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A few starting notes:
I've read 'Dracula' several times now - it really is the godfather of vampire fiction. What Mr Stoker would have thought of Twilight et al is anybody's guess, but this was considered terrifying and risqué when it was first published.
Jonathan Harker (one of the most under-appreciated characters in literary history, in my humble opinion,) a young solicitor's clerk, is engaged in work that takes him to Transylvania and one Count Dracula. He soon finds that things are not as they first appear.
Back home in Britain, Jonathan's fiancée, Mina Murray, is planning a break in Whitby with her friend, Lucy Westenra. Soon, Mina is worried about Lucy's health - what could be causing her illness?
Meanwhile, Lucy's jilted lover, Dr John Seward, continues his work at the lunatic asylum. His patient, Renfield, is acting very strangely...
This still has the power to draw you in to its atmospheric Gothicism and delectable prose. Perhaps we now consider it less frightening than our Victorian forebears did, but then, we have been de-sensitised by shocking films, books, TV shows, and video games. It's a wonder that anything frightens us, really.
The characters (with some notable exceptions) are vivid and intriguing. I personally favour Jonathan Harker - a man who fights his way through the darkest of situations.
The epistolary (look at me with my shiny literary terms - that means it's written in letters, diaries, etc.) form is used fantastically to highlight portions of plot with pin-prick precision, and to document the passing of time without getting in too much of an ever-loving muddle.
Not so great bits:
OK, don't yell at me, but I can't stand Lucy Westenra. She, to me, is the most awful stereotype. She is contradictorily pure and tainted at the same time - a symbol of Victorian sexual politics if ever there was one. She faffs about like a wet rag for most of her screen-time (I know there's no screen, but you know what I mean.)
The casual sexism is what bothers me the most about this book. The urge to scream at statements about thanking God for brave men is quite high. Unfortunately, I think this is largely a by-product of the time in which it was written.
Some may find it a very slow read - Victorian English, and not exactly short - but please don't let it put you off.
This is, and ever will remain, a classic. The book that popularised the vampire still has the power to entrance, absorb, and delight.
Until recently, Bram Stoker's influential Dracula was one of those books which I had never actually read. I had tried several times, but was put off by the flowery style and relatively sedate pace when compared with modern horror fiction. As a more mature reader, however, I can now appreciate that style more.
Of course, everyone knows (or thinks) they know the plot of Dracula. An ancient vampire comes to Britain and starts to prey on the population first of Whitby, then London. Few people realise the truth, but Doctor Abraham Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker are determined to stop the Count before the plague of vampirism spreads.
These days, Dracula can read as a little clichéd and tired, although there is, of course, a good reason for that: Dracula was the first real popular novel to feature vampires and as such, established most of the staples of vampire lore: garlic, stakes through the heart, fear of sunlight... all of these crept into the popular mind thanks to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Indeed, rather than criticising it for being clichéd, the modern reader needs to acknowledge its incredible, long-lasting influence. Much of what we read about in modern vampire fiction has its ancestry in Dracula.
A more justified criticism is that the language of Dracula is very flowery by modern standards and the action relatively staid. There are long descriptive passages, giving highly detailed descriptions, as was the style at that time and to the more impatient modern eye, this can be rather tiresome. It was this that put me off reading it when I was younger. I was used to lots of action and excitement; vicious attacks by monsters resulting in mass bloodletting. Judged on those terms, Dracula is rather tame. Violence and sex are certainly key themes of the book, but they are referred to only obliquely and there are certainly no bloodbaths, which might be disappointing for modern readers. If your only idea of Dracula has come through the Hammer Horror films, then you will be disappointed by the tameness of the original text.
On the other hand, this more understated, almost prudish approach allows Dracula to establish something all too often missing from modern horror literature: atmosphere. Rather than relying on shocks, Stoker uses the languid pace to establish a convincing plotline that resonates menace. As the plot progresses you become more and more uneasy about the dangers the characters face and, since you spend so long reading their innermost thoughts, you care for them deeply and worry for their safety. These are not cardboard cut-out victims whose only role is to die; they feel like real flesh and blood people. Similarly, the lack of bloodshed means that when violence does happen, it is perhaps all the more shocking and has greater impact.
You also have to read Dracula in the context of its time - as a Victorian novel - to fully appreciate how well written it is. Dracula is a very well-constructed book. Characters don't immediately leap to conclusions and think "Oh! He must be a vampire". The idea creeps up on them gradually. Even when all the evidence points to that conclusion, they still refute it on the grounds that it can't possibly be true... and isn't that an accurate portrayal of human nature? How many of us would readily accept the idea of a vampire if we came across the situation in real life? Most of us would look at every other possible explanation before we even came close to accepting that someone was a genuine Undead.
Once you accept the excessive verbiage and flowery language as part of the way books were written at that time, you start to find that Dracula is actually highly. Stoker uses a technique which is quite common now but which (at the time) was quite unusual. His narrative is not told through a standard first (or even third) person perspective. Rather we read the tale through excerpts taken from diaries, journals, newspaper reports and other written sources.
It's credit to Stoker's ability that he make these different sources really sound like they were written by different people. The journal of Mina Harker is strikingly different in tone from (say) the writings of Dr Seward; the slightly mangled idiomatic style of the Dutch vampire hunter Van Helsing is equally well observed and gives him a voice and character all his own. Viewing the story through the eyes of several different people allows Stoker to approach elements of the story in contrasting ways: some react to the menace with a sense of disbelief, others are accepting, but horrified; some determined to stamp out the menace, no matter what the cost. Stoker is able to effectively portray some very differing emotions and reactions to the horror thanks to his tactic of seeing the same events through several different pairs of eyes.
The one thing that may well be offensive to modern readers is that there is undoubtedly a deep vein of sexism running throughout. Although Mina Harker is a key character and a very strong woman, this is always tempered with an emphasis on how unusual she is for a woman and the limitations she has because of her gender. Again, this is something you need to place within the context of when the book was written, but it is slightly uncomfortable for the modern reader.
On the whole, if you are prepared to put your preconceived Hollywood-ised ideas of vampires to one side and accept the slightly old-fashioned tone of Dracula, you will discover a book which is still both highly readable and deeply influential.
Wordsworth Editions, 1993
(Note: if you have a Kindle, there is a perfectly serviceable (if badly formatted) version available for free.)
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Horror, Gothic
First Published: 1897
'Dracula' is a fractured narrative made up of journals, newspaper articles and telegrams, collected as evidence of the existence of vampires. The journey starts as we follow Jonathan Harker into the eerie depths of Transylvania, as he plans to meet Count Dracula, to settle the business of the estates that he has bought in England. After an extended stay at Castle Dracula, Jonathan gradually becomes to realise that all is not as it seems, and he is indeed a prisoner in the castle. One evening he witnesses the Count 'crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings' and he comes face to face with three seductive women, who attempt to drink his blood.
We leave Jonathon despairing in the castle, unable to find any means of escape, and meet his fiancée, Mina, in the coastal town of Whitby. She is paying a visit to her friend Lucy, who suffers from sleepwalking. One evening, Mina wakes to find Lucy has disappeared in her state of unconsciousness. Terrified, Mina goes in search of Lucy, and finds her in the church graveyard, with a mysterious figure of a man looming over her. Mina takes Lucy home, but she suffers a fever, and Jack Seward, a friend of Lucy, calls the aid of his friend Dr Abraham Vanhelsing, to see if he can help the patient. Vanhelsing at once realises that Lucy has been bitten by a vampire by the tell-tale make on her neck, and does everything in his power to save her but Dracula's grip on Lucy is too strong.
