Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Dracula - Classic Novel -
Dracula (1897) By: Bram Stoker
Jonathan Harker heads to the Carpathian Mountains to offer his council to Count Dracula on the purchase of some property in London. On the way, the locals seem wary and constantly try to delay him. Once he arrives he finds his host is more than he seems. Later, a ship of dead men crashes into London harbor with a large black dog being the only survivor. Afterwards, strange things start happening in town.
Dracula is another classic that has a more populous appeal than Frankenstein. It has fewer intricacies and themes, but is much more dramatic and draws the reader in so that they don't want to put it down.
Not to say that it doesn't have very interesting ideas. In one part, an old man talks to Mina and Lucy about the lies that tombstones tell. It is a very interesting and dark bit of humor. Also, Dr. Seward makes some comments of man's view of man in relation to himself. How God views his creations versus how man tends to think he views them are really fascinating to think about.
"These infinitesimal distinctions between man and man are too paltry for an Omnipotent Being. How these madmen give themselves away! The real God taketh heed lest a sparrow fall. But the God created from human vanity sees no difference between an eagle and a sparrow. Oh, if men only knew!"
Lord Godalming aka Arthur Holmwood is Lucy's finance. He uses his influence and money to make the heroes' hunt for Dracula smoother. He is devoted to Lucy and we get to experience his shock, anguish, and drive through the others. He takes the leading in hunting and tracking, but is assisted by Quincey. Each of our heroes has a part to play, though the film versions often omit or combine them.
Quincey Morris is a Texan and a former suitor of Lucy's. He is also an experienced hunter. He uses American slang and is the quickest to jump into a fight. While many of his mannerism are cliche Texan, he has a soft, gentlemanly side. He really feels for his friends and would do anything for them.
Doctor John Seward is one of our POV characters, one of Lucy's suitors, and a doctor at the sanitarium. He is the man who calls in Van Helsing, though even he doubts his former mentor at times. Through him we get lots of insight from Renfield as well as learning about Lucy and Van Helsing. he starts out a bit know it all, but soon warmed as a solid member of the team.
Jonathan Harker is another of our POV characters, Mina's fiance (husband later), and is a solicitor who is originally contracted to buy a house for Dracula. Jonathan is often portrayed as kind of a wuss in Dracula film adaptions and this is unfair, since he is quite brave in the novel. He has periods of insanity and self-doubt, but he mans up and does what needs to be done.
Mina Murray-Harker is the fiance (wife later) and assistant to Jonathan. Many of the film adaptions portray her as a smitten young woman, but that is not how she is portrayed in the novel. She is a strong capable woman who really only gets in trouble due to the sexist ignorance of her male counterparts. There is a curious sense of feminism about her story that is difficult to pin down.
Abraham Van Helsing is the old expert of everything. His age limits him from being able to take on Dracula and his ilk alone. He also realizes how crazy he could sound and introduces the characters to the darker side of the world slowly. He gets a bit talkative toward the end, but he ends up being every bit the methodical demon hunter he's cracked up to be.
Lucy is a popular lady who is the love of Dr. Seward, Mr. Morris, and Lord Godlaming. She is the character we first get to see plagued by Dracula. The effect is scary, and their fight is an uphill battle.
Renfield is a patient at the insane asylum who has fallen under the thrall of Dracula. Through his point of view we get many creepy scenes and some vital information about the count. He is a strange, but likeable tortured character.
Dracula is quite mysterious and disguises his presence quite well. Without the combined experience of all the characters it is really doubtful that he could have been defeated. Dracula is at the height of his power in this. He is able to transform into: a wolf, a bat, a dog, and fog. He is able to travel using moonlight and he can summon storms, fog and wind. Not to mention the typical vampire abilities of strength and speed. They use 'less is more' to great effect in showing only Dracula at his most mysterious and powerful. He is not often present, but drives every aspect of the plot anyway.
The descriptions and pacing draw you into the story fantastically. The characters are smoothly introduced, so by then time we get an excerpt from them we've gotten a description or mention of them from another character beforehand.
In the End
Right before the end there are a lot of drawn out planning and discussion scenes leading into the rather abrupt finale. The ending was satisfying and surprisingly dark. The final confrontation with Dracula could have been a bit more climactic and clear.
This book is full of suspense and horror that is well executed. The plot threads that seem distant and numerous at the beginning slowly wind into a masterful story that still holds up today. From Jonathan's thrilling exploits in Castle Dracula to the harrowing chase at the end. I can recommend Dracula as something anyone can enjoy.
Remember, it's free for Kindle and from Project Gutenberg!