The difficulty with reading classical literature is the lack of astonishment at its climax, for it is so immersed in popular culture of our day. Such was my encounter with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is considered the grandfather of all vampire literature. While the writing itself was wonderful, the story still suspenseful; the climax faltered as current interpretations are far more grisly then the original novel and thus ruined the expected revulsion.
Many Gothic novels are read as metaphors. Unlike, last week’s novel The Picture of Dorian Grey, whereupon the metaphorical conscience, morals, and ethics are alluded, Dracula is seen as the expressing or suppressing, as the case may be, the sexual appetite of the Victorians. In this instance, Dracula would be the libido or desire. Dracula proves difficult to capture and kill. Take that how you will metaphorically. As typical with many newly published novels, it did not reach its acclaimed status until decades later.
I was surprised yet charmed of the epistolary format. In general, I am not an admirer of multiple viewpoints, but Stoker managed to maintain my interest in the story. I delighted in all their perspectives, expect for Lucy’s, who I found frustratingly insipid, but I suppose that is precisely the point, for Lucy to be a foil to Mina’s stronger, determined character.
The little particulars within the novel caught me unaware. After I read the transfusion scene, I researched the medical process, believing it to be a relatively revolutionary medical procedure during the Victorian era. I am sheepish to admit I was horribly wrong. Apparently, the first successful blood transfusions occurred in the late 1600s. By the time Stoker penned his masterpiece, blood transfusions had been around for almost 300 years. Oh.
During the course of my reading, I resulted in lots of side-research, from utilizing cartographic images to locate destinations, investigating blood transfusions as per above explanation, and keeping my dictionary beside me as per usual.
I believe many of my contemporaries would share similar sentiments on the disappointment of the climactic death scene. We have been spoiled by modern cinematic renditions, who strangely omit the character of Renfield; whom I find slightly more disturbing then the Count himself!
What were your reactions to Dracula, as a modern reader?
Be sure to check in next Wednesday for another Victorian horror story critique.