Mina receives news that Jonathan has miraculously escaped his prison, and travels to meet him, returning as his wife. Upon their return, they hear the distressing news of Lucy's death, and the pair team up with Vanhelsing, Seward and their American friend Quincey Morris, in a race across Europe to track down and destroy Dracula. But before his escape, Dracula set his sights on Mina, and to ensure she doesn't suffer Lucy's fate, they must kill the monster that has bitten her.
I was really excited about finally getting round to reading this book, and then I was disappointed because it felt like such hard work to read! Initially, I felt motivated when reading Jonathan Harker's account of his time in the castle, but as the novel went on, I slowly lost momentum due to the lack of action in the plot. Although faced with crisis, none of the characters were particularly active, and any attempts at beating Dracula were passive and didn't involve coming face-to-face with the creature. The last ten pages of the book did become promising however, as the momentum was building towards the final confrontation. However, even this seemed surprisingly tame after the difficulties they had faced while attempting to reach him.
However, for what the novel lacks in action, it makes up for in beautiful language. Stoker has not failed in describing the scenes in beautiful, yet disturbing terms, which foreshadow the dangerous events to come. There are also numerous touching scenes from the characters, including a moving plea from a lunatic. This is the reason that my favourite quotes are so long, because each paragraph is beautifully constructed and you can't possibly quote one bit, without feeling that the next sentence is just as worthy of being recorded.
I am glad that I finally read Dracula, and I feel it is a novel that everyone should read in their lifetime. Sadly, when I was reading it, the book itself felt more of a struggle than a pleasurable read, but now I have stepped back from it and taken a few days to consider it, the impact that the novel had on me has grown and I have learnt to appreciate it more. It is certainly worth the struggle to feel the sense of completion and appreciation at the end.
Favourite Quotes: 'As the evening fell it began to get very cold, and the growing twilight seemed to merge into one dark mistiness the gloom of the trees, oak, beech, and pine, though in the valleys which ran deep between the spurs of the hills, as we ascended the Pass, the dark firs stood out here and there against the background of late-lying snow. Sometimes, as the road cut through the pine woods that seemed in the darkness to be closing down upon up, great masses of greyness, which here and there bestrewed the trees, produced a particularly weird and solemn effect, which carried on the thoughts and grim fancies engendered earlier in the evening, when the falling sunset threw into strange relief the ghost-like clouds which amongst the Carpathians seem to wind ceaselessly through the valleys.' (p. 9)
'How can I - how could anyone - tell of that strange scene, its solemnity, its gloom, its sadness, its horror; and, withal, its sweetness. Evan a sceptic, who can see nothing but a travesty of bitter truth in anything holy or emotional, would have been melted to the heart had he seen that little group of loving and devoted friends kneeling round that stricken and sorrowing lady; or heard the tender passion of her husband's voice, as in tones so broken with emotion that often he had to pause, he read the simple and beautiful service for the Burial of the dead.' (p. 277)
With the recent spate of modern, trendy vamp movies, I decided to re-read Bram Stokers Dracula, a book which I first read at school some 15 years ago. And it proved to me why it is such a timeless classic, which will no doubt be around in many years to come - something I'm not sure could be said of it's modern day counterparts.
Written from the varying perspectives of the different characters, the story with the simple themes of good vs evil, unfolds at breathtaking pace. Stokers descriptions and writing style set the scenes clearly in your imagination, and build the tension and atmosphere like no other. I am lucky enough to live near the castle which inspired Stoker during the writing of the novel, and can see first hand how accurate a picture he has managed to paint with his novel.
I would recommend that any fan of the latest vampire novels and movies read this, in my opinion not only the best vampire book ever written, but the best book ever written!
Dracula is an old classic and I think one that is taken for granted a lot since now there are so many Vampire books, movies and such like out there and many people think they know the story without having read the book. Let me tell you - you are wrong.
The format some people may find unusual as it is written in diary entries rather than one flowing story and from the perspective of different characters. In the past I have found that this method from different perspectives, a little too staggered and characters underdeveloped. This however is not the case with Dracula, all main characters are well developed and the story knits together well as time goes on.
It's very interesting to read from different characters perspectives on the situation, given they are - for the most part in completely different places with completely different levels of knowledge about Dracula and circumstances surround his existence.
Dracula himself is even well established as a Character from the beginning with close encounters with Jonathan Harker and yet Stoker manages to keep a creepy air of mystery about the Count.
The story follows the journey of Jonathan Harker across Europe on a simple business trip which turns out to be less than friendly. Finding himself staying with the count himself until he's ready to move to London - he turns to his diary for sanity and to try and make sense of his experience in the castle.
Whilst they are journeying across the sea, strange things start to happen in England where Harker's wife awaits his return - she in turn writes in a diary recording her life and the strange events.
Slowly with the help of doctor and friend from The Netherlands, Doctor Van Helsing things start to make sense and the battle against Dracula begins.
You'll find little of the friendly, or romantic vampire that shows mercy many of you will have come to have known of late in Dracula, it is a true horror story with mostly dark moments.
However the strength in the small army of people that have banded together to rid the world of the Count, is uplifting and warm.
If you are a person that says Classics aren't your thing then I still urge you to try Dracula out.
Great writing, page turner.
Written in the 1890s Stoker's Dracula considers the implications of a world on the brink of fin de siècle. Harker's entry into Dracula's Rumanian Empire can be seen as representative of a British civilising mission overseas, whilst Dracula appears to allude to an outside community, wishing to improve it's world standing by challenging the larger established powers. In Bukovina Dracula's acquisition of a 'new estate in London' has sparked interest from London solicitors and induced a visit by newly qualified Jonathan Harker, whose mission it seems is to educate the 'foreigner' in the 'ways' of British culture and discover Dracula's intentions for moving abroad; Harker's demeanour changes dramatically once this motive is discovered.
Stoker's 'Dracula' is the archetypal Vampire story written way before Twilight and decades before the re-birth of the Vampire on television. I myself must have read this book at least 8 times and never get fed up of re-reading. In particularly I love it's referencing to Whitby, a local fish and chip stop which I'm sure we all know!!! Stoker's descriptions of the Harbour where Dracula first comes 'aboard' onto English soil and his hauntingly dark descriptions of Whitby Abbey in the deep, darkness of the night are second to none and sure to send chills up your spine in ways that modern day vampire-horror does not!
Written in the form of letters and journals 'Dracula' is an easy to read, if not rather lengthy (but worth it novel). Another of my personal favourite bits has to be Stoker's accounts of the mystery of the 'Demeter' based I believe on a very true story which in fact was one of the starting points for Stoker when writing his very successful and timeless novel.
Stoker's original 'Dracula' story is a must-read for English students and holiday readers alike...similarly the new-vampire readers of today should pick up a copy of Stoker's trend-setting novel to see the master at work!
