Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is a well-known classic of the vampire genre. Since the time when the book was written, Count Dracula has achieved a fame of a truly immortal creature that experienced many adaptations and became the embodiment of everything insidious and mysterious that human imagination can only draw. There are many images of Dracula in the world literature and cinematography. “Nothing has shaped our modern popular conception of the vampire as much as Bram Stoker`s Dracula” (Bartel 15). However, only Bram Stoker can be considered as the “father” of the horror legend, and his famous protagonist has become the source of inspirations for many writers and directors. This paper aims to analyze the authenticity of Bram Stoker`s Dracula, describe his image in the book, and show how his image influenced the following reproductions of the character.
The book, written in 1897, has gained the phenomenal popularity and became one of the pillars of the modern literary movement of the vampire literature (the so-called Gothic fiction). Significantly, almost all the archetypes related to the topic of vampires were invented by one man and in one book. The sacred relics, the garlic, the possibility of the entrance to the house only by the invitation, sleeping in coffins, the wooden stake, the word Nosferatu, and the transformation into a bat – everything can be found in the novel Dracula written by Bram Stoker. “Most of our ideas of what a vampire is and which dangers he or she poses have been influenced by Stoker`s work to the point where his Count and the vampire become virtually synonymous” (Bartel 15). In his novel, Stoker pays tribute to his villain – Dracula is smart, courageous and purposeful; he is also a good alchemist. Stoker describes his protagonist as following, “a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere” (Stoker 23).
The story begins quite creepy. Far away, in the mountains of Transylvania there are the old castle towers on a high cliff. The master of the castle is a representative of an ancient noble family. The Count decided to buy property in the suburbs of the British capital. In order to have all the issues resolved, a solicitor`s assistant Jonathan Harker should visit the distant and wild Romanian province. On the way to the castle, Harker fails to admire the picturesque countryside as the local people warn the Englishman to keep away from the castle. They ask him “Do you know where you are going, and what you are going to?” (Stoker 7). However, they cannot convince such a pragmatic and progressive-minded person. Harker is a very determined young man, and some mystical superstitious nonsense of dark and backward Slavs cannot dissuade him to abandon his idea. However, the traveling, which initially looks like an exciting adventure, suddenly turns into a meeting with the infernal horror. Firstly, the master of the castle seemed as a well-educated and hospitable man. He politely invites the traveler to his house; however, in a while, everything changes dramatically. Harker willingly gets into a deadly trap; he quickly turns from the guest into the actual prisoner of a strange creature who calls himself Count Dracula. He begins to acknowledge that the Count possesses diabolical ambitions and supernatural powers. Soon, the action moves to the old England, and the atmospheric and exciting story disappears; the events flow rather sluggishly and slowly. One of the main characters, Lucy, feels bad and behaves strangely. The reader understands that Dracula has moved to London. The characters do nothing to protect themselves, and the Professor Van Helsing is the first who begins to suspect something, but he can change nothing.
The modern readers are used to the popular images of the famous character. “The tall, aristocratic, very good-looking figure of the Count is, of course, an invention of Hollywood” (Bartel 15). Stoker`s followers changed the initial image according to the epoch`s requirements. “Filmmakers and storytellers recreate him continually, adding new elements each time, perpetuating the evolution of this character who has made his way into our collective consciousness” (Peters 10). Significantly, Bram Stoker paints a sinister image of a vampire – the undead creature endowed with the superhuman abilities. He can climb the steep wall quite easy; he is able to penetrate into the room through the slightest gap; he possesses the strength of several people; he can turn into a bat, wolf, or a cloud of fog; he can control the weather and wildlife. Dracula`s appearance is slightly different from human, but not too much – his skin is exceptionally pale, and his lips are too red. His teeth are elongated and pointed; he does not reflect in the mirror and casts no shadow. Count Dracula does not eat human food, and he is active mainly at night. However, he may move well even during the day, the sunlight is not contraindicated to him. Significantly, all his supernatural powers disappear during daylight. The protagonist of Stoker`s novel also differs from the cinematic images by the form of his hands and fingers. In the films, the audience sees the vampire with long arms and thin fingers, equipped with the long nails, resembling the bird’s claws. Stoker’s Count has big hands with thick, coarse, and short fingers more peculiar to a peasant, but not to an aristocrat. Dracula seems as the creature entirely absorbed by the Darkness and Evil. “Stoker`s Dracula is a tale of a diabolical, disgusting monster” (Hensley 89). He has been living for several centuries and has destroyed more than a thousand of lives. The saddest thing is that he is not going to stop there.
It is hard to believe, some time ago, the word vampire was not associated with a sparkling feminine boy, but with a brutal, murderous, and savage creature that deserved only the aspen stake in his heart. Surprisingly, the romantic in some peculiar way, but still formidable and terrifying, the vampires have become very miserable creatures, represented now by Edward Cullen. In her research, Sarah Peters claims that the image of a vampire has transformed “from a hideous monster to a mysterious seducer, from an inhuman beast of unquestionable evil to a complex human evoking a strange sympathy and blurring the lines between good and evil” (Peters 10). Stoker`s vampire is not the boy with the hysteric habits. Sarah Peters states that “Stoker’s Dracula is pure evil, repulsive and terrifying. He needs to take life, to end it or pervert it, and his foes are those who wish to preserve life” (Peters 1). Count Dracula has been living in the human society for centuries. He masterfully survived among the superstitious people and frightened the peasants to such an extent that they could not even think about coming to the castle during the day and piercing the protagonist with an aspen stake. Dracula does not behave like a fool; he is experienced, old, and very cunning. Moreover, he is actively using his experience. Therefore, he is a terribly dangerous and treacherous man. The Count did not simply become the prototype of the future vampires; he became a villain who opposes his powerful intellect to the strong muscles of the modern vampires.
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The image of Dracula is endlessly catching. He is attractive by his power over people, nature, life, and death. He is attractive, perhaps, even against the author`s will, who tried to emphasize the vampire’s beastly nature. Peters states that the everlasting fame of the Count “exists in his ability to take on new and ever-changing forms that allow him to fit into every culture” (Peters 10). After all, the evil can cause not only fear but also envy, and even admiration; the power is often perceived as one of the components of male sexuality. Bram Stoker gives many useful lessons with his book. He says that “We learn from failure, not from success!” (Stoker 172), and it is totally true. Stoker did not even hesitate to break off some plot lines in the most interesting places, hinting very accurately that the most terrible monster lives in the depths of the human mind.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the image of Count Dracula evolved into a new personage – more attractive for public. In a bit more than one century, the vampire turned from the obsessed monster with the suffering soul into a representative of a certain elite. The meaning of Stoker`s Dracula`s existence is quite clear; there is nothing humane in his nature, his purpose is to spawn the creatures of his own kind. For the whole world, the novel Dracula is a classic of the horror genre and the progenitor of the vampire tradition in literature. With time, the name of the cruel and treacherous Count became a household word. The vampires turned from the terrible night creatures capable of destroying everything into the youngsters with the sunscreen on their faces. The book sparkles with many brilliant topics that make the readers plunge deeper and deeper into the abyss of human passions. The unity of style as well as the bizarre and unexpected subject lines is amazing. This novel is a beautiful fairy tale of good and justice, of love and a sense of duty, of loyalty and unwavering faith. Dracula is a novel-foundation, and virtually the entire genre was built on it. Until now, Dracula wanders through the vast expanses of mass culture, changing guises, becoming the victim of a curse, the passionate lover, or the comic character.