Mini Classic Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

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

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“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.”

Dracula is probably one of the most famous classics books in English literature and I still can’t believe it has taken me until 2021 to read it — me, an English major! But, it’s true. I didn’t read this book until this year. I think I had been a little bit intimidated by it, but I’m glad I finally encouraged myself to pick this novel up.

Dracula follows Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, who travels to Transylvania to help Count Dracula in purchasing property in England. Once there, Jonathan is wined and dined by the Count but soon starts having horrifying dreams and experiences incredibly strange phenomena that he can’t account for. He soon understands that Dracula is not human and is planning on harming him, so he attempts to escape. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s fiancee, Mina, is back in England, waiting for his return as he best friend, Lucy, starts sleepwalking and finds mysterious puncture wounds on her neck. Fearing for her life, Lucy’s former fling, John, contacts the infamous Dr Van Helsing to travel to England to see if he can help Lucy as she becomes sicker and sicker.

What surprised me most about this book is that its entirely set in epistolary format — letters from each of the characters to the others. I don’t know why this surprised me, but occasionally this format did get a little tiresome as the characters throughly explained whatever situation they found themselves in. This becomes more of a problem in the second half of the book where the characters are hunting Dracula and the book itself just drags — it really suffers from pacing issues at this point and I got quite bored.

I don’t think I had a favourite character but if I had to choose, it would probably be Dr John Seward who is in love with Lucy but whom is turned down by her for another man. John genuinely loved Lucy and wants to be as helpful as possible. The other characters grated a bit on my nerves. At the beginning of the novel, I really loved Van Helsing but the more the novel progressed, the less patience I had for him. He talks so much! Like, so much! He gives these grand, unnecessary soliloquies at the most ridiculous moments, I wanted to shake him and to tell him to hurry the hell up — like, there’s a vampire you need to be killing.

Then we have Mina, who is the Blandest and Most Pure Woman Who Has Ever Lived — at least according to every single man in this book. I understand this is a Victorian text and women in Victorian fiction had no personalities, but I had to put the book down and roll my eyes whenever I read about a woman’s “delicate constitution” and tendency to swoon.

Then, of course, there’s Dracula himself who was a very absent figure from the novel. He appears a great deal at the beginning, with Jonathan, and then he becomes a phantom figure — not there, but invading every scene regardless.

Although I didn’t enjoy Dracula as much as I thought I would, I’m still glad I read this very important classic. I can see why it’s a staple of Victorian fiction and why it has spurred so many vampire tales in modern media.

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