Tag Archives: Make-Up Blog

Makeup Blog: Stoker

1 Jun

In the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Dracula, the writer focuses heavily on the realistic and believable nature of the text, stating that “the story is told in such a realistic way that one actually accepts its wildest flights of fancy as real facts” (Stoker 367). The critic clearly felt that Stoker had a way of making the unreal seem plausible and that though the reader is aware that vampires are not real, they are still willing to accept the facts of this novel to be true because of the way it is written. These elements of realness can be attributed to several characteristics of the text, most prominently the incorporation of modern technologies, such as phonograph recordings. By using a number of different mediums to communicate the plot of the story, Stoker creates an entire world for the reader to enter, making the text seem more realistic.

The medium of a diary is interesting in the case of Dracula, because the text is essentially a fantasy tale, but the format of a diary implies an intimacy and an honesty between the reader and the characters who is writing. A reader is more likely to trust a narrator who is writing or recording something simply to remember it, rather than a narrator who is aware that they are speaking to an audience. For example, Jonathan Harker’s journal begins as a very fact-based piece of writing, serving the purpose of documenting where he is and how he had gotten there. The first sentence, reading “Left Munich at 8:35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning, should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late” (9). The attention to specific, concrete details sets the tone for the novel being realistic and feeling almost like a written documentary. Beginning the novel this way also plants a level of trust within the reader for Jonathan Harker. His concentration on stating things factually and directly displays that he is not likely to exaggerate or romanticize the events that he records, but rather that he will tend to write them exactly as they happened. A diary could be considered risky as a source of truth, as diaries are generally a place where people express themselves and record their emotions, but in Jonathan Harker’s case, the diary is more of a scientific document than a work of sentiment. 

Another element that enhances the believability of the novel is the use of the phonograph. The phonograph is something material and concrete that the reader can clearly see is being referenced int he text. Before Dr. Seward’s diary entry even begins, the reader is informed that he keeps his diary recorded with a phonograph. The scientific nature of Jonathan Harker’s journal is maintained through Dr. Seward’s contributions as well, because his job is to observe people and write very specifically about their behavior. His role as a doctor makes him appear to be unbiased to the situations that he witnesses, as the emotional or sentimental opinion of a doctor is irrelevant to the process of medical evaluation. The manner in which Dr. Seward’s testimonies are recorded, even if they were simply written, is very obviously technical. Within his first entry, Dr. Seward is going over his notes on a patient, R.M. Renfield. In talking about Renfield, Dr. Seward is strictly concerned with the facts, stating that he has “sanguine temperament; great physical strength; morbidly excitable; [and] periods of gloom” (62). Like Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward mentions nothing about how he feels about the situation and makes no effort to narrate the information he is providing beyond the straight facts.

A third characteristic of the text that separates it from the realm of fantasy is the incorporation of newspaper clippings. One of these clippings is found in Mina Murray’s journal and documents the progression of a storm. The actual content, though valuable to the novel itself, is not as important to the realness as is the fact that the clipping is from a newspaper. Despite the fact that the clipping is fabricated, the knowledge that it came from a newspaper gives it some validity as a source of information. The presence of a newspaper clipping brings in a familiar element of the real world and makes it a part of this fantasy world, bringing a sense of actuality to the rest of the novel. Just like Dr. Seward’s phonograph, the newspaper clipping gives the reader something concrete on which the information they are receiving is based. 

The scientific feel of the novel, in addition to the incorporation of technologies and media such as phonographs and newspapers bring the reader a realistic tone that the critic from the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on. These real-world media give validity to Stoker’s writing, despite the fact that it is clearly based in fantasy. 


–Madeline Turner


Under Milk Wood (Makeup)

1 Jun

I have not personally been a big fan of Dylan Thomas’ genius and after reading about the fictitious characters of Llareggub, in Under Milk Wood, my disposition on Thomas remains unchanged. I understand that Dylan Thomas is essentially deified in the minds of literary scholars for his past works, intricate phrasing and love of alliteration, but if any of his other works are like the radio play Under Milk Wood, I have a hard time seeing how he became so renowned for his poetical potential. I did not like the radio play because it was extremely random and many characters were introduced only to have one line or very few lines. Juxtaposing Dylan Thoma’s Under Milk Wood to how I would conceive a play, Under Milk Wood lacks a true plot that is developed with significant characters dispersed throughout and integral to the story being told.

The plot of Under Milk Wood, or purpose, if one exists, is to showcase a small Welsh village, characterized by overtly dramatic, hypersexual, and interesting individuals that tie in to the 3rd Programme’s ideals of “high-brow” entertainment. We are brought into the world of Llareggub via a ship captain who goes by the name of Cat. He is a blind man, and he serves as a vehicle to the audience to help “transport” the listener into the Welsh ways of the town. Captain Cat has a very keen memory and hypersensitive senses because of his lack of sight, thus, he describes his world to the listener through the best faculty for a radio, sound. Captain Cat knows who is arriving at what time and for who based on daily routines of the mailman and his close neighbors (p47). Because he is blind, the audience automatically establishes a connection between themselves and the Captain because neither one can see the world of Llareggub, accordingly it must be described via sound.

One thing that did catch my eye and alleviate the stress of such a play was the interesting names and personalities Thomas gave to the characters of the city. Dylan Thomas, for some but not all characters, named the individual by their disposition or demeanor in the story. For instance, Polly Garter is an extremely promiscuous woman. She sings about “Tom, Dick, And Harry” whom she has had relations with all, and uses evocative phrases such as “Two yards long, three feet thick… and as sweet as a cherry” to describe their sexual abilities and endowments (p60). She even expresses that she will “never have such loving again” (p73). Another interesting case occurred through the clean freak Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. She is so obsessed with cleanliness because one of her husbands died from bacteria. She thinks of her dead husband and has conversations with him. The list of interesting characters goes on from Gossamer Beynon, the beautiful schoolteacher and Nogood Boyo the adolescent menace, to Miss Price who sells her “sweets” to men of all ages.

Dylan Thomas uses the convention of making people’s names fit how they act in the radio play for two reasons. The first reason is to make it easier for the audience to follow along at home. If someone was not carefully paying attention but heard a song about many men and their abilities, one could easily deduce that Miss Garter was speaking. Or if the listener simply hears a lot of sounds and a man describing what he is hearing, one can relay the information said back to Captain Cat. Another reason for this is because it makes the story flow a lot easier by giving the characters trivial names than actual surnames and histories. This allows the listener to take in information without extra mental activity to decode whom this person is, where they are coming from, and why they are important to the story. Dylan Thomas incorporates a multitude of characters into this work and not all of them have important dialogue, so attributing them a full name would only complicate the fairly straightforward but somewhat confusing story even more.

Death was also a prevalent motif in Under Milk Wood. Captain Cat dreams of his dead sailors who were at sea with him once upon a time, Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard thinks about her dead husbands constantly and Polly Garter also thinks of a past lover, Willy Wee who died. The play begins and ends at night and the references to death could represent the full circle of life that each member of the play has come in contact with at one point of their life or another.