Saturday, February 18, 2012
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I was born 1978 and have watched my required amount of vampire movies over the years. I even enjoyed a few of them. I have read a few fictions that featured vampires and I survived. But I have to say that all the Dracula-inspired movies, books, costumes, cereals, etc. had tainted my idea of the original Bram Stoker novel. After receiving a mild challenge from a good friend to give it a try, I did. I hemmed and hawed, avoiding it for several months. Yet, once I dove into it, I realized that this was some pretty good writing.
In Dracula, Bram Stoker ratchets up the intensity notch by notch, building upon this mysterious figure, Count Dracula. Jonathan Harker has to decipher his odd mannerisms - is he truly cunning and dangerous or is the fascination with English ways just his Transylvanian good-mannered idea of showing interest in a guest? Alas, pretty soon it becomes apparent that this sociable, curious gentleman is not on the level. Jonathan Harker becomes a prisoner of the Count and must use his wits, and loose them briefly, to escape.
Meanwhile, the reader gets introduced to Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray, two best of friends. Mina seems the more practical one, is engaged to Jonathan, and has a sharp wit. Lucy is sweet but I think would be thought of as something of a flirt today. Afterall, no less than 3 men propose marriage to her at the beginning of this book. Mina is all excitement over her own upcoming nuptials, and excited for her dearest friend. I found it very interesting that Mina is using shorthand, a new invention at the time, to record her thoughts in her diary. While her role starts off somewhat cookie-cutter for the time (published 1897), she soon becomes a most integral character in the hunt for Dracula.
Bram Stoker has set up the main characters back in England and turned our heads with the curious goings-on in Transylvania. Now Dracula wants to set up shop in England and he sails there, taking several boxes (think coffins) of vampire-sleepy-time dirt. But the boat that arrives on the shores of England is not complimented near so well as when it left Europe. Dracula gets to shore in the shape of a wolf and his precious boxes of dirt are picked up by a pre-arranged crew and distributed throughout England to houses procured through agents like Jonathan Harker.
While Mina goes off to Buda-Pesth to see to a deranged Jonathan, Lucy's sleepwalking illness continues to plague her, along with a certain bat hanging around her midnight window. That shape-shifting, blood-sucking Count finds his way into Lucy's embrace, attempting to turn her into the Undead. Personally, I think he was missing his Transylvanian harem after that long voyage and Lucy was to be the start of an English harem.
So that's the setup. There will be plenty of action scenes. Lots of emotional scenes - both men and women fainting, blushing, and weeping. The mental patient Renfield added a most intriguing side-plot with his fascination with flies and spiders. And to think, this horror story started off with a country travel and Jonathan Harker's diary comments on the local food. This was a highly enjoyable classic.
++++: The bad guy had quirky mannerisms, the women had depth and real thoughts even if their actions were confined by propriety of the times, and the entire book is told through letters, telegrams, and diary entries.
--: The men sometimes get quite silly about whether or not to include Mina in the discussions and plans, concerned over her natural weakness as a woman. Also, sometimes Professor Van Helsing's lectures can get a bit a long and with his funny speech patterns, I sometimes found myself skimming his paragraphs to get the point and move on.