Newly qualified solicitor Jonathan Harker is given an assignment to provide legal support for a mysterious Transylvanian count who is buying real estate in London. Count Dracula resides in a secluded castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Harker's journey is full of dark foreboding both from the superstitious villagers he meets on route and, as he gets closer, by what he starts to see for himself. However, this is nothing compared to what the young solicitor will experience when he reaches the castle. Despite the warm and gracious welcome he receives from the eerie count it isn't long before he uncovers some terrifying truths about his host. Dracula is a vampire and he wishes Harker to be his prisoner.
This is just the beginning of the horror, as Dracula sets his sites on spreading his vampirism to England, to the innocent Lucy Westenra and her friend, Mina, Jonathan Harker's fiancé...
Count Dracula, a Transylvanian vampire
Jonathan Harker, a newly appointed young solicitor
Mina Murray, Harker's fiance
Lucy Westenra, Mina's close friend
Arthur Holmwood, Lucy's suitor
Dr Jack Seward, a physician
Renfield, an inmate at the asylum where Dr Seward works
Quincy Morris, an American and suitor to Lucy
Dr Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch physician and expert on vampires
Brides of Dracula, three female vampires in thrall to Dracula
The name comes from Vlad III, "The Impaler" (aka Vlad Tepes) Prince of Wallachia. He was known as Dracula, meaning Son of the Dragon, after his father, Dracul, the Dragon. However, there is dispute as to how much this historical character served as an influence for Count Dracula. I had this in mind when I recently re-read "Dracula" and was actually very surprised about how many references Stoker does make to the count's historical past. They are largely inaccurate if Vlad Tepes was supposed to be the man intended to become the vampire, but I am not convinced that that is more down to Stoker's bad researching and the inadequate secondary source texts he consulted. The Victorian era is notorious for the tremendous amount of bad history and mythologizing that was published. Another supposed influence for Stoker's book was Elizabeth Bathory, known as the "Bloody Countess". Myths about her bathing in the blood of 600 virgins to restore her youth among other things were almost definitely created almost two centuries after her death and there seems to be a certain amount of politically motivated lies spread about her during her lifetime. However, the 19th century was a time where sensationalism and the tales of the supernatural rode high in the minds of literary fans, and both Bathory's and Vlad's stories would be absorbed by readers without much questioning at the time. It is perhaps also worth noting that many avid fans of Stoker's novel that visit Romania to see Transylvania, the Carpathian Mountains and the legacy of Vlad Tepes are doing far more than Stoker did.
The mould for the character of Dracula and today's popular image of the vampire can be traced to one individual - Lord Byron. The image of the erotic rakish aristocrat comes from Dr John William Polidori's 1819 short story, "The Vampyre". This short story was inspired by Byron's attempt at a novel, now often referred to as "A Fragment". Polidori was Byron's physician and part of the group that were challenged by Byron to create ghost stories on a stormy night when they stayed with the exiled and scandalized poet at the Villa Diodati. That night is also seen as the genesis of "Frankenstein", written by Percy Shelley's then lover, Mary. Polidori's lead protagonist is Lord Ruthven, a name previously used by Byron's scandalous lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, the woman who called him "Mad, bad and dangerous to know", in her first novel "Glenarvon". Ruthven is a vampire that spends most of his time seducing the female characters in the story, much the same as Dracula.
The almost fully fledged vampire archetype followed over two decades later in the story "Varney the Vampire" by either James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Preskett Prest. Again the story was clearly influenced by the concept of the vampire as created by Polidori, but the author of "Varney the Vampire" further eroticized the character by introducing the puncture marks on the neck of vampire victims. Varney also possesses superhuman strength, has fangs and hypnotic powers. However, it is a confused epic story, original presented as a series of "penny dreadfuls", and has nothing like the polish of Stoker's work almost half a century later.
The refinement can be better found in Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novella, "Carmilla", which is more daring than "Dracula" with its heavy inference of lesbianism. Stoker clearly drew upon a lot of Fanu's ideas and Dracula's female victims, particularly Lucy, are clearly inspired by the vampire Carmilla. Also, among Fanu's influences we find the aforementioned mythology created around Elizabeth Bathory. Many literary critics have considered Bathory to have been on of Stoker's influences alongside Vlad to the point that the historical countess has been labelled and even portrayed in popular media as "Countess Dracula". However, I am less convinced that this is a direct influence on Stoker's work. Carmilla is discovered to have been a countess in the story and I think this is probably what led Stoker to making his vampire a count. The setting in Styria was once considered by Stoker as the homeland for his vampire villain and is perhaps influential over the author's decision to have an invading foreign foe. Lord Ruthven's origins are never revealed, but Stoker clearly wanted an antagonist coming from faraway lands in line with the "Invasion Literature" fashion of the time. The other major contribution to "Dracula" the novel I see coming from "Carmilla" and nowhere else is the character of Baron Vordenburg, who is the novella's vampire expert.
The final and most direct influence on the character of Dracula came in the form of the Shakespearean actor Henry Irving, Stoker's boss at the Lyceum Theatre. Stoker was his assistant and the theatre's business manager. Irving was apparently an overbearing yet charming personality, much like Dracula. Stoker intended him to play the role of the count in the stage adaptation of the novel. The adaptation was written to help protect the copyright of the story and apparently wasn't very good. According to one story, Irving listened into part of one reading and dismissed it as "awful", walking out before ever hearing the rest.
The catalyst for Stoker's novel supposedly came in the form of a dream he had regarding the three Brides of Dracula. He wrote this down and it would form the basis for a famous episode in Dracula's Castle, where the three vampire women attack Jonathan Harker. There are other elements taken from the local news, such as the shipwreck that would influence the episode when the ship The Demeter arrives in Whitby baring Dracula and its tragic crew. However, without a doubt the book's central strength and the thing that makes it a classic and very readable story over a century after it was written lies in the story's central character. Most members of the public will be able to tell you about him even if they don't know the whole story of the novel.
"Dracula" is perhaps the most straightforward and superficial of the classic Victorian Gothic horrors. From what I have read surrounding the conception of "Dracula" I have seen nothing to convince me that there was any conscious effort by Stoker to write an allegorical story. However, there is plenty that the book might reveal about the attitudes of the time and the author's own psychology. The novel's roots are fascinating too and touch upon a myriad of different famous personalities and institutionalized fears. The story is very simplistic, told in an episodic fashion made up fictitious journals, diaries, newspaper articles and letters. Epistolary fiction was neither a new device for 19th century literature or for the Gothic genre. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", for example, uses this device.
However, Stoker's decision to use a wide range of narrators, including reports from newspapers, is a clearly a device used to make the fantastical elements in the story seem more believable. This is a big part of the story. The Victorian age saw a tremendous amount of change and different extremes, where the reasonable and the esoteric were often pitted against one another. Stoker, it is believed, was actually a supporter of scientific progress in favour of superstition and wary of mystical fraud. This was balanced with an interest in the occult and, in particular, mesmerism - both Dracula and Van Helsing use hypnotism, and Van Helsing brings its use in line with supernatural ideas. However, and this is possibly intended to be ironic, there are more than enough digs given at rational scepticism (a philosophy I prescribe to) and western science, as Dr Abraham Van Helsing slowly brings his younger colleague, Dr Seward round to the belief in vampires, and it continues afterwards in its celebration of romance and adventure.
