Dracula by Bram Stoker
Horror | Classic | Vampires
Originally published by Archibald Constable and Company
Released May 26th, 1897
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“It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.”
When I recently finished Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel Dracula for the third time, I was once again stunned by how engaging and horrifying of a story it is. One of my favorite horror novels, I can’t think of a better book to read around Halloween.
I doubt I need to explain what Dracula is about, as it’s the most well-known vampire novel in the world and the basis for thousands of vampire stories that have been created since.
If you’ve never taken the plunge into reading Dracula, don’t be put off by its 19th-century release date. The book reads very easily and, at least for me, grabs my attention by the end of the first chapter. One benefit of the novel being released in 1897 is that it provides an interesting look into customs and relationships during that time period in Britain.
The type of horror in this novel is of the type that I appreciate the most – slow, creeping, and atmospheric. The story is told from multiple perspectives, with a combination of diary entries, newspaper clippings, and telegrams. We begin by following Jonathan Harker as he travels to Transylvania as a solicitor in order to do business with Count Dracula. We also get the perspective of Dr. John Seward, who runs a mental hospital; Mina Harker, Jonathan’s wife; and Dr. Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor with an open mind who travels to Great Britain to assist the characters in their fight against Count Dracula. The horror builds slowly and by the end, the reader really feels the horror that the characters are having to live through, as well as understanding the importance of their sacrifices.
The characters were all written extremely well, but I’ve never loved the character of Dr. Van Helsing. He is absolutely essential to the story and his personality plays its own role, but oh my gosh, he is pretentious and annoying. One aspect of the character development that I loved was how each character (excluding Count Dracula, of course) was so open emotionally. There was no hint of toxic masculinity or suppressed emotions. Every single character portrayed the horror, anxiety, and love that they felt, and for that alone I would urge people to read this novel.
For anyone interested in vampires, Dracula is a must-read. As it’s the basis for most vampire stories that have been created since it’s publication, you learn a lot of vampire mythology. Bram Stoker actually spent seven years researching vampires, and his effort shows gallantly in the novel.
If you take a look at the Wikipedia page for Dracula, particularly the scholarly criticism portion, you’ll see that literary critics have attributed all sorts of theories to the story, from colonialism and capitalism to gender and sexuality. I enjoy reading literary analyses, but for this particular novel, I prefer to just read it as an exciting macabre novel about vampire hunters.
Dracula was not the first vampire novel, but it is certainly the most iconic. If you haven’t read this book yet, I can’t urge you to strongly enough. Reading this book for the first time is a truly unique experience, although, on every subsequent reading I’ve done since then, I’ve found new reasons to adore the novel.
If what you look for in horror novels are flashy, Hollywood-style scenes and fast-acting characters, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this book. However, if you want to read a horror novel that builds slowly and follows meticulous characters as they track down the most powerful vampire in the world, do yourself a favor and read Dracula. Fortunately, it’s an incredibly easy book to get your hands on, as you’ll find it at every library, along with bookstores at a variety of price points. You can also read the novel online for free, as the book entered the public domain in the 1960s.
“I sometimes think we must be all mad and that we shall wake to sanity in strait-waistcoats.”