Sunday, 9 August 2015

Dracula: the character and the book

Dracula: The character's bigger than the book. I'm not referring to the classic-ness of the book or its significance; I'm not thinking of all those adaptations and sequels, prequels, spin-offs and comic books and video games and Halloween costumes and references in popular culture nor the whole vampire subculture the book inspired.
What I mean is something else. If you think about it, the Count is barely there, in the book. He appears the 1st time on page 10, but doesn't come forward as Count Dracula until page 16. This is Jonathan Harker's journal- Jonathan and we, readers, are with him until page 52 (the 1st part of the journal ends on page 53, followed by Mina's letter to Lucy). From then on, Dracula's barely in the foreground. He rarely appears, and each time it's very brief- sucking Lucy's blood, passing by and being seen by the Harkers, attacking Mina, controlling Renfield... His depiction is built on the things that suggest his presence (e.g. wolves, bats, boxes, etc.), the things that he affects/ ruins/ destroys (e.g. Renfield, Lucy, Mina, etc.) and the things that show people's terror (e.g. the cross, the crucifix, etc.). In addition is Van Helsing's telling of the myth about vampires and the Draculas. The character's almost always in the background though the name's almost always in the foreground- people think about him, talk about him, tell each other about him and plan to kill him. The book is an elaboration of the vampire myth, and a creation of the Dracula myth. The Count is in a sense outside the book, bigger than it and beyond it.
And of courses afterwards the character gets larger and larger and a lot larger beyond Bram Stoker's novel. That's apparently the highest achievement of the book. 

I'm on page 327. The story will end on page 378. The Count just had a brief appearance and has gone again. 


  1. The themes of the book are supported and advanced by other elements including character, so I think I disagree with your argument because themes are more important. Dracula lives in our minds only because of what he represents, and what he represents is universal rather than specific to one character.

    1. What themes are you thinking of?

    2. (1) We demonize differences.
      (2) We insist upon polarization of good and evil.
      (3) We do not always understand our own weaknesses.
      (4) Our "dark side" is more normal than we would care to admit.

    3. Do you mean to say that Dracula and the vampires are good, just demonised for being different?

    4. DI, that is a great example of an idea that later writers who have used Dracula have pursued. The Dracula Tapes (1975) by Fred Saberhagen is a good example. The novel retells the story from Dracula's point of view. Like you, he finds Van Helsing to be extremely frustrating. It is quite funny.

    5. Yeah I can see why it's interesting. Dracula's point of view.
      Should I read that book?
      I'm still thinking if Stephenie Meyer had read Dracula before she wrote Twilight.
      I think people are generally frustrated by Van Helsing's silence. It got on my nerves a bit, but I can see why he tells no one till later. It's his English and all of his talks about Mina's goodness that frustrate me.

  2. "What he represents" is flexible and easily detachable from the novel itself.