This is all part of what Stephen King describes as the process of knitting together the everyday with the fantastical. However, where King turns a normal story gradually into a horrific supernatural nightmare over the course of the whole novel, Stoker repeats the same formula at least three times. Unfortunately this, along with the longwinded descriptions and dialogue common in fiction at the time, does tend to slow matters down in-between the book's genuine thrills. Better written novels of the Gothic genre, such as Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", make the dialogue or descriptive passages witty or heavily layered, but this is not the case with Stoker. The "talkie" bits tend to be typically stuffy and pompous in the stereotypical Victorian mould.
Bram Stoker is often painted as a somewhat oppressed Victorian man of his age. He was surrounded by luminaries in one shape or form. He won the hand of his wife, the famous beauty, Florence Balcombe, over Oscar Wilde, a hugely flamboyant and later scandalous figure of his time; a libertine to rival Byron one might say. Some historians have also suggested that Wilde had an affair with Balcombe, but I haven't seen the sources for this. This cuckolded image, along with the thought of Stoker suffering under the tirades, egotism and lack of appreciation of Henry Irving, would present the idea of a mortal out of his depth among gods of his age. It helps steer the reviewer to thinking about the repression present in Dracula regularly let out in scenes of graphic horror. It is easy to see why so many modern reviewers see these feelings of repression in the female characters. They all become "voluptuous" (Stoker's word) once Dracula has started turning them into vampires and, with it, brazen and more sexualized. Their destruction could be seen as symbolic of a rape punishment from the penetration of the stake, a type of violent intercourse, to the beheading, the ultimate way to shut someone up. As I said before, I don't see these as being intentionally symbolic more of a possible revelation of the male psychology of the time.
There is also the fear of foreigners invading the British homeland, taking their women and colonizing, which was a big part of the "Invasion Literature" I previously mentioned. "Dracula" clearly fits this bill. Van Helsing even references a battle waged by Dracula against the Turks to explain how he understands Dracula's plan. Citing Dracula's underdeveloped "child brain", he believes that the count will always return to simple patterns he has always followed. Therefore, even when he is beaten back from Britain, Van Helsing argues he will recoup and return to win, just as he did with the Turks.
Van Helsing delves into psychology quite a lot and it is in the lunatic character of Renfield that we see Stoker's connection between the science of the mind and the supernatural. It's another exploration into the unknown designed to make readers fearful and better suspend their disbelief. It is largely successful and Renfield, the inmate who progressively devours the lives of larger animals, flies to spiders, spiders to birds and so on, and develops a subordinate mental connection with Dracula is perhaps the second most interesting character in the whole novel.
"Dracula" is an effective horror novel of the Gothic genre that still rightfully deserves its place among the greats of literature. It is not a profound piece of work and pretty much serves the purpose most effectively for what it was intended. In this respect, it is scarier and more atmospheric than Robert Louis Stephenson's more cerebral "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", Wilde's far more sophisticated "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and even Mary Shelley's moral fable, "Frankenstein". It is dated in some ways, such as the many discussions and descriptive passages. However, once these scenes have been carefully edited I have found that many young readers find the story un-putdown-able as either a listening experience or a reading one. Despite the fact that this book has now provided us with many clichés for its genre, it still thrills and the atmosphere is as effective as ever. Furthermore, the ideas that drove this giant of horror fiction branch off in many fascinating directions.
Dracula in a manner similar to the novel Frankenstein, has become more famous than the original book through exposure in films, TV and popular literature. An example of this is the town of Whitby which is known for being the place Dracula landed despite Dracula being a literary creation by Bram Stoker. Dracula and Frankenstein have entered the public consciousness and both are used derivatively for any vampire, monster, but few consider the original novels, both are 19th century though written at alternate ends of the century, Frankenstein in the early 19th and Dracula at the end of the century.
So the basic story created by Bram Stokers differs from the imagery we know so well of capes, teeth, bats and impeccable upper class manners. Bram created a dark gothic fantasy about a mysterious character from one of the more isolated parts of Europe.
We first meet Dracula is a count in Transylvania awating the arrival of a Mr. Jonathan Harker, Harker has been asked to go to a castle in Transylvania (Romania) where Count Dracula is looking for a property in England and Harker has been asked by his English sponsors to act as a conduit between the firm and the Count.
The Count of course lives in an antiquated castle, Harker becomes imprisoned and starts to become worried about the counts nocturnal activities and the disappearances of village children. Harker soon hears rumours of the vampyr and discovers to his horror that Dracula is a vampire but by then he has flown to England leaving Harker in his wake. Harker is engaged to be married to Mina Murray who has a friend in the vivacious Lucy Westerna who has when we first meet her having to fend of three marriage proposals.
The slight taint of sexuality sprinkles through this book, this is a Victorian novel written in 1897, right at the end of the Victorian age in which everything is very starched and proper, however, this book seethes with unfulfilled love. Mina wants Jonathan and her attraction to dracula when they meet is mutually sexual with the appeal of the good looking foreigner for her and the virginal allure for him. Lucy is a Victorian goodtime girl but without the actual actuality of the deed always holding out for the right man, she appeals to Dracula in different ways.
All three spurned suitors are also used as first person narrators in the book.
Dracula finds himself to Whitby, he then starts to call to some of the more susceptible minds to his needs. One of them is a mental patient called Renfield whose the patient of a Dr. Seward who is one of the spurned suitors. Renfield is one of my favourite characters in the book because he's so demented and he has a mania for collecting spiders because he belives that higher life forms collect the life forms from those lower down, he then links that to Dracula claiming that Vampires are the higher life forms and we should be happy to feed them.
The other major character in the book is the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing who has been hunting the count for many years.
The book is a strange one because Stoker writes the story in a strange way, all the events are written as though they are diary entries or letters or case notes in the case of Dr. Seward. This is a strange way of writing because you always know that the writer must have survived the events portrayed in that chapter how else would the author have written the letter? This style of writing is described as an epistolary.
So Dracula bites Lucy who becomes a vampire, he fights Van Helsing and bits Mina before fleeing back to Transylvania where the book concludes. The problem with this writing style is it is very difficult to maintain any kind of tension or fear because the writing is always in the past describing events which have already occurred. So the book isn't scary at all, but its a brilliantly convoluted story, it uses the old horror stories from central europe transported to solid dependable Victorian England before returning it back to Transylvania. The use of England as a stage enhances the gothic horror, this isn't a story set in some far off land in a strange part of Europe but here in the richest nation on earth. Victorian Britaoin by its stoicness gives the novel a hightened sense of drama percisely because normally nothing untoward happens.
This book like the novels of Thomas Hardy at the time can also be viewed as a loss of rural identity due to industrialisation, Dracula is a country parson in a big crumbling castle in a part of Central Europe considered backwards by the English. England can therefore be viewed as the big capatalist force destroying these old fashioned ideals, so should we be supporting Dracula rather than Van Helsing - hmm maybe but the vampire is a particularly vicious character who deliberately bites Mina after being enraged by Van Helsing.
Dracula the book is a very different beast to the films and TV representations, he's far colder and more unpleasant than those depictions and he's only looking after number one. Dracula is a great horror story but its more gothic horror rather than a slasher style book so don't read expecting a bloodbath.
1897, I believe, this book was written and in the 112 years since it has influenced so much in the way of the world of horror and firmly established itself as a literary classic. Stoker's novel planted the idea of vampires into the Victorian public's mind and firmly set the foundation of vampirical myth for now, and probably forever.
