Richard Morrison Renfield is an inmate at the lunatic asylum overseen by Dr. John Seward, is a difficult character to get our heads around, simply because of his abnormal psychology. He's described as a "lunatic" and a "madman," but there's definitely method to his madness. It's never made clear how Renfield found out about Dracula, or why he's so sensitive to the vampire's movements. Nor are we told where Renfield's strange obsession with becoming immortal by absorbing and consuming other lives came from. He suffers from delusions which compel him to eat living creatures in the hope of obtaining their life-force for him. He starts by consuming flies, then develops a scheme of feeding the flies to spiders, and the spiders to birds, in order to accumulate more and more life. When denied a kitten to accommodate the birds, he eats the birds himself. Doctor John Seward diagnoses him as a "zoophagous maniac". As it turns out, his compulsion for eating living beings derives from his association with Count Dracula, whom he serves, and the resultant belief that he can extend his life by draining the life force of others, as a vampire does. Ultimately persuaded to betray Dracula to the forces led by van Helsing, he is killed as punishment.
By the end of his life, though, Renfield becomes more sympathetic - he seems sincerely to like Mina when she comes to visit (who doesn't like Mina?), and he's worried that she'll be hurt when Dracula comes, so he warns her to leave (although he doesn't tell her why). Then, after Dracula starts drinking Mina's blood, Renfield tries to stop him from entering the house again. What makes Renfield change his mind? Is it purely selfish, because he wants Dracula to make him a vampire, and not Mina? Or does he really pity Mina, and feel sorry for having let Dracula into the house? In short, Renfield is something of a puzzle.
Of course, that's not surprising - Renfield is a puzzle to his doctor, Jack Seward, and we only ever hear about Renfield from Dr. Seward's journal entries. How might the story be different if we were somehow able to access Renfield's journal entries, or hear his point of view from another source?
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