Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Gothic, horror
# pages: 327
Date published: May 26, 1897
5-star rating: 4 stars
Would you recommend it? Yes
Dracula has been on my bookshelf for five years, sitting as a part of an anthology that includes Frankenstein and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” but somehow I never got around to reading it until now. Because an English class this semester featured Dracula on the syllabus, I finally had the chance to appreciate it. With about a chapter assigned each day, the novel took me about three weeks to finish, the slow pace allowing me to take the time to enjoy it and really notice all of the details and underlying Victorian biases.
Most people know that Count Dracula is a vampire. While Bram Stoker did not invent this monster, he defined its form as we know it today: Dracula has sharp canine-like teeth, extremely pale skin, and blood red eyes. He only appears during the nighttime hours and spends his days sleeping in his coffin. Vampires have become extremely popular in today’s culture, as shown by the success of Twilight, True Blood, the Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and many more, and Dracula offers horror fans great insight into how this phenomenon came into being.
What most people wouldn’t know is that the novel is told in epistolary form, or in a series of documents that includes journals, letters, newspaper clippings, and ships’ log entries. Dracula opens from the perspective of Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor sent by his employer to provide legal support to the Count for a real estate transaction. His journey takes him to Dracula’s castle in a very traditional and superstitious part of the world, Transylvania. As his stay progresses, Harker begins to realize that the Count is not a normal human client.
The novel’s point of view then cuts to that of Harker’s fiancée, Mina, in the form of her letters to her friend, Lucy. Soon, the reader meets Doctor John Seward, Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood, and Abraham Van Helsing, friends and acquaintances of Harker and Mina, and the first to realize that Dracula is a vampire, alive for hundreds of years and intent on hunting humans to suck their blood. They become determined to stop him forever.
In addition to its horror and suspense, Dracula offers a great perspective on the early 20th century. The novel explores the female place in society, as traditional gender roles were just beginning to change, as well as the idea of the frightening, foreign “other” opposed to Western values, brought on by British imperialism and embodied by the terrifying Transylvanian monster. The appearance of blood transfusions and other medical practices also highlight the growth of science and technology in Stoker’s world.
Anyone who enjoys horror or Victorian novels would like Dracula. The constantly changing first person point of view keeps the reader’s attention throughout, and the novel provides fascinating commentary on a number of social issues.
Review by Liz Handler, A&S '15