My China I had lived in Beijing for a year and a half at the age of four, and had attended Chinese nursery school. I had also grown up speaking Mandarin at home. However, I was not at all prepared for what met me the year we spent in Beijing when my father headed an international program for a small group of American students. At the time, though I spoke Mandarin without a foreign accent, my vocabulary did not extend far beyond a grade-school level, and I was next to illiterate. Well aware of that, my parents, fond followers of the "sink or swim" theory, dropped me off at the local Chinese school the first day of classes and promptly disappeared. In thinking back, I can honestly say that during the first few months I was completely in the dark both socially and academically. There were so many intricacies of the classroom that no one had prepared me for. I was shocked by the power that the Chinese teacher held over the students: the volume with which she scolded them even after they had been reduced to muted sobbing and her unceasing rhetoric about their duties to the ancestral land. I was shocked at the same time, however, by her extreme involvement in and dedication to the lives of the students. The relationships shared among the students were foreign to me as well: I had to get used to girls holding hands with girls and boys likewise with boys. Arguments were settled in the open, often with loud screaming and eventually crying. Nothing was suppressed. I made all sorts of blunders, such as wearing my hair down, crossing my legs when speaking to the principal, or forgetting to stand when answering a question in class. Actually, the students greeted everything I did with laughter, giggling, and stolen glances in my direction. It took me so long to understand and accept the nature of that laughter. Gym class (or rather, military marching drills class) provided me with the ultimate chance to be a blundering fool. Though the students assured me that the teacher was speaking Mandarin, I could hear only a garbled shout of "Fragrance," followed by some vowelless consonants, while the others somehow heard "Face right and march." Of course, my being run into was not beneficial to the appearance of the drill.
Within the Gothic genre, features of the Gothic protagonist include sharply contrasting character traits, some degree of tragic stature, a striking physical presence, an element of the sexual, and an association with the bestial. Stoker presents Dracula with greatly contrasting traits, from the impeccably polite and courteous host who greets Harker at the door, to a raging psychopathic monster. The aristocratic and noble nature of Dracula's heritage gives him charisma and credibility, on first encounter he seems strange but eccentric, however this lulls Harker, and obviously his female victims, into a false sense of security: â€œThe light and warmth of the Count's courteous welcome seemed to have dissipated all my doubts and fears. â€ Stoker reveals Dracula's true self slowly and subtly, so as to build tension, such as when Dracula touches Harker and he feels: â€œa horrible feeling of nausea. This imagery hints at the horror of Dracula's true character, which is finally revealed when he encounters the Brides: â€œBut the count! Never did I imagine such wraths of fury, even in the demons of the pit! â€ Stoker presents the count as being: â€œlapped in a storm of fury,â€ foreshadowing the terrible storm at Whitby when Dracula arrives on English soil. Stoker's uses the imagery of hell to describe Dracula's rage, writing: â€œhis eyes were positively blazingâ€¦ as if the flames of hell-fire blazed in them. This imagery of a fiery furnace is similar to Milton's description of Satan in Paradise Lost' as â€œthe infernal serpent,â€ dwelling in a â€œpenal fire. â€ However despite Satan's high status and charisma, he does not have the extreme contrast in personality, and the genteel almost awkward persona that Dracula has. Stoker presents Dracula as having tragic stature through his loneliness and sadness that his once noble family have been destroyed. Dracula tells Harker that he longs: â€œto be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is. But alas! â€ This desire demonstrates how isolated Dracula feels, as he has been left behind, an unwanted remnant of the ancient world. His immortality means he cannot relate to modernity, and the fast pace of life, and he is stuck in an endless cycle, a pseudo-purgatory for the Un-dead. Stoker presents Dracula as talking with great pride of his heritage, which he is determined to reinstate in England: â€œWe Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who foughtâ€¦ for lordship. Milton also