The book is set in the 19th century (when it was written) and though the bulk of the story centres in London, it does flitter between Transylvania - that epic seat of Dracula's own history - and Whitby, now infamously tied in with it's Draculian legend. The way the story is told is cleverly done by using written historical records (fictional, obviously) placed together to create a tense and mysterious thriller. These are mainly diary extracts and dictations from the main characters, though occasionally newspaper reports are intermingled to allow the reader into a further insight. This style allows points of views to come from different characters and adds a further depth to Stoker's story.
The story goes: Jonathan Hawker, an apprentice lawyer who is sent by his firm to service a client in faraway Transylvania. The client, Dracula, is looking to relocate to London from his musty old castle... well without giving too much away here you can be sure that Mr Dracula is no ordinary client! Jonathan's fiance, Mina, remains in England frolicking the summer away with her upper-class society girlfriend Lucy, the centre of a hilarious love triangle from 3 worthy batchelors. One of these men is a Doctor working in an asylum next door to where Dracula is looking to relocate... The stuff of every vampire movie since films began occur and the Stoker-modelled character, Van Helsing, is brought in. Through strange and gripping incidents a full on vampire hunt begins...
As far as horror goes, this is, by todays standards, pretty tame. It was Victorian times and thus there is much modesty especially when referring to body parts and thus though the book is boasting of sexual hunger and prowess, the language used is amusingly coy and bashful. This is the same with the violence. No blood-filled gore shock tactics when Stoker explains of atrocities, but rather a subtle form of description that informs of such horrors without going over the top or scaring a 19th century reader! However, the book does reek of atmosphere and easily involves the reader in a practice of piecing together these accounts whilst fully emerged in the past world of Dickensian London (or Stokerian??? perhaps)
What fascinates me about this book is the influence is has had on popular belief regarding vampires and the entertainment world's spin on it. The image we have of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, is that which Stoker created even though he is historically inaccurate. The images of fangs, cloaks and pasty complexion are described here but accenuated by Hollywood and though there have been many books on Vampires before Stoker's, it is his rules and reasons of vampires which has lived on to the modern day; such ideas of stake through the heart, garlic, no reflexion, turning into a bat/dog etc are all in this book.
All in all, a fun, fascinating and well written story which has imposed so much on literature and entertainment today
If you like watching horror films and reading horror books then I hope you enjoy this review of the most iconic horror character ever created COUNT DRACULA
There have been many stories about Dracula but I will be writing about the very first book and the man who created the most chilling and horror masterpiece of all time.
Dracula was created by Bram Stoker and first published back in 1897. Bram Stoker was born in Dublin in November 1847 and was the third of seven children, he developed an interest in the theatre whilst at university but decided to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a clerk in the civil service in 1870, Bram Stoker married in 1878 to his young 20 year old bride Florence Balcombe whom winning her hand in marriage from her other suitor a young playwright called Oscar Wilde.
Bram Stoker wrote a lot of short stories which appeared in magazines and papers, he also used to travel a lot to America and Canada and it is said that while travelling he came up with the idea for Dracula which when released was an instant success, his reputation as an author rests entirely on this novel although he wrote other books they have disappeared into obscurity. Bram Stoker eventually died in 1912 at the age of 64 leaving behind his beloved wife and only son Noel.
The legend of Dracula has since been the subject of many films such as the 1931 'hammer' classics staring Christopher Lee and the most recent by Francis Ford Coppola which bought Bram Stokers book to the big screen.
Dracula tells the story of a group of people DR Seward, Mr Morris, Jonathan Harker and his young wife Mina Harker and the legendary nemesis of Dracula Dr Van Helsing as they battle against time to rid the world of the devils servant, the vampire Count Dracula.
The book is done in the style of a Journal and fragments of letters between the four main characters and is also written in the old English language of the 1800's, I found the layout of the book really good and kept me on the edge of the seat, the only problem I had with the book was the language but after reading the book a couple of times I started to understand the language.
After I read the book I found it hard to believe that this is a horror book when in fact to me it is really a sad love story as the Count falls in love with Mina Harker and Mina falls for his nobility and fatal charm and would do anything to be with him so he marks her as his bride to be by biting her on the neck.
I wont say to much on the plot as everyone should know the story of Dracula by now but I would highly suggest that anyone young or old who has never read the book and only seen the films should read this iconic book as the film misses a lot of important things out and the book will keep everyone on the edge of their seats and find it hard to put the book down as the story builds to its climatic ending.
I really, really enjoyed reading this unique horror/love story masterpiece and have now read it several times and glad that this book and the story of Dracula is still legendary after all this time 111 years to be precise.
I hope this review will inspire people to go out and buy this book which you can get from any book shop and delve into the sinister world of one of the most iconic characters created COUNT DRACULA.
There are a number of classic characters which are known the world over, are instantly recognisable and become icons in their own right, few of these characters can surpass Dracula. I am sure most people have seen a number of films about Dracula, but how many people have actually read the book which started it all? I was one of the presumably many people who hadn't, so decided the time was right to give it a go.
My initial thoughts about the book were that it was not particuarly well written. At times the pace is very pedestrian. By far the most interesting parts of the book are the beginning (Harker's diary entry describing his time in the Count's castle) and the end, when the men try to defeat the Count. The middle of the book is pretty dreary, I didn't think the death of Lucy was really relevant, and the chap in the asylum didn't really add a great deal to the story. However, once you are through this section (which does involve some important parts so it is worth reading all the way through) I found the end riveting and dramatic. It is worth one remembering that if you are reading Stoker's original version, the language is old and archaic and can take some getting through, which doesn't help to make the book flow.
I felt Stoker did well in potraying the utter evilness of the Count in contrast to the angelic Mima and the other likeable gentlemen in the book. If other films have shown Dracula as a loveable misunderstood rogue, it is certainly not put this way in the original. I found myself geniunely liking the characters especially the strong-yet-fragile Mima and the wise Van Helsing.
Overall I would recommend this book, even if just to say you have read a literacy classic. It might take some getting through but it is a very enjoyable read and well worth it.
Frankensteins Monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe, Dracula et al have left the confines of the book covers and become icons of our cultural heritage, all of them have also become the protagonists of films, Dracula is No 1 among them with about 400 (!) films that show him in one form or the other.
Dracula has only ever meant Transsylvania, castle, vampires to me, but a region, a building and a blood-sucking bat dont make a story, I found it was high time to have a look at what the Irishman Bram Stoker originally wrote in 1897.
We travel with Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, to a castle in Transsylvania in the midst of the Carpathian mountains, one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe. The nearer the coach gets to the destination, the more strangely Harkers fellow-travellers behave: they cross themselves repeatedly, make the sign against the evil eye, a woman puts a rosary round the strangers neck.
Count Dracula opens the gate and greets Jonathan with the words, Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely Harker has come to have some papers signed as his firm has purchased a large estate in London for Dracula. With the task accomplished he could return home but the Count has arranged with his boss that the young Englishman stays with him a month or two to help him perfect his English and explain everything English to him, politics, business, finance, customs. As Dracula is an intelligent and learned man, Harker enjoys the talks in the beginning, but the fact that they take place only at night time puts some strain on him.
