Dracula by Bram Stoker


Goodreads: Dracula
Series: None
Source: Free ebook
Published: 1897


Count Dracula of Transylvania engages the services of English solicitor Jonathan Harker to help him move to London.  But Jonathan has strange visions while in Dracula’s castle–and stranger things begin happening in London once Dracula’s ship arrives.  Only Professor Van Helsing, called to London to help the mysteriously ailing Lucy Westenra, seems to have any answers, but he will have to convince his friends to believe in the impossible if he is to put a stop to the evil he believes is invading England.


I was first caught off guard by the structure of this book, which is told in epistolary form from a plethora of points of view.  This wouldn’t be highly unusual, except that the first several chapters are entirely one John Harker’s journal—so readers never expect that the following chapters will be written by about five different characters, and will be much shorter than Harker’s sections.  As a result, the book feels unbalanced.  Of course, such disorientation may be an effect for which Stoker is striving.  Indeed, the fact that Dracula’s entire tale is put together piecemeal by different sources allows some shred of doubt to creep into readers’ minds that any of the story actually happened.  Readers can choose to reject it all as improbable and circumstantial and then slink back to a safe reality where vampires don’t exist.

And a world without vampires sounds very desirable while one reads this book.  Stoker’s vampires have a bit of the sex appeal that characterize more modern vampires—they’re young, beautiful, and seductive—but that appeal is tempered by the aura of complete evil they exude.  Stoker draws very explicit parallels between Dracula and Satan and emphasizes that the souls of the Undead are barred from heaven.  Still, Dracula is not a “scary” book.  The plot is fairly obvious so there is little suspense, and there is a sense that vampires go after very specific people, and you’ll notice if they’re after you.  No need to fear bumps in the night, or strange flapping at your window, after reading this one.  However, it does have just the right amount of delicious creepiness, as readers are forced to watch with some type of fascinated horror as Dracula plots his grand scheme to take London and drains his first victims.

Although Dracula sounds uncomplicatedly like “evil incarnate,” he is basically the most complex character.  Like all vampires, he has some duality, as he was once human and is now something completely different.  His two natures do not ever seem in competition (nor do any vampires’ in the book), but the human characters seem to be aware of them and willing to fight for the human soul they believe is still waiting, somewhere, for its chance to rest.

Everyone besides Dracula is fairly one-dimensional.  The women, in particular, are essentially the ideal of womanhood—sweet, quiet, pure, and devoted to the men in their lives.  They serves as a symbol of all that is good in the world and inspire men to go forth and battle evil (i.e. vampires).  However, the flatness didn’t bother me.  In the first place, it’s characteristic of a lot of literature of this time period, so I was hardly surprised.  In the second place, I can get behind an “ideal” woman once in a while.  They are, after all, quite nice people.  Also, Stoker does imbue his with a little bit of spunk and intelligence, even if the men in the story are more content to admire such intelligence and courage rather than allow the women to actually use it.

So, Dracula isn’t my favorite classic.  It never really caught me off guard, either with a surprising plot twist or any particularly acute philosophical thoughts.  It is relatively straightforwardly a battle between the good and the evil in the world.  However, solid prose and a somewhat meandering plot that readers need to stick together make it an enjoyable read, and one worth investing time in.  Also, it’s a classic that has had a significant impact on much of current popular culture—so why not read it?

12 thoughts on “Dracula by Bram Stoker

  1. Stephanie B says:

    This is one of my favorite classics! I have to say though that my two favorite characters were Quincey and Renfield. While Dracula himself didn’t ever really give me the chills or creep me out, Renfield did. So glad you liked it!


    • Briana says:

      Renfield is very interesting! One of the scariest things about him is that he clearly has no idea why type of evil he’s getting himself into. He just thinks there’s something natural about the fact that drinking a living thing’s blood would give the drinker more life.


  2. atoasttodragons says:

    I’ve read this book a number of times. In my younger years I never quite “got it.” I liked it well enough, but I was a fantasy aficionado looking for spell battles and battles galore. I reread it just a year or so ago and came away convinced it was a masterpiece. The atmosphere it develops and the writing as excerpts really worked well together. Anyway, that was my take.


    • Briana says:

      I actually think I might appreciate it more on a second reading, as well. To be honest, I had absolutely no background knowledge of this, even though it’s a classic. (I hadn’t even realized it’s an epistolary novel. Oops!) But I do think it would be worth looking more closely at how the excerpts piece together, and the timelines, among other things.


  3. SarahClare says:

    I struggled with the ‘form’ this book is written in. The epistolary is something I avoid like the plague, but I read this because heck, it’s freakin’ DRACULA!

    I got to study it for one of my modules last year and it gave me a perspective I previously hadn’t considered: contemporary context. It’s impossible to say what Stoker’s stance on women’s sexuality was exactly, but there is certainly a sense of demonizing it within Dracula.

    Anyway! Great review here! I enjoyed reading this, and revisiting the book for a few mintues, very much.


    • Briana says:

      Off-hand, I can’t think of an epistolary novel I love, but they’re also not as common as other novel forms. I think epistles just have a greater chance of being dry because the average person would write a straightforward, factual account of events rather than one with fancy prose or fast pacing.

      I did get the sense the women were expected to have some type of pure detachment. The most repulsive thing about the female vampires was not that they were going to kill John, but that they had some type of desire. They were also judged for looking voluptuous, as if that’s something that would really be within their control.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Terpsichore says:

    You know what struck me most about Dracula? The fact that the Eucharistic Host could be used as a sort of weapon. It definitely underscores the evilness of the monstrous undead, as well as showing the power of Holy Communion. Super awesome – especially when it’s used to keep Dracula from setting up his resting places wherever he likes.


    • Briana says:

      Yes! That really did highlight that this was a battle between good and evil, and it emphasized the power of the Eucharist. (As a side note, I really enjoyed how shocked the other characters were when they realized Van Helsing was just walking around with consecrated hosts. I also really want to know what he had to tell a priest in order to get the dispensation to do it!)


  5. jubilare says:

    My impression was very similar to yours. I liked it, but it’s not a favorite, and the flatness of a lot of the characters didn’t bother me as it does in most books. I liked the form, too.


  6. DoingDewey says:

    Great summary of this one! I also felt pretty similar. Despite how evil vampires clearly are, they weren’t very scary, the treatment of women is very strange and sexist, and there weren’t any surprises here. I did enjoy reading it just as a classic though. It’s nice to be familiar with such a well known book🙂


    • Briana says:

      I definitely think books are scariest when there’s either the sense that the monster can come after you personally, or there’s the sense you can do nothing to stop the monster if it does come after you. Stoker’s vampires are terrible, but they have a lot of weaknesses, one major one being that you have to invite them into your house! I also feel that the book gives you so many way to recognize the threat of a vampire, and then ways to repel vampires, that you don’t seem to have much to worry about.


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