Monday, December 7, 2009

Chapter 12: In Which Charles Remains the Blogger's Favorite Character

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Charles resolves to protect Flora, even if it is a vampire.

In Chapter 12 (CHARLES HOLLAND'S SAD FEELINGS. -- THE PORTRAIT. -- THE OCCURRENCE OF THE NIGHT AT THE HALL.), JMR continues to explore Charles' feelings and develop his character, which continues to be the most consistent and interesting one so far. He paces a bit, worrying about Flora; despite his love for her and his initial doubt regarding vampires, there's a real risk that she'll become a vampire herself.

Within the context of the overdramatic writing style, this scene very emotive, just like the previous chapter. I'm reminded again of the scene where Henry watches over Flora after her attack, one of the few places where JMR seems to get things right. Since Charles arrived he's been getting it right more than not, so there's one more point int Charles' favor.

Of course, every chapter has its share of ridiculousness. Charles sees the portrait of Runnagate Marmaduke Bannerworth and is immediately creeped out. More importantly, he notices that the portrait has been moved recently--I actually love this part about the passage, since there's more substance than "Charles is creeped out because [the readers know that] the man in the portrait is a vampire."

There is this hideously, inexplicably long passage, however, where he explores the portrait:
"Who knows," he said to himself, "what may be behind it? This is an old baronial sort of hall, and the greater portion of it was, no doubt, built at a time when the construction of such places as hidden chambers and intricate staircases were, in all buildings of importance, considered desiderata."
He hears a knock (excuse me, a "demand for admission"; why use five letters when you can use eighteen?) and opens the door, but there seems to be no one there. He hears it again, opens the door, and is greeted by strange noises in the hallway. Then he finds Henry, who heard a door open, and they investigate the mysterious painting together to see what lies behind it.

They find nothing, and, in classic JMR fashion, the resulting dialogue breaks any semblance of suspense that the scene previously held:
"There is no mystery here," said Henry.
"None whatever," said Charles, as he tapped the wall with his knuckles, and found all hard and sound. "We are foiled."
"We are indeed."

"I had a strange presentiment, now," added Charles, "that we should make some discovery that would repay us for our trouble. It appears, however, that such is not to be the case; for you see nothing presents itself to us but the most ordinary appearances."

"I perceive as much; and the panel itself, although of more than ordinary thickness, is, after all, but a bit of planed oak, and apparently fashioned for no other object than to paint the portrait on."
The painting is forgotten, however, when they see the vampire in the window. Charles shoots at it, but it gets away. Marchdale advises Charles to leave, warning that Flora could become a vampire. Marchdale resolves to leave, but Charles refuses, saying that "she [Flora], and she only, can break asunder the tie that binds me to her." We'll see more of them together, but not for a few chapters.

Chapter 13: In Which We Finally Meet the Title Character

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chapter 11: In Which the Blogger Returns After a Long Hiatus

Previously in Varney the Vampire: My posts were a lot closer together. Also, Flora's fiancé has arrived.

Chapter 11 (THE COMMUNICATION TO THE LOVER.--THE HEART'S DESPAIR.) starts off with a sentence worthy of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:
Consternation is sympathetic, and any one who had looked upon the features of Charles Holland, now that he was seated with Henry Bannerworth, in expectation of a communication which his fears told him was to blast all the dearest and most fondly cherished hopes for ever, would scarcely have recognised in him the same young man who, one short hour before, had knocked so loudly, and so full of joyful hope and expectation, at the door of the hall.
Then Henry asks Charles if he knows anything about vampires. As I've ranted about time and again, the real weakness of the story, at least in these first few chapters, is the constant vacillation between "it's a vampire" and "it can't possibly be a vampire." Not that it would be a terribly convincing story if they believed that it was a vampire right from the start, without a doubt; but by the point in the story where they open the tomb, they should have enough evidence that they're not still arguing that it couldn't be a vampire and patting themselves on the back for being so logical and rational. In any decent horror story these characters are the ones killed first, or at least in the most brutal, I-told-you-so sorts of ways.

The point here is that this scene between Henry and Charles has exactly the right dynamic between doubt and belief, one that has been sorely missed in the story so far. The introduction of a new character, one who hasn't witnessed the previous events, helps a lot. Henry is convinced that it was a vampire that attacked Flora, and tells Charles to flee and protect himself. Charles doesn't want to believe it, but pledges his love and his protection to Flora against whatever evil there might be.

In response to Charles' devotion,
Henry could not speak for emotion for several minutes, and when at length, in a faltering voice, he could utter some words, he said, --
"God of heaven, what happiness is marred by these horrible events? What have we all done to be the victims of such a dreadful act of vengeance?"
I love this passage, for all its usual cliché and overdone dialogue, because it begins to get to the heart of the story's human element: why is this happening to these characters? One can forgive the author, due to the story's format, for not addressing this question earlier; but it's an important one to address now.

Though he isn't certain that it's a vampire, Charles, fueled by youthful impulsiveness and the Power of Love, resolves to catch the vampire. And, unlike the other men, he notes the importance of a night watch plan which doesn't involve Flora being left alone with her elderly mother and a gun. He's probably the smartest male character so far; I can't judge whether he's the most consistent until we've seen him in a few more chapters.

Chapter 12: In Which Charles Remains the Blogger's Favorite Character