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Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Dracula, part 1; ch. 1-4

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message 1: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1051 comments For discussion of the first four chapters of Dracula. Please clearly point out spoilers in your comments.

Happy reading!


message 2: by Paula (last edited Sep 14, 2010 08:31PM) (new)

Paula | 1051 comments As I am sure is true for most editions people will be reading, my version of this book came with a nice little introduction. There were a few things I found quite interesting and wanted to mention:

1. Dracula was published in 1897 and quickly presented on stage. It is interesting to me to consider what the response of contemporary English folk would have been to this presentation, and how the story unfolded on stage.

2. Stoker was close friends with other literary giants such as Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, and Henry Irving. Irving apparently had a large impact on Stoker after Stoker saw Irving read "The Dream of Eugene Aram." The poem seems to have clear connections to what later became Stoker's most famous novel, "Dracula." It is interesting to read this poem and draw connections to the book.

The poem can be found in full here: The Dream of Eugene Aram


message 3: by Paula (last edited Sep 14, 2010 08:35PM) (new)

Paula | 1051 comments One question for everyone, just to kick things off...

What is your initial impression of Jonathan Harker? We meet him and learn very quickly that he is a lawyer who is going to visit Count Dracula to complete a legal transaction involving the sale of property. He is well-written, highly educated, a man of means, and pays meticulous attention to detail, as exemplified by his journal entries related to the meals he eats and his description of Count Dracula's castle.

How does the character of Jonathan and all his lawyer-like qualities lend to the reader's impression of Count Dracula and the supernatural events that take place in these first few chapters? Does it make you believe in the "truth" of Dracula's supernatural-ness, knowing that it is described by someone like Jonathan? Or, does it just fit nicely as a reason an Englishman would travel to visit a nobelman in a completely foreign country?


message 4: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Sep 15, 2010 12:32PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Paula wrote: "As I am sure is true for most editions people will be reading, my version of this book came with a nice little introduction. There were a few things I found quite interesting and wanted to mention:..."

Paula, I can honestly say that I had never heard of that connection to Hood's poem before. After reading The Dream of Eugene Aram, I wholeheartedly agree that it certainly could have fueled Stoker's literary fires. What an amazingly creepy poem! I have to think that Thomas Hood had some 'evil demons' that he was struggling with himself to have come up with this poem. Of course, it may simply have been a rustic folk-tale that he encountered and just adapted too. Thanks for sharing this! Cheers!


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver I just have to say that I loved the beginning to the story and the way the scene was set up so wonderful with all of the that beautiful gothic imagery, and the atmosphere and mood which was created. I also really love the way the story is told in the form of journals, letters, telegrams, etc.

I was quite surprised that the action so to speak took place right out of the bat at the beginning of the book. Almost instantly the reader is clued into the fact that there is something fishy going on with this count guy, and the suggestion that he is indeed a vampire comes on quite suddenly. I was not expecting that, the way the story so immediately throws the reader into what is happening without really building up to it.


message 6: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Matteson | 2 comments I read this book last year at this time, and I was terrified right off the bat (no pun intended!!). I found especially terrifying Jonathan Harker's situation and it kept me on the edge of my seat. In answer to Paula's question about JH's character, I think his being a scientific, logical minded young man, not prone to hallucinations and very very proper and clean cut, I would absolutely believe anything he told me regarding the supernatural powers of Count Dracula. JH obviously believed he was meeting with a very important person regarding a very important real estate transaction, and being the professional that he was, he was going to carry out his duties no matter what. He didn't believe in any of the old country superstitions, but of course, hindsight is 20/20, and the terrors that meet him at the castle are unimaginable. However, he, of course, is not the first to experience Dracula's wrath. Highly recommended!!


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Paula wrote: "One question for everyone, just to kick things off...

What is your initial impression of Jonathan Harker? We meet him and learn very quickly that he is a lawyer who is going to visit Count Dracula..."


I would have to say that I think that Jonathan does come off as being a fairly reliable narrator in describing the strange events which start to unfold at the castle and the things which he experiences there. I do not question the truth of the events he accounts, and believe his experiences are real. At the onset of things he does not seem as someone who is easily excitable, or given to hallucinations or an overactive imagination, nor does he appear to have a nervous condition that would delude his rational thinking man.

