Review: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

For the love of books

Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be termed a horror story that has had lasting repercussions on modern literature.  Being one of the first major novels concerning the myths and legends of vampires, it is the source from which most sequential vampire novels have drawn information about vampires’ basic characteristics and the nature of Dracula or extracted threads from Stoker’s famous plot.

Written like a collection of excerpts from journals by different main characters, Dracula is an eye-catching refresher after reading any of its modern successors. Immediately, one can notice how vampire novels came to be at all.  Attributed now commonly accepted features, “typical” vampires have a terror of sunlight, possible animal metamorphoses, continual use of blood as a life source, and immortality, among other things.  In fact, no one seems to ever directly note how faulty and ironic vampires’ immortality is, considering that these supernatural creatures rely on human blood to survive.  True immortality does not require a weak tool like human blood.  Nevertheless, Stoker relates some unknown ideas about vampires in his story, e.g. Count Dracula utilizes hypnosis to acquire his victims, and while he does need an invite into their homes in order to feed, he still can become an animal at will or, more unusually, particles of dust in the moonlight.

Therefore, Van Helsing’s seemingly eccentric method of rubbing garlic around windowsills and doorways emphasizes how dangerous and powerful vampires could be if unleashed.  Moreover, Dracula portrays vampires as stronger supernatural beings in its turn-of-the-century visualization than most modern conceptions, which look at vampirism as an attractive joke.  Character changes during cataclysmic vampire transformation as well as a lust for blood and inhuman strength are some other factors that are attributed to not only Count Dracula but also his vampire spawn.  As can be expected, communication during such a tale is essential via all contemporary means such as telegraphs, phonographs, shorthand entries, letters, and diaries.

The beginning of modern technology is another important aspect of Dracula, as it helps greatly in Dracula’s rise to power in England.  However, Stoker’s protagonists are not always as clearly defined as his villain.  Lucy Westenra appears to be nothing more than a presumptuous flirt who ignores any common sense or cautioned thought by exposing herself to Dracula’s power.  Jonathan Harker is an ambiguous leading man who isn’t as sure of himself as Dr. John Seward, a dedicated doctor and psychologist whose love for his profession and Lucy are worthy of Dr. Van Helsing’s high regard and friendship.  His intellectual phonograph entries take up more than half of the narrative and are persuasive in regards to the details of his temperament and motives.

On the other hand, Van Helsing is the mentor and guide of all characters, the main leader and fighter against Dracula’s evil.  While Dracula handles all of its characters’ personal romantic episodes in various side stories, Mina Harker develops into an intelligent and brave heroine whose only flaw is that she infrequently demonstrates a gutsy spirit beneath her meek and calm demeanor, falling often into that desperate female stereotype of “damsel in distress.”  Aside from the remainder of the supporting cast, it cannot be denied that Stoker’s composition is a complex horror creation with impressively eloquent language and well-versed expressions, leaving many concepts for further contemplation.  Moreover, Van Helsing’s theory that vampire victims are doomed to vampirism for eternity unless their “creator” is successfully destroyed is an interesting notion not usually found in later vampire tales, as most hold to vampire transformation being past “the point of no return.”

Dracula is also realistic and violent in the midst of fantasy, recalling that true vampire obliteration can only be logically finalized by a stake through the heart and decapitation.  Despite its flaws, Dracula is undoubtedly an innovative primary account of vampire lore with unique perception, a worthy paternal model for any successors belonging to the vampire novel genre.

Original review: Part 1: The father of all vampire novels; Part 2: The father of all vampire novels; Part 3: The father of all vampire novels, Examiner.com

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