Introduction to Dracula

This Gothic masterpiece of horror by Bram Stoker, Dracula, first appeared on the shelves in 1897 and instantly won recognition for the author, vying for long. Bram Stoker became a household name in Ireland and the world after a few years on account of the character of Dracula. The fantasy vampire novel has been set in Transylvania and England, showing a count, Dracula, moving to England to find new blood to stay alive but is caught after a long battle with Van Helsing, and finally killed. The popularity of the novel shows its slippery quality of being placed under every other category of novels. The novel has been adapted for a film about 30 times, and its characters have made almost a thousand appearances in nearly all forms of media.

Summary of Dracula

The story starts with Jonathan Harker, an English legal consultant in the eighteenth, visiting the castle of Count Dracula about a transaction of purchasing a mansion in London. The castle is located on an imaginary land of Transylvania, a countryside area, where the local farmers pray for Harker’s safety, warning him about threats to his life. Nervous, in his determination and resolve, he meets the Count in Borgo pass, his castle, after confronting wolves and accidents on the way. Finding the crumbling castle further plays havoc with his fraught nerves. Although his accommodations are comfortable, Harker finds Count Dracula to be some pale and gaunt man, rather strange. Harker is shocked when, after accidentally cutting himself while shaving, the Count lunges at Harker’s throat in “demoniac fury.”

As soon as Jonathan sees the noose tightening around his neck, he panics and realizes the frightening diabolical powers of the Count. He daily waits for a new sign when one night, three female vampires attack him. Yet but finds himself saved by Dracula, who shoves away the vampires. Harker also discovers the Count’s secret, which is he survives by drinking the blood of human beings and, now, his next victim would be Harker. Jonathan, following this hair-raising incident, tries to cross the walls to escape the fortress. On the other hand, his fiancée, Mina, and her friend Lucy are discussing the prospects of Lucy with some suitors when Mina visits her town. After reaching there, she comes to know about the wreckage of a Russian ship with only a living dog left on it and some earth-filled boxes from the castle. Mina worries that Lucy has gone back to her old habit of sleepwalking and also how she hadn’t heard from her fiancé Jonathan for a long time. Mina one night senses something strange with a shadow hovering over her when she visits some graveyard during her sleepwalk. Seeing risks to her life after witnessing marks on her neck, she calls for Dr. Seward, who consults Professor Van Helsing, and both arrive at a superstitious conclusion about some vampire.

Meanwhile, Jonathan also appears in Budapest and calls for Mina. During this time, Professor Van Helsing comes to Whitby to inspect Lucy and suggests garlic as the main ingredient of her treatment. It seems that the garlic has done the work of an elixir, as she starts recovering but her mother, unknowingly, removes it from her room, leaving her at the mercy of the vampires, though Seward and Van Helsing reach there on time, they had had to take necessary steps of compensating her for blood shortage in her body. Meanwhile, Lucy’s mother suffers a cardiac arrest and breathes her last, while the wolves attack the house, killing Lucy on the spot. Following her burial, Professor Van Helsing suggests killing the vampires by visiting her tomb and asks Holmwood and Seward to accompany him. He suggests to them about the un-deadness condition of Lucy that they believe after witnessing her sucking blood from a child. Soon they reach her burial place and perform the ritual to destroy her to send her soul to its eternal abode and resolve to do the same with Dracula. The main point is to save the general public from this threat.

During this time, Jonathan marries Mina and joins Professor Van Helsing to kill the Count. Mina helps Van Helsing in collecting various diary and journal entries that Harker, Seward, and the others wrote, attempting to piece together a story that could lead them to the Count. Learning all they can learn about Dracula’s affairs, Van Helsing and his group track down boxes of earth that the Count uses during the night from Dracula’s castle. Their efforts go well, but then, Renfield, a patient in the care of Seward, somehow permits Dracula to reach Mina. When it happens, all of them sterilizes the boxes, but Dracula flees to his castle in Transylvania, forcing them to chase him. Soon they reach there in his pursuit and perform the same ritual to kill Dracula after killing the vampires present over there.