The Count invites him to roam freely through the castle, soon Harker discovers, however, that more rooms are locked than open, that hes alone with the Count, the only other beings he meets are three women occasionally materialising out of nowhere as it seems. He realises that the castle has become a prison for him.
Strange things occur which he only writes down in his diary but never interprets, Dracula is standing beside him in front of a mirror but he cant see him in it, he watches his host climbing out of the window of his room down the steep castle wall head forward, he finds him sleeping in a wooden box in the chapel during the day, later he hears workmen shovelling earth from the inside of the chapel into wooden boxes and watches them taking them away and then he realises that the count is in one of them and has left him alone in the castle. No Go safely for him!
So far, so thrilling but unsurprising, what weve got here is what we know from Dracula films, what *is* surprising, though, is that were only on p. 46 (!) of the novel, what will we find on the remaining 269 pages?
Meet Mina Murray, Harkers fiancée, and her friend Lucy Westenra, theyre best friends spending their summer together at Whitby. Three men propose to Lucy, Mr Arthur Holmwood, who later becomes Lord Godalming, Dr Seward, a psychologist and head of a lunatic asylum, and also Quincy Morris, whose sole occupation is to be American, i.e., healthy, frank, courageous; Lucy chooses the future Lord.
What else happens? A boat lands at the shore near Whitby with a dead captain and many boxes full of earth, a dog jumps off it and runs up the cliffs, Lucy sleepwalks and after a night out alone in the churchyard of the Abbey becomes weak, very weak. Dr Seward calls Dr Van Helsing, a physician and specialist in the supernatural from Amsterdam to help him cure Lucy. Van Helsing has his suspicions but instead of sharing them with the other men - the rejected suitors are still around joined by Harker whos miraculously come back from Transsylvania (up to the end were kept in the dark how he made it out of the castle) - he keeps them to himself. He tries this and tries that but without success, to cut a long story short, Lucy dies, becomes a vampire and the four men, together with Mina, now Harkers wife, set out to catch Dracula whos obviously come to England.
I didnt expect the main part of the novel to be set in England but Im open-minded and was ready to be impressed but I got so bored that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Its not that nothing thrilling happens, it happens a lot, thrilling and spooky things, yet . . . I skimmed many pages and in the end I even lost interest in the solution of the case, did they get Dracula or didnt they? Well, I know the answer because I read the last pages attentively but I must confess that it would have been just as well for me if the outcome had been different.
One reason for my boredom is the way the story is told, all characters with the exception of Quincy and the Lord keep diaries or write letters, the whole novel is a collection of personal accounts. The idea isnt bad in so far as it gives the author the possibility of telling the story from different points of view but unfortunately Stoker wasnt able to give his characters distinct voices, they all sound the same, as if that werent enough they also quote each other repeatedly, more than once did I have to go back some pages and look at the headline of the chapter because I had forgotten whose diary I was reading. I could be generous and say that this prevailing tone keeps the novel together, it reads as if it were written in one piece, but I dont want to be generous, I see it as a poor performance by the author.
Im not impressed by the characters, either, theyre all flat, they never surprise. Women are sweet and weak and must be protected, men are manly and strong and protect women, but every now and then are allowed to show feelings. From Dr Sewards diary: We men were all in tears now. There was no resisting them, and we wept openly.
You may have guessed by now that Im underwhelmed by the greater part of the novel, Im reminded of what Ive found out reading Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe as well as Bram Stoker had a stroke of genius when they thought of Robinson and Dracula respectively, these characters are so original and so strong that they overshadow the weak parts of the novels, in fact so much so that the majority of the reading public has even forgotten the weak parts. Id give Stoker three stars for his literary achievement but for the creation of Dracula and the whole Transsylvania stuff he gets another star. Stoker didnt invent the vampire story, of course, vampirism belongs to all cultures, but hes given it the form we all think of it now. As the belief in the occult is alive and thriving - sometimes one wonders if the Age of Enlightenment ever happened - Dracula and his adventures will live on.
The copy I read belongs to the Wordsworth Classics series, a professor from Kingston University has written an introduction which puzzles me. He mentions Marxist readings of Dracula dealing with class struggle, Freudian ones on the Oedipus theme, gender issues, claims that Stoker has produced a text that is almost embarrassing in its treatment of the sexual and erotic etc., etc. Give me a break! Lets only take Oedipus: There are young men, yes, but no mother is mentioned, so how can the Oedipus theme be part of the Dracula story? Embarrassing treatment of the sexual? The readers of today arent Victorians, are they? When I studied literature, we were taught to read texts attentively and find things *out*, not interpret things *into* a text. Stoker wasnt a literary genius but rather a mediocre author and no professor will convince me of the opposite. Im happy my uni days are over and I dont have to listen to or read such litcrit babble any more!
327 pages (including Notes)
When my school set me the difficult task of reading Dracula, by Bram Stoker, in two weeks, I thought I would jump at the opportunity to give you my opinion of it. Two weeks? Thats not too difficult you may cry! However, since my copy was over 300 pages long with very small writing (and other reviews have spoken about 500-page copies), plus the fact that it was written in the 19th century, it suddenly became more demanding. When you think of Dracula, you may think of Nosferatu, or Christopher Lees camp portrayals in the Hammer films, or the 1931 film by Bela Lugosi. Over time, the image of Dracula has become cemented in popular culture, and even little kids will recognise the famous red and black cape, the black hair slicked back, the red eyes and pointy features, and the gothic, stylish appearance that makes Dracula what he is. But this is the novel that started it all off, and brought us those famous ideas for the very first time. It introduced us to this vampires fear of garlic, and crucifixes, and his ability to command bats and wolves, and, of course, his insatiable desire for human blood, gained through biting the victims neck. The vampire idea is based on ancient myths from the area around Transylvania, in which this is set, and Bram Stoker was very interested in Hungary and the Balkans, which undoubtedly inspired him to write this story. He was also friends with Mary Shelley, who wrote the equally famous horror novel Frankenstein.
The basic plot of Dracula, which is pretty complicated, is something like this: Jonathan Harker is an estate agent who is invited to Castle Dracula in Transylvania, by a mysterious Count who is interested in buying a house in England. Once there, Harker is invited warmly into the castle, and things seem perfectly normal. However, the longer he stays, the more he realises that Count Dracula has more to him than the friendly façade he has seen, and Harker becomes trapped in the castle, where numerous strange events befall him. Meanwhile, the Count has made his way to England, in particular Whitby, on the wreckage of a washed up boat. Jonathans fiancée, Mina, and her friend Lucy Westenra, are staying in Whitby at this time, and Lucys habit of sleepwalking soon gets her into serious danger. Lucy gets very ill, so her husband, Arthur, calls his friends Dr John Seward and Professor Abraham Van Helsing (yes, Hugh Jackman from the 2004 film), to help look after her and try to improve her condition. Meanwhile (again!), Dr Seward, who runs a psychiatric asylum, has a patient who is acting very strangely, and may hold a clue as to what is wrong with Lucy. Also, Arthurs friend Quincey Morris turns up, when he hears of Lucys state. The lives of all these people are dramatically brought together when they discover that something truly evil is amongst them, and they must work together to prevent further monstrosities.
