review: dracula

05 February 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 359

title: Dracula
author: Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker, an Irish-born master horror fiction writer, is most well-known for writing the most popular vampire story ever: Dracula. He spent years researching for it, learning of European and vampire folklore. His research paid off in this absolutely enriching, on-edge, timeless thriller that introduced a modern take on novel writing. Dracula starts off with a young English lawyer called Jonathan Harker, who is visiting Transylvania to help his foreign client purchase a home in London: Count Dracula. In his journal, Jonathan describes his journey to Castle Dracula, which is full of odd occurrences and frightful encounters. He arrives at his destination and meets the strange, eccentric and polite Count Dracula. What follows thereafter is an intense recounting of events that prove to be the most effective introduction, as the momentum follows forward through the middle of the story, until the last hundred pages or so, when events slow down and when it becomes a slight bit arduous to read.

Stoker wrote Dracula not in the typical novel form with a narrator, but with the diary entries, letters and telegrams of several key characters. Jonathon Harker, his wife (Mina Harker) and her best friend who is a key turning point in the story, Lucy, an insane asylum doctor (Dr Seward), a mysterious but trusted Dutch doctor (Van Helsing), and several others. At first, I didn't particularly enjoy the continuous switching of POVs, and I really just wanted the story to continue from Jonathan’s point of view. But then I realised how absolutely crucial it was to have so many points of views. Stoker dropped in hints that he brought up in many accounts (for instance, bats) but the individual characters thought nothing of it .I thought it was brilliant that what he was doing almost imitated what actors do in theatre. When the audience knows something that the character on stage does not: and to “watch” the story from this up-above-perspective was what made me glued to the pages. “You idiots, how can you not see?!” was something I thought of somewhere along reading.

One of my most favourite little “mini-stories” of the book was the happenings of Dr Seward and his mentally ill patient, Renfield. Reading through Dr Sewards accounts of the insane man who keeps calling for his “Master” was a delicious treat.

There is a method in his madness, and the rudimentary idea in my mind is growing…My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoӧphagous (life-eating) maniac; what he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can…” (Stoker 66-67)

What I loved most is how Stoker wove all these individual letters and accounts into a story  that one can easily follow and thoroughly enjoy. Of late, I've been immersed in Gothic literature (The Shadow of the Wind) and the mentally ill (MortenerCrazy) and thought I’d add more to my collection with Dracula. There are many themes present in this story that set the gloomy, Gothic mood: castles, bats, blood, vampires, temptresses and an all-evil villain, and even though they sound cliché, when used in the right way, these elements create a perfect Gothic recipe. Another key part of Gothic novel writing is the use of description, very detailed description. Stoker showed his masterful writing by doing just that.

“When it grew dark there seemed to be some excitement amongst the passengers…HE lashes the horses unmercifully with his long whip, and with wild cries of encouragement urged them on to further exertions….The excitement of the passengers grew greater. The crazy coach rocked on its great leather springs, and swayed like a boat tossed on a story sea. I had to hold on” (Stoker 10)

Once again, brilliant writing. The characters too, were well done, however not as good as I would have liked them. Mrs Harker (Mina) is almost worshipped as an angel amongst the men, and all the other characters absolutely adore her. She also seems to have been built as a much more responsible, manly, intelligent and worthy character than her husband, Jonathan Harkey (who has taken her role as a weakly woman character, always fretting over her and even crying while she remains strong). They’re reversed roles was interesting, but I grew to become bothered by how much adoration and praise and worshipping was done on Mina’s behalf. She became a saint to them, especially the events near the middle-end. I'm glad that women played a major role in this novel (as in the time that this was written, the Second Industrial Revolution, women were , as might not have been common at the time (playing the weaker sex), but Mina’s character was overdone as she was literally the epitome of innocent, good will and purity. I could not find any flaws with her! And because of this, I found her a bit annoying.

Like I mentioned before, all of the suspense building was perfect up until the middle of the story, where I stopped flying through, fell into thick mud, and had to trudge along. It was a point in the story where a “mystery” had been solved, and the characters all decided to go on a mission to get rid of the root cause. What followed was a boring description of their doings, detail to detail of their journey that was really dull. And then when the climax hit, when the one moment where everything had been leading up, I discovered it was only a few words (sentences) long. Dracula, to me, was like a bullet-speed train tearing over melting railroad tracks and then abruptly slowing to a horse-trot, and coming at a halt to the destination, exhausted and dull.

To compare this Victorian Age novel to the modern “vampire”  of today is to compare an iceberg to an ice cube. Stoker meant to make vampires repulsive and insight fear and disgust at the inhuman monster. His looks were described with bushy eyebrows and an aquiline nose and other features that compared to today’s vampire is quite ghastly. Today, vampires are sexy, hot and have somewhere deep down, a good side. Stoker’s vampire is the embodiment of evil. So if you’re a modern-day-vampire-lover who craves reading more on content similar to Vampire Diaries or something, then I don’t think you’ll enjoy this. Apart from that.
All in all, it’s a recommended classic for older young adults as I think pre-teens and early teens might not have patience with this one. I enjoyed it very much, but the middle  to end was disappointing and honestly not quite as amazing as I expected it to be. Therefore: three and a half trees.

publisher: Borders Classics
published: 2006 (originally: 1897)
goodreads: link

(PS: One of my favourite youtube-ers, Crabstickz, once made a skit about Dracula. It’s more like a comedic spoof. It’s a bit…suggestive, so younger audiences, you have been warned! Here, watch it)

3 thoughts:

  1. I was so intrigued and enjoying the beginning to middle and then got bored with it, couldn't wait for it to end. It wasn't what I expected either but I'm glad I read the classic.

  2. Very interesting to read your thoughts! I read Dracula a while ago, but I remember tearing through it and loving it. But I'm definitely due for a re-read because I can't remember the plot very well. Great review!

  3. I've found a cheap copy once in a second hand shop and I've been planning to read it for such a long time. There is just something that makes me hesitant to pick it up. Seeing that the middle part of the book is a bit boring with a short climax doesn't make me any more excited to give it a try soon :p Thanks for the great review!

    Haha, "I used to melt in the sun, now I just sparkle. Look, look how I sparkle."


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