Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dracula by Bram Stoker


draculaSUMMARY (from Goodreads): When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client. Soon afterward, disturbing incidents unfold in England – an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby, strange puncture marks appear on a young woman's neck, and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his "Master" – culminating in a battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries.

MY OPINION:

I find it difficult to review Dracula because it is a classic, and not only that, it is a classic about the vampire of all the vampires, and you all know how much I like reading about vampires. That said, I cannot say I enjoyed Dracula, although I liked and appreciated some elements.

One of the reasons for my lack of enjoyment was that I was familiar with the basic story from the movies and a retelling of the novel (Dracula, My Love by Syrie James) I had seen and read beforehand. Therefore, I was not interested in the plot, because I knew what happens next. So, it took me ridiculously long to finish the novel. However, this was not the book's fault.

But then, there were a whole lot of things that bothered me in the book:

  • I was horrified by all the chauvinism in Dracula. I realize it was published in 1897, and written by a man, but that is no excuse – there are plenty other, older male authors whose writing is much less sexist than Stoker's. Unfortunately, this book is a sharp reminder that chauvinism is not something from the past, and that is even more disturbing.
  • Dracula is terribly condescending towards women. Women are called unworthy of men, because men are so intelligent, good, kind,…and women cannot possibly achieve their greatness. Yet, all those strong and brave men weep, yes, weep (what a paradox!). Women are weak and fragile, and they obviously have women's brain, since Mina has "man's brain" (oh, and Dracula has "child-brain"). Naturally, the women are utterly happy to attend to men in every way, there is nothing they could possibly be dissatisfied with.
  • Stoker is similarly patronising towards the poor, the uneducated, and the foreigners. Hence, their characters are full of stereotypes and are always looked down upon by the main protagonists. The main characters are conceited and snobbish, but they think of themselves as noble and kind. At one point Mina openly expresses her delight about "the wonderful power of money" and how fortunate they are to be rich. I found it disgusting.
  • Everybody in the group of the main characters is so kind and sweet and they trust each other so completely the moment they meet and see how fine people they are. The level of sweetness made me sick.
  • All the men are in love with Lucy (and Mina, I think, although it is not  explicitly said in the book), but surely in a purely innocent way, because Lucy is so beautiful and, again, sweet. Of course, they always behave as perfect gentlemen. I am not completely sure of social conventions of the time, but I found it strange how often Lucy is alone in the presence of men and is perfectly all right with it. Even in this day and age I would find it very uncomfortable if men I barely knew were watching me sleep. I would find that much more creepy than some intangible monster that may or may not be somewhere outside.
  • Another thing that bothered me was Lucy's treatment. I recognise that from Stoker's standpoint blood transfusion was a fantastic medical progress. It is so even now. I recognise that mistakes happen on the way towards any kind of achievement, this is after all the way of making progress. But, from the present point of view, performing transfusion with unsterile instruments and without any blood-type knowledge seems stupid.

Finally, there are also things I liked in Dracula:

  • The writing is beautiful.
  • The descriptions are so vivid the places come to life before your eyes.
  • I liked that Stoker's Dracula is an old-school vampire, a powerful creature who can change form and manipulate weather.
  • The traditionally Slavic way of killing a vampire. (Although, I don't like the sacrilegious usage of the Host and religious prejudice Stoker employs in this book.)

Overall, I am giving Dracula 3 stars, because it is a classic and I feel like I should appreciate it more, but as for the level of enjoyment I would give it 2 stars only.

RECOMMENDATION: Even though I did not enjoy Dracula because of many things I found disturbing, I can see the value of some of its elements. After all Dracula is the predecessor of modern paranormal fiction, and you know how much I love that, especially with vampires in it. So, if you like paranormal and  a beautifully written classic, I do recommend you to give Dracula a try.

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