Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If I had read this just to read it, I'm not sure how I would have felt about it. As study material, it was very interesting. Going into the book with such things in mind as the Victorian era, Romanticism, Gothic revival, Industrialism and Feminism, it was a much more significant read than it would have been otherwise. I won't take the time to analyze those elements here, except to say that I think it's worth learning just a bit about those elements before beginning the book.
I've never watched any of the Dracula films adaptations, but this story has become so entrenched in our pop culture that I couldn't help going into it with some preconceived notions. Many of which were not consistent with the book. Dracula's appearance in the movies is always smooth; hairless for the most part. In the book he is hairy all over. And though he's definitely a creepy guy, the creepiness is more subtle. He's a gentleman, well educated, and better spoken than most of the English characters in the book. His relationship to wolves is also different than I expected. His plays the master over wolves, as well as most other beasts. Though Dracula is nocturnal, the whole getting-killed-by-the-sun thing didn't get added to the legend until later. Big D appears in sunlight several times throughout the book. And the famous creepy "Good Evening" is actually "Good morning."
Van Helsing was also a bit of a surprise to me. I had no idea this character came from this book. The only previous exposure I'd had to him was the Hugh Jackman movie. Stoker's Van Helsing could not be more different from this Hollywood version. Even ignoring my preconceived notions about him, I can't help feeling a bit dissatisfied with this character. All throughout the book, I wanted some of his background to be revealed. Where did this scientific, learned man get his information and experience with vampire hunting? The book never says. In my mind, this is one of the deficiencies that keeps Dracula from being a book worthy of multiple readings.
Over all, I'd say this is definitely worth reading over, even if you don't have to do it for school. Do so with caution though. One of the things that prevented me from reading it before is that I thought it was going to be very scary. I did not find it so. At least it was not explicitly violent or sexual. However, there were several people, both in my class and in my book club, who had a hard time with it. The superstitious elements were strong and the people who were sensitive to superstitions got pretty freaked out. Others were sensitive to the implied violence, especially towards children. The sexual undertones were very subtle. I wouldn't have noticed most of them if the footnotes hadn't commented on them. I didn't think it was offensive in that respect. So read at your own risk.
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