Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chapter 40: In Which the Mob is Generally Useless

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Someone finally figures out how to kill Varney. Somehow this makes them evil.

Every time I think I've read the most boring chapter in Varney the Vampire, JMR ups the ante. It's like he's mocking me from beyond the grave. Anyway, Chapter 40 (THE POPULAR RIOT. -- SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER. -- THE SUGGESTION AND ITS RESULTS.) is one of those chapters where nothing really happens and even the interesting characters suck.

First, we get this extended rant about how evil women are for gossiping, because clearly the readers have forgotten about the rant at the end of Chapter 39 already. Chillingworth feels terrible for mentioning anything to his wife -- JMR seems to have forgotten that Chillingworth has continually dismissed the possibility that Varney is a vampire or that vampires exist in the first place.

The mob searches for Varney so they can kill him:
"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanestest. You've only to take a hedge stake, and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."
Aside from the amusing concern about how the wooden stake might give splinters to the vampire you're trying to kill with it, the detail of driving the stake through his stomach (or "poking" it -- could you sound any less badass when you're talking about killing a vampire?) is interesting. I'd always taken "through the heart" for granted, but it makes a bit more sense to me due to the vampire's connection with blood specifically and the heart being one of your most important organs in general.

Then again, all of the methods for killing vampires are fairly arbitrary, especially when you get to some of the odder ways to kill vampires in folklore, like putting a lemon in its mouth or sprinkling poppy seeds over its grave.

So Henry and Chillingworth try to dissuade the mob, but they just go off to search the woods. They plan to defend the vampire, because they're just that f***ing honorable ("We'll have a fight for it yet," says the Admiral; "they sha'n't murder even a vampyre in cold blood"). It's Henry's reasoning, as usual, that makes no sense:
"No, no," said Henry; "no more violence, there has been enough -- there has been enough."
CONSISTENCY, PLEASE! Weren't you just last chapter dueling the vampire? Didn't you shoot the vampire with the intent to kill him, then receive the bullet back from the vampire and see that it did him no harm? You've already acknowledged (unless things change in the next chapter) that Varney is a vampire. If you haven't done enough violence to kill him yet, there hasn't been enough violence.

How can I manage to give a rat's ass about what happens to the characters when I can't even understand their basic motivations? What do Henry and the others want -- to kill the vampire, avenging Charles and protecting Flora, or to defend Varney against accusations of vampirism and threats of death, because... the plot requires it?

Because JMR feels some sadistic need to pad his word count, we get this random scene where Jack knocks some guy into a ditch (because... I'm not even going to worry about why); Marchdale delivers a speech about Varney's motives that should inspire Varney/Marchdale slashers everywhere; Varney escapes to the Ancient Ruins of Ruinyness and somehow manages to disappear; and when the mob catches up to him we're treated to a complete rehash of the scene where they search for him in his house, except different because now they're in ruins.

Why can't we go back to Flora? Her characterization may not be consistent, but at least I understand what's going on with her and why.

Chapter 44: In Which There Are No Chapters 41 through 43


  1. I hear ya. I do. The whole idea of a rampaging mob going after the local vampire sounds like it should be cool. As executed, though...

  2. I prefer the Angry Mob trope when ti's done depicting the Mob as Bad. I enjoyed the honorable Logic the character have taken.