I felt there was validity in what he has witnesses that does make the reader tend toward believing in the truth of the supernatural and accepting the fact that there is more to the Count than meets the eye.


message 8: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) I, too, love the descriptive passages of the countryside. I really felt like I could see the countryside & hear the dogs & wolves. It is just so real! I believe that JH was a bit nervous about the strange actions of the people, but his logical side could not or would not let him believe there was any danger. Wonderful storytelling by Stoker. Certainly knew how to build suspense.


message 9: by Amalie (last edited Sep 16, 2010 12:18AM) (new)

Amalie Great! I’m finally at a beginning of a novel. I was so sad I missed a great discussion on Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd.

To answer Paula's Q of the reader's initial impression of Jonathan Harker, He a young newly qualified English solicitor, from England. So other than perhaps lack of experience he is pretty much a logical-minded, healthy young man so we can say he is a reliable narrator.

Also it's not only through Harker's eyes that we see the horrific or supernatural elements. First of all he has a hard time finding any map which contains the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, then his land lady and lord are frightened with his destination in the first chapter the lady even begs "Must you go? Oh! Young Herr, must you go?" She offering the crucifix etc. etc. many foreshadowing elements but by the time harker reaches the Castle he doesn’t seem nervous.

The physical description of count does not seem to effect Harker, as he says he enjoyed the first day and was able to sleep well so he is an unbiased narrator according to me.


message 10: by Amalie (last edited Sep 16, 2010 12:19AM) (new)

Amalie By the way, how many of you’ll dare to enter into an crumbling, remote castle in an unknown land specially if the owner first words are,

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will!"

Not me.


message 11: by Silver (new)

Silver Amalie wrote: "By the way, how many of you’ll dare to enter into an crumbling, remote castle in an unknown land specially if the owner first words are,

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free..."


LOL I totally would


message 12: by Em (new)

Em (emmap) It is a very eerie atmosphere that's created from the outset itsn't it? Beautiful, remote, mountainous landscape, a dark, decrepit castle and a mysterious, aged count awaiting him there. Makes me shiver! I was thinking that the people and culture are previously unfamiliar to Jonathan Harker - so there be an element of his being unnerved by the reactions he experiences but his logical mind putting it down to the superstitious nature of the people.


message 13: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Matteson | 2 comments Ha--How could anyone resist entering Dracula's castle--Silver, I'm with you!


message 14: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 18 comments I agree with you all--these first few chapter are so atmospheric! Stoker really creates an environment and a suspenseful feel. I thought the moment with the reflection not in the mirror was excellent. Ready for more! :)


message 15: by Scott (new)

Scott (Karlstadt) | 123 comments Paula wrote: "One question for everyone, just to kick things off...

What is your initial impression of Jonathan Harker? We meet him and learn very quickly that he is a lawyer who is going to visit Count Dracula..."



message 16: by Scott (new)

Scott (Karlstadt) | 123 comments By chapter 2, Jonathon is having trouble handling his thoughts: "I think strange things which I dare not confess to my own soul". How can he hide things from his own soul? Victorian Dr. Freud would call this denial and repressing thoughts to the subconscious.


message 17: by Scott (new)

Scott (Karlstadt) | 123 comments Amalie wrote: "By the way, how many of you’ll dare to enter into an crumbling, remote castle in an unknown land specially if the owner first words are,

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free..."


Amalie wrote: "By the way, how many of you’ll dare to enter into an crumbling, remote castle in an unknown land specially if the owner first words are,

“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free..."



message 18: by Scott (new)

Scott (Karlstadt) | 123 comments I would have read up on the area, and talked to the locals more. Behind myths, there is usually a kernel of truth. Supernatural or not, I would not have entered the castle without the promise from my boss to send the police if I do not come out in three days!
"Enter freely and of your own free will" sounds like what they say about the Mob: it is easy to get in, but hard to get out.


message 19: by Silver (new)

Silver Karlstadt wrote: "By chapter 2, Jonathon is having trouble handling his thoughts: "I think strange things which I dare not confess to my own soul". How can he hide things from his own soul? Victorian Dr. Freud woul..."

