With Universal Studios recently announcing their monster-filled Dark Universe franchise, what book would be more suited to pick up than Dracula? The following is a review of this classic text.
Dracula: the very name instantly brings to mind visions of vampires, stakes, garlic and crucifixes. But when one bothers to read the novel they may realise how twisted modern vampire fiction has become.
Vampires are not meant to exist as heroes. Go back a few hundred years and men believed truly that the vampire was a real immortal, cursed to quench his undying thirst with a living mortal’s blood. The very idea of a blood drinker inspires the very image of a villain to the mind. And that is what the titular character of this novel is.
The word novel is not used lightly, but one could also write that this is a collaboration of journals, letters and papers. For that is how Bram Stoker chose to fashion his famous novel (in epistolary form). And the different viewpoints through each journal serve to create suspense which suits the gothic tone of the novel perfectly.
In all it is a macabre novel that serves to make the reader reflect upon good and evil. The vampire to me is nothing more than an indication of man’s own cursed nature and that unless he is delivered he must suck life from others around him. Ultimately only the righteous can destroy the darkness that serves to drain life.
This is a text full of contradiction, as all along the characters had speak of the clear organisation of their notes. Yethen Stoker himself made errors in logic and with the dates to indicate that perhaps the narration was not so reliable. Which interestingly is how the book ends: with the narration indicating that it did not matter who believed their convoluted story.
Dracula heavily references other texts such as Hamlet, Homer and the various poets of the time. Essays attached to the annotated version of the novel indicated that perhaps the older version of Dracula – when he has gone without blood – was based on Oscar Wilde. Not dissimilar to how Robert Louis Stephenson based his Long John Silver on William Henley.
The image of a bestial vampire like Dracula sucking the life out of victims to continue his un-dead existence is entirely metaphoric for the very idea of evil. Evil can be seductive, it can look appealing but ultimately it leads only to a sort of un-dead experience in which one can only seek to gain satisfaction and purpose through draining others of their vitality. And in this case it is an evil which can only be driven out through holy means (it is interesting therefore that there are many allusions to the Bible in the actual figure of Dracula – is he an anti-Christ figure in Stoker’s story?)
Undeniably Dracula is an incredible classic that has to be read to be understood. The little flaws in it make it more appealing and humanised rather than removing any semblance of its grandeur. Meanwhile the tragic nature of its story causes readers to be both appalled by the villain (who is unforgettable) and feel sorrow for the victims. As mentioned above: vampires are not meant to be messianic figures (one of the true messages of Dracula) but they instead represent the very opposite of holiness and virtue. While Dracula is not the first vampire novel it is perhaps the greatest as it shows the vampire as a truly malevolent and brutal figure (not a heartthrob but a reclusive killer). As The Lord of the Rings inevitably altered the idea of the fantasy genre so too Dracula undeniably changed the idea of the vampire.
Some may consider that Dracula ‘blasphemes’ against Christianity. Yet the text more reveals an aspect of what sin does to man in the aspect of the un-dead vampire. The idea that a man under a curse is doomed to suck the life out of others. Because blood is symbolic of life and ultimately life is what Dracula takes because he is a selfish old ‘devil’. There may be many reinterpretations, and other interpretations of this text, yet this is because Dracula is at the core a solid horror story that can be read by anyone.