Book One: Dracula

Dracula: 1st half

It is my belief that the 1897 Gothic Horror novel Dracula, written by Irish author Bram Stoker, has been incorrectly named. The novel hardly seems to be at all about the count himself, but rather how the crimes he’s been committing in the background affects the characters residing in the ocean side town in which the count has recently bought a house.

The story begins with solicitor Jonathan Harker visiting Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania to speak with him about the business matters of the count’s recent purchase in England. Jonathan is excited to be visiting new lands, and to learn about the culture of the country. Though he is confused by the ways of the people. Everywhere he goes, he is met with people crossing themselves, and handing him crucifixes as they learn of his destination: the Count’s castle.

“When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further. It was so near the time of starting that I had no time to ask anyone else, for it was all very mysterious and not by any means comforting.” (6)

Jonathan passes off these actions as superstitions of an inferior religion to his own. This gesture is often seen in the country of Romania, of which I myself am from, though in many instances, it becomes apparent that Bram Stoker had never visited the place. And that would have been fine, if his research had been at all correct. First of all, his spellings are horrendous at times, and in many cases, he seems to attempt to write the word in the way that Romanians seem to speak it, rather than how it is actually spelt. One such example is his mention of the gypsies and the “szygany” (spelt țigani, or better known as the Romani) The two names are mentioned as two separate groups of people in Romania, when in truth they are the same. While gypsy is a derogatory term that is frowned upon in other countries, that is a simple fact of what the Romani are in Romania. Regarding some of the mentions of foods, specifically mămăligă, though is correct that these foods exist, and are a common dish to eat, they are most definitely not eaten at the times of day in which Jonathan eats them. The descriptions of the land’s geographical features, and the superstitions and stories regarding Count Dracula are not very Romanian at all, and are rather the anglicised versions of it all. Though I cannot place too much fault on Mr. Stoker for the stories the Romanians in the story told of Dracula, as they were imperative to the story line, I wish he had not made so many attempts to make it be a “realistic” Romania. In short, the country was very unfortunately and falsely stereotyped, yet it does account for the many misconceptions I’ve come across about my home country.

Before ascending into the Carpathian Mountains by way of a carriage, an old woman warns him of an evil that comes out on a night like tonight at the stroke of midnight, and warns him against travel. Jonathan, while this causes a slight feeling of dread, insists on going, and so the woman hands him a crucifix, which is the first and only one of which he accepts, simply out of politeness, as crucifixes are not used in his church.

On the way to the castle, there is mention of a blue flame, which confuses both the reader, and Jonathan himself, and though it is explained later what the blue flame means, it has yet to have any significance in the story, and I have read over half of the book already.

Dracula, may I just add, is nothing like the legends and stories I’ve heard myself from true Transylvanians, but never mind that, as the vampire version of the man is a fictional character, after all.

Jonathan’s stay is recorded through a series of diary entries, much like the rest of the book, which is put together with a series of diary entries and letters that numerous characters have written. His stay is very exciting, and had me at the edge of my seat the entire time. The entire novel so far, in fact, has proven to be extremely captivating. My two favourite characters are Wilhemina (Mina) Murray (later Mina Harker, as she marries Jonathan immediatly upon his arrival since they had been engaged for several months prior) and Lucy Westenra. Both girls struggle with uniting with the men they love, but both girls get the man of their dreams at some point or another in the novel. That adds an exciting touch of romance that ties the book together wonderfully, and adds a touch of tragedy and heartache later. Two characters that I find a little odd however, is the psychoanalyst Dr. John Seward and his patient, Mr. Renfield. The patient seems to hardly have a significance in the story, despite the fact that he has long since been introduced, and has been mentioned numerous times already. In fact, so far I believe the plot would have fared perfectly well without the two of them, or the patient at the very least. That is my main problem with this otherwise captivating novel: the way that random details are added. Many of these details seem to have no business in the story, and it often seems just a bother to have them in there. To many readers however, I should hardly think these details would be any bother, or at the very least far fewer details would seem unnecessary, as many of them have to do with the first quarter of the novel in Romania, and they are the cultural inconsistencies.

On a more positive note, this novel has been amazing to read so far: a perfect blend of horror, mystery, and romance. It’s truly a great novel, and totally worth a read. Thus far, it is a 9.5 out of 10.

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One response to “Book One: Dracula

  1. juliadragu

    Dracula: 2nd Half

    Upon finishing the novel, I came to the conclusion that Bram Stoker had a fascination with the word “voluptuous”. And that seems to fit perfectly with his view on women. Though Mina is a main character, she is only described as beautiful, sweet, weak, and obedient. The one characteristic that could have made her a promising character is that she had a “man’s mind”. Yet the wording of her intelligence does lessen the greatness of that one characteristic. Though I cannot place all that much criticism onto the novel, as it was published in the late nineteenth century. However, as Stoker did write some sections of the book from the point of view of Mina, a woman, it would have been a more satisfactory read if he had put a little bit more effort into his female voice. This, along with even more odd references to cultures that aren’t in the slightest bit accurate makes the book a little difficult to read. With all of my favourite classics, I would always find in the authors’ notes a brief mention of the research the authors had done before writing the book, or they would talk about how they themselves experienced what the book was about. And I highly doubt Stoker did the same thing. It is my belief that a lack of research and understanding is mainly what is keeping “Dracula” from truly being an amazing classic.

    Along with the previous complaints, the last quarter of the book was particularly confusing. There was a character introduced: the Czarina Catherine, who was made out to be very vital to the quest the protagonists had embarked on, yet she never showed up again. It may have simply been a lack of attention on my part, but it did seem odd to have her just thrown into the story, especially so close to the end.

    Additionally, there had been some inconsistencies with the character Dracula. First of all, with the title of the book being Dracula, I would have liked to get to know him a bit more throughout the story, instead of getting a rush of information in the very beginning, then just a mention of his appearance here and there for the rest of the novel. In the beginning, he had been made out to be a peculiar fellow, yet somewhat likeable all the same. At the very least, the reader can most likely tolerate Dracula as a character. He saves Jonathan from some crazy vampire ladies, and though it is revealed that he did indeed have some malicious plans that include Jonathan, he’s still alright. But then the weirdness ensures. After an “incident” at Dracula’s castle, Jonathan escapes back to England. No sooner than he arrived, a deserted boat floated to the docks. The only still living creature on that boat was a dog, which jumped out and ran away, supposedly into the woods. Then later, the characters guess that the dog had been Dracula in another form. Dracula is also revealed to change into a bat, suck blood out of people’s necks, and then hypnotise his victims into a hallucination that everything they just experienced was all one trippy dream. He then turns one of his victims (Lucy) into a vampire, and then he attempts to turn Mina as well, in an act of spite against the men in the women’s’ lives. It makes sense that he would want revenge on Jonathan, yet I don’t see what any of Lucy’s lovers have done to really anger the Count.

    Everything aside, there were some good and great aspects of the novel. First of all, Bram Stoker has a brilliantly large vocabulary, and I found myself stopping once every two pages to look up a word I had never seen, or was not all that familiar with. My own vocabulary certainly improved throughout the novel! Additionally, the language used was easy to follow and understand, and the story moved along quite nicely, even in the end.

    I would recommend this book to any lover of classics looking for a book to read for fun. It wasn’t all that horrific, with most of the frightening parts being actions widely known to be completed by vampires (so nothing comes as a surprise), and even those were not described in detail. In all, I give the book an 8/10.

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