Day 552: Dracula

Cover for DraculaHaving experienced other gothic classics of the 18th and 19th century, I was delighted to find Dracula unexpectedly readable. I was also surprised to find how little it resembles its many theatrical and movie productions, even those that attempt to stay closer to the original work.

All versions begin the same, however, with poor Jonathan Harker sent out by his office to Transylvania to complete a property deal with his client, Count Dracula. While staying at Dracula’s castle, he begins to suspect something is badly amiss and eventually fears for his life.

Back in England, his fiancée Mina Murray corresponds with and later stays with her good friend Lucy Westerna at a seaside town. In one day, Lucy has received proposals from three different young men, who all feature strongly in the novel. Dr. Jack Seward is in charge of a local insane asylum. Quincy Morris is a manly, amiable Texan, whom I feared all along was designed for a ghastly death. Lucy’s chosen is Arthur Holmwood, another manly young man who is soon promoted to a lordship by the convenient death of a benefactor. (I don’t think these things work this way, since Arthur is not his benefactor’s relative, but never mind.)

After a freakish storm, a Russian ship arrives unmanned at the port where Mina and Lucy are staying with Mrs. Westerna, who is gravely ill. As it arrives, a large dog jumps off it and runs ashore. Aboard is not a single live human. We horror aficianados know that Dracula has arrived.

While Mina waits for news of Jonathan, Lucy begins sleepwalking and behaving oddly. Dr. Seward makes notes about a patient who eats bugs and babbles about his master. Soon Van Helsing will be needed.

Unlike in most of the spin-offs, except for Jonathan Harker’s experiences at the beginning, Dracula is mostly an unseen menace for much of the novel. I’m guessing that the original readers did not necessarily realize the identity of that bat fluttering outside Lucy’s window.

In any case, the novel covers a lot more ground than does the standard remake. It is epistolary, written entirely as letters and journal entries. It is well written and moves along nicely except for the occasionally long-winded expulsion of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo by Van Helsing or Seward. In the true gothic fashion, it is a classic battle of good versus evil, with the prize the soul of our heroine Mina.

Modern readers may be bothered by the depiction of the two women. Lucy is supposed to be a modern woman—who else would have three suitors at a time? She is both innocent and pure in herself and quite the seductive vamp when under the spell of Count Dracula. The men do a lot of harm to both her and Mina by trying to protect the “little women” from knowledge of what is going on. Again, try to judge the novel’s attitudes by the standards of its own time, when it was simply considered a whomping good tale.

11 thoughts on “Day 552: Dracula

  1. Emily J. July 11, 2014 / 11:40 am

    I love this book, and is too was surprised the first time I picked it up at how readable it is. It remains one of my favorites.

    • whatmeread July 11, 2014 / 12:45 pm

      Yes, I think I avoided it for years fearing it would be turgid, as many of the gothic novels are.

  2. Naomi July 11, 2014 / 11:42 am

    I never thought I would want to read this book, but you have changed my mind! It sounds like good fun!

  3. Cecilia July 11, 2014 / 7:48 pm

    Alright, now I have to read this too. I also didn’t expect it to be readable. My curiosity was piqued when I read Emily’s review, and now I’m convinced.

    • whatmeread July 14, 2014 / 7:34 am

      I must have missed Emily’s review!

    • whatmeread July 14, 2014 / 7:35 am

      After so much vampire stuff around, it was kind of a relief to return to the source.

  4. Audra (Unabridged Chick) July 14, 2014 / 9:13 am

    So glad you enjoyed this one — it’s a favorite. I’m not a fan of vampires as currently evoked, but this one is just such fun. I love Lucy and Mina, too — they’re hoots!

    • whatmeread July 14, 2014 / 11:09 am

      No kidding. I am SO sick of vampires! I was amazed at the fuss made over Twilight, which just seemed so juvenile to me.

  5. J.E. Fountain October 27, 2019 / 3:38 pm

    I really enjoyed this, but would have loved to have read it without all the preconceptions. Nice review.

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