Major Themes in Dracula

  1. Limits of Knowledge: The pursuit of knowledge and its attendant features and impacts is the major theme in Dracula. As the Count acquires the wrong kind of knowledge that has forced him to use it for the devastation of humanity. Professor Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, and Dr. Seward use their knowledge to save humanity. However, in the case of Seward, he is not efficiently educated and capable enough to know the powers of Dracula, while Jonathan Harker, is only a legal consultant. As far as Professor Van Helsing is concerned, he is able to treat patients and keep humanity safe by properly sending Lucy’s soul to heaven and killing Dracula and the remaining vampires. His argument that Dracula has overstepped the limits of acquiring knowledge is also correct as they eliminate him with his vampires.
  2. Good and Evil: Dracula demonstrates the theme of good versus evil through the character of Count Dracula who has attained knowledge to use it for his own good by causing the death of humanity. When Lucy falls ill, Dr. Seward knows that nobody can find the cure for this illness unless Van Helsing agrees. This becomes a battle between good and evil. Professor Van Helsing knows that the cure of this evil of creating vampires and sucking the blood of the innocents lies in religion. So, he uses the charm of garlic of which Dracula is afraid of, and sends the soul of Lucy to heaven instead of permitting it to roam around and suck the blood of the innocent people. Finally, he also agrees to kill vampires and Dracula.
  3. Fear: The novel shows the theme of fear through Dracula; his living away from society and the city of England. As Harker starts coming closer to his castle, he is gripped with fear and faces the real threat to his life when he finds himself in his captivity. When Harker comes to know about the soil boxes, he is further filled with fear until he manages his escape, but this fear again appears when Lucy falls sick. When she dies after becoming a vampire, Dracula goes after Mina until Professor Van Helsing appears on the scene and suggests ways to get rid of this evil and end this fear.
  4. Money: Despite his ignorance of modern laws and criminal activity, Dracula succeeds not only in purchasing a mansion in London but also in resorting to hiring a legal consultant like Jonathan Harker. This use of money to buy everything shows the power of money that Dracula uses to further his end of continuing with living on the blood of innocent people and transforming the women into vampires. When he imprisons Harker in his castle, he sees gold yet escapes and does not disclose Dracula’s money or his criminality.
  5. Superstition: The novel shows the theme of superstition through the character of Dr. Seward who fails to understand the issue with Lucy and asks his mentor, Professor Van Helsing, who tries to treat her illness through illogical means such as using garlic. Although it could be a natural cure, it seems superstitious to others due to its use in such issues as that of repulsing the vampires despite the fact that vampires truly don’t exist, and nor have they been repulsed with garlic.
  6. Gender: The novel shows the theme of gender through female vampires. Although it is clear that Dracula is a male, it is not clear why he only creates female vampires and not male vampires. For example, he only wants to kill Harker for his blood and attacks other females such as Lucy and Mina to create vampires and not to kill them.
  7. Supernatural: Dracula shows supernatural thematic strands in its main character, Dracula as well as the garlic used by Professor Van Helsing. The conflict between natural and supernatural elements becomes a battle of ideas as well as life and death won by the belief system held by Professor Van Helsing and others.
  8. British Idealism: The novel shows that the British can treat and heal people through spiritual means if material means fail. When Dr. Seward fails to understand Lucy’s illness, he calls for his teacher, who, despite his inscription of an unconventional method, succeeds in stopping Dracula in his spree of making the women vampires. This success of Professor Van Helsing shows the success of British knowledge as well as British idealism.

