.

Chapter 8: In Which (Spoiler Warning!) the Tomb is Empty


  1. Zahir Blue, I accidentally deleted your comment, so I'm posting it here:

    Like you, I approve of Flora-as-badass. Thing is, this is really the first hint we get of what she might be like when NOT recovering from assault and massive blood loss. My own theory is that she's the naturally strong one in the Bannerworth family. Lord knows someone needs to have some smarts and guts in this family.

    Without going into spoilers, the venture into the Bannerworth crypt at night of all times actually makes sense from two POVs. One is that they don't want anyone to know they're doing it, which makes some kind of sense anyway. The other involves a future plot development that puts this expedition into a whole different context.

  2. Yes, what an earth was all that about the matches?? It was so funny I almost fashioned a blog around it, but I can see you've done the job for me. I thought they were setting up an ironic situation where - if only he'd gone back for the matches - he might have protected Flora from the vampire, or something. But silly me, I was over thinking ... he was just really, really concerned about matches.