Jonathon is placed within a rather horrifying situation in which all his reason and logic is being shattered as he is confronted with something that is beyond all explanation.

I would imagine being the educated man that he is, and with his lawyer background, and disbelief in superstitions, the events he is confronted with at the castle places him in the position of either having to question his own sanity, or believing in the impossible, and in something that would be truly terrible to comprehend.

So he cannot admit to himself his own speculations and fears of what is happening to him. They are too terrifying to voice even in his own mind.

Though he comes to the point where he cannot deny the truth, he still cannot bring himself to actually admit to it.


message 20: by Amalie (last edited Sep 17, 2010 02:13AM) (new)

Amalie Barbara wrote: "Ha--How could anyone resist entering Dracula's castle--Silver, I'm with you!"

Ok, all you Brave People! I love horror fiction and enjoy reading, but hypothetically if I ever was inside that castle I'm might get scared to my own shadow and die . Seriously! You're welcome to feel sorry me.


message 21: by Amalie (last edited Sep 17, 2010 02:19AM) (new)

Amalie Has anyone reached the 4th chapter?

When Jonathan Harker gets help from the gipsies to post the letters and later the count comes back with the letters and tells "The Szgany has given me these" does that make them his accomplices? Because later when Harker ran to the window and cried to them, they only laughed at him.

Also later when Harker finds his all writing materials gone how did he manage to keep his journal safe? Do we find where he keeps his journal?


message 22: by Silver (new)

Silver Amalie wrote: "Has anyone reached the 4th chapter?

When Jonathan Harker gets help from the gipsies to post the letters and later the count comes back with the letters and tells "The Szgany has given me these"..."


Yes, I think it is implied that the gypsies are working for Dracula, no doubt he is probably paying them off, as I believe that the Gypsies are the ones who were hired to move his coffin for him.

Interesting question about the journal. I am not sure how he managed to keep it from being taken, I don't think it mentions where he keeps it.


message 23: by DebK (new)

DebK | 6 comments What strikes me about this novel is that it is so entirely differant from the way horror novels are written today. No blood and guts. Much more subtle and much more eery. The sense of horror is something that builds gradually. It is as much a part of the perception of the characters as it is a part of the atmosphere. As we progress through the novel, Dracula is always painted through the eyes of others. With each perception, we gain a more complete picture. I love the way Stoker uses nature to give us a sense of Dracula's power. He controls the wolves. He controls the gypsies. He seems even to affect the weather. And everyone around him is held by fear of him. My favorite depiction of him is when he crawls along the sides of the castle like some kind of reptile. It's wonderfully creepy!


message 24: by Silver (new)

Silver Deb wrote: "What strikes me about this novel is that it is so entirely differant from the way horror novels are written today. No blood and guts. Much more subtle and much more eery. The sense of horror is ..."

I have to admit though, a part of me could not help but to wonder why does he have to sneak out of his own castle? LOL! Why dosen't he just go out the front door.


message 25: by DebK (new)

DebK | 6 comments Silver wrote: "Deb wrote: "What strikes me about this novel is that it is so entirely differant from the way horror novels are written today. No blood and guts. Much more subtle and much more eery. The sense o..."

I guess it wouldn't be very "batlike" or interesting if he just went out the front door. :)


message 26: by Silver (new)

Silver Haha yes I know, but still it just seemed funny to go creeping around out the window of your own residence.

LOL then again, maybe he just wants to get away without having to deal with the women. I imagine they don't like very much that he gets to go out every night, while they are cooped up inside.

Probably easier to go out the window than to risk running into them.

He gives a whole new meaning to the idea of staying out drinking all night.


message 27: by Em (new)

Em (emmap) The wall crawling thing is pretty spine chilling, and I was reading it Starbucks in the middle of the day - still made me cringe!


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 828 comments Just started this yesterday and so far I am loving it. The opening chapters are so atmospheric and beautifully written - I was there in the carriage with him, among the pine trees with the snow starting to fall and the wolves howling - brilliant!