The first thing that I want to say about this famous book is that despite what everyone says, it is absolutely not scary. Sure, Stoker has a way of creating atmosphere and spooky situations, and this novel contains some bizarre and creepy images, but whilst reading it, you never at any point feel scared, and the situations dont linger with you afterwards or haunt your dreams for nights to come! There are some violent scenes, and moments of a sexual nature, but these are handled sensibly and ambiguously, as you might expect from a novel written in the highly moral society of Victorian Britain. But after all the violence that had gone before, no matter how it was depicted, I was left unsatisfied by the anti-climactic ending. Lets face it; I think we can probably guess the ending, but nevertheless, I wont say anything so that those who still cant guess will not be disappointed. But when the gang finally do reach the end, you may expect the novel to go out with a big bang of action and excitement to make all the build-up worthwhile. Nope. It goes out with a whimper, with the culmination being far too brief and, frankly, boring.
On the positive side, I did find that Bram Stoker has a very good writing style, which is both highly descriptive, but also (mostly) exciting when eventful scenes are taking place. Stoker focuses on the characters and their domestic problems rather than putting in lots of gory violence and blood-sucking vampires, which modern readers may or may not find disappointing. Instead of the normal horror approach of mindless violence, he builds up the tension slowly, which creates even more impact when you realise what is going on. In fact, without giving anything away, there are some moments which are quite emotional and really make you think about what you would be prepared to do in that situation. There are many different sub-plots, most notably the one with Dr Seward and his patient, Renfield, which at first seem unrelated, but after reading further you find that they are all somehow linked, which is clever.
The structure of the book is also quite unique and effective. Since there are so many main characters, Stoker uses their individual diaries and journals, as well as extracts from letters to each other, newspaper cuttings and a ships log book to tell the story, meaning that all the sub-plots are constantly being juggled, so to speak. More importantly, Stoker tells the story from every characters perspective (other than Dracula himself), which gives an unusual experience to the reader. For example, the first four chapters of the book are from Jonathan Harkers journal, and describe his experiences in Castle Dracula. You would immediately presume that he is going to be the main character. Suddenly, Stoker switches away from him and continues the story from Minas diaries, and in the end, Jonathan Harker is one of the least important characters of the bunch. Some may find this disorientating and confusing, but when you get into the swing of it, it becomes surprisingly easy to follow, and you wonder how you ever enjoyed a book from a fixed perspective.
Stoker deals with loads of external themes and issues, and you could easily interpret the novel in different ways depending on what stance you take (sorry if this is turning into a bit of an English essay!) Some may say that Stoker was against the new woman and feminist ideas which were bubbling around in the late 19th century, and his portrayal of the two main women in this book could certainly interest and provoke feminist readers. You can look at the book with a psychoanalytical reading, and try to work out hidden implications of the story which were implied rather than stated by the author. There are subtle indications that Dracula may be gay, due to all his sucking of blood, from both men and women, and his overall manner and appearance. If you wanted to look at it this way, there are a lot of sexual implications, and the book is basically all about the dominance of men over women in society. There is plenty of symbolism, a load of power struggles, and underlying evidence of protests against Victorian society and sexual liberation. However, to be honest, this is all pretty unimportant stuff, and at the heart of the novel and its success is a good story, which is well written.
So, to conclude, I would say that Dracula is a book which you really have to invest a lot of your time into, but it will ultimately reward you (apart from perhaps the ending!) Dont let that put you off; it is an excellently written book, with a strong sense of atmosphere and creepy settings, and engaging central characters. The most important of which, Count Dracula himself, has to be one of the best creations in the history of the monster/horror genre. The fact that his image is still so recognisable is a glowing testimony to the vision of Bram Stoker which started it off. More believable than Frankenstein, more creepy than (Im really struggling here) err the mummy, and at the end of the day, very enjoyable to read about. It also put Whitby on the tourist map! Not the best book Ive ever read, but I would really recommend it.
Im a great fan of the horror genre and in particular the works of one Stephen King, and while reading the foreword to his second novel (Salems Lot) I discovered that he had got his main inspiration for this book from the classic vampire novel Dracula. Never being one to simply take anothers word about whether a book (or anything) is any good I decided that it might be an idea if I read this daddy of horrors for myself, so I checked out Amazon and found that I could buy my very own copy for a paltry £1.50. At that price I felt I couldnt really go wrong, so I ordered a copy and have spent the last few days reading (and trying to digest) it.
So what is Dracula all about? Well just in case you haven't watched any of the countless film adaptations, set at the turn of the century (we are never given an exact year), Dracula tells us the story of a vampire Count and his attempt to re-locate from rustic (and superstitious) Transylvania to the modern metropolis that is London. Through various journals, diary entries and even newspaper clippings we learn about the people that he encounters (and corrupts) and those that band together to defeat this most unholy of evils. Now I could tell you what else happens in the book, but then what be the point of you reading it? I could even tell you all about the characters, but then how would you discover them for yourself? Instead I'll tell you about how I felt as I read the book, and the impressions I picked up about how well the storyline and characters developed.
I'll be the first to admit that when I first opened the book, I was more than a little sceptical. It is not written in either the first or the third person, and the best I could describe it is being in the "multiple person". That is rather than simply a flowing narrative, I was confronted with a series of diary entries along with letters, news-clippings and even phonograph transcriptions. Now the only book that I've read that even comes close to the style is actually "The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole" and to be honest I've avoided such books as Bridget Jones Diary like the plague as I don't really like the format. But I'd paid good money for the book (it might not have been a lot of money but it was still money) and wasn't going to give up after just a few pages so I persevered and was I glad I did.
After a few false starts, I found myself becoming more and more hooked by the very personal way that the various characters were recounting their parts in the story. Each of the contributors had their own distinct style of writing, and somehow their own personal hopes and fears shone through. For me at least this gave them a depth, that was completely unexpected, and added to the actual story. And talking of the story, although things started slowly, with a creeping sense of dread, about half way through the book, things suddenly picked up pace and I actually ended up finishing the last 200 pages in one sitting as I really had to find out how Stoker was going to reach the dramatic conclusion.
Even after I had finished the very last page I found myself wondering about the book and the messages it contained. I couldnt help but think about such things as the genre it falls into, and how well the story translates into the modern era. For me at least, this is a sign of a good book, that after the cover has been closed, Im left with a desire to discuss it with other readers, so Im going to let you in on some of my stranger thoughts. Although described as a horror novel, it seemed to me that the overriding themes of the book were actually love (and its power to defeat any evil that it faces) and the marriage of modern science and more ancient folklore in the battle over ancient horrors. Basically I felt that the vampire Dracula was used as a means of showing that for all the Victorian belief that their modern sciences were the best (only) way, that the older methods and beliefs should not be discounted. (Of course I could be completely wrong, and Stoker intended this to be a work of pure horror).
In as far as how well the story relates to our own era, I would say that, while of course there are some differences in attitudes and available science, many of the characters would actually work quite well if the book had been written today (although the horrors we face today are very different). Yes there would have been cars instead of carts, but in choosing his heroine, Stoker made a remarkably good choice, with the main protagonist being of a strong, and strangely un-Victorian nature. Instead of being willing to sit at home and let the men protect her, she is actively involved in the un-holy battle in a way that completely endeared me. The male characters were more what I expected of the era, with their reluctance to show emotions, and beliefs that they should be protecting the weaker women, but hey theres still plenty of men around like that today.
