April 14, 2015

Dracula ~ A Book Review

Book By Bram Stoker
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

“Never did tombs look so ghastly white. Never did cypress, or yew, or juniper so seem the embodiment of funeral gloom. Never did tree or grass wave or rustle so ominously. Never did bough creak so mysteriously, and never did the far-away howling of dogs send such a woeful presage through the night.”
~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
   ~ Bram Stoker, Dracula

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897 and changed the fictional realm of horror forever.  Stoker’s haunting story of death, love, and fantasized monsters brings both inspiration and chills to the reader, thrusting them into a tale mixed to the brim with modern life and early European folklore.  Dracula has made such an impact in the literary world that Bram Stoker’s ideas have been used in many stories since that time.
Despite the grim circumstances and breath-taking drama, Dracula is a powerful story about good vs. evil.  The light of goodness, truth, and holiness are starkly and beautifully contrasted with the darkness of evil, lies, and horror.  Stoker wove a powerful, golden thread of redemption throughout his dark tapestry, so that no matter how dark the night or how desperate the character, there is always some hope left on which they can cling.  The idea of love being more powerful than fear is also present.  Each of the characters are challenged to decide how far they are willing to go for love for each other, and for life itself.
The unforgettable story begins with a man named Jonathan Harker travelling across the Carpathian Mountains to the castle of Count Dracula, where he will be helping with a legal affair.  After the frightening experience of trying to get to the secluded, mysterious castle, Jonathan finds himself the guest of an equally mysterious master.  As time passes, suspicion and fear begin to build, and Jonathan realizes that he is no longer a guest, but a prisoner; Dracula has locked him in the old castle.  A series of harrowing events plague Jonathan and he barely escapes with his life back to England where his fiancé awaits him.
But a long, arduous life has just begun for the heroes of this tale.  A shipwreck on the coast brings with it strange and deadly results and a young woman with sleepwalking issues suddenly begins to look more pale than usual.  With the help of two brilliant doctors and two other stout gentlemen, Harker and his newlywed wife, Mina, are faced with the fact that there is a mythical creature in their midst, and if they do not stop the threat, Dracula will destroy the world they know and love.
Jonathan Harker is a very steadfast, cool-headed man, but his encounter with Dracula and his eerie home leaves a great strain on him, especially when he thinks his life is at stake.  He spends the rest of the story with a burning passion to defeat the monster, but at the same time, he can lapse into a very weak and fearful state, typically more for his bride than himself.
Mina Harker is the faithful, “guiding star” for the men of this tale.  Her loyalty and compassion to her husband is equally, yet properly, shared with the other gentlemen who bond together to destroy Dracula.  When Mina is attacked by Dracula and her life takes a terrible turn, she longs to stay with those she loves, but she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to keep her friends safe.
Dr. Seward is a major piece of the puzzle and he is necessary to the destruction of Dracula.  He specializes in helping the insane and mentally disabled, and when one such man is found to be working for the Count, Seward manages to pry information from the man to help them in their conquest.
Perhaps the greatest protagonist is Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor and former teacher of Dr. Seward.  Van Helsing is the first one to discover what Dracula is and how he can be stopped, and despite the fact that no one believes him, he manages to prove Dracula’s true identity and the means to ending him.  Van Helsing is a quiet, thoughtful man with much faith and brain that ultimately result in the demise of Dracula.
Dracula himself is a creature of much discretion and sinister intent.  As a vampire, he is neither dead nor living, and is called “un-dead” as a result.  He preys on anyone and everyone but with so much secrecy that it is almost impossible to detect.  One of the most remarkable traits that Count Dracula possesses is that he is very patient and slow; with no fear of dying from old age, he has hundreds upon hundreds of years on his hands, and so every movement he makes is bold, but in no rush.
The writing style of Dracula is very unique.  Instead of constant narration, the entire book is split up into journal entries written by the main characters, gatherings of newspaper clippings, letters, telegrams, etc.  In addition, the ways the words are written or constructed vary, depending on which character is writing or recording.  However, on an overall note, the understandability of the story can be difficult, due to the older way of speaking and writing, also, based on the long, winding plot line and information that comes with it.
Abraham Stoker was born on November 8, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland, the third of seven children.  Stoker was bedridden for the first several years of his life from an unknown disease or illness, but by age seven, he was completely recovered and able to attend a private school; he never suffered from any major illness again.  In his early adulthood, Stoker married Florence Balcombe, who had been previously courted by his friend, Oscar Wilde.  The Stokers moved to London, where their only child was born, and Stoker became the theater manager for Henry Irving, a famous actor.  There he was introduced to notable people, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and on traveling to America, president Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Walt Whitman.  Dracula was written in 1897, but never attracted much popularity until after his death on April 20, 1912.
Though the story and its characters are fascinating and enjoyable, some of the content may be unsuitable for young or sensitive readers.  There are a few instances of swearing, but they are mild and not used flippantly.  There is some romance between two couples without the book, but nothing intimate is ever recorded or hinted.  Several of the female vampires that appear in the story are described as intensely lovely and they act rather seductively in hopes of luring in prey, but the characters shun such creatures.
            The intensity of the story can be overwhelming.  Several beloved characters die, and one, who died a as a vampire, must be mutilated after death to keep her from attacking innocent children, which she had been doing.  Blood is a central theme and gory idea that fuels the story along, so it may be unpleasant to read.  There is also a mentally insane man who eats flies, spiders, birds, and wants to eat cats, as well, and his death may be distressing.
            The progression of Dracula’s stunning plot line is neat, concise and has left very little room for argumentation, barring the fact that vampires are works of fictitious imagination. All the characters, from gentle and graceful Mina to the intelligent and thoughtful Van Helsing are almost like living creatures that grow and live within the tale.  Bram Stoker has painted a breathing portrait of a world about to be undone by the un-dead.
            Dracula was not the first story about vampires, but by it, a path was forged through the uncharted territory of fiction that still progresses today.  One of Bram Stoker’s characters once said, “I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.” Stoker tried to create a piece of far-fetched fiction into a tale that would seem so real it could bite you, and that is exactly what he did.   Dracula is an amazing, thrilling, haunting tale about the search for light in the darkest places, love in the most hopeless times, and peace from the dreaded monster, Count Dracula.  

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are inspiring and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (For a gripping, unmatched storyline)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (For difficult, archaic writing style)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Intense and graphic sequences, more suitable for an older audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Dracula by Bram Stoker is 4 out of a possible 6 positive points.

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