LotWW actually gets less cogent as it proceeds. It’s probably the nature of the human mind to try to puzzle out how confusing situations are going to resolve—which explains the sometimes frenzied, if fleeting, popularity of television shows like “Twin Peaks” or “Lost”.
In the former case, I believe the show was largely misunderstood—like, no one having seen a Lynch film would be likely to believe he was just making a murder mystery. But in the latter it was just “grab people’s attention…oh, crap, now what?” I’m speculating from what I’ve heard of both since I’ve seen neither, though my impression is that’s a common TV thing these days: Grab ’em up front, then sorta peter out when interest wanes. (My current policy is not to spend my very limited TV time on any dramatic show that isn’t fully completed. Who am I kidding, though? I have, like, ten minutes a day.)
The Lair could sort of be seen as a similar thing, though with Stoker’s (likely) mental deterioration coming into play. He probably didn’t remember all the things he had set up, much less how to resolve them all. And this creates some serious issues, some of which I’ve covered already. But the ones that concerns me now are the fates of our characters.
Mike Nelson pointed out quite testily that Adam running off with Mimi leaves Lila to fend for herself against the depredations of Adam and Arabella. That’s one of those arcs that is weirdly abbreviated: We get that Adam likes Mimi, and you can sorta see how he’d say “Lady Arabella wants her dead, so I’m taking to her Australia, which I can only do if we’re married!” But then they don’t go to Australia, and even their hiding—which puts Lila in jeopardy—is unsuccessful, and they know this and still they don’t fetch Lila from Watford Farms!
If we go back to Dracula—and I’m going by decades old memory here—generally speaking of Mina and Lucy (lol, not to be confused with Mimi and Lila…), Mina is a relatively pure example of femininity (let’s not delve too deeply into Stoker’s psyche) and Lucy is more the wild one, who has many suitors, who is easily seduced by Dracula, but also not his primary goal.
By contrast, Lila is the pure one here. In fact, while Mimi has some sort of snake-charming…awareness?…Lila seems to be the embodiment of the St. Columba nuns. But it’s just not fleshed out!
I can salvage Lila’s fate, though. And she’s the key to Caswall. Meanwhile, Arabella dies in her sleep! Edgar presumably dies being struck by lightning, though we don’t see it. Nathaniel and Richard are simply absent from the final scenes. And Adam and Mimi just wander around waiting for lightning to strike. Oy.
I think, though, the confrontation between Lila and Edgar is the proper climax (pre-climax?) of the book. And it’s very important for: a) the other characters to be doing something important; b) for them to believe that Edgar is indisposed, before leaving Lila endangered.
It was set up, but never utilized (yes, “utilized”) that Nathaniel was a spelunker. If our heroes were investigating the actual LotWW while Lila was imperiled, that would be something. Richard might play a factor in here. Arabella is, as always, the wild card. So far, in my retelling, she and Caswall are actually more tragic characters, though also villainous.
There will be, I’ve decided, a lot more explicit showdown between…uh…kite and snake. I think Caswall’s tragedy has to be more immediate and direct: He’s constantly, consciously choosing the worse of two paths. Regardless of his upbringing, he’s pretty aware of what he’s doing.
Arabella’s tragedy is lifelong. I haven’t quite worked it out, but she’s clearly had a relationship with a giant, evil snake for most of her life—and that’s bound to cause certain tensions as far as contemporary English lifestyles of 1900 go. She’s going to be a big factor in pushing Caswall in the wrong direction. But I think she may, at the end, choose the right path—though whether or not that saves her skin, I don’t know.
So I’m going to start writing backwards to see what outcomes feel right, and we’ll see if I can make the beginning and end meet in the middle.