Hello everybody and welcome to this week’s TBT Best Seller Edition! To continue to ride the wave of “throwback meets Halloween,” it only makes sense to now turn our attention to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Portraying the most famous vampire both in literature and television (sorry Twilight and Vampire Diary fans), Dracula, which was published in 1897, continues to shock its readers and viewers to this day. It never fails to get taken off the shelves, nor do production companies cease to release adaptations of it. Written as a collection of journal entries and a couple of newspaper clippings, you’ll easily find yourself blasting through this book faster than Dracula can steal some dinner for his Brides.
Bram Stoker crafted his story using various inspirations, one of which was the real-life Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. Born in 1431 in Transylvania, Vlad III (the Impaler) was referenced as the “son of Dracul,” or “Drăculea” in old Romanian, after his father, Vlad II, was inducted into the knightly Order of the Dragon. Through Vlad II’s introduction is how he was granted the surname of “Dracul.” Vlad III became voivode (or a military leader) of Wallachia and immediately exacted a cease in paying tribute to the Ottoman empire, which was previously maintaining peace between Wallachia and the Ottomans. How he got his name, though, was by having hundreds of Wallachia boyars come for a banquet, where they would be stabbed and their bodies impaled on spikes (apparently while they were still twitching).
However, this is not the only piece of history that made its way into Dracula. Another is the story of a ship, the Dmitri, which crashed ashore at Whitby Harbor. Does that name ring a bell? The Dmitri originated in Varna, a port city in Bulgaria, and had been carrying crates of sand. Not only this but while investigating the ship, there were reports of a black dog leaping from the ship and bounding its way up nearly 200 steps to the Saint Mary Church. Are the bells ringing yet? This might remind you of a certain section of Dracula, where the journal entries and newspaper clipping shift from the usual portfolio of perspectives in order to portray a mysterious encounter and series of disappearances on a ship, the Demeter, before the captain tied his hands to the wheel, held a crucifix, and eventually, the ship landed on the shore in Whitby Harbor. However, Bram Stoker’s version of the story, of course, causes readers to believe that Dracula is responsible for the curious series of events.
Finally, there is the incorporation of Bram Stoker’s own life. Stoker began writing Dracula only one month after his “frenemy” and fellow writer, Oscar Wilde, was convicted of sodomy. Many people are actually unaware of the long-term friendship shared between the two, but it lasted more than twenty years. Bram Stoker’s wife was even courted first by Oscar Wilde. Not only this, but many scholars speculate that Bram Stoker’s sexuality could have also been that of a homosexual nature, given his practically-abstinent marriage, his relationship with Wilde, and other factors. Therefore, when Wilde was put on trial, Stoker then began articulating a more homoerotic language in his own writing, possibly due to a greater amount of internal conflict. Scholars who believe this to be the case use much of Wilde’s trial as evidence for why Dracula can be interpreted as a queer novel.
Many, however, already believed that Dracula could be seen as a feminist novel as well. This is due to some of the sexual liberation that occurs, as well as the fact that all of the women in the novel have some sort of power over the men surrounding them. We have Lucy, who behaves not at all how we would imagine a Victorian Era woman to behave, given her carefree and nonchalant attitude, as well as her three suitors who are all head-over-heels for her. We also have the Brides of Dracula, who completely break the barrier which used to prevent women from having the ability to express and act upon their own sexual desires. Finally, we have Mina, who is the most in-touch with her traditional nature, but is also so witty that, if not for her, we would not be able to read about Dracula’s downfall. This is because she is supposed to be the one who transcribed and pieced together all of the journal entries and newspaper clippings that make up the novel, as well as the fact that she played an elemental role in the group’s ability to defeat Dracula.
Long story short, Dracula is the story of a man who goes to Transylvania to do work with Count Dracula. He keeps a journal of his travels, which makes up the first couple of chapters of the books. Then, the book shifts into more of a variation of narrators as we are then given journal entries and letters coming mostly from Jonathan’s fiancé, Mina, as well as others. No matter who the source is, though, strange events are always just around the corner. After a couple of disappearances, a death, a re-birth followed by a secondary death, you won’t be able to put this book down. Not to mention the love-triangles, sacrifice, and heartbreak that you would expect from something more in the likes of a BBC soap opera. For anybody who is new to Dracula, it’s easy to assume that it’s just your typical old-school horror novel, but there is so much more than meets the eye and there truly is something for everyone.
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise as to why Dracula has been featured in over 200 movies. The first adaptation was released in 1922, a silent film-version of Stoker’s novel, instead called Nosferatu. Personally, I’m more used to movies like Van Helsing, released in 2004, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, released in 1992. There’s also the Hotel Transylvania series, which I am not ashamed to say I am a huge fan of. So, while I highly recommend you give the book a try, if you’re a little crunched on time you can also take your pick on a film adaptation as another way to get you into the spooky Halloween spirit.