Vegasbookworm's Reviews > Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker
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U 50x66
's review
Sep 21, 11

really liked it
Recommended for: Horror enthusiasts, Victorian literature fans, scholars of British (or Irish) literature
Read in September, 2011 , read count: 1

Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Year of Publication: 1897
Genre: Horror, Victorian
Format: Epistolary novel

My rating: 8 out of 10

Having read the Romantic Frankenstein in High School and in College, reading Dracula seemed to be an appropriate follow-up. But the explosive popularity of vampires within the Twilight Universe lessened my desire in anything involving the mythical creatures. With the coming of October, I finally decided to check out the book that brought Vampires into the mainstream. Vampire lore and tales have existed for centuries, but it wasn't until Bram Stoker's epistolary novel that they emerged as a cultural phenomenon,

Dracula chronicles the tale of Count Dracula as he aims to obtain domination in heavily populated late 19th century England. The novel starts with real-estate agent Jonathan Harker traveling to Dracula's crumbling castle nestled on the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, looking to finalize an estate in England for the Count. He finds the Count warm and welcoming at first, but he soon finds himself a prisoner within the castle as he observes supernatural phenomena within his confines. While Harker attempts to escape from the confines of the castle, Dracula uses his new real-estate acquisition to head down to the more populated England, where he intends to spread his reign of terror and evil.

The book is written in an Epistolary format, in which the entirety of the plot is chronicled through characters' journals, newspaper articles and telegrams. This works extremely well for a horror novel in that the reader is only capable of observing what the other characters observe. The lack of an omniscient narrator keeps many aspects of Dracula himself shrouded in mystery, keeping the reader in a state of suspense throughout most of the novel. The journal entries and letters also display the characteristics and traits of the main characters, and while the book still feels like it was authored by one person, there are subtle differences towards the different characters' journal entries. The characters who are the primary narrators are Mr. Harker himself, Mina Murray, his fiance, Dr. John Seward, a physician working for a mental asylum, and Abraham Van Helsing, a dutch professor and metaphysical expert.

While there are a multitude of characters in the novel, they fall victim to static and wooden characterizations that seem to be common amongst horror novels and films. Each character fits in to a sort of role, and none of them with the exception of Jonathan Harker evolve in a great way. Dracula himself is an exception, as his character becomes slowly revealed through the characters' observations and the teachings of Dutch professor Abraham Van Helsing. In a sense, Dracula never evolves, but simply becomes more revealed as the story progresses. Mina Murray is the domesticated damsel in distress, Van Helsing the go-to expert on fighting the vampire, and John Seward his assistant. There are additional characters as well like Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood, and Lucy Westenra, but they too stay mostly static and within their assigned roles.

One of the primary themes of this novel is the role of women in Victorian culture along with sexual purity. The Victorian woman is seen as sexually pure, and they are explicitly targeted by a sexual tempter like Dracula. The duty of the men in the novel is the protect the women from the Count and not let him corrupt the purity of the women. While never made explicit, there are numerous subtle references to sexual intercorse, including aspects like penetration and climaxing The men themselves also fall into sexual temptation, though for the sake of this review will not be discussed in further detail to prevent spoilers. Christianity is prominent within this novel as well, as holy items such as crosses, holy water and Eucharist wafers are used to fight Dracula. In a sense, this too reflects the rule of purity in Christianity.

One of my criticisms of this books, but at the time probably more acceptable, is the very submissive role of the Victorian woman. The women in this book have a strongly reinforced role of being the protected and sheltered even from the hearing of bad news. There are numerous cases where the men ask the women to stay behind, as women have no place in combating a vampire. Coupled with the expected sexual purity of women, Stoker is clearly reinforcing the Victorian role of women in 19th century Britain, though that doesn't age well in contemporary times. The submissiveness of the women is so prevalent that it annoyed me at times, and at worst came across as sexist and condescending.

Like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the popular 1931 film adaptation is completely different from the novel. At 448 pages for my Kindle format, I found the length to be neither too brief nor too long. The pacing shifts from slow tension-building scenes to intense climatic incidents befitting a good horror novel. If you have any interest in vampires, you would do well to skip the lame Twilight novels and go back to where it all started. Despite it's flaws, a very entertaining and enjoyable read.

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