Eric Althoff's Reviews > Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker
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Jul 20, 2007

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Read in July, 2007

All cliches were once new. Yet even in Bram Stoker's day, vampire lore had already been around for centuries (indeed, Stoker plundered earlier, though more forgotten, writers on the subject). It is all here in "Dracula": the dark and stormy night, the castle, the funny Eastern European accent, the sexualized nature of vampirism. We've seen it so many countless times by now that we forget that the horror of it all was once fresh...and still is.

"Dracula" remains fresh. Told as an epistlery through the vantage points of several characters, we follow the strange case (I will say "case" because the structure is somewhat like a detective story, with facts becoming known gradually through investigation) of the Romanian count, who has purchased land in London, thus setting the story in motion.

What fascinated me was the fact that the titular character barely appears much in the story at all, especially after the first hundred pages set at his castle. Indeed, much like the shark in the first hour of "Jaws," we see the results of his actions rather than the actor himself. What's more important is how the characters feel about and react to the monster. But when he does appear, his familiar mannerisms, charm, and grandstanding are there.

It is interesting to note that the 1992 Coppola film follows the events of the book almost to the letter for roughly the first two-thirds of the story. But the film's major narrative conceit--that Mina Harker is a reincarnation of Dracula's long-deceased bride, Elizabeta--is entirely absent from the novel. "Bram Stoker's Dracula" the film is a baroque romance that spans the centuries whereas Bram Stoker's "Dracula" the book is a classic of detective-gothic horror fiction. The film's Dracula is a tragic figure whereas his printed counterpart is a pure monster. But one thing that both the book and the film touch upon is that when the demon (like all demons) is slain, he is released from his prison.

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