presents Satan as a tragic character, because of his doomed destiny to live forever in the fiery pits of Hell, but also that he has an overwhelming hubris that ultimately makes his downfall so much more difficult to accept: â€œfor this infernal spirit shall never hold celestial spirits in bondage. â€ When Dracula is finally killed, Mina writes that: â€œeven in that moment of final dissolution there was in the face a look of peace. â€ Reflecting Dracula's release from his eternal suffering, showing that despite Vampire's intrinsic evil, they did not relish their life of pain and death. Another aspect of the conventional protagonist is their striking physical presence, and Stoker presents Dracula as conforming strongly to this, with his strong jaw, aquiline nose and extreme paleness. He has thick eyebrows, wild hair, a â€œheavy moustacheâ€ and â€œremarkably ruddyâ€ lips. Almost immediately Harker notices aspects of Dracula's character which are not quite normal, describing Dracula as â€œcruel-looking,â€ with his moustache hiding his â€œcruel mouth. â€ This underlying unease demonstrates how Dracula's physicality reflects and warns of his internal evil. Stoker presents Dracula's specific appearance as very typical of the genre, as in The Monk, Matthew Lewis describes Ambrosia in an almost identical way to Dracula: â€œHe was a man of noble port and commanding presence. His stature was lofty, and his features uncommonly handsome. His nose was aquiline, his eyes large black and sparkling, and his dark brows almost joined together. His complexion was of a deep but clear brown; study and watching had entirely deprived his cheek of colour. â€ This similarity shows how conventional Dracula's physical presence is, his stature reflecting his high status and aristocracy like Ambrosias. Stoker presents Dracula as having an element of the sexual, through his attacking of women, and his uncontrollable desire to overpower and control others. Harker's interaction with the Bride's of Dracula demonstrate the confusing relationship between pleasure and pain that the Vampire embodies: that we somehow desire what we know may or will hurt us. This connection is seen in one of Dracula's weaknesses: that he cannot enter a house without being invited first, which could be a metaphor for his role as a sexual predator, as a woman has to somehow desire or want Dracula to feed from them in order for him to suck their blood. When Mina discovers Lucy after Dracula's attack, Stoker describes her using post-coital imagery: â€œher lips were parted, and she was breathing- not softly, but in, long heavy gaspsâ€ demonstrating how Lucy possibly enjoyed her attack by the handsome stranger. In The Monk Ambrosia is undone by his carnal lust for Matilda, and then his rape of Antonia, as he is transformed from a pious monk into a sexual predator: â€œWith every moment of the Friar's passion became more ardent, and Antonia's terror more intense. However Lewis presents Ambrosia as being full of self-loathing and disgust once he had â€œdishonouredâ€ Antonia: â€œThe very excess of his former eagerness to possess Antonia now contributed to inspire him with disgust. â€ Stoker presents no such sense of repentance from Dracula, whose uses his sexuality primarily to further his control over England. Finally, Stoker presents Dracula as associating with the bestial, through his control over animals and nature, his connection with the â€˜other,' and his animalistic consciousness. When Harker arrives at the castle, Stoker immediately connects animals with the Count through the images of wolves: â€œAll at once the wolves began to howl as though the moonlight had some peculiar effect on them. â€ Dracula's control over animals is one aspect of his foreign and unknown nature, reflecting Victorian fear of the barbarianism of the supposedly unrefined central Europeans. Dracula can transform himself into a giant bat, which appears as a menacing presence throughout the novel: â€œthere was a sort of scratching or flapping at the window. Dracula's strange social behaviour and physical presence demonstrates how he is not quite human, and it seems that he certainly relates to animals more than he does to other people: â€œAh, sir, you dwellers in the city cannot enter into the feelings of the hunter. â€ Ultimately it is Stoker's portrayal of Dracula as a character completely driven by primal desires that associates him with the animal, and any feelings he represses ultimately become apparent. This characteristic along with the others demonstrate how Dracula is primarily a conventional protagonist in his looks and character traits, his doom and his desires.
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