Monday, 30 October 2017

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is a 1897 Gothic novel by Irish novelist Bram Stoker.

                                                  Cover to comicbook version of the novel 
                                                  by Spanish artist Fernando Fernández.  
                                                  The source is the blog Book Graphics 

Most people reading this probably already knows the story, but I will introduce it nevertheless. The novel opens with an excerpt from the diary of an English solicitor, Jonathan Harker, who is traveling to Transylvania in Romania in order to met with Count Dracula. The purpose of the trip is for Harker to help the Count buy a house in England. But he soon discovers that Dracula is not human, but a vampire, whose purpose in moving to England is to feed on the blood of the innocent and spread vampirism. He must be stopped.

Dracula is a novel which can be interpreted in many ways. You can interpret the novel as a peculiar example of the then popular genre of Invasion literature, which was about Great Britain being invaded by foreign forces, typically the Germans. The book is peculiar to the genre in the sense that it is about a supernatural foreign invader, not a military threat, but thematically the book fits perfectly into the genre.

The vampire is often interpreted sexually and Dracula is one of the main reasons why that is. The vampire attacks have a frightening sexual element to them, as they are disturbingly similar to rape.

You can also interpret the novel as a battle of the modernity vs old superstition. The main characters come from highly developed nations in Western Europe and North America and are thoroughly modern and scientific in their outlook, which is even reflected in how they record their experiences using then modern inventions like the typewriter and gramophone. 

Dracula in contrast represents the old and medieval, being a folklore creature and an aristocrat from an undeveloped part of Eastern Europe.

Because of their modern outlook, the main characters are slow to realize that vampires exist. The Dutch physician Abraham Van Helsing in contrast can be said to represent a necessary synthesis of the old and the new. He is a man of science, yet knows the old superstitions well. He is therefore the first to realize that vampires are involved and thus comes to lead the fight against Dracula, using both modern science and old folklore to do so.

There are many more interpretations, Franco Moretti for example interprets Dracula as a metaphor for monopoly capitalism.

Yet the novel can be read simply for simple enjoyment, as it is an excellent and suspenseful horror novel, in which Stoker uses the epistolary form effectively. The book is old-fashioned in some respects, particularly it's treatment of gender and the foreign, but the tale is told so well-told that it deserves it's place as a classic of gothic horror.

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