Dracula by Bram Stoker
As vampire tales are so popular lately, I decided this summer that I would read one of the original vampire novels—Dracula. The author, Bram Stoker, created the character of Dracula by pulling together lots of myths and legends. Though Vlad the Impaler, a real man who lived in the 1400’s in Romania, was one of the inspirations for Dracula’s personality, there were others. In turn, Dracula as a vampire set the criteria for many years of vampire lore—can’t behold daylight, sleeps in a coffin, turns into a bat, has no reflection in a mirror, and preys on beautiful young women. Of course, he also has lots of sex appeal—and, very recently, this is the only vampire quality that survived in teen vampire literature. So—would you like to read a book about a vampire like Dracula? About potential victims who would prefer to die than be transformed into vampires? (So unlike that whining Bella of Twilight, who finally gets her wish. Think of it—now she can whine and throw temper-tantrums through eternity!)
My sense is that you might enjoy this read although there are things about the writing and the sometimes sentimental view of perfect Victorian angel girls that won’t appeal to you—you’ll probably speed through parts.
The greater measure of the book is written as journal and diary entries as well as letters. It begins with Jonathan Harker, an up and coming attorney, making a trip from London to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula and discuss Dracula’s purchase of some real estate in London. Several days into the trip, Harker knows that something is very wrong in the castle (seeing Dracula climbing the outer walls is a big hint), and that he is a prisoner. There are female vampires in the castle who attack Harker. This is pretty horrific stuff—the details aren’t as gory as those in current novels, but Dracula does give the women a baby to eat, and then when the mother of the child stands outside the castle demanding the return of the child, Dracula has a pack of wolves eat her. Harker manages to escape.
Once home, Harker will enlist others to help him rid the world of Dracula (who moves to London—remember the real estate deal?). The plot will involve Harker’s fiance Mina and her friend Lucy who is engaged and has had two other suitors. All three are good men and risk their lives for the women, as does Harker. Poor Lucy has a pretty rough time with Dracula and needs several blood transfusions, direct form the bodies of her friends (never mind the science of blood type. . .). Professor Van Helsing, a vampire hunter, is there to conduct all this business. He knows medicine and he know vampire lore. Should all their efforts fail, the men take an oath that they will not allow Lucy to suffer the fate of being a vampire—they vow to do anything—cut off her head, drive a stake through her heart—to ensure her the peace of death. They take these vows out of love for Lucy. (How different from Twilight!) Mina, being female, is also under threat.
There is a lot of exciting action throughout the book. However, the roles of the women are a bit off-putting—as I said, they are Victorian angels, and can’t get a whole lot done by themselves, although Mina is very, very smart. Being bitten by Dracula has the same sense of sleeping around—not fair. Another thing that bothered me over the long run (and this is a long book) was Van Helsing’s too frequent and very long speeches. You wouldn’t find this kind of pontificating in a modern novel. Still for vampires that are true to legend, and for suspense, this is a good book to read. I know that Bram Stoker is on the ‘author list’ for the senior project here at COHS. He’d be a good choice.
By the way—if you need to read a biography and are looking for someone whose insanity and cruelty is riveting, you could try Vlad the Impaler, one of the models for Count Dracula.