Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

I previously, perhaps during Summer, wrote a brief review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Reading it back, as one of the revolutionary classics of the gothic genre and currently my most-favoured book, I don’t think I gave the tale and it’s author the justice that they deserved.

Whenever the word Dracula is mentioned, it’s easy to imagine seductive beings with a thirst for blood and that’s exactly what the Count was – he embodied the sexual deviation that British civilization feared in the nineteenth century and now he is celebrated in thousands of forms. There isn’t just any reason that Dracula is the most well-known vampire tale.

Embedded with gothic imagery, it’s near impossible to talk of Dracula without mentioning the elements of the Gothic that it possesses. From the first page, the main character experiences a peculiar, sinister journey to what is a decaying, shadowed castle in Transylvania which only forebodes the death and destruction that is to follow. From the first chapter onwards, Dracula is captivating and insists that you must read on, even more so as you begin to really root for the fantastically developed characters that Bram Stoker imagines onto paper.

As expected, Dracula as a character can be disputed to be the father of Gothic tyrannical villains. Even when he isn’t physically present in the pages of the story, Stoker uses each ounce of his talent to ensure that Dracula’s sneering presence is one the back of his character’s minds as well as the readers even though he is rarely seen in the human form. Whilst the novel focuses on Dracula’s evil intentions and the group’s plot to overthrow him, Stoker takes a glance at much more than that. Not only does he comment on women’s positions in society and their underpinned sexual desires, he explores concepts of science and religion as well as his own oppression through the character of Johnathon Harker – more about this later.

Stoker, as if he hadn’t taken on enough within this novel, chooses to explore the sanity of his characters. Whilst the asylum patient, Renfield, is a prime example of this, he looks at the fragility of his other characters minds too as Dracula begins to play tricks on each one of them. Whether their ill experiences and poor thoughts are that of sickly mental health or of toying from a supernatural villain is just one of many questions that are raised.

I will be the first to admit that the ending to the novel is a little underwhelming. Upon putting the book back onto my shelf, I wondered why I’d spent all the days and weeks devoting myself to being truly immersed in each line that Stoker had crafted for what… a happily ever after? But after closer inspection, the book isn’t beautiful because of how it concludes but how it makes you feel, how it captures you and how eloquently Stoker was able to infiltrate to story with an abundance of techniques, tropes and secrets; these are inevitably what Stoker had been best at.

In letters to one of his adorations in the literary world, Walt Whitman, he had openly expressed how talented he was at detachment and valued his secrecy dearly to him. The magic of the novel is how Bram Stoker was able to intertwine this within his pages and not just blatantly, through the secrets that the characters arouse regarding the supernatural, but through the ability to provoke questions from his fans and readers over a century later. These queries being that of who Bram Stoker really was – did he see Johnathon Harker as himself? An oppressed man in the walls of a castle with nothing but his pen and journal, whom is later caught in a love triangle with his dearest Mina and the dark, illusive Count Dracula. Was this representative of how Stoker saw himself and his love life? He did, after all, propose to Oscar Wilde’s girlfriend and marry her.

From ancient folklore to the modern day, vampires can be found almost everywhere that you attempt to search for them; they are never-ending, and their stories are countless. However, Dracula is arguably a phenomenon and the beginning of a timeless fascination, meaning that the extrinsic value of the novel as a piece of literature is priceless.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula thoroughly shocked me, and I am sure that many other tales from the Gothic genre will too. Following my procrastination of reading this book for an unthinkable amount of time under the basis that I believed I already knew the tale, I was proved wrong. There is so much more to the story of Dracula and Stoker shows no mercy for the evil acts that he commits – but the book is also a reflection of the author himself and you could argue that the story of his character and how it’s hidden within his writing is a much more valuable story.

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