Bram Stoker’s DraculaBram Stoker’s Dracula
Dracula by Bram Stoker is one of, if not the most, iconic vampire book on earth. Taking place in the 19th century a group of six characters go on an adventure to kill a vampire names Dracula and avenge their fallen friend. Publishing Dracula in 1897, Stoker creates a modern work of art that challenged the clichés of the time. With his use of friendship, and love in how it pertains to friendship, he creates the most powerful tool used by the characters of Dracula. Because of their love for each other, most of the characters are introduced and all the actions taken by said characters in the name of friendship keep them alive and progress the story forward.
Best friend to Mina Harker and fiancé to Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s role in Dracula is more important than anyone’s. Despite having died early in the story, Lucy’s impact and character development persisted well after the fact. While she was alive, Lucy was characterized as being sweet, kind, and sensitive. It was for these very traits that John Seward, Arthur Holmwood, and Quincy Morris all fell for her. Despite being rejected, all three men continued to stay friends with Lucy because of her kind-hearted nature. A trait like that is why her transformation into the unholy creature later in the story is so disturbing to both the characters and the readers. Her defining trait, purity, turned into pure evil once she succumbed to Dracula. Luring children during the night and sucking their blood tainted her angelic soul into that of a monster. In life, her friendship with Mina delays her transformation into a vampire. In undeath, the friendship she forged with the three men led to them discovering her new form and caused some of them to change. Finally, in true death, she served as motivation to destroy Dracula so no one else can fall like she did.
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Jonathan Harker is a solicitor from London hired by Dracula to buy property. As the first character to be introduced, he is the fastest to change. The most notable change in Jonathan is his transformation from a hesitant to an assertive character. When first introduced to the young Jonathan, he is seen as naïve for not heeding the villager’s warnings, then as curious when a prisoner, to broken once returned to London, and finally as a warrior. Originally an average man, he becomes very easily frightened by what occurs in Dracula’s castle but is awarded bravery points in his escape. However, that is quickly overturned as he returns to London a shell of a man. As the story progresses, he meets the group of men thanks to his wife Mina. Immediately forging a friendship thanks her, he is forced out of his stupor and becomes one of the heroes responsible for the finishing blow on Dracula. Before the final battle, his bravery is seen thanks to his constant knife sharpening, which is noticed by Dr. Seward in chapter 25 and his attempt on Dracula’s life when he sees him at Carfax, as shown by Dr. Seward’s account where he stated “Harker… had ready his great Kukri knife and made a fierce and sudden cut at him [Dracula]” (Stoker 394). There are more instances of Harker being aggressive in the face of Dracula’s influence, especially when it comes to his wife Mina. Overall, Jonathan’s change was slow at first, but the traumatic situations he was exposed to affected him greatly.
Not counting Dracula, Mina is the second character of the main cast to be introduced. The fiancé then wife of Jonathan Harker and an intelligent and confident young woman, Mina is one of two characters that progress the story forward by piecing together evidence. This is what’s so great about her as a character. Even Helsing notes that she actively tries to help the men of the story, even going as far as to say, “she has a man’s brain – a brain that a man should have were he much gifted… God fashioned her for a purpose” (Stoker 304). She learns the timetables of the trains, originally to help her husband in his career, which end up being pivotal to the story at least twice. Once she reads Jonathan’s journals and converses with Helsing they both piece together all the information they need extremely quickly. Throughout the novel, most of the interaction between characters have been between the men. Partly because there’s only one woman in the group, but also because the majority of them had formed a close bond by the time Mina and Jonathan joined. Astonishingly, Mina had managed to gain the friendship of the group quickly. Not only did her smarts immediately earn Helsings affection despite little to no interaction previously, but not too long after she had met Lucy’s suitors had Arthur felt comfortable enough to break down in front of her and share the fact that all the men were the suitors. This shows a great deal of trust seeing as Mina herself decided to not tell the men that she already knew. However, Mina is not all pure. Once she is attacked by Dracula, she calls herself “unclean”. While her personality and usefulness don’t change, who she is useful too switches. Once marked, Dracula uses her to spy on the men and sabotage their plans. She does not do this on purpose but the demonic force inside of her is responsible. In this way she is much like Lucy but also unique. Just like Lucy became corrupt due to Dracula, so does Mina. What differentiates them is the fact that Mina is conscious of this influence yet has episodes of succumbing to evil. In the end she’s strong enough to fend off Dracula’s influence long enough for him to die. All her actions, all she accomplished, were because she loved her husband and friends and because they trusted her enough to keep her in the loop albeit not all the time. Without that dynamic, Dracula would have won.
