Published in 1897, Dracula by Bram Stoker single-handedly brought the genre of Vampire literature to the forefront. A classic of the Gothic and horror genre, its impact has been enormous to say the least.
Dracula tells the story of Count Dracula, an un-dead being and a master manipulator. The narrative follows the efforts of a group of men and woman as they try to foil the Count’s evil designs. The story of is told through series of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings; etc.
How can a book that I have read and re-read so many times still fill me with so much fear and dread? I know the book almost by heart now. But Jonathan Harker’s experiences in the Castle Dracula, the count’s arrival in England, his encounter with Lucy and her mother, the Count’s evil presence at the asylum, it all still manages to scare me and I’m not a person who’s easily scared.
Dracula was a part of the trend of Invasion literature popular during the 1880s and 1890s. Many famous authors of the time including Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells, wrote stories where fantastic creatures threatened England. But Dracula has outlived its contemporaries and has taken on a life of its own.
The way evil is presented in the book is very refreshing. The evil brings darkness with it but there are glimpses of a past, in a past where things may have been different. Stoker shows that even for someone who is an outright villainous character there still lays the possibility of redemption.
Stoker had a real flair for creating just the right ambiance. I could feel the dust, the hopelessness and the suffocation of the isolated Castle Dracula. The account of the voyage of The Demeter is another remarkable example of Stoker’s vivid imagination.
The iconic character of Count Dracula is the life line of this book. He has got to be the singular most evil and creepy villain I’ve ever read about. Apparently the inspiration behind his mannerisms and physical appearance came from actor-manager Henry Irving who was a friend of Bram Stoker’s. The Count’s suave manner, his noble birth and education all mask a sinister personality. His malevolent attitude towards everyone, particularly towards the Harkers, is disturbing to say the least.
The character of Jonathan Harker felt bland. Mina Harker’s character is a bit one dimensional but so are the characters of all the other good people in the book.
The character Dr. Van Helsing is good but his exaggerated foreignness is a bit too much at times. Dr. Seward was an interesting character. His character has a certain depth to it.
Lucy Westenra’s character is not properly fleshed out. I don’t get why everyone is in love with her other than the fact that she is pretty. Arthur Holmwood comes across as kind of dull while Quincey Morris is wooden.
The problem with an epistolary novel is that the point of view keeps constantly changing. As a result the narrative becomes a bit irregular. The climax, for instance, could have been more effective had we been able to view it from the viewpoint of either Harker or Dr. Seward. Instead we view it from Mina’s perspective. Perched at a mountain crevice along with her, the reader feels more like a spectator than an actual participant. After a narrative that is so full of thrills the climax loses its edge a bit.
The narrative of course has traces of Victorian melodrama in it. The good are incredibly good, the women are incredibly sweet and patient, everyone starts weeping at the drop of a hat; etc, etc. But these flaws can be overlooked as the story has so much more to offer.
Dracula. The very name that conjures up countless images in our minds. A pop culture staple for many years, our vision of the blood sucking, eternally damned gentleman has become tainted with its various incarnations. But for me nothing beats the book that started it all. The book certainly lives up to its name and fame and remains one of my all-time favourites. Highly recommended.
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