Dracula is one of the most recognisable literary characters of all time*. Fact.
But whilst you may recognise the blood-sucking, shape-shifting villain of Bram Stoker’s eponymous Dracula, you may well be unfamiliar with the tale itself. In essence, the narrative is told through epistolary entries, charting Jonathan Harker’s first encounter with Dracula, to Dracula’s move from Transylvania to England, and his entanglement with the lives of Jonathan’s closest friends.
It is unmistakably Gothic, brimming with brooding weather, prophetic warnings and deaths of the most ‘shocking’ kind (at least for a late Victorian)! Stoker is adept at unsettling the reader, providing just enough detail to leave you on the edge of your seat before pulling away. Plus there is plenty of drama to carry the novel through to the end, and testament to Stoker’s writing, Count Dracula himself has stood the test of time.
Unfortunately however, Dracula almost reads as a tale of two halves. The premise is thrilling, the opening gripping and the initial driving plot, tantalising. It’s difficult to put down, and the epistolary form works particularly well in bringing together different aspects of the novel.
But as the narrative reaches the latter half, it begins to crumble and become increasingly ridiculous – particularly with regards to the character’s European escapades. It is also at this point that Mina becomes insufferable -and I mean unbearably insufferable! Even in consideration of the novel’s social Victorian context, Mina is a very difficult character to redeem and her melodramatic, swooning actions to ignore. That being said, Lucy is not much better or Harker and Holmwood for that matter.
As such Dracula occupies a strange position – it is both great and dare I say it, awful at the same time. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself!
*The character of Dracula was based upon Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia – also known as Vlad the Impaler after his tendency to execute his enemies in this manner.