I’ve been taking a Gothic literature class this semester at FSU. It’s been an interesting class, and so far I’m enjoying the stories we’re reading. We’ve read Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and many others so far. Sadly, Dracula was not apart of the readings we were doing because it’s pretty long and we have to cover a lot readings. I’ve been told by numerous people about Dracula, and somehow I managed to miss reading this story for 25 years. It’s only been recently that I’ve started to catch up on reading novels that other people were introduced to before. That, and I’ve also had to stop reading books from Star Wars so I could actually read something else…
Well, I have to say I really enjoyed reading Dracula. Overall, the plot is great. There’s an ancient man named Count Dracula who is really a vampire, and he’s trying to move to London from Transylvania. *A fun side note…. Count Dracula is actually based off of a real man in history named Vlad III from the 15th century in Transylvania. He fought against the Ottoman Empire, and as ruler (stories claim) he would stab his guests and impale them on spikes to consolidate his rule.* Jonathan Harker visits the Count’s castle in order to help him prepare his paperwork for the Count’s estates in London that he has purchased. We follow Jonathan’s nightmarish experience at the Count’s castle, and then the story splits off into a few different directions that focus on a small group of individuals who will come together at the end and defeat the Count.
In order to save from telling spoilers, I won’t say too much about the actual plot. However, the format of the book is an interesting format. The story is told through diaries and letters that the characters write. Jonathan’s diary begins the book as we follow him to the castle, and then listen to what he experiences in the castle. Then, we jump to the diaries and letters of other characters in the novel who help continue the story. At first, only a couple of the characters interact with one another, but towards the middle of the novel most of the characters unite together. Their stories intertwine with one another as they continue to tell their stories through diaries.
The characters themselves are interesting, but I warn you this book is extremely misogynist. Feminists, like myself, can have a field day with this book. There are very little female characters to speak of. We have Lucy, Mina, Mrs. Westerna, and 3 female vampires. By the end of the book, only 1 of these women actually survive. Now if you’ve heard me talk about Russian literature, or most 18th century novels I’ve read so far, characters are always swooning and sick in bed for months after something bad happens. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein is sick in bed because he can’t face the fact he’s created a monster. Or we can talk about Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment who is stuck in bed sick because he can’t face the guilt of having killed 2 women. Seriously, how did people in the 18th century get anything done if they’re swooning and upset over something they’ve done? But I’ll digress. In Dracula, there’s an actual excuse for Jonathan to be sick, or Mina, or Lucy. Their sickness is validated because of the experiences they have that physically make them ill. I’m totally ok with that. However, the men in the story, even Lucy and Mina say this, claim women are weak. Many, many times the men try to “protect” Mina from the horrible news of the Count because they’re afraid she can’t handle it…men are strong, but women are meek and must be protected. The women are always displayed as weak, but Mina’s intellect is surprising to the men. Dr. Van Helsing is always surprised by Mina’s intellect; she memorized train times, she can use a typewriter to compile information (rolls eyes), and she can think! She can solve problems! Many times she solves their problems by simply looking at the information they have and making solutions. Many, many times in the novel I kept asking how ignorant are the male characters because things happened right under their noses without their noticing. How did men survive this long again? Well, Mina’s intellect is always forgotten until she shows them she is useful. Sadly, because Bram Stoker is a male writer, Mina will never be shown as equal. In the novel, she states herself that she is took weak for her to be included in some of the things the man do. She is sent off to bed while the big boys sit up and discuss what’s going on.
There’s a lot I can go on about the problems in the novel in regards to the women. It would make a great research paper, that’s for sure. However, I’ll take a step back from that. Read the book. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
Anyways, it’s a good story overall. You get to learn a little more about geography in Great Britain, and about their culture during the late 19th century. This was written in 1898. You learn about the types of equipment they use to record things such as typewriter and phonograph. There’s a lot of tangential learning involved. It’s painless, and it gives you a peek into a world that existed over 100 years ago.
I highly recommend you picking up that book. Read it. It’s a bit of a slow read, even for me and I’m a fast reader. It took me about a week and a half to read it. It’s not that frightening, but some descriptions can give you the heeby geebies. And you can fairly comprehend the language. There are notes for words or lines that tell you what things mean if you don’t know. There is a lot of use of regional dialects so it can be a little confusing. I found myself saying some of it out loud and understanding it better without reading the notes to help. Check it out. Rent it. Buy it. Borrow it. Read it.