Seven years before the first publication of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, “Dracula,” Stoker wrote down on a piece of paper: “Young man goes out, sees girls one tries to kiss him not on the lips but throat. Old Count interferes – rage & fury diabolical – this man belongs to me I want him.”
This comes from a bad dream and later becomes a fictional journal entry of Jonathan Harker, one of the several characters in Dracula. Ironically enough, the events of the novel do resemble that of a horrific dream.
The novel begins with Harker’s travel to Transylvania, where he meets Count Dracula to discuss real estate transactions. During his stay in the Count’s castle, Harker encounters many strange things. One of them is the Count crawling “down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings.”
As the story leaves Transylvania and travels to London, England, the protagonists, Harker’s fiancŽe, Mina Murray, Professor Van Helsing, Doctor John Seward, American-born Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood are introduced into the novel. Having lost Mina’s sister, Lucy, to the demonic ways of the Count, the protagonists set up a mission to save Harker from the Count and destroy Count Dracula forever.
In the revised edition of “Dracula,” Christopher Frayling, author of the preface, said that Stoker wrote his thoughts down on notepaper while “on a run in hotels, on trains, in libraries, and leaving from London’s Lyceum Theater,” where Stoker worked. This revelation presents theories on what could have given Stoker the idea to write the novel in an epistolary style, where he uses a collection of journal and diary entries, letters, newspapers clippings and telegrams to tell the events happening in the lives of the characters.
This style, however, does bring the reader right into the story. As Harker, Mina, Helsing and the others write down their thoughts in their journals, diaries or letters, because the reader feels what the characters feel, from confusion, sadness, anguish, anger and joy, at the same moment that the characters felt it. Because the story is presented this way, it gives the novel rawness and authenticity that can be lost in most fictional literary works.
Although the characters have witnessed strange things ever since the Count has settled in London, the reader can take comfort in knowing that the events have already happened.
While Mina, Helsing, Morris, Seward, Harker and Holmwood are diligently trying to figure out what it is that disrupts their peaceful lives, the reader uncovers the clues presented in the writing entries before the characters do because of the advantage the reader has in going back from past entries. Therefore, the reader is always a step ahead of the characters. The anticipation is in the waiting for the characters to come to the same conclusion that the reader has already come to.
With the many vampire novels on the bookshelves, it is easy to read Stoker’s “Dracula” knowing what will happen in each chapter. We even have the option of putting the book down to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Dracula instead. That is if you want to be disappointed. But if you are interested in being terrified by a literary work, Stoker’s “Dracula” is an excellent choice. This book will have you checking to see what lurks behind you.
Here are some other books that will leave you wanting to keep the lights on for the night:
- “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris
- “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rise
- “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
- “It” by Stephen King
- “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
- “The Turn of the Shrew” by Henry Jame