I would say that (so far) I find Harker a very reliable narrator as I have no reason to disbelieve him: he didn't listen to the supersticions and gossip of the villagers, he is well educated and has a good job and standing in social circles so I don't feel the need to question what he sees just yet.


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 828 comments Em wrote: "The wall crawling thing is pretty spine chilling, and I was reading it Starbucks in the middle of the day - still made me cringe!"

Ooh, yes that was very creepy!


message 30: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1051 comments Silver wrote: "I have to admit though, a part of me could not help but to wonder why does he have to sneak out of his own castle? LOL! Why dosen't he just go out the front door...."

Ha! That's an excellent question!


message 31: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1051 comments So, I've been trying to find out if Stoker wrote this with the intention of moving it quickly to a stage production, or if that was just how things turned out. It does seem that some of the extra descriptive language would be very helpful 'pre-work' for the theatrical production. Perhaps that is why, for example, the Count sneaks out his own window, if Stoker had a live audience in mind while writing this book.


message 32: by Silver (new)

Silver Paula wrote: "So, I've been trying to find out if Stoker wrote this with the intention of moving it quickly to a stage production, or if that was just how things turned out. It does seem that some of the extra d..."

That is an interesting thought, I had not considered that. He does create a very strong visual atmopshere for the story. As well if he was in fact thinking of a theatracial perfomance while writing, it would explain the fast pace of the book how things happen right away and really thrwos the reader into the thick of things from almost the very first chapter.


message 33: by Bu (new)

Bu (lancaster72) Strange. I never thought of this for the stage. Too detailed! There are too many situations here that are impossible to reproduce on stage.


message 34: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 18 comments Manuelsdottir wrote: "Strange. I never thought of this for the stage. Too detailed! There are too many situations here that are impossible to reproduce on stage."

I agree--though the idea of Stoker having the stage in mind while writing is interesting, I also think it's too detailed a story here for that. Plus, everything is in written form--diary entries, etc--so that would seem to contradict the stage idea as well.


message 35: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1051 comments I just put up the discussion threads for the next two sections. As we aren't reading this in any sort of pre-scheduled manner, I'm just trying to stay a few steps ahead by posting the next section(s) as soon as I've gotten through it. I hope this doesn't slow anyone down!


message 36: by Silver (new)

Silver Rachel wrote: "Manuelsdottir wrote: "Strange. I never thought of this for the stage. Too detailed! There are too many situations here that are impossible to reproduce on stage."

I agree--though the idea of Stoke..."


I have read some interesting information on the theater idea. I acutally have a Vampire Encyclopedia, and I was looking Stoker up in it, and Stoker was involved with theater and always interested in the theater during the time in which he was writing. He use to work for a time as a Drama critic and actor Henry Irving invited Stoker to work as manager of the Lyceum Theater. About the time of publication of Dracula, Stoker held a reading of the text, which was followed by an announcement of the dramatic performance of the work.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I was lucky enough to have seen Frank Langella on Broadway in the production based on this book. It was super and he was phenomenal in the part.


message 38: by Martha (new)

Martha (marthas48) I love the movie with Langella in it, too. Never saw it on stage, but am sure it would be wonderful. I've just finished this section & enjoyed it more than I thought I would. An excellent scary story for this time of year. I may try to read it every year! It reads fast, but I've been too busy to devote much time to it.


message 39: by Paula (new)

Paula | 1051 comments Silver wrote: "Rachel wrote: "Manuelsdottir wrote: "Strange. I never thought of this for the stage. Too detailed! There are too many situations here that are impossible to reproduce on stage."

I agree--though ..."


Excellent, Silver - thanks for all the info! :)


message 40: by Silver (new)

Silver You are welcome!


message 41: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Will start this one as soon as my copy arrives. I can't believe our library doesn't have it. :(


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 828 comments Hope you can join us soon, Rebecca ☺


message 43: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 18 comments Silver wrote: "Rachel wrote: "Manuelsdottir wrote: "Strange. I never thought of this for the stage. Too detailed! There are too many situations here that are impossible to reproduce on stage."