Major Characters in Dracula

  1. Count Dracula: Count Dracula, with ambiguity about his genealogy is a vampire. He survives on the blood of innocent people and creating female vampires. Although Jonathan Harker has an idea about his suspicious activities, he does not see him becoming a vampire. Dracula attacks Lucy. His plans fail when he is repelled by garlic used by Van Helsing. Despite gaining youthfulness again, Dracula loses his fight against the good and dies in the final battle when he does not see any escape from the attack by Professor Van Helsing.
  2. Van Helsing: Despite his old age, Professor Van Helsing plays an important role as the protagonist of Dracula. When Jonathan Harker almost loses his battle assisted by Dr. Seward, he suggests Jonathan consult Professor Van Helsing to save Lucy. Although he does not succeed in his efforts of saving Lucy due to her mother’s stupidity, he saves others by killing Dracula, finding an unconventional way of using garlic to paralyze him.
  3. Jonathan Harker: Jonathan Harker is a legal adviser; meets Count Dracula in his castle and faces the untoward situation of his life in danger. Sensing the threat, he escapes his castle and joins hands with Dr. Seward and later Professor Van Helsing to kill him. His timely identification helps Professor Van Helsing to sense the threat and suggest an unconventional way to treat the patients.
  4. Mina Murray: Mina is attacked by Count Dracula when he is chasing Jonathan Harker. Married to Harker, she knows his life is under threat and consults Dr. Seward when she sees her friend, Lucy becoming a vampire. Although she does her best, she fails to save her and also dies later when she becomes another victim of Dracula.
  5. John Seward: This young doctor tries to save the life of Lucy in the initial stages when he works in an asylum but fails to understand the illness she suffers from. As he is quite an expert in psychological issues, he senses that his teacher, Professor Van Helsing, can help him with Lucy’s mysterious illness; he refers it to his teacher Van Helsing. He stays loyal to Lucy and joins Professor Van Helsing in his fight to kill Dracula.
  6. Lucy Westenra: The second female figure of Dracula, Lucy is Holmwood’s fiancee, but not as wise as her friend, Mina Murray, Jonathan Harker’s fiancee. She is quite pretty and kind-hearted like her friend and becomes the one of victims of Dracula who also turns into the first female vampire outside of the castle of Dracula. Professor Van Helsing, later, sends her soul to the limbo through a ritual.
  7. Quincey Morris: The significance of the character of Quincey Morris is the first suitor of Lucy as well as the first male victim of Dracula when he loses his life fighting him. His bravery in fighting against Dracula and his altruism in leaving Lucy wins him the praise of the readers.
  8. Arthur Holmwood: As the son of Lord Godalming as he is known as Holmwood proves significant as Lucy’s fiance and helps Harker and Professor Van Helsing in killing Dracula.
  9. Renfield: He is significant in the novel due to his kindness. He becomes the victim of Dracula after he refuses to work for him.

Writing Style of Dracula

Dracula is written in an epistolary mode as a diary, letters, and memos. It presents true Victorian prose. It also shows the use of different narratives jotted down together to make up the whole story. The dialogues of the characters are simple, representing all strata of life at that time. The sentence style suits the context as well as the prose, while the writer has used good diction to create the Gothic style story. The dexterity of Bram Stoker lies in his use of stress patterns, ellipses, and melodrama. For literary devices, Stoker has relied heavily on metaphors, similes, sarcasm, and rhetorical devices, pathos.

