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Dracula Hardcover – April 20, 2011
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Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The most striking characteristic of Stoker's masterpiece is its solid grounding in late 19th-century Victorianism. This may prove frustrating to some readers. It is far from uncommon for the men in the tale to weep and bemoan the dangers threatening the virtuous ladies Lucy and Mina; virtue and innocence of women are hailed rather religiously. Mina, for her part, assumes the role then deemed proper for women, accepting and praising the men for their protection of her, worrying constantly about her husband rather than herself, shedding tears she must not let her husband see, etc. Yet, it is most interesting to see Mina rise above the circle of a woman's proscribed duties; she in fact becomes a true partner in the effort against Dracula, expressing ideas and conclusions that the men, with all of their wisdom, could not come up with themselves.
Another thing I find interesting is the lack of a clear protagonist in Dracula. Technically, I suppose, Jonathon Harker is the protagonist, but Mina, Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and the Count himself basically operate on an equal plane with him. It is Van Helsing who can be described as the anti-Dracula; he plans the moves by which he and his friends seek to thwart the Count's plans and destroy him; the second half of the novel can be compared to a chess match between two equally strong competitors. Minor characters such as the lunatic Renfield are also drawn clearly in our mind's eye by Stoker's incredible gift of characterization. While the format is unusual--the novel consisting fully of diary and journal entries by different characters--you cannot help but be drawn in closely to the group of heroic souls who pledge their very lives to one another as they take it upon themselves to combat a centuries-old evil.
One could expound upon a number of themes in this novel (and many literary critics have certainly done so), so I will just quickly mention a few. Is this an erotic story? Certainly, to some extent, but there is certainly nothing overtly sexual in these pages. Is it really horrible? One might wonder how much blood one would encounter in this product of the Victorian age, but there are indeed some rather shockingly gruesome descriptions of events--nothing to shock modern readers but probably quite surprising to Stoker's contemporaries. There are also subtle overtones of religion in these pages. Aside from the Christian objects that have the power to keep vampires at bay, the most striking scene in the novel is Dracula's perversion of the Lord's Supper in his own most nefarious deed.
I cannot recommend Stoker's masterpiece highly enough. The impatient reader may encounter sections that move too slowly than he/she would like, but such lulls are always wiped away by sudden spurts of activity and drama. Feminists will dislike the Victorian characterization of the women but can find unexpected pleasure in the strength and intellect of Mina. Literary critics will surely find in these pages a deep ocean of issues ripe for analysis. Of most importance, the common reader will find an absorbing storyline which may horrify him/her to some degree in places but which will certainly offer great rewards of enjoyment. I think most individuals would be won over completely by the great humanity of these characters and the unexpected richness and complexity to be found in this story of a fiend they thought they already knew.
He tells the story through a series of diaries, letters, clippings. Normally this is an unweildy method of storytelling, but in this case it is most effective.
The novel is divided into three broad sections. In the first, young Jonathan Harker and Dracula have the stage almost alone. Though Harker's diary we learn details of his journey through eastern Europe to meet a Count who wants to travel to England, and Harker carries him certain important papers. Count Dracula's character comes across very strong and well-defined, and grows ever menacing as Harker slowly learns he is not going to be allowed back to England, but will become food for Dracula's vampiric harem.
The second part of the book, set in England, deals with Mina Murray, who is going to marry Jonathan; Mina's friend Lucy; three men who are in love with Lucy; and a good-hearted but mysterious Ductch doctor, Abraham van Helsing. The bulk of this part deals with Lucy's mysterious disease, her decline to death, and her transformation into a vampire that her suitors must destroy out of love. Dracula appears only fleetingly through the book, but the reader knows what happens, and suspects the cause of Lucy's decline.
In the last part, Jonathan, Mina, and Lucy's three lovers band with Dr. von Helsing in a pact to destroy Dracula before he can spread his contagion throughout England; and meanwhile, Dracula wreaks his vengeance on them for taking Lucy from him.
Stoker uses many ways of approaching his subject. Occasionally the horror is direct; but once it is established, he makes it subtle, working behind the scenes, in a way that may be even more frightening. Though he also uses different voices, his prose is invariably fine. And as each character has to overcome his aversion to ancient superstition and face Dracula with a mind open to the fact that there's more in the world than science and technology and late-Victorian materialism can contain, the book becomes eerily meaningful for the twenty-first century.
Modern purveyors of vampiric fiction dispense with the blatant Christian symbolism used to fight Dracula's ilk, such as a crucifix or sanctified host, or prayer. They also turn the evil of Dracula topsy-turvey and somehow invent sympathy for soulless monsters who view living humans as food. Stoker doesn't hesitate to show Dracula as an evil, totalitarian horror; as a contagion that must be eradicated; as an enslaver of women, like Lucy, and men, like poor Renfield. And Stoker has reason enough to realized that only Supernatural agencies could fight the supernatural. The saving Blood of Christ on the Cross, blood of which a soulless terror like Dracula cannot drink, is the most effective symbol for fighting and defeating this brand of evil. It was part of the novel's consistency that as the characters have to come to grips with the reality of ancient evil, they must also return to the symbols of good that they also have rejected in a narrow-minded embracing of the modern.
Dracula, the strongest character in Victorian fiction, does not weaken himself by the need to be "understood" or "pitied". He will destroy or be destroyed. And the worst destruction that could happen to him would be mitigation.
DRACULA may be the scariest book ever written; it's certainly the best of the classic horror stories. It's well-crafted and exquisitely constructed enough that it stands as a great novel even without genre pigeonholing.