Monday, July 19, 2010

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

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Charles and the others can't decide whether they want to kill the vampire or protect him. I can't decide why I should care.

Chapters 41 through 43 of Varney the Vampire do not exist. This is ostensibly a result of the many errors Penny Dreadful printers made; as far as mistakes go, misnumbering chapters is certainly better than misremembering your own characters' names. Based on the content of the last few chapters, however, I wouldn't be surprised if Chapters 41 through 43 existed and disappeared, but were so convolutedly repetitive that we don't even notice.

Anyway, Chapter 44 (VARNEY'S DANGER, AND HIS RESCUE. -- THE PRISONER AGAIN, AND THE SUBTERRANEAN VAULT.) brings us back to the prisoner, whom we met all the way back in Chapter 29. Again, this is a very well-written scene, capturing the spirit of the prisoner's hopelessness with only one or two laughably over-the-top lines. The brief section ends with Varney appearing, having escaped from the angry mob, and the prisoner's reaction:
"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life together.
Both of the prisoner scenes display a wonderful subtlety otherwise unseen in JMR's writing. We don't know who the prisoner is; we don't know why he's there; we don't know what Varney has to do with him -- but it keeps my interest because it feels like deliberate suspense building, not unintentional confusion.

Meanwhile, back at Bannerworth Hall, more redundancy ensues. Flora wants to leave. Chillingworth is too much of a stubborn prick to believe that he actually saw a vampire. Blah, blah, blah, it's all so boring. The Admiral generously offers to relocate the Bannerworths (well, less "offers" than "you're coming with me because I say so"), but even that just feels like a rehash of the scene where he buys Bannerworth Hall.

Finally, we return back to the mob. A strange person who "knew something of vampyres" informs them that all the recent deaths in town were the result of the vampire; therefore Varney must be stopped, and the bodies must be exhumed so they cannot become vampires themselves.

The rest of the scene is clearly meant to showcase how savage and irrational the mob is for taking the suggestion to heart, but it doesn't make sense because we are in a universe where vampires exist. The people in this story have evidence that vampires exist, and in this universe people killed by vampires do seem to come back as vampires themselves. Digging up the bodies of the recently deceased isn't pleasant or "proper," but I can't condemn the mob for acting more rationally and realistically than the main characters.

Chapter 45: In Which the Mob is My New Favorite Character


  1. Methinks you make a good point. I do believe the identity of the prisoner isn't too hard to figure out.

  2. Yeah, I considered including the fact that I figured it out in the post but decided not to, because I was just that impressed by JMR's not going all "you know who it is, right, right?" at us.