Classic of the Month: Dracula
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
As you probably recall, I started a new monthly series that will highlight a new "classic" every month. This month's classic is Dracula by Bram Stoker. Again I am very loosely basing my idea of classic's on this "A classic is a novel that represents a genre or a writing style, or it can be a novel that makes a contribution to literature. There are all kinds of classics, from horror classics to romance classics, from novels that sold millions of copies to a novel that changed how a genre was written." Due to the widely different views on what a classic is, these books may be considered classics by me but your opinion may be different.
What is Dracula?
Dracula is a novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. As an epistolary novel, the narrative is related through letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles. It has no single protagonist, but opens with solicitor Jonathan Harker taking a business trip to stay at the castle of a Transylvanian noble, Count Dracula. Harker escapes the castle after discovering that Dracula is a vampire, and the Count moves to England and plagues the seaside town of Whitby. A small group, led by Abraham Van Helsing, hunt Dracula and, in the end, kill him. Dracula was mostly written in the 1890s. Stoker produced over a hundred pages of notes for the novel, drawing extensively from Transylvanian folklore and history. Some scholars have suggested that the character of Dracula was inspired by historical figures like the Wallachian prince Vlad the Impaler or the countess Elizabeth Báthory, but there is widespread disagreement. Stoker's notes mention neither figure. He found the name Dracula in Whitby's public library while holidaying there, picking it because he thought it meant devil in Romanian.
Following its publication, Dracula was positively received by reviewers who pointed to its effective use of horror. In contrast, reviewers who wrote negatively of the novel regarded it as excessively frightening. Comparisons to other works of Gothic fiction were common, including its structural similarity to Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (1859). In the past century, Dracula has been situated as a piece of Gothic fiction. Modern scholars explore the novel within its historical context—the Victorian era—and discuss its depiction of gender roles, sexuality, and race. Dracula is one of the most famous pieces of English literature. Many of the book's characters have entered popular culture as archetypal versions of their characters; for example, Count Dracula as the quintessential vampire, and Abraham Van Helsing as an iconic vampire hunter. The novel, which is in the public domain, has been adapted for film over 30 times, and its characters have made numerous appearances in virtually all media.
Plot Overview (Detailed)
Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, visits Count Dracula at his castle in the Carpathian Mountains to help the Count purchase a house near London. Ignoring the Count's warning, Harker wanders the castle and encounters three vampire women; Dracula rescues Harker, and gives the women a small child bound inside a bag. Harker awakens in bed; soon after, Dracula leaves the castle, abandoning him to the women; Harker escapes with his life and ends up delirious in a Budapest hospital. Dracula takes a ship for England with boxes of earth from his castle. The captain's log narrates the crew's disappearance until he alone remains, bound to the helm to maintain course. An animal resembling a large dog is seen leaping ashore when the ship runs aground at Whitby.
Lucy Westenra's letter to her best friend, Harker's fiancée Mina Murray, describes her marriage proposals from Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood. Lucy accepts Holmwood's, but all remain friends. Mina joins her friend Lucy on holiday in Whitby. Lucy begins sleepwalking. After his ship lands there, Dracula stalks Lucy. Mina receives a letter about her missing fiancé's illness, and goes to Budapest to nurse him. Lucy becomes very ill. Seward's old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, determines the nature of Lucy's condition, but refuses to disclose it. He diagnoses her with acute blood-loss. Van Helsing places garlic flowers around her room and makes her a necklace of them. Lucy's mother removes the garlic flowers, not knowing they repel vampires. While Seward and Van Helsing are absent, Lucy and her mother are terrified by a wolf and Mrs. Westenra dies of a heart attack; Lucy dies shortly thereafter. After her burial, newspapers report children being stalked in the night by a "bloofer lady" (beautiful lady), and Van Helsing deduces it is Lucy. The four go to her tomb and see that she is a vampire. They stake her heart, behead her, and fill her mouth with garlic. Jonathan Harker and his now-wife Mina have returned, and they join the campaign against Dracula.
Everyone stays at Dr. Seward's asylum as the men begin to hunt Dracula. Van Helsing finally reveals that vampires can only rest on earth from their homeland. Dracula communicates with Seward's patient, Renfield, an insane man who eats vermin to absorb their life force. After Dracula learns of the group's plot against him, he uses Renfield to enter the asylum. He secretly attacks Mina three times, drinking her blood each time and forcing Mina to drink his blood on the final visit. She is cursed to become a vampire after her death unless Dracula is killed. As the men find Dracula's properties, they discover many earth boxes within. The vampire hunters open each of the boxes and seal wafers of sacramental bread inside them, rendering them useless to Dracula. They attempt to trap the Count in his Piccadilly house, but he escapes. They learn that Dracula is fleeing to his castle in Transylvania with his last box. Mina has a faint psychic connection to Dracula, which Van Helsing exploits via hypnosis to track Dracula's movements. Guided by Mina, they pursue him.
In Galatz, Romania, the hunters split up. Van Helsing and Mina go to Dracula's castle, where the professor destroys the vampire women. Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood follow Dracula's boat on the river, while Quincey Morris and John Seward parallel them on land. After Dracula's box is finally loaded onto a wagon by Szgany men, the hunters converge and attack it. After routing the Szgany, Harker slashes Dracula's neck and Quincey stabs him in the heart. Dracula crumbles to dust, freeing Mina from her vampiric curse. Quincey is mortally wounded in the fight against the Szgany. He dies from his wounds, at peace with the knowledge that Mina is saved. A note by Jonathan Harker seven years later states that the Harkers have a son, named Quincey.
What is the genre of this book?
The genres of this book are; Fantasy Fiction, Novel, Horror Fiction, Invasion Literature, Gothic Fiction, Fantastique, and Epistolary Novel.
Was this book ever banned?
This novel was never officially banned on a large scale.
Why is it a Classic?
Dracula has remained popular for over 100 years because it is a masterful example of how suspenseful a book can be. The tone, pacing, and storytelling are all tailored solely to scare you. The characters are rich and robust, and their descriptions are particularly vivid.
Also there is a children's movie that depicts Dracula very differently. Obviously there are 4 movies in this series but this is the trailer for the first one.