When Jonathan Harker is summoned to Transylvania to finalize a property deal for the mysterious Count Dracula he little suspects that he is unleashing a terrible evil on his fellow countrymen. In this classic novel about vampires Bram Stoker captured the fears of his age. Dracula represents everything everything the Victorians feared: the irrational, the pagan, the erotic and the foreign.
Review by Michael Connery
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the foremost texts that helped found the modern vampire lore. A blend of gothic, horror, fantasy, and adventure, the tale is a study in desire and repression, history and modernity, superstition and science, and the classic struggle of good against evil. With an epigraphical preface that sets the story up as nonfiction, Dracula is arguably one of the most well-known works in literature.
The novel is epistolary in style, presented as a series of factual documents including journal entries, letters, newspaper articles, and memos. The reader is presented the story from numerous points of view with first person narrators recounting the events that unfolded. This technique gives the tale a personal, intimate tone that appears grounded in reality as detailed by these primary sources. Stoker’s writing is straightforward and detailed, and the factual, documentary style is a brilliant storytelling device.
Stoker was a tech enthusiast in an era in which trains, phonographs, telegrams, typewriters, and blood transfusions were cutting edge. He incorporates this fascination and appreciation for technology into his work. Throughout the tale, we see modern (to the Victorian era) technology juxtaposed against the ancient tradition and superstition in which the vampire lore is rooted.
Stoker’s novel explores the dynamics of gender and sexuality, marriage and motherhood. The author may even go so far as to posit that superstition and science are perhaps two sides of the same coin as the Crew of Light is failed by technology time and again and have to rely on ancient traditions and rituals to defeat Dracula. Perhaps more repulsive to the highly moralistic Victorian readers was the idea that vampirism is a twisted version of one of the most sacred christian rituals: transubstantiation. It is not only the vampire who drinks blood in the story, according to Van Helsing’s own beliefs.
Dracula tapped into the generational—and perhaps universal—fears of otherness, of the foreign, of the idea of invasion. In 1897, the sun was setting on Britain’s global domination, and as the empire began to crumble, many feared reprisal. Dracula, a foreigner invading from the east and haunting the streets of Whitby and London, was a horrifying illustration of those fears.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a classic tome in not only English literature, but it is one of the most noteworthy and influential pieces of vampire literature. From the castle near the Black Sea in Transylvania, to the seaside Yorkshire town of Whitby, to the dark and foggy streets of London, to the modern day bookshelves laden with vampire stories, Dracula has left his mark.
Highly recommended to fans of gothic, horror, fantasy, and adventure fiction