Analysis of the Literary Devices in Dracula

  1. Action: The main action of the novel comprises the emergence of Dracula on the scene, his efforts of making females vampires help him, and his final battle with Professor Van Helsing. The rising action occurs when Dracula succeeds in killing Lucy. However, the falling action occurs when Dracula is killed at the end.
  2. Anaphora: The novel shows examples of anaphora as given below,
    i. I wish I could put down all he said exactly as he said it, for to me it was
    most fascinating. (Chapter-3)
    ii. I must keep writing at every chance, for I dare not stop to think. All, big and little, must go down; perhaps at the end the little things may teach us most. The teaching, big or little, could not have landed Mina or me anywhere worse than we are to-day. (Chapter-22)
    iii. ‘There are here some who would stand between you and death. You must not die. You must not die by any hand; but least of all by your own. Until the other, who has fouled your sweet life, is true dead you must not die; for if he is still with the quick Un-Dead, your death would make you even as he is. (Chapter-22)
    These examples show the repetitious use of “he said”, “little”, “teaching” and “You must not die” shows the use of anaphora in the novel.
  3. Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the below examples,
    i. ‘It is the eve of St George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? (Chapter-I)
    ii. It was by this time close on morning, and we went to bed. (Mem., this diary seems horribly like the beginning of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ for everything has to break off at cockcrow—or like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. (Chapter-3)
    iii. There is a method in his madness, and the rudimentary idea in my mind is growing. (Chapter-6)
    The first example shows alluding to St. George and the second to Arabian Nights and Hamlet. The last one also shows alluding to Hamlet’s madness.
  4. Antagonist: Count Dracula is the antagonist of the novel as he appears to have tried his best to make all female vampires suck the blook of human beings.
  5. Conflict: The novel shows the conflict between Dracula and the forces of good in London when he goes there to prey upon Lucy and other people after purchasing a mansion.
  6. Characters: The novel, Dracula, shows both static as well as dynamic characters. Jonathan Harker, the young man, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Count Dracula, Lucy, Mina, Dr. Seward or even Professor Van Helsing.
  7. Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Dracula starts sucking the blood of Lucy and kills her.
  8. Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given below,
    i. I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula is a fairly wellknown place. (Chapter-1)
    ii. Lucy and I sat awhile, and it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat; and she told me all over again about Arthur and their coming marriage. That made me just a little heart-sick, for I haven’t heard from Jonathan for a whole month. (Chapter-2)
    The mention of the very name of Dracula and the heart-sickness that Mina feels show the shadows of the coming events.
  9. Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles as given below,
    i. I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things which I dare not confess to my own soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me! (Chapter-2)
    ii. I thought and thought what should be my next move, but my brain seemed on fire, and I waited with a despairing feeling growing over me. (Chapter-5)
    iii. Our enemy is not merely spiritual.
    Remember that he has the strength of twenty men, and that, though our necks or our windpipes are of the common kind—and therefore breakable or crushable—his is not amenable to mere strength. (Chapter-19)
    These examples exaggerate things as nobody could be in the sea of wonders, nor there could be a brain on fire or a person having the strength of twenty men.
  10. Imagery: Dracula shows the use of imagery as given in the examples below,
    i. Once the flame appeared so near the road that even in the darkness around us I could watch the driver’s motions. He went rapidly to where the blue flame rose—it must have been very faint, for it did not seem to illumine the place around it at all—and gathering a few stones, formed them into some device. (Chapter-1)
    ii. ‘Oceans of love and millions of kisses, and may you soon be in your own home with your husband. I wish you could be coming home soon enough to stay with us here. This strong air would soon restore Jonathan; it has quite restored me. (Chapter-9)
    These two examples show images of feeling, color, and sound.
  11. Metaphor: Dracula shows good use of various metaphors as given in the below examples,
    i. At least God’s mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot man may sleep—as a man. (Chapter-5)
    ii. He hobbled away, and I could see him hurrying, as well as he could, down the steps. (Chapter-6)
    iii. The town seemed as dead, for not a soul did I see; I rejoiced that it was so, for I wanted no witness of poor Lucy’s condition. (Chapter-8)
    These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows the mercy of God as something, the second the person as a rabbit, and the last shows the town as a person.
  12. Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with quite a bubbly and jolly mood but turns out very somber and sometimes frightening when it reaches the end.
  13. Motif: Most important motifs of the novel, Dracula, are blood, weather, and Christianity.
  14. Narrator: The novel is narrated by several persons in their respective journals and diaries.
  15. Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given below,
    i. The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. (Chapter-6)
    ii. There were but few lights in sight at sea, for even the coasting steamers, which usually ‘hug’ the shore so closely, kept well to seaward, and but few fishing-boats were in sight. (Chapter-7)
    iii. When the day came, its searching light showed the ravages in poor Lucy’s strength. (Chapter-12)
    iv. Hitherto I had blamed only the servants, but now a terrible fear began to assail me. (Chapter-12)
    v. Death had given back part of her beauty, for her brow and cheeks had recovered some of their flowing lines; even the lips had lost their deadly pallor. (Chapter-12)
    These examples show as if the river, lights, day, and fear have lives and emotions of their own.
  16. Protagonist: There are many protagonists of the novel. They include Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing, Mina Murry, and Quincey Morris. It is because all of them fight the evil of Dracula.
  17. Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places as given below,
    What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of people?
    What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked? Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor’s clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner? Solicitor’s clerk! (Chapter-2)
    ii. God help me! How am I to account for all these horrors when I get to port? When I get to port! Will that ever be? (Chapter-7)
    This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
  18. Setting: The setting of the novel is the unknown land of Transylvania and London.
  19. Simile: The novel shows excellent use of various similes as given below,
    i. There’s something in that wind and in the hoast beyond that sounds, and looks, and tastes, and smells like death. (Chapter-6)
    ii. The waves rose in growing fury, each over-topping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster. (Chapter-7)
    iii. I was a little startled myself, for it seemed for an instant as if the stranger had great eyes like burning flames; but a second look dispelled the illusion. (Chapter-8)
    iv. Ah, we men and women are like ropes drawn tight with strain that pull us different ways. (Chapter-13)
    These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things.