Stoker, Bram - Dracula
Date of first publication: 1897
Date of composition: 1891-1897
1. NarratorThe story is told through a collection of journal entries, letters and telegrams, written or recorded by the main characters: Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Dr. John Seward, Lucy Westenra and Dr. Van Helsing. The narrators are non-omniscient because they come to know the events after their happening. Also internals because they are involved into the story.
2. Point of viewThe point of view is that of every main character involved into the story, who reports his/her perspectives and thoughts in his/her journal. So, there is a mixture of points of view.
3. PlotJonathan Harker travelled to Transylvania to conclude an estate transaction with the so-called Count Dracula. As Harker arrived in the picturesque countryside, people warned him about his destination, giving him crucifixes and other charms against evil, and pronouncing strange words that Harker later translated into “vampire.” Along the way to the castle, Harker and the count’s carriage who led him to the castle were attacked by angry wolves; upon arriving at the castle, Harker found Dracula as a well educated and hospitable gentleman but, after only a few days, Harker discovered that the count possessed supernatural powers and diabolical ambitions and that he was effectively a prisoner in the castle. One evening, while prisoner, Harker was attacked by three attractive and seductive female vampires, but the count found them and sent them out, saying that Harker belonged to him. After that, Harker tried to escape from the castle by climbing down the walls.
Meanwhile, in England, Mina Murray, Harker’s fiancée, wrote some letters to her friend Lucy and then, coming to know Lucy was going to get married with Arthur Holmwood, one of her three suitors (the others were Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris), went to visit her at the seaside town of Withby. Near Whitby’s harbour, a Russian ship was wrecked on the shore with a set of boxes of earth shipped from Castle Dracula, but the only sign of life aboard was a dog, that jumped off the ship and disappeared into the countryside.
Not long after, one night Lucy suddenly began sleepwalking. Mina found Lucy in the town cemetery and saw something dark with red eyes bending over Lucy: it was Dracula. As time went on, Lucy revealed two tiny red marks on her throat and became pale and ill, but neither Dr. Seward nor Mina could find a satisfactory solution for her. Dr. Seward decided to apply to his old mentor Van Helsing.
Jonathan Harker reappeared in Budapest and took shelter in a nunnery; he sent a letter to Mina asking her to rejoin and get married. So it was.
Meanwhile, Van Helsing, after his initial examination of Lucy, discovered that she had been vampirised and so ordered to cover her chamber with garlic, a traditional charm against vampires. For a while, this effort seemed to begin to work on Lucy’s illness, but her mother removes the garlic from the room, leaving Lucy vulnerable to further attacks by Dracula.
Seward and Van Helsing spent several days trying to save Lucy performing blood transfusions, but their efforts came to nothing. One night, as the men let down their guard, a wolf broke into the house and killed Lucy. After her death, Van Helsing led Holmwood, Seward, and Quincey Morris to Lucy’s tomb and he tried to convince them that Lucy belonged to the “Un-Dead”, to the Devil, and that she had been transformed into a vampire. The men remained unconvinced but, when they saw Lucy preying on a defenseless child, they decided to destroy her. While Lucy was sleeping, Holmwood plunged a stake through her heart and then one of them cut off her head and stuffed her mouth with garlic. After, they proposed to destroy Dracula himself.
Mina and Jonathan, now married, returned to England and joined forces with the others against Dracula. Mina helped Van Helsing to collect the various diary and journal entries that Harker, Seward, and the others had written before, trying to reconstruct a narrative that would lead them to the count; so they tracked down the boxes of earth that Dracula used as a sanctuary during the night from Dracula’s castle.
Despite their action, Renfield, the count’s devotee and one of the mental patients of Seward, helped Dracula to find their asylum and so the count could prey on Mina.
As Mina was slowly becoming a vampire, the men sterilized the boxes of earth, forcing Dracula to flee to Transylvania. They pursued the count across Europe and, when all them reached for the Castle, Van Helsing took Mina with him, they killed the three female vampires and Jonathan and Quincey used knives to destroy the count Dracula.
