A Pioneer of Gothic Fiction – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

We have all heard about the legend of Dracula at some point in our lives. Whether we’ve read the novel or not, we all knowingly or unknowingly associate the Transylvanian Count to everything undead and surreal. A month ago, I provided myself the pleasure of reading the entire story of the Count written by Bram Stoker and also did some research into Stoker’s other works and how the Vampire myth came to be.

I sat down to read the book thinking how scary can this be in our 21st century? It’s just vampires and we have already romanticized them in every way possible so that there is very little chance to ever be scared by them. With books, movies and even TV series like The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and whatnot, we have really altered the image of the undead to the extent in out pop culture that we cannot even think about vampires without imagining them sparkling! What a pity! Stoker would have been so disappointed.

So my expectations of the book being scary was very low. But boy was I wrong! I am sure that a thorough plot synopsis of this classic horror masterpiece has been done by many people before me but this is what I thought while reading it. I think I should mention before I begin that the entire book consists of journal entries, letters, telegrams and ship logs recorded by all the people involved in the story and there is no separate narrative. The main characters of the book are Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Quincey Morris, and Lord Godalming(Holmwood).

The novel starts with the journal entries of Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England sent by his employer Mr. Peter Hawkins to work as an estate agent for a foreign client Count Dracula. Count Dracula wished to move to England and Harker was there to make all the necessary arrangements. Throughout his journey from home to Transylvania, everyone Harker tells about his destination crosses their hearts and pleads him not to go. People keep giving him crosses and garlic oil and all sorts of things that people of that regions considers effective against evil spirits but he does not really take the hint or does not bother albeit he got a bad feeling at the bottom of his stomach. But after he reaches the castle of Count Dracula, he is somewhat relieved seeing the count such an agreeable being.

Each night after dinner, the count sits and talks with him for hours until it’s almost dawn and when all the wolves start howling in unison the Count says, ”Listen to them – the children of the night. What music they make!” This sentence sent a major chill down my spine when I read it.

But Harker doesn’t take much time in realizing that something was not right at the castle and soon discovers that he was there as a prisoner, all the gates locked with no way out. His suspicions were reinforced when he noticed the Counts aversion to mirrors and the fact that he didn’t produce a reflection upon it. Harker then makes it his mission to escape from the castle grounds and does some pretty daring feats in order to obtain the keys. During the days he stays in the castle he has some other eerie encounters which were in my opinion the most unnerving parts of the book. This is the first part of the book and after this there are some long tiring letters between the two friends Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. It was mostly Lucy writing about how many men proposed to her and Mina wrote about her worries regarding her own fiancé Jonathan Harker (this part was really boring). During this time the only interesting bit was some newspaper cutouts Mina attached in her journal about some mysterious occurrences on a ship arriving to England, with all its crew dead.

At this point it became clear that it was the Count aboard that ship and that means he has reached England. Mina was staying with Lucy when she started sleepwalking and one night she had to rescue her from outside where she found a creature leaning over Lucy while she was still in a sort of trance. Later she discovered two small round marks on Lucy’s throat of which they could make out no sense.  Mina was informed that Jonathan was back from Transylvania and was very ill and she left Lucy to tend to her fiancé and eventually getting married. But Lucy grew sicker and paler and Dr. Seward was obliged to call on his former mentor Dr. Van Helsing. Van Helsing has an idea as to what was happening to Lucy and though he does everything he could to save her, they failed and Lucy died…..or did she? There was then a series of events that leads them vow that they will destroy the count no matter what. After seeing the Count in London, Harker joins the rest in the mission and starts collecting information for tracking down Dracula’s London lairs by means of paperwork.

Everything was going according to plan until the Count gets to Mina and and the encounter of the Count and Mina was one of the most blood-curdling and gore experience I’ve ever had while reading a book. I found the way the Count entered the room to be unsettling enough. And here I thought that this classic would not live upto our 21st century horror novels/movies.

I bet you’ve always heard of vampires drinking human blood, but have you ever heard of humans drinking the blood of the undead? Who would’ve thought about it! It made the hair at the back of my neck to stand up straight.

The rest of the book consists of them searching to destroy all the lairs of the Count and that eventually leads them back to his castle.  I was on the edge the whole time, not being able to put the book down a second. I can not risk filling in the blanks I left in my writing because those are the really good parts I simply can not spoil for you. I will say this though, I really appreciate the intelligence of Mina Harker because without her brain and skills, they never could have taken on the challenge of destroying the Count. It is strong female  characters like her that balanced out the annoying aftertaste left by Lucy.

Yes, I found her character to be exceedingly annoying. But Mina was resourceful, intelligent, organized. So resourceful that Van Helsing said in admiration that her brain was “trained like that of a man’s”.

If anyone likes gothic literature and horror fictions and also has a knack for reading classics, I’d suggest to give this masterpiece a try. I definitely was not disappointed. It was a beautiful, enthralling read but at the same time nerve-wracking, and sinister in nature.


12 thoughts on “A Pioneer of Gothic Fiction – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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  1. Very well written. But, by the time I got to middle part I got the feeling to be bit spoiled. Notwithstanding, this also begs me to have a go at it while I’m alive and breathing. Expecting many more from your to hit the deck. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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