Jonathan Harper, a young assistant to a London lawyer, is dispatched to meet with a client who requires assistance resolving some issues of property transfer, as he is preparing to relocate to England. From Romania. Transylvania, to be exact. And so begins the tale of the vampire Dracula—and those with the conviction and nerve to oppose him (it?).
Sitting in my chair in the year 2011, I can only imagine how the setup for Dracula, by Bram Stoker, might have been received by someone in 1897, when the novel was originally published. As for myself, I knew what was coming—at least in general—from the beginning, thanks to several film versions of the tale, as well as everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Twilight. I should know all there is to know about Count Dracula and vampires, right?
And yet my attention was locked from the first page, as if I were the not-too-bright teenager who ascends the creaking stairs of the old house while the audience pleads, “Don’t go! Don’t open that door! For God’s sake, don’t peek into that coffin!”
Yes, it’s a page turner, written in the form of journal entries, letters and newspaper articles. And although this might appear as dry reading to some, Stoker pulls it off brilliantly, in part because he weaves the knowledge–and ignorance–of several characters together to construct a suspenseful and horrific narrative.
The good versus evil theme is apparent, with the likes of Professor Van Helsing, Mina and Jonathan Harper, and others matching wits against the diabolical Count Dracula. Another theme involves the triumph of faith in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances, as the vampire hunters support each other in their determined quest to end the evil that is Dracula.
Surprising is some of the content of the novel. First of all, considering the era in which it was written and published, there is definitely an erotic undertone to the story. From this, I can (almost) excuse the current glut of “teen heartthrob” and erotica vampire tales.
Another surprise is the place that faith takes in the novel. As a Christian, I had actually been warned against reading Dracula, as if doing so would jeopardize my beliefs in some way. I can say that it has had almost the opposite effect. The characters in the novel are so dependent on their faith, even while they are very aware of their weaknesses, in the face of an evil as powerful as the Count, that it is almost uplifting. And they hold onto their faith to the end, and are rewarded for it.
I should also say that their faith keeps the nature of their enemy in perspective; they are aware that the vampirism is a curse, and one of their main motivations for hunting down and killing Dracula lies in releasing him from his curse. This is seen in Van Helsing’s account of dispatching the frightful harem kept in castle Dracula, in the mutilation of the undead creature that had once been Mina Harper’s dear friend Lucy, and even in the eventual defeat of Dracula himself. It is clear that, although the heroes show shades of hate towards the Count and what he has wrought, they do recognize that the real enemy is the evil curse.
Dracula is an excellent novel, and I would recommend it to more than just fans of horror or vampire fiction, but to anyone who wants to read a classic novel of the triumph of good over evil.
Rating: 4 out of 5
- Dracula by Bram Stoker- The Best Vampire Book Ever! (dysfunctionalliteracy.com)
- Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker (tonguesophistries.wordpress.com)