I don’t always review the books I study for my degree, but I have some things to say about a few of the books I’ve encountered. Dracula, in particular.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
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Regardless of which Dracula cover you end up with, they all feature a dark shadowy figure and, usually, the colour red. The title itself, Dracula, immediately makes it clear that this is about a vampire: everyone associated Dracula with gothic conventions and vampires. Even if you know next to nothing about the actual book, you’ve probably seen images from the various film adaptations over the years.
The characters were infuriating, and I hated Dracula for a long time precisely because of this. It wasn’t until we began to start analysing Dracula that I read an essay arguing this was intentional: Dracula is supposed to be “anti-realistic”, the essay suggested, because this adds to the horror. The reader can see the characters are being stupid and making bad choices but are powerless to stop them. With this reflection, I can understand why the characters seem incapable of stopping their ‘vulnerable women’ from becoming vampires – Dracula is the kind of text you have to unpick to like because on a surface level, everyone is useless and none of it is believable.
I found it difficult to force my way from Dracula the first time around. The plot takes a long time for anything to really happen – despite this, it is still a book you need to reread to get the best experience as a lot of the newspaper clippings and diary entries don’t make sense in the larger picture until you know what is happening. It also features a giant amount of unreliability from all the characters, and characters with several name changes, so the first reading can be confusing.
THEMES & ANALYSIS.
For me, Dracula becomes interesting when we look at it from a psychoanalytical perspective. What this means is looking at how unconscious desires are explored through the medium of books: in this case, unconscious desires around hunger – both literal (eating) and metaphorical (sexual desires).
It is also super interesting to look at the various things vampirism has been used as a metaphor for across the film adaptations, ranging from discussing femininity and the unconventional ‘New Women’ of the time who were demonised and dehumanised, to discussing invaders from a foreign land (especially as immigration is still such a hot topic), to comparing vampirism to AIDS. As I talked about in my essay on Dracula, the metaphor of an actual supernatural threat for any group of people is problematic to say the least, but it reflects how society demonises specific identities – the LGBT community, women and immigrants to name just a few.
I’m giving Dracula a rating of 2.5* – this isn’t to say I didn’t like it or I won’t talk about it, but had I read it on my own I wouldn’t have thought much of it at all. I think Dracula is definitely a product of its time, but the main reason I’m marking it down so harshly was due to the ending; after pages and pages discussing morals and ethics about vampires and what it means to be human, nothing… particularly happens… the great evil is supposedly defeated but we never really get told anything for definite. So, in conclusion: Dracula is interesting, may even fun, to analyse – but not great to read.
Have you read Dracula – what did you think? Are there any books you’ve found interesting to analyse but don’t personally like? Let me know in the comments!
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