Book Review: Dracula

Book Name: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
First Published: 1897

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Dublin, Ireland. He was a sickly boy but he fully recovered when he was seven. He had no other major health problems and even became an athlete at Trinity College, Dublin when he studied there from 1864-1870. He graduated with honors with a degree in Mathematics and became auditor of the College Historical Society and President of the University Philosophical Society.

While he was a student, he became interested in the theater and later became a theater critic. He became known because of his good reviews even though theater critics were not highly respected those days. He gave a positive review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet, which resulted to Irving inviting him for dinner and the two becoming friends.

In 1878, Bram Stoker and Florence Balcombe married. The couple moved to London and had a son in 1879. Stoker worked as manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theater for 27 years. By working for Irving, the position gave Stoker the opportunity to meet famous personalities and travel. It was during this time in his life that began writing his novels.

In 1890, Stoker went to the English town of Whitby, where it is said he got some of his inspiration for the novel Dracula. He also met the Hungarian writer Armin Vámbéry, who told him scary stories about the Carpathian mountains. Stoker then studied European folklore and vampire stories for several years. It was not until 1897 that he published Dracula. Other inspirations for the novel include the Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla.

Stoker had several strokes and died on April 20, 1912. His cause of death is not definite – some say he died from tertiary syphilis while others claim it was due to overwork. He was cremated and his ashes were placed in an urn. When his son Irving Noel Stoker died in 1961, his ashes were also placed in the same urn. The ashes of Bram Stoker and Florence Stoker were supposed to be put together but when Florence died, her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest.

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” -Bram Stoker, Dracula

In the late nineteenth century, a young British lawyer named Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula in Transylvania to finalize a real estate transaction involving Count Dracula. On the way, he encounters superstitious villagers who become fearful upon hearing his destination. He continues despite their fears and is driven to the castle by a mysterious man.

His accommodations are suitable, but he finds his host Count Dracula to be a strange thin and pale man. He discovers that the Count drinks human blood in order to survive but the latter escapes to England along with fifty boxes of earth. Harker is left at the castle sick and weak.

In England, Jonathan’s fiancée Mina Murray is with her friend Lucy Westenra. Lucy has three suitors who have offered her marriage – Arthur Holmwood, Dr. John Seward, and Quincey Morris – and has begun to sleepwalk. Mina is worried about her friend and because she has not heard from Jonathan for a long time.

A damaged ship carrying Count Dracula’s fifty boxes of earth arrives, but the ship’s crew is missing. Mina finds the sleepwalking Lucy near the graveyard, with a tall, thin figure nearby. The figure vanishes and Lucy does not remember anything when she awakens. Lucy is cold and has two tiny puncture wounds on her neck, but Mina thinks she has just accidentally pricked her friend with a pin. Over the next several weeks, Lucy’s health deteriorates but her former suitor Dr. Seward cannot determine what is making her sick.

When Mina receives word about Jonathan, she goes to help him. Lucy’s condition worsens so Dr. Seward asks the help of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing notices the spots on the girl’s neck and her blood loss. They give Lucy several blood transfusions, but the girl improves only temporarily. Van Helsing suspects that Lucy is being victimized by a vampire and puts garlic in her room and around her neck to protect her. However, the vampire is able to attack the girl again and Lucy dies.

After her death, a beautiful lady begins attacking the children in the village. Disturbed, Van Helsing asks Dr. Seward to help him open Lucy’s coffin. He also gets to read Mina’s transcription of Jonathan’s diary about his trip to Transylvania. He gathers Lucy’s previous suitors and explains to them that Lucy has become a vampire and how they can save her soul and kill Count Dracula.

Dracula Book CoverDracula is not a novel, that is a single tale woven as a movie might be, instead it is in epistolary form as a collection of journals, letters and papers. The many viewpoints through each journal entry serve to create the suspense which sets the tone of the novel. I will confess that Dracula is not my favorite book of all time. I have never been into horror novels and this one is the granddaddy of the horror genre. Still, it is a classic that has been a part of our literary history and part of our pop culture. It is well worth the time to go back and see the original tale by its creator.

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