Book 5: “Dracula”, Bram Stoker

It isn’t often that I’ve been motivated to read a book after watching a video trailer about it done entirely in LEGO. I feel it may be safe to say that very few books have video trailers about them done entirely in LEGO. Would you believe it, Dracula is the exception.

There’s a certain strangeness about reading such an influential and well-known (through probably less well-read) book. There are also questions about the value of a book written in, and of, such an ancient time. That said, I found this book really enjoyable (I read it within 48 hours) for three reasons: the suspense, the era, and the gender politics.

Holy crap the suspense. It’s so well done. I’d say it goes beyond suspense to fatalism: throughout “Dracula” there is an eerie sense of the inevitable, of determinism, of men (and, I suppose, women) as God’s playthings. The first part, which finds Mr. Harker trapped by Count Dracula in his Transylvanian castle, is laden in foreboding as Mr. Harker gradually realises his predicament and the myriad of barriers against his escape. As the plot progresses, we are confronted more and more with the characters’ battle against the inevitable, whether Dracula’s escape from their clutches or the death of those beloved to them. Soon enough however, as the pursuers track him down, Dracula himself is caught trying to avoid a fatal end. While there may be philosophical interest in Stoker’s ideas of fate and will, what is most striking about this element is the aptitude with which Stoker creates the book’s ambience of dread, of doom, and of evil things slowly, surely, having their way.

And gosh, the era. I just have no sense of what it was like to live anytime before 1950. I really don’t. I certainly don’t know what it was like to live in the nineteenth century. But reading this I gain something more of an insight, both of the everyday commonalities, but also the startling differences. One aspect of this outdated time that I particularly liked is the ease granted to the vampire-hunting party by the landing amongst the gentry of one of their group, Arthur Holmwood. Once he is Lord Godalming, suffice to say, things become a fair bit easier for them. Oh man, the gentry.

Similarly with the gender politics, I don’t have the resources to do any deep analysis, but it seems as if Stoker’s dwelling upon the roles of women and men is more than coincidence. Dracula’s victims in the text are both women, and most of the hunting party men; however, one of the women, nicknamed “Mina”, plays a crucial role in assisting the men to hunt the count. The men make much of this, commenting on how the manliness of her intelligence is aided by the womanliness of her soul – womanly qualities they, apparently, can only dream of possessing. There’s also a touching scene where the men, who have been staunch against their loss all this time, are moved collectively to tears by Mina’s own outpouring. There’s something of a sense of “Well look, we are being stalked by an ancient and terrible beast, so maybe being obeisant to the convention of our era isn’t the most important thing at this time”, although they stop short of inventing the contraceptive pill and breaking out the marijuana. In any case it’s curious to consider how much Stoker is neutrally depicting the attitudes of the time compared with how much Stoker is deliberately confronting his nineteenth-century readership and subtly suggesting they get, so to speak, with it.

A very enjoyable book. And holy balls, vampires are scary. But also scary cool – Batman made the right choice.

Rating: 5/5

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2 Responses to “Book 5: “Dracula”, Bram Stoker”

  1. Odd, I haven’t thought about that book in awhile. I looked up and there it was … on my self, parked, … its been awhile. This copy has a print date of 1981, seems like I once had a hard-back … can’t remember, it’s been too long. The pages on this have yellowed. It, like me, has been around a few corners. Maybe I left the other one somewhere … hope someone found it. Nobody, creates Dracula like Stoker; just like nobady plays Dracula like Lugosi.
    Poe … “The Fall of the House of Usher” for voice, atmosphere, detail, plot; he does good …also.
    Oh well ….Thanks for the memory. This book was and always will be … a great read!!
    Bye, Bye

  2. I haven’t read it in a while, though Dracula (and not any of the more modern-style vamps) served as the inspiration for my own vampire novel. Anyway, if I can find my old copy, perhaps I’ll read it again.

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