“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism.
Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not the first instance of the modern vampire in popular literature. Still, it was and remained the most iconic. My love for gothic horror began with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a recent rereading of it only reinforced that love. Stoker’s haunting imagery combined with the gravitas of Dracula himself is, and will always be, awesome. A beautiful exploration of human sexuality and tragic irony, Dracula is timeless in its message and enduring in its beauty.
During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress. Still, a friend’s strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt. The popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror romance is as deathless as any vampire. Its supernatural appeal has spawned a host of film and stage adaptations. More than a century after its initial publication, it holds readers spellbound.
Do I recommend this? Yes, to fans of the classics and gothic horror. For further reading, try John William Polidori’s “The Vampyre” and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla.
Age Rating: 15+
Trigger/Content Warnings: Abduction, character death, murder, and peril
Stuff to Sink Your Fangs Into:
Over the years, I’ve watched The Vampire Diaries and Twilight, dabbled in Carmilla and “The Vampyre.” I’ve worn plastic fangs at Halloween parties and donned a terrible Eastern European accent to top it all off. When I finally reached the age where I was certain that reading Dracula would not give me nightmares, I devoured it and every single other piece of vampire-related media that I could find (including six seasons of the sexy teen drama kind). Bram Stoker’s novel is unique in that it is the blueprint, presenting a version of Dracula, who cannot move over running water and absolutely none of the pick-up lines of Robert Pattison in the early 2010s.
Dracula‘s story is told through diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and telegrams – will I ever escape epistles? – from and about the novel’s five main characters. The most recognizable of these characters are Jonathan Harker, Lucy Westenra, and, of course, Dr. Van Helsing. In my review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I mentioned how much I appreciated the distinct voices of the two main characters. While there is some difference in the voices of each of Dracula‘s protagonists, that variance appears in ways that I feel I should find laughably bad but instead just find stupefying. The women in the novel speak in very stereotypical ways, oftentimes acting more like stock characters. To that end, all the men are very manly and noble, brave, and always ready to help.
I’m a big fan of social commentary in novels, and that’s why I’m willing to forgive Bram Stoker for his stiff characters. Even without knowing the exact details of Dracula‘s plot, many readers know that a vampire in a Gothic novel is a calling-card for discussions of and commentary on human sexuality. As such, in the mind of someone who enjoys a good mixture of feminist and historical literary criticism, the contrast between bland human characters and a mysterious and powerful vampire is brilliant. The characters within the novel are archetypal, a tactic that allows readers to find their place amongst the ensemble and analyze how they contribute to the development of the story. Additionally, this emphasizes the specific evil of the eponymous antagonist and highlights Stoker’s points about perceptions of sexuality and moral depravity. In other interpretations, Dracula is a story about Victorian England’s racism, antisemitism, and fear of reverse-colonization (all of which are very fun rabbit holes to go down).
The Bad and the Blood-Curdling:
I have but one issue with Dracula: it puts you to sleep. That’s not some funny vampire joke—I could literally not keep my eyes open for longer than 45 minutes while I was making my way through the book. I’ve been trying to figure it out for months—the pacing is fine, and the prose really isn’t that dense, so what was it that knocked me out? Unfortunately, I have no answer. I skimmed some other reviews of Dracula right after I read it, and I recall others sharing similar experiences. Still, I was never able to pinpoint the offending narrative choices. I would omit this from the review, if possible, but fatigue was such an interesting and present part of my reading experience with Dracula that I just can’t.
My love (s) at First Bite:
Dracula and Lucy Westenra are two of Stoker’s most interesting characters, not necessarily because of their behavior but also what it represents. As I mentioned earlier, Dracula is both a classic horror novel and a foundational piece of Gothic literature. It is natural to identify and comment upon patterns in human emotions and behaviors. The “conflict” between Dracula and Lucy is just the first major conflict of the novel. Still, it is the way that other characters react to this conflict that sets the ball in motion and drives home Stoker’s point. They both represent – when they are acting like themselves and when they are acting as adversaries – incredibly interesting perceptions of humanity, and that is what makes them my favorite characters.