‘Denn die Todten reiten schnell’ – ‘For the dead travel fast’
The title says it all. This is where modern T.V, movies and books derive their ideas of the terrified nightwalkers from. In spite of not being the first vampire story as we know from Polidori’s The Vampyre, Stoker’s novel is still famous for the creation of the character, Count Dracula. Fangs, garlic, and even the fantasy that Transylvania is where vampires live originated from this Gothic novel.
I’ve wanted to read this for a long time and finally got around to it since it was on my module’s reading list.
I’ll be honest. I was not impressed with the beginning of the book. It took a while for me to become invested. I think it was because of the fact that the novel opened with Jonathan’s journal entry, and with no excitement but simple facts recalling his past few days. The novel is called ‘Dracula’ and so I expected a shocking beginning that would lure me in and have me not be able to put the book down. I put the book down several times.
As the story progressed, I did get a lot more interested but one element that I did not like about the novel was that it was all based on journal entries. I find it very unlikely that a person can remember things in such vivid detail as they write it all out. Another aspect that deprived me of thoroughly enjoying this story was that if it is being written, then the event has already taken place, thus making the experience a little anti-climactic. I felt this particularly in the scene where Dracula’s vampire brides prey upon Jonathan. The fact the he remembers everything in his half-conscious state and is able to write it out so explicitly in his journal is simply not believable. I can’t even remember what I did yesterday, never mind something that took place while I was half-asleep. I do, however, have to applaud Stoker’s description of the scene, from the ‘moisture on the scarlet lips’ to the ‘white sharp teeth’, I could really imagine it all.
This leads me to Stoker’s writing style. His descriptions are incredibly detailed and creates vivid imagery in the readers’ minds. However, combined with the format of the journal entries, I found the tone of the text to be very tedious. While his descriptions of the setting are marvellous, his narrative voice lacks the excitement that is depicted through the imagery we are able to visualise.
I did, however, love the traditional elements in the novel, such as the name Dracula itself and the character of Van Helsing, the famous vampire slayer.
‘Within, stood a tall old man […] without a speck of colour about him anywhere.’
Our first impression of Count Dracula from Jonathan’s perspective instantly suggests that there is something strange about him. The Count’s appearance and behaviour nudges us into seeing him with suspicion, especially with all the horrified reactions Jonathan receives throughout his journey to the Count’s castle.
These names and characters are still seen today with modern twists. Another gothic convention I admired was the classic idea of garlic being used as an instrument against vampires. Additionally, along with the traditional aspects to the novel comes the gothic setting which I adored. The eerie descriptions of the setting are maintained right from the beginning, and I believe they further allude to the mystery of the Count and his abilities.
I really enjoyed the way the novel came to an end with the villainous Count Dracula slayed by Jonathan and Quincey. I particularly liked the description from Mina’s perspective of the Count’s disintegration – ‘the whole body crumbled into dust’. The last journal entry from Jonathan depicts his life a few years into the future where he and Mina have a son. This end encapsulates a surprising cliché happy ending in the Gothic novel, which I didn’t expect and therefore enjoyed reading even more.