This book is amazing. I mean properly amazing, considering it was first published in 1897 it’s pretty remarkable how it has remained relevant to now. Although saying that, we are going through a bit of a vampire revival at the moment (or we’re on the tail-end of one at least).
The thing that strikes me the most is the difference in vampire lore then and now. Now it’s sort of ridiculous, the sunlight makes them sparkle and they fear cloves of garlic, not to mention the fact that vampires are good guys now, which kind of goes against their very nature. They’re supposed to be the pawns of the devil, demons so consumed by evil that there’s no point in reasoning with them. The only way to remind them of good is to cut off their head or stick a stake through their heart…not shove some dumb teenager with a very skewed view on life in front of them and make them fall in lust, oops I mean love.
Vampires have been romanticised so much that it seems everyone has forgotten what they’re really like. It’s that stupid image of a soul in need of saving, of a guy who doesn’t have to be bad just because he’s an evil mythological creature. The whole bad guy persona that for some reason seems to get everyone hot under the collar. Well guess what people, vampires are bloodsucking creatures of the night, just like mosquitoes but you don’t see anybody falling madly in love with those bloodsuckers do you?
Anyway, ranting over and onto the book.
After a lot of disappointing vampire stories it was great to come to this one. I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. It did start off a little slowly, Jonathan Harker’s description of getting to the castle and meeting the Count was all a bit flat. However there was a lot of intrigue created by the behaviour of the townspeople and the behaviour of the wolves.
Yet after I got through that small chunk of unappealing writing it became so much better. Harker’s gradual discovery of just what the Count really was, the fright of him realising he was trapped in the castle and at the mercy of Dracula, the general eeriness of the three sisters appearing and the sight of Dracula scaling a wall much like a lizard. It all made the story addictive.
And yet, we don’t actually see Dracula that often. In fact the opening journal entries make up the majority of his appearance in the novel. Yet this is a testament to Stoker, the fact that he can create an atmosphere of fear with a villain who is hardly there but is always just out of sight and in the thoughts of the characters shows what a great writer he was.
Speaking of which, his characters are great too. The story is written as such so we are reading their journal entries or other bits of documentation which is relevant to the tale. There are quite a few to deal with but thankfully not all of them
keep journals. It’s a good way to tell the story because then we are able to, on occasion, piece things together before the characters do.
They’re all brave and intelligent individuals, chief among them being Van Helsing, who take on their duty to hunt down Dracula with much solemnity. Although, at first most of them found it difficult to believe in such things as the Un-Dead, they soon take it in their stride when it becomes apparent that one of their number has to fight for their soul.
I was also glad to see that sexism was down to a minimum. Usually when it comes to the old books I don’t expect women to be looked on favourably, all manner of insults are thrown hither and thither, yet in this book Bram Stoker is quite generous to the fairer sex and, in some instances, it’s actually through Mina Harker’s actions that the plot is allowed to develop.
He is also quite generous with his imagery. It has been a couple of days since I read the scene, but the baptism of blood image has been branded on my mind. Every time I recall it, it pops up as fresh as the first time I read it. Not to mention Renfield, who is a particularly mad character. He is one of Dr Seward’s patients in the asylum and some of the stuff he gets up to is not only eery but also sticks in your mind.
Dracula is a very well written novel and I wish that vampires were still thought of this way, pure evil. Modern times have really ruined such a powerful reputation and I can’t wait for the day that someone brings them back to their former glory (incidentally sunlight doesn’t have any particular effect on Dracula, it just makes him unable to change form and when Van Helsing was trying to protect Lucy he used wild flowers of garlic not bulbs of it).