I agree--though ..."


Wow, that IS fascinating, Silver. I wonder about adaptation--if Stoker was rewriting it at all for performance. SUCH an interesting thought.


message 44: by Kin (new)

Kin (kinkykin) I tried to read this book a year ago, but couldn't really get into it. i thought then that the narration is too dry. I guess I wasn't proficient in language enough at that time.
Now i love it! Both eerie atmosphere and the form of the book. For me, the most creepy was the moment when the woman almost 'kissed' him. Such a suggestive description! I almost felt tickling on my neck.
I am an excitable person, therefore Harker seems somewhat distant to me. If I were in his place I would definitely become hysterical, I would weep and wail and half of my entries would be written in capitals and rather than describing that terrifying castle I would write about my fear. It struck me that he complains so little. On the other hand, from the words 'I think strange things which I dare not confess to my own soul' we can guess how much of what he thinks he doesn't write down.
As to the theatrical production, I've read recently a book about Henry James's struggle to become a playwright. There are two things I learned from it: 1.at that time, every book that was successful was adapted for the theatre just like best sellers are adapted for films now;
2. if Henry James's novel can be made into a play, then everything can.
(sorry it's so long)


message 45: by Silencio (new)

Silencio The book started fast, it's been creepy from the first page.

But I have a question, how could Jonathan Harker keep writing after Dracula took his journal and papers away?


message 46: by Silver (new)

Silver Silencio wrote: "The book started fast, it's been creepy from the first page.

But I have a question, how could Jonathan Harker keep writing after Dracula took his journal and papers away?"


That has been brought up before, and that is a good question. He does not give an explination for how he has spared his Journal from being taken with the rest of his writing things, nor what he has to write in it with.

That does seem a strange oversight on the part of Stoker.


message 47: by Rebecca (last edited Sep 25, 2010 04:34AM) (new)

Rebecca I felt like Silver I was surprised that alot of the action was told right upfront. At first I wondered why and thought it might not make me so excited to keep reading but I acutally did all the more so.

I had a hard time with the fact that Harker kept on his journey to the castle even after passing all the people who were whispering and crossing themselves. Then again he probably is second guessing himself and probably think he is just being silly so to speak. Then also he had a sale to secure.


message 48: by Kin (new)

Kin (kinkykin) I think it's because he always had it on him. Besides, he mentioned that he hid it.


message 49: by Jamie (last edited Sep 25, 2010 02:02PM) (new)

Jamie  (jaymers8413) From the beginning I have wondered if Harker's boss has another reason besides his health for not going to see the count?

Also in Transylvania from 1431-1470 there was a Vlad III Dracula (the Impaler) who was prince of Wallachia. Stoker not only got the idea of the name Dracula and Transylvania from this but could have been influenced by this horrific ruler.


message 50: by Silver (new)

Silver Jamie wrote: "From the beginning I have wondered if Harker's boss has another reason besides his health for not going to see the count?

Also in Transylvania from 1431-1470 there was a Vlad III Dracula (the Impa..."


In the book I have about vampires, it talks about the link between the fictional and historical Dracula, and what influence the historical Dracula may have had upon Stoker and his story, and how Count Dracula may have been molded after Vlad the Impaler.

In Ch. 3 the lines:

Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkeyland, who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph!

Are a direct reference to the historical Dracula, and the history of Vlad the Impaler and suggest a tie between Stoker's Dracula, and the historical Dracula.

Here is a quote from the article in the book about the influence of Vlad in creating Dracula.

"Stoker, it seems, constructed his leading character, at least in part, from the historical Dracula. That Dracula was a prince not of Transylvania, but of the neighboring kingdom of Wallachia. Stoker turned the Wallachian prince into a Transylvanian count. The real Dracula's exploits largely occurred south of the Caraparthian Mountains, which dived Wallachai and Transylvania,and he only infrequently ventured into Transylvanian lands. The real Dracula was a Romanian, not a Szekely, though given the location chosen by Stoker for Castle Dracula in Sezkely, he was correct to think of his main character as a Szekely."


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