A centuries-old vampire and Transylvanian nobleman, Count Dracula inhabits a crumbling castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Beneath a veneer of aristocratic charm, the count possesses a dark and evil soul. He can assume the form of an animal, control the weather, and he is stronger than twenty men. His powers are limited: he cannot enter a victim’s home unless invited, cannot cross water unless carried, and is rendered powerless by daylight. As a vampire, Dracula inverts one of the principal Catholic sacraments: holy Communion. Dracula prolongs and revitalizes his physical life by drinking the real blood of humans. His face is a strong aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows are very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seems to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, under the heavy moustache, is fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protrud over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. His ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin is broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. He is extremely pale. He has hairs in the centre of the palm and his nails are long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. About his family, Dracula says that they Szekelys have a right to be proud, in their veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights for lordship. He says also that Attila’s blood is in his veins. They were a proud and conquering race, they drove back the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk. Dracula also says: “Who more gladly than we throughout the Four Nations received the `bloody sword,' or at its warlike call flocked quicker to the standard of the King? When was redeemed that great shame of my nation, the shame of Cassova, when the flags of the Wallach and the Magyar went down beneath the Crescent?Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed![...] We of the Dracula blood were amongst their leaders, for our spirit would not brook that we were not free. Ah, young sir, the Szekelys, and the Dracula as their heart's blood, their brains, and their swords, can boast a record that mushroom growths like the Hapsburgs and the Romanoffs can never reach”.
A solicitor, or lawyer, whose firm sends him to Transylvania to conclude a real estate transaction with Dracula. Young and naïve, Harker quickly finds himself a prisoner in the castle and barely escapes with his life. He demonstrates a fierce curiosity to discover the true nature of his captor and a strong will to escape. Later, after becoming convinced that the count has moved to London, Harker emerges as a brave and fearless fighter.
She’s Jonathan Harker’s fiancée. Mina is a practical young woman who works as a schoolmistress. Victimized by Dracula herself, Mina is also the best friend of the count’s first victim in the novel, Lucy Westenra. Mina is in many ways the heroine of the novel, embodying purity, innocence, and Christian faith and virtues. She maintains despite her suffering at the vampire’s hands. She is intelligent and resourceful, and her research leads Van Helsing’s men to Castle Dracula. She is “one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble. . . .” . She is not most noteworthy for her physical beauty, which spares Mina her friend’s fate of being transformed into a voluptuous she-devil. Mina’s sexuality remains enigmatic throughout the whole of Dracula. Though she marries, she never gives voice to anything resembling a sexual desire or impulse, which enables her to retain her purity. Indeed, the entire second half of the novel concerns the issue of Mina’s purity.
She’s Mina’s best friend and an attractive and vivacious young woman. The first character in the novel to fall under Dracula’s spell, Lucy becomes a vampire, which compromises her much-praised chastity and virtue, and banishes her soul from the promise of eternal rest. Determined that such an end is unfit for an English lady of Lucy’s caliber, Van Helsing’s crew hunts down the demon she has become and kills it, following the rituals of vampire slaying, and thus restoring Lucy’s soul to her body and to heaven. Lucy differs from her friend in one crucial aspect, however, she is sexualized. Lucy’s physical beauty captivates each of her suitors, and she displays a comfort or playfulness about her desirability that Mina never feels.
He is an old Dutch professor, an experienced and competent man, described by his former pupil Dr. Seward as “a philosopher and metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day.” Called to cure Lucy, Van Helsing’s contributions are essential in the fight against Dracula. Van Helsing is not blinded by the limitations of Western medicine: he knows that he faces a force that cannot be treated with traditional science and reason. Knowledgeable about vampire folklore, Van Helsing becomes Dracula’s chief antagonist and the leader of the group that hunts Dracula down and destroys him. He is initially the only character who possesses an open-mind enough to contemplate and address Dracula’s particular brand of evil.
A talented young doctor, formerly Van Helsing’s pupil. Seward is the administrator of an insane asylum not far from Dracula’s English home. Throughout the novel, Seward conducts ambitious interviews with one of his patients, Renfield, in order to understand better the nature of life-consuming psychosis. Although Lucy turns down Seward’s marriage proposal, his love for her remains, and he dedicates himself to her care when she suddenly takes ill. After her death, he remains dedicated to fighting the count.