So the question is, am I recommending this book? Well yes, but with a few reservations, the main one being that considering its billed as a horror, its not particularly scary, I really couldn't say that there was any point at which my blood ran cold, or my imagination ran away from me. I guess the main reason for this is that the book is set Victorian times and therefore there was slightly less for me to relate to. (But I'm sure reviewers will be saying the same sort of thing about King's books in 100 years). I also feel that many would be put off by the writing style and would give up after a few pages, as I very nearly was. Be warned though the story does start quite slowly, but as the book progresses the pace does quicken and the finale is gripping. Finally, I would say that despite this being hailed as a classic, it is no-where nearly as good as I thought it would be. A good story with well defined characters, yes, but for me at least there was something (as yet undefined) missing.
However, as I said at the start of the review for £1.50 how can I not say to give this book a try. If nothing else, you might just find (as Stephen King was) that you are inspired to write your own spine-chiller. Well stranger things have happened
Paperback : 448 pages
Publisher : Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN : 014062063X
Price : £1.50 (from Amazon UK)
Never heard of it? Well you must be about the only person in the world! Even ?Sesame Street? fans are subject to allusions to ?Dracula?---remember the Count? (Here?s a hint: he liked to count.) So, most people know what ?Dracula? is about? an adventure tale in which a young man goes to stay in Count Dracula?s castle only to discover his host is a vampire; the ?Undead??right? Wrong! Though ostensibly this is an adequate description of the classic novel, critics throughout the last century have debated as to whether ?Dracula? exemplifies fair more complex issues. Many assert that the typically Gothic style adopted by Stoker [writer] is merely a veneer for expressions of political views regarding class, marriage and individual restraint; key issues of debate in the ven-de-seicle context of the novel. Arguably, Dracula transgresses the rules of physics and infringes the barriers between reality and illusion in order to convey the ominous consequences awaiting those who transgress social norms of Victorian culture. Whether you agree with this or not is up to you -you?ll have to read it for yourself?but I wouldn?t recommend you bother; Dracula?s disappointingly dull and deadly???.sorry: [Un]deadly. Rather than adopting one single, continuous narrative voice, Stoker interlinks extracts from the journals of various characters to, amongst other things, keep Dracula ?in the shadows? so adding a sense of mystery and keep the reader on edge?well in theory anyway. The novel opens in the form of Jonathan Harker?s dairy. He explains that he is a ?solicitor?s clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner? in Transylvania. Problem is, as Harker later discovers, the ?foreigner? [Count Dracula] has other plans for him?as do three bloodsucking vampire-women in a backroom of the old castle. Ba
ck in London, Harker?s fiancé discusses with her friend, Lucy, her concern about his postponed return. Yet it seems Lucy has problems of her own; 3 men have proposed to her in one day! Furthermore she is, unconsciously, making nightly visits to Dracula who has now travelled to England -giving Harker an opportunity to escape. Soon, with the help of Dutch professor, Van Helsing, the characters (including Lucy?s suitors Arthur, Quincy and Steward) realise Count Dracula?s evil plans and promise to work together to slay him. Of course this is not a straightforward task ?even with the guidance of Renfield ?a patient in Steward?s mental asylum who seems to have a connection with Dracula. Sigh! Things are never as easy as Sarah Michelle Gellar/Buffy makes out, are they? Bagging Freddie Prince Jr; looking gorgeous ALL the time; slaying the odd vampire here and there?? So, what does ?Dracula? really mean? Well, here are just a few ideas: Socialists, such as the critic Moretti, argue Dracula is the epitome of ?the last aristocrat.? Certainly his long history of noble ancestors and lordly status (?I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master?) supports this argument. This suggests that Dracula?s evil nature represents the nature of upper class capitalists. Stoker is perhaps painting a picture of those in power draining the life out of labourers through severe exploitation much as Dracula sucks the life out of his victims ?a particularly relevant concern in contemporary Britain given the increase in technology (reflected in the use of ?typewriters? and ?telegrams?) which led to industrialisation. Fidelity in marriage versus sexual freedom is also, debatably, one of ?Dracula??s major themes. A parallel between Harker and Lucy is
drawn in that they are both tempted by three suitors [Harker by those ?fearful women? and Lucy by various men.] Yet whilst Lucy appears to relish the prospect (?Why can?t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her??), Harker remains loyal to Mina during his meeting with the women; ?It is not good to note this down, lest it should meet Mina?s eyes.? The fact that Harker, unlike Lucy, survives by the end of the novel PERHAPS infers Stoker?s wish to reward such restraint. Similarly, individual restraint is an aspect of the rejection of the ?New woman?; Mina restrains her urges to liberate herself adopting ?fluid gender roles? [Auerburg] by defying this early ?feminist? approach; ?I believe we should have shocked the New woman with our appetites.? Yet she also refuses to remain passive in her role; indeed it is Mina who finally concludes the whereabouts of Dracula. The constant praise she receives as a consequence (she is described as ?brave and gallant?) insinuates Stoker admires this more conservative, though modern, attitude. Many have deliberated as to whether ?Dracula? concerns homosexuality (a controversial issue in Victorian society -just as it is today- given taboos surrounding Oscar Wilde?s ?sexual inversion?.) This is perhaps the result of Dracula?s comment; ?He is mine.? Through Dracula?s link to the devil, Stoker suggests such behaviour is evil as it involves no self-control and offers no prospect of marriage. * All this deep and meaningful ?reading into things? is all very well and good? for some people. So if you?re the type to go to art galleries and stare at ?The Blue Square? for hours wondering what it ?means?, then this is the book for you. I must admit that I too enjoy analysing SOME things when I
?m convinced that is what the person responsible intended for me to do, but what is the point in asking ourselves: ?what did Stoker mean by this?? if the answer is staring us in the face? He means exactly was he?s saying. No more, no less; given the incidental tone of most citations that have given rise to these cogent ideas, I believe ?Dracula? to be a simple fantasy tale. After all, if we are to affirm that any adventure story is an exemplification of political views, then we end up with ?Harry Potter and the prisoner of Camp X-ray?, ?Little (White)house on the Prairie? and Enid Blyton becomes a dictator of some sort of coup. Given this, you may question why ?Dracula? has been such a success. What separates it from all other thrillers? Paradoxically, very little is the answer. Confused? You see, its success stems from the fact that it was the first novel (or at least one of) to fully embrace the genre?.but by no means the last. It has set an example/?paved the way?. I will confess this is a huge achievement, yet ?Dracula? accomplishes very little else. It is extremely repetitive (particularly in the middle when Lucy gets ill then better then ill again FOUR times) and the climax is predictable. Moreover it is ridiculously long-winded; it took me the majority of a 24-hour aeroplane journey to read. Though I am admittedly a slow reader, it does seem odd that the abridged cassette version is 2 and half hours long yet omits nothing important?..at all! ?Not a sausage?-as they say [whoever ?they? are]. My advice? Save yourself a few hours and go watch the film instead?. preferably the 1970?s BBC version ?that way you can laugh at the dodgy xylophone sound-effects every time something ?magical? happens. Why not the actual book? Simple really: ?Dracula? drags?. and drags and drags and dra
Jonathan Harker, incarcerated in a Transylvanian castle, has an alluring but terrifying dream of three women, eager to prey upon him. His host and jailer is none other than Count Dracula, or Nosferatu, controller of the wolves.