Friday, 24 August 2012

Dracula by Bram Stoker (4/5)

The back says: 'There he lay looking as if youth had been half-renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey, the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst the swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.'
 
I say: I had never read the complete and unabridged Dracula prior to this, but since I have seen half of Francis Ford Coppola’s version about ten times (I always fall asleep when they get to London), it all felt very familiar.

So, this is an epistolary novel made up of a collection of newspaper clippings, letters, and diary entries – all of which somehow refer to Count Dracula – from mainly seven people. It all starts with Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor hired by Dracula to find him a house in London, travelling to Transylvania to meet the Count. While at his castle he is experiences several strange occurrences which lead him to desperately fleeing the place.

Meanwhile in England we have his fiancé Mina is getting distressed over not hearing from her betrothed, while visiting her friend Lucy, who has just accepted the proposal of Arthur Holmwood, after declining both Dr Seward and Mr Morris. Soon Lucy begins to wither away due to some strange illness, and Dr Seward asks his old professor and friend Van Helsing to come and help with the case. He arrives from Amsterdam and spends some time going back and forth while keeping quiet about what he suspects may be the matter with Lucy.

And these are the seven people whose experiences we follow.

I could go on more about the plot, but that would just lead to spoilers, so I won’t. Instead I shall speak about what I liked with this novel, which is mainly the way that Stoker weaved in so much myth about Dracula into it. As an avid Buffy fan I have been interested in vampires since I saw the original film (yes, it’s bad but that’s what makes it so great), and throughout the series there were much vampire folklore. The way that Stoker described the things Dracula could do were already familiar to me, apart from the fact that he couldn’t travel across water on his own, but had to be carried across.

The novel started out in the best of ways, and my favourite parts were probably Jonathan’s initial diary entry about going to Transylvania and his experiences in the castle. If it had started in any other way, it may not have grabbed my attention in the same way, because, to be honest, a lot of what happened in the middle of the novel rather bored me.

However, I did find myself falling in some sort of love with Van Helsing (when he wasn’t going on and on with his vagueness instead of just getting to the point).

What I didn’t like annoyed me was the way they all had to declare their love for each other in the most saccharine hyperbole every other minute. It didn’t seem genuine at all and just ended up getting on my nerves. Another thing was that I simply refuse to accept how utterly oblivious the men were, sans Van Halen, of course. I had a hard time believing that they were all highly educated and yet so slow to put two and two together.

Yes, I know that they were meant to dismiss all superstitions, but even so...

I suppose there should be an honourable mention of Dr Steward’s mental patient Renfield, who was just pure perfection, as well as utterly disgusting. I found myself cringing while reading about his exploits, but I still found myself wanting to read more about him.

Poor hapless man.

I really have to give the film another try now; I mean, Tom Waits is Reinfeld.

 

*This is my twenty-fifth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).

2 comments:

  1. I love Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and have seen it so many times but have never read the book. It's on my TBR and I always think I'll read it in the fall, maybe around Halloween, but haven't got to it yet. Maybe this year will be it because I feel like it's a must read. I hope you get to finally finish the movie!

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    1. I think reading it later in the year would be great, what with the dark weather and the wind howling oustide. And I love the film as far as I get - Dracula is so creepy, especially when he crawls up the mountain.

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