“Collected inside this book are diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings that piece together the depraved story of the ultimate predator. A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancée and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that it hungers for so desperately?”
Whenever Dracula is mentioned, I’d assume that everyone’s first thoughts are of vampires, blood and lust. Dracula is one of the most renowned horror stories and the most well-known vampire novels. However, I feel like I must mention that Carmilla (by J. Sheridan Le Fanu) is where vampires began and undoubtedly one of Bram Stoker’s biggest influences when writing about the vampire mythos in Dracula.
Within the novel, Stoker embeds all the characteristics of a vampire creating the outline for all the vampire’s hereafter. The dislike of sunlight, garlic and religious paraphernalia all are seen to come into play within the story.
Arguably, Dracula as a character can be disputed to be the father of the Gothic genre’s tyrannical villains. Even when Dracula isn’t physically present, Stoker uses every single ounce of his talent to ensure that Dracula’s sneering presence is felt throughout the entirety of the novel despite the fact he is rarely seen in his human form. Embedded with Gothic tropes and imagery, it’s near impossible to mention Dracula without mentioning it’s Gothic elements. From the outset of the novel featuring the decaying castle in Transylvania through to the death and destruction that follows, the sense of foreboding using Gothic tropes and techniques within Dracula is immensely captivating.
As a common feature of Gothic literature, Stoker does not forget to discuss the ‘damsel in distress’ motif and women’s roles in Victorian England. Both main female characters, Lucy and Mina, are in danger at some point or another within the novel and both women feel that they must rely on the men to save and protect them from any harm.
Whilst the novel focuses on Dracula’s evil intentions and a group’s plots to overthrow him, Stoker looks at so much more than that. Not only does he comment on women’s positions in society as well as their underpinned sexual desires, but he looks at science with religion and superstition. Additionally, he glances at struggles with modernity and how Dracula himself can be seen to represent the idea of ‘survival of the fittest.’
Bram Stoker further explores the sanity of each of his characters, not just Renfield, the psychiatric patient of Dr Seward. At some point within the novel, every character struggles with their own thoughts and whether their experiences with Dracula are born from some type of ill mental health rather than a supernatural encounter with the villain. Adding to the novels value, Stoker also looks at issues of identity and how it’s affected by transgression.
Vampires are simply everywhere. They can be found in ancient folklore and seem to never end, with there being countless stories, shows and films on the creatures. However, Dracula is where the phenomenon evidently began, meaning that the extrinsic value of the novel as a piece of literature is priceless.
Overall, the story of Dracula shocked me. I’m sure that many others as well as myself have procrastinated reading this book for an unthinkable amount of time, after believing we already know the story of Dracula. However, I was wrong. There is so much more to the story of the villain and Stoker shows no mercy for the evil acts that he commits, unlike several modern-day interpretations.
In addition, the novel explores a vast number of contextual themes and Stoker exerts his thoughts on these magically, only improving the novels levels of appraisal. Dracula is undoubtedly a timeless and revolutionary piece of Gothic fiction that is set to influence future novelists and screenwriters for generations.
The only downfall to Stoker’s story is that I felt disappointed after finishing. I believed that Dracula had one of the most slow and unsatisfying climaxes I’ve ever read. Although, upon dwelling on the story and the writing, it’s clear to see that Stoker’s goal was more to comment on justice and humanity rather than to thrill his audience and I would argue that to be respectable and entertaining within itself in a piece of literature.
Dracula is definitely a must-read for any literature fan.
Image Credit: Memorabilia Autographs