Finally, there is John Seward. As opposed to Mina’s quick but hesitant acceptance of vampires and what needed to be done, Dr. Seward had a harder time accepting the truth. Being a kind and soft-spoken young man, and a doctor no less, he struggles with believing his friend Helsing and he’s aware of that. When it was time for Helsing to kill Lucy, Dr. Seward refuses to believe that she had become a vampire. The disagreement can be shown by his words when confronted with Lucy’s presence and absence in the coffin. In chapter 15, Dr. Seward says, “I felt all the dogged argumentativeness of my nature awake within me” (Stoker 256) and “I could not accept such an overwhelming idea as he suggested… I was even at the moment ashamed” (Stoker 260). Even beforehand, on page 247, Van Helsing said “you are a clever man… you reason well… but you are too prejudiced… there are things old and new which must not be contemplate… it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all… around us every day the growth of new beliefs…” Despite having all the evidence right in front of him Dr. Seward refuses to believe until he sees Lucy try to kill a child with his own eyes. Only after that does his skepticism vanish and his resolve for ridding the world of vampires form. If not for his friendship to Helsing, Seward would never have seen Lucy and her reign of terror would have thrived.
The two main settings of Dracula are Transylvania and England, but specifically London. The story starts off in Transylvania, home to Count Dracula. Once Jonathan escapes, London becomes the central setting. In the story, Transylvania is described as a primitive place filled with superstition as opposed to London, which is described as an evolving city filled with science and reasoning. The way the two merge is when Dracula visits London. The more he is involved the more London, through the eyes of the characters, begins to merge with the atmosphere of Transylvania. With the journal style, Stoker is constantly shifting between setting. His decision of going back and forth between settings was not just to reveal information as the reader needs it, but also to build suspense. The sharp change in scenery keeps the readers on their toes, a ploy greatly needed due to Dracula’s dependence on tension to make horror. Dracula himself is not scary, but the tension he creates is (Marocchino). In Transylvania, gothic elements take the forefront. Besides the cries of the villagers that warn Jonathan, the ambiance of the area morphs as he gets closer to the castle. “There were dark, rolling clouds overhead, and in the air the heavy, oppressive sense of thunder. It seemed as though the mountain range had separated two atmospheres, and that now we had got into the thunderous one” (Stoker 12). Once Jonathan crosses the border between the village and Dracula’s isolated domain, unease begins to grow. The constant storms, wolf howls, flapping of wings that occur throughout the story in each location serve to remind both character and reader that they are not alone.
With that said, Stoker’s choice of setting also have strong connections to history and culture. By writing in then present-day London, Stoker provides context to the personalities of Mina and Lucy along with the men’s reaction to them. In the 1890s, the women’s movement was becoming more powerful by the day. As a result, “new women” were now being seen in society. Mina and Lucy both conform to and oppose the “new woman” movement. A “new woman” was independent of a man and intellectually equal, two traits Mina is. “New women” were also more promiscuous than what was acceptable as can be seen when Lucy says “why can’t they let a girl marry three men?… But this is heresy” (Stoker 75) (Buzwell). The setting acts as a catalyst to their personalities, which then prompt Dracula to victimize then. Despite their controversial ways, the men still support them throughout the novel. This push and pull of history vs modernity work really drive home the politically charged environment of the 1890s.
