From my earlier blog on 11/5/19:
Written in 1897, ‘Dracula’ is both a progressive piece of fiction as well as ‘a book of its time’.
When I was around 10 years old I was given a copy as part of a set of classics as a Christmas present. I’m not surprised that I gave up on my first attempt with it. The style of writing is somewhat laborious.
There are overly long sections where the characters are trying to work out what is happening or what to do, interspersed with repetitive motifs around the need for the men to protect the women, and all wrapped up in lagging dialogue. I am sure that many people have managed to read the book as children, but it is clearly not intended for such a young audience.
I found the character of Professor Van Helsing particularly annoying. Dr Seward tells us that he comes from Amsterdam and “… knows as much about obscure diseases as anyone in the world.” He is brought into the novel as ‘the expert’ that the other characters look up to. However, he obviously does not know what is happening to Lucy and Mina at first. He frequently disappears to Amsterdam (why there?) to learn things or gather supplies. The Van Helsing in Stoker’s novel is not the dynamic ‘vampire slayer’ of 2004 Hollywood fame. He is old and frequently given to making long-winded, eloquent soliloquies. How many of his acquaintances would have collapsed from boredom at yet another Van Helsing speech like this one:
“…my good friend John, let me caution you. You deal with the madmen. All men are mad in some way or the other; and inasmuch as you deal discreetly with your madmen, so deal with God’s madmen… You tell not your madmen what you do nor why you do it; you tell them not what you think. So you shall keep knowledge in its place, where it may rest-where it may gather its kind around it and breed. You and I shall keep as yet what we know… I have for myself thoughts at the present. Later I shall unfold to you.” – all Van Helsing means is that he and John Seward should keep a secret, and that he has something else to reveal later on!
On the other hand, Van Helsing is determined and brave. He deals with Lucy’s undead body in the tomb, he travels with Mina back to Castle Dracula, and he butchers the 3 undead bodies of Dracula’s lady companions.
In an age where women were not treated as equals by men, all of Mina’s companions at times overcome the constraints of ‘polite society’ to listen to her wisdom, give her a weapon, and take her into danger.
The book does have some genuinely horrific moments. However, they are spaced out between reams of ‘to and fro’ that leads to little actual action. The final demise of Dracula in his coffin outside the castle was disappointing – I won’t spoiler zone it here, but I expected much more from the closing pages after such a long build-up.
In summary, a good read but with many flaws when viewed from the perspective of modern story-telling.
For me, ‘Dracula’ scores 6/10 on the ‘garlic & stake’ scale of horror.