Friday, 4 November 2016

Dracula by Bram Stoker


When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. 

My October classic is a re-read from university, and I'm glad I did because I'd forgotten a lot of the details, especially Dr Seward and his patient Renfield - the inspiration for Igor if I ever saw one. Mostly told with journal entries, a few newspaper articles and letters, Stoker paints a wide picture of traditional Gothic horror, from Jonathan's treacherous journey into rural Romania to Mina and Lucy's inexpiable troubles in England and their final encounter with the formidable Count Dracula. It was very interesting to read it after having had lectures on the subject - brought back memories of discussions on femininity, sexuality, Victorian history and religion, all of which Stoker brings into the story. 

Mina and Lucy are total opposites in terms of womanhood: Mina is a modern woman, wanting to better herself, wanting to be part of the team fighting the Count, she's soft and brave and clever. Lucy on the other hand is naive and gullible and oh so sweet, it's no wonder Dracula was able to manipulate her! She is also used as the epitome of "evil feminism" when she changes, as she physically and mentally becomes a monster. In the 1890's, there's only so much a good woman should be able to do!

The men were mostly all typical Victorian men: smart and brave and typically masculine in their strategies and professions. Van Helsing comes to rescue them with his vast knowledge of apparently everything, but it isn't until they see what has become of Lucy that they even consider the supernatural. The way it is built up until only the impossible exists is very typical of a Victorian sensation novel and Stoker definitely knew what horror story he was creating. 

I adore this story. I admit, I did struggle, the Victorian novel is very dense and takes a lot of concentration, but the short chapters, the gripping plot and the variety of characters makes this the incredible story that it is. 

Published May 12th 1986 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published May 26th 1897)

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