Arguably, one of the biggest themes in Dracula is friendship. Present from beginning till end friendship, and love in said friendship, is the driving force in the story. From introducing characters, to progressing the plot, to keeping them alive there is no part left untouched by friendship. Out of the seven characters in the novel, Lucy introduces three of them. These three men are Dr. Seward, Quincy, and Arthur. Because of Lucy’s ability to make Dr. Seward and Quincy her friends, they stay by her side instead of disappearing after being rejected while Arthur stays because he is her fiancé. The way Lucy is tied into the story is because Mina and Lucy have been friends for years. Mina is introduced to the story because she is engaged and later married to Jonathan. The final character is Van Helsing, which is introduced because of his friendship to Dr. Seward.
After being introduced, the characters jobs are to progress the story. When Dracula arrives in Whitby Lucy and Mina are there on vacation. Soon after his arrival, he begins to attack Lucy and makes her sick. She develops sleep walking and one night manages to meet Dracula on the hill overlooking the graveyard. At this moment Lucy could have become a vampire if Mina didn’t intervene. As Lucy’s friend, Mina searches for Lucy that night once it is discovered she is missing. In the midst of Dracula’s attack on Lucy Mina manages to scare him off and delayed her transformation into a vampire. If not for Mina, Lucy would’ve been turned the night up on the hill. Not too long after, Mina must return to London for Jonathan has returned from Transylvania. Lucy falls ill again, and Arthur begs his friend Dr. Seward to visit her. This one choice changes everything in the story. For if Arthur and Seward weren’t friends, or if Seward cared not for Lucy, then Lucy would have died this time and Helsing would never have been called, effectively allowing Dracula to complete his mission without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, Lucy still becomes a vampire. It is at this point that friendships are tested for the first time. With Lucy now a vampire Helsing needs to “defile” her body by chopping off her head. He uses his friendship with the three men to convince them to witness Lucy in the act of killing a child and then to have them kill her. With her gone the group redirects their attention to Dracula’s plans. After many failed attempts Mina reenters the picture and uses her friendship with Lucy to enter the confidence of the four men. Once she proves herself to Helsing and they all become friends, the plot advances again for reasons mentioned in her paragraph. With Mina introducing Jonathan to Helsing, he comes out of his trance and does nothing to immediately aid the plot but has merit down the line.
With the plot progressing as intended, the focus shifts to keeping the characters alive so they can continue it. The four transfusions that delay Lucy’s death happen as acts of friendships, Dracula’s attack on Mina is cut short by the men returning and attacking him, and their bond together allows for them to hatch the final plan and kill Dracula once and for all. All in all, Seward, Quincy, Arthur, Helsing, Mina, and Jonathan are there for each other every step of the way. Without just one of them the entire story falls apart so it’s crucial that they all stayed together. Stressful situations can either stress relationships or strengthen them and in this case, it worked in the favor of the main cast.
In conclusion, Dracula leaves its mark in the literature world with its innovative use of journal entries. The interesting style captivates the reader in a way no other book of its kind ever has. Written in a way where no one knows what’s going on for the first half of the book, the abruptly shifting perspectives that reveal a little more of the story as time goes on is what make the story so effective and memorable. Overall, it’s a story where the impact is all in the delivery, and without the slow burn the original story manages to capture, every character loses their intrigue. Which is super damaging considering Dracula’s theme of friendship revolves around the characters personalities and their interactions with each other. A reason why, despite Dracula’s incredible relevance in the pop culture scene, no pure film adaption exists. Its influence on readers of the past and present only serve to prove just how good the story is. Whether one personally enjoys it or not doesn’t matter because one can at least appreciate the story for what it tried and succeeds in accomplishing.
- Buzwell, Greg. “”Daughters of decadence: The New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle.”” The British Library. 17 Apr. 2014. The British Library. 28 Apr. 2019 .
- Marocchino, Kathryn Dorothy. “”Dracula.”” Masterplots, Fourth Edition. Ed. W. Mazzeno Laurence, 4th ed. Salem Press, 2010. Salem Literature Web. 09 Jan. 2014.
- Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York, Oxford University Press, 1897.”