He’s Lucy’s fiancé and a friend of her other suitors. Arthur is the son of Lord Godalming and inherits that title after his father’s death. In the course of his fight against Dracula’s dark powers, Arthur does whatever circumstances demand: he is the first to offer Lucy a blood transfusion, and he agrees to kill her demonic form.
He’s the American Lucy’s suitors. Quincey proves himself a brave and good-hearted man. Quincey ultimately sacrifices his life in order to rid the world of Dracula’s influence.
He’s a patient at Seward’s mental asylum. Variously a strong behemoth and a refined gentleman, Renfield indulges a habit of consuming living creatures, flies, spiders, birds, and so on,which he believes provide him with strength, vitality, and life force. He’s the devotee of count Dracula.
She’s Lucy’s mother. Mrs. Westenra inadvertently sabotages her daughter’s safety by interfering with Van Helsing’s folk remedies. She dies of shock when a wolf leaps through Lucy’s bedroom window.
5. THEMES“Dracula” is a mixture of important themes and motifs that help to develop and inform us on the text’s major themes. I think that one cannot exist without the others. However, the main theme in the novel is blood because it functions in many ways in the novel. Its first mention comes when the count tells Harker that “blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonorable peace”. The count proudly recounts his family history, relating blood to one’s ancestry, to the “great races” that have, in Dracula’s view, withered. The count foretells the coming of a war between lineages: between the East and the West, the ancient and the modern, and the evil and the good.
Later, the depictions of Dracula and his minions feeding on blood suggest the exchange of bodily fluids associated with sexual intercourse: Lucy is “drained” to the point of nearly passing out after the count penetrates her. The vampires’ drinking of blood echoes the Christian rite of Communion, but in a perverted sense. Rather than gain eternal spiritual life by consuming wine that has been blessed to symbolize Christ’s blood, Dracula drinks actual human blood in order to extend his physical, but quite soulless, life. The importance of blood in Christian mythology elevates the battle between Van Helsing’s warriors and the count to the significance of a holy war or crusade. We can connect at this theme the one of Christian Icongraphy and the promise of Christian salvation. The icons of Catholic worship appear throughout the novel with great frequency. In the early chapters, the peasants of Eastern Europe offer Jonathan Harker crucifixes to steel him against evil. Later, Van Helsing arrives armed with crosses and Communion wafers. It seems that Stoker uses these images to attribute to Van Helsing a religious mission. He is, as he says near the end of the novel, nothing less than a “minister of God’s own wish”.
The promise of Christian salvation is expressed through the folk legends and traditions used by Van Helsing, who believes that they are the most effective weapons in combating supernatural evil. Indeed, in the fight against Dracula, these symbols of good take the form of the icons of Christian faith, such as the crucifix. The novel is so invested in the strength and power of these Christian symbols that it is like a propagandistic Christian promise of salvation. Those who fall under the count’s spell find peace with their soull again: for example the undead Lucy is transformed by her second death into a vision of “unequalled sweetness and purity,” and her soul is returned to her, as is a “holy calm” that “was to reign for ever”.
Another theme of the novel is the threat of female sexuality. In fact, when Dracula arrives in England, both Lucy and Mina are chaste, pure, innocent of the world’s evils, and devoted to their men, but Dracula threatens to turn the two women into women noted for their voluptuousness and open to sexual desire;for exemple, when Lucy becomes a vampire, the only way to save her and to return her to purity is to destroy her.
6. STYLEStoker uses both prose and dialogues, but he makes his characters speak: in effect, the novel is a mixture of diaries written by the main characters, they use prose to tell events and impressions, but they also report the dialogues among them. Structures are both simple and complex and there are a lot of descriptions, key words and obviously symbols. Stoker recurres to a lot of symbols, for example the weired sisters, who represento what women cannot be at the time and also Harker’s dreams and nightmares; he knows that their sexual aggressivity offers him more gratifications than Mina does in the entire novel, but he sees them as a danger. Another symbol is the name of the ship that leads Dracula to England: the Czarina Catherine: it is taken from the Russian empress who was famous for her promiscuity.
The predominant tone are the macabre and mayby extravagant ones, as all the gothic novels...the subject implies this choice! Syntactical structures are complex, but language is quite simple.