Dracula by Bram Stoker

(No Series)
Horror, Gothic, Classics

Count Dracula sleeps in a lordly tomb in the vaults beneath his desolate chamber. His stony eyes are open. His cheeks have the flush of life beneath their pallor. On his lips are a mocking, sensuous smile and fresh blood. He has been dead for centuries, yet he may never die....Here begins the story of an evil both age-old and forever new. It is the tale of those who instill a diabolical craving in their victims, the men and women from whose blood they draw their only sustenance. It is a novel of peculiar power, of hypnotic fascination. The reader is warned that he who enters Castle Dracula may not escape its baleful spell even when he closes this book.

  “No man knows till he experiences it, what it is like to feel his own life-blood drawn away into the woman he loves.”

It's easy to see why this book made such an eternal impression. From the gothic ambience of the fog, castle, wolves, the Victorian language and repressed times melding with the twisted foreign dangers, the courageous men surrounding their "protected" and somewhat sheltered women, Dracula wasn't the first vampire book but it was the more influential and memorable.

The first half left me riveted. There were genuinely eerie moments, which is surprising to me since it's 18th century literature. This could show as a good argument that while films fade and can lose their touches of fright as their audience ages, that literature doesn't age the same entirely. The imaginative wanderings that come when you read something make it scary even now, while what could be shown on screen back then wouldn't create the same effect to visually-jaded, twentieth century movie-goers.

The most memorable scenes in the beginning was the eerie realization as Jonathan Harker looks out his window, seeing Dracula in the castle looking down, then quickly crawling along the castle walls like a lizard. Dracula seems to be taking Harker's identity, never intending for the man to escape the castle ever, appearing behind him when Harker is looking at a glass shard, where only Harker's reflection is shown and Dracula is there but not. The crucifix keeps Dracula at bay from feeding on him, but he dresses in Harker's clothes to steal into the village, kidnap a child to bring back to the castle, and when the mother runs to the castle in the night, thinking of Harker as the monster, Harker hears Dracula to command the wolves to come and finish the woman and get rid of her. 

The other scene that really stands out is when Harker finds Dracula in his coffin in the first part, daring to kill him not knowing how, and Dracula is looking upward with glassy, dead-seeming eyes until suddenly his head turns on his neck with a small smile. EERIE!

Once we shift to London, where the foreign horrors of Dracula have transferred to London's polite society, we are greeted by Lucy and Mina and that they are both about to be married. Lucy has three suitors to choose from, two breaking her heart as she must turn them down in wait for the third man, Arthur, whom she loves. The downfall of Lucy is long and almost winded, as Van Helsing is brought into the picture by Dr. Seward for advice and out of desperation. They are not able to save the beautiful, cherished Lucy, and this urges them even further when they find Mina to help and transfer their protectiveness to.

Renfield is one of the more fascinating pieces of the book, shifting from bizarre fancies where he traps flies to eat them, then traps flies to spiders, then spiders to birds, consuming all as the "blood is the life." His sometimes raving, maniacal actions take turn to a decent, sane man, as he is a pawn in the bizarre game of Dracula. He goes from a revolting character to a sympathetic one, as do all the Vampire victims, including Dracula himself.

The center half toward the end starts sadly faltering. It's long-winded and repetitive among the group of conspirators. There is literally at least a hundred pages without Dracula where the doctors and guardians talk and plot amongst themselves about what must be done to end this danger. The dialogue is completely Victorian and grows grating as it continues without enough of the sinister, more fascinating elements of the book present in the form of the vampire or any other dangers.

The very end is a redemption, though, as staking Dracula himself and his legion of women is also a redemption. The ending battle is quick and to the point, ending sadly for one of the main characters, who gave his life to the battle. It's ironic that when Lucy is staked after taken to feeding on children, Van Helsing and the rest insist on her beloved, Arthur, to be the one to do it. 

Mina insists in the book that one of them should kill her if she turns, too, but that she prefers for it to be her husband, Jonathan. At the end, when Dracula is killed, it is Jonathan who wants the most revenge since the diabolical count has taken his revenge on Mina, his wife, but it is Quincy who lands the killing blow through the heart. Strange since he was never in love with Mina like he was with Lucy, and was a suitor that, while Lucy cried over turning down his proposal, saw in him a good man as he vowed to her that she forever turned him into a true friend and admirer by her honest and compassionate refusal.

I read the intro to this book and also the afterword, which I skip a lot of the times. The intro was especially interesting as it chronicles the journeys of Dracula in book form and even movies through the ages. It also referenced a book I finished earlier in the month, The Lord of the Dead. I knew that Mary Shelley thought of Frankenstein during a night when she sat with a group of friends. I didn't realize that the doctor among them went to write the first vampire book. He was referenced with Lord Byron in Lord of the Dead, in which the historian Tom Holland had made the famous author into a vampire as an explanation for some of his legend. Just cool how it came together as I reading this intro.

The ending afterword focuses on the subtle commentaries of the book. Honestly I think too much is read into some of it from psychological commentaries, while some of it seems right on. Reminds me of when someone even said Jaws was so popular because of the vaginal life mouth *eye roll* Sometimes a shark is just a shark!

It is true that blood is a central focus of the book, as it was a big fear of the times anyway. Blood is donated a lot to Lucy to save her life from different men, where transfusions were very dangerous for the times, not to mention they had no idea then of the dangers of blood types! Psychological analysis has read into Lucy as the men able to put their blood into her in a sexual terms way, but perhaps they were just trying to save her life and this is far reaching! I do have to admit that the strange scene with Dracula over the bed with Mina, forcing her to feed on his chest, was bizarrely erotic.

Religious overtones are highly present with the communion wafer, the "Holy Circle", the freeing of the souls to their actual resting places rather in the damned vampire bodies, the crucifixes worn and held out for Holy protection, and the references to blood being the life and communion.

Dracula keeps some of his lines that were famous in the movie "The children of the night, what sweet music they make!" and "I bid you welcome." Sadly I didn't find such great lines as "Ah, to be truly dead, that must be marvelous!" as invented for the film. In the book he still wins as a more impressive figure though, as when shown he's more realistically mysterious, evil, twisted, and vindictive.

Overall an excellent book any classic fan should read. The Victorian dialogue can grow a bit stale and some of the middle is too stagnant, but the beginning and the end and the build-up journey are fantastic, memorable, and powerfully impressive.

   Book Quotes:

“We learn from failure, not from success!” 

 “I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me!” 

“I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.”  

“Despair has its own calms.”

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