Was he beast, man, or Vampire?
I decided to finally pick up my copy of Dracula as I was in a gothic mood. What a read! A book of letters and journal entries, you get to read and experience every character’s thoughts, views, emotions and perspective … apart from maybe Dracula himself.
Dracula begins with Jonathan Harker travelling through Transylvania to Dracula’s castle. On his way there, Harker is warned by many locals that Dracula is not someone you want to visit after dark. The entire first part of the book is ”an exercise in dread” as Jonathan Harker slowly finds out that his host is something inhuman and utterly evil. The book is filled with scenes of horror that could freak you out. For me, there is a particular scene in the first part of the book where Harker sees three women who have been recently turned into vampires and are in search for blood to satisfy their thirst. It definitely sent chills throughout my body.
The whole book as already mentioned is held via diaries. Through Jonathan Harker’s diary entries we look into his psyche and paranoia as he starts to connect the dots regarding the horrors of the night and the Count. The reader becomes part of the story, he or she is experiencing the fear and paranoia that Harker is experiencing. The build up to the meeting with Dracula and throughout the book to be honest is quite scary and tense. You cannot help but continue reading.
Other than Harker making his way to Dracula’s castle, not much happens in the first section of the story. However, the reader is introduced to Count Dracula and you get the feeling that things are about to get better and more interesting. In the second section of Dracula you’re introduced to Harker’s fiancé Mina Murray and her friend Lucy Westerna, our two female heroes. While reading the correspondence between Lucy and Mina as well as their diary entries you cannot help but think of Jonathan Harker and what has happened to him, as his fate is left on a stand still at the end of the first section and does not appear in the second. Soon the characters of Dr Seward, Quincy Morris and Arthur Holmwood, the three of which are suitors to Lucy are introduced. For me, Dr Seward’s entry was perhaps the most interesting as we read about a certain mental patient of his, Renfield. Renfield is an irksome zoophagous mentally unstable. At first you don’t know what relevance he has in the story, but he keeps you on your toes. You find yourself turning page after page and all of a sudden everything clicks. He does have a part in the story. He does have a purpose.
Another character comes into the story, that of Dr. Van Helsing. A Dutch professor, an expert in pretty much everything but most importantly for this story, in vampirism. What a character. He did make me laugh. He is the one who knows all about medicine, superstitions, and religions. He comes to our rescue regarding our ‘beloved’ Count Dracula. All the characters are well portrayed, each with their own unique personality, characteristics and role to the story as they attempt to destroy the inherent evil, Count Dracula.
For someone who did not know the story before and not watching any of the films (I know- I have already been told off for not seeing the classic film of Dracula) I could not stop turning the page. I wanted to know who this Dracula was. I did not know who survives and who doesn’t. Will anyone be turned into a vampire or not? Will they manage to destroy Dracula once and for all? Before Dracula, the only other good vampire book that I had read and really enjoyed was Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Now I have two added to my library. Many comment that old classic books such as Dracula are not as captivating or gripping as modern books. I disagree. The horrors of the night and the various warnings of ‘things’ that come in the night are described in such a way that grabs you and makes you worry about the safety of the characters. The language is captivating, the atmosphere gothic and the story itself is heartbreaking, full of emotion. Also the fact that the story is portrayed through diary entries makes it easier to read, I find.
I read somewhere that Dracula ”touches on many themes, savagery, love, religion, technology and xenophobia”, it leaves you thinking. Dracula is a genuine horror story and I would recommend it to anyone.