Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula was written in 1897. Although Stoker did not invent the concept of Vampires, he did form a famous identity, as Dracula is the most well known Vampire. The story is told through journal entries from the main characters, as well as a few news paper articles. I took advantage of trying audible.com, however, I did not realize the full potential of my signing up until it was too late. I got two free audiobooks before my trial membership expired. I had it sitting on my computer for awhile and decided to take advantage of them. Although I am a huge supporter of physical books, time and money do become a factor. Classic novels are those that I would buy to add to my library, although some I would gladly leave out. You do miss the experience of holding a physical book, feeling the pages, and seeing the words for yourself. Usually you tend to make your own interpretations especially with words or names your not familiar with. Sometimes I will change names completely because I glanced over them wrong to begin with, but end up preferring my version of it and will use mine throughout. So although I am not seeing the written words, I am still hearing them and I am able to visualize what I’m hearing so well that I can play it back in my mind. My visuals would be the same as if I had read it, but realistically, if I had read the book there is no way I would have finished it in 3 days while working and doing other things. I am not completely jumping ship, but I do believe this is my formal graduation of allowing audiobooks into my life.
The book opens with the character of Jonathan Harker. Harker has recently become a solicitor and he has been given the task of traveling to the Carpathian Mountains to meet his client. His client, Count Dracula, has purchased realestate in England and Harker aiding in the transfer. He stays at Dracula’s castle during his business, and notices many oddities about his host. Once Harker begins to form his own conclusions, he realizes that he is not a guest, but a prisoner and must find a way to escape before it is too late.
The story follows Dracula’s relocation to England and his attempt to establish himself there. I find with classic novels, what they do best is create a world within a world of characters. You are introduced to a handful of characters, some of which are associated and others not. The stories find a way to connect them all and bring them into the main story. This makes the story feel larger, as if it is enveloping more space with the character association, while containing the story to these main characters. This is an obvious element to most stories, as you need to bring in characters to make it more interesting, but many classic novels are able to make this more convincing in comparison to many of its modern day companions.
Vampires have been a very popular subject, especially since the explosion of Twilight. I was interested in reading the classic Vampire story and hoping to look at more of the origins. Throughout time and literature, an obvious Vampire focus is the strengths and limitations of these “creatures.” It seems everyone has their own variation and I was interested in knowing Stoker’s.
The lists can go on and on with the differences. Sunlight can spontaneously combust some, and make others sparkle. Garlic makes a force field, while for others it is just a garnish on unappealing food.
An interesting superstition from the story mentions the placement of a wild rose on top of Draculas “box” or coffin. This made me think of funerals, and how a traditional visual is the placement of a rose on the coffin as a form of goodbye. However, the story mentions that this placement of a wild rose on the top of the box will basically trap him in the box. Perhaps the placement of the rose on the coffins had begun as a superstition to avoid loved ones from returning from the grave.
Another interesting focus is the idea of a soul. With many references to Vampires, they are spoken of as the damned. Instantly a creature from hell. Throughout Dracula there is a mention of death and the transformation from a human to the undead Vampire. One can be bitten by a Vampire and given blood, die from any such event or cause, and then after death come back as a Vampire. You could also be turned so your cause of death is the transformation and then return from there. But the story holds to the fact that when a Vampire is killed by destroying the heart and severing the head, the soul is returned to god. I wonder if Edward ever read Dracula…
The transformation of the bat figure also comes into the story, but only Dracula is known to turn into a bat. Although there are other Vampires in the story (women) they do not go into many qualities of them. The Vampire women in Dracula’s castle appear as a sparkling mist. Dracula is able to appear this way, or as fog. They are able to slip through the tiniest crack, and Dracula even has control over certain animals. His favourites (or those only mentioned in the story) are wolves and rats. Without a word he is able to control them to do his bidding. Similar to these, Vampires seem to be able to control humans. They hypnotise people into forgetting things, or to think of other things. Many victims have no idea that they have even had an encounter with a Vampire. Nightmares are prevalent and fatigue from the loss of blood, usually blamed on the lack of sleep from these nightmares. It is interesting how one character, Lucy Westenra, is basically bedridden. Where as Wilhelmina Murray (Harker) seems as sharpe as ever, with only minor sideffects in comparison.
As I mentioned the list of qualities, differences, and superstitions can go on forever. There are full books on the subjects. I admit that I really enjoyed the story. Some of it seemed very familiar but others did not ring any bells for me. There is a flaw to the story, which holds king in my mind, and I am unable to think of much else. The audiobook is roughly 18hours long, or more. Through 18+hours and many pages, the story builds the introduction of the character of Dracula, and the hunt to stop him. We continue on and on, following characters, to the realization of vampires. We follow life and death, as clues are revealed to us. With all this excitement and build up, the story is basically able to come to its climax and wrap itself up within the span of 10min! Dracula really didn’t even have a chance, and actually plays almost no role through the tail end of the story, as he lays in his box until his death. It is very similar to the ending of Harry Potter. Years and years, death upon death and adventures, only to end with a “Bang, your dead, okay bye.” This almighty evil creature who has thwarted so many before you and you have destroyed it almost effortlessly.
Dracula is a classic Vampire novel, and if the subject of Vampires interests you I would suggest that you read it. I am really looking forward to watching the film based on the novel (the more new one from 1992 as I don’t do well with black and white films) and comparing it to the novel.