Dracula: Bram Stoker

Discussion in 'Horror' started by Brian Turner, Nov 11, 2004.

  1.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    It is possibly heresy to state so, but I found Bram Stoker's Dracula to be a dull and lifeless work.

    The first few chapters while Jonathan Harker is trapped in Dracula's castle is very good - but that part of the story quickly ends.

    And then the rest of the book is seemingly Van Helsing (not the Hugh Jackman version!!) giving people blood transfusions.

    The ending is extremely rushed as well. The characters assemble in Transylvania, and within 2 pages Dracula is suddenly killed.

    The end. Fin.

    As a piece of writing influential on its time, it certainly deserves an honour. But let's not elevate second-rate Victorian populist literature too much, please. :)

    OR - am I quite wrong? :)
  2.  
    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    Nope, you are right. Sorry, Brian, but I cannot agree we the honour part.
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    polymorphikos

    polymorphikos Scrofulous Fig-Merchant

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    I'll go with that, although it has a certain charm, and if it had been handled slightly-differently then the turning and execution of Lucy could have been brilliant. As it stands, a slightly mundane work with some real gems amongst the dryness. On this point, I would like to defend the Coppola version of the film, which was visually-stunning, fit the melodrama and wooden characters perfectly, and managed to squeeze every drop of imagination out of a book that seems to have ended three times by the halfway mark.
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    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    The Coppola version was so real visually-stunning, that my Supervisor was ready to fly out of the car (she was the driver) on the highway, peak period when I told her I was born in Transylvania.

    Sorry, I have to run at work.:)
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    I wouldn't so much agree with Brian's review. While Dracula undoubtedly suffers from melodrama (the '3 noble suitors for Lucy' was a bad idea definitely), the book is IMO far stronger than he suggests.

    I found the episode detailing Lucy's descent into the undead quite thrilling. The recounting of the ship arriving in a storm and the events noted in the captain's log are hallmarks of atmospheric writing. The character of Renfield is brilliantly realized and a significant part of the book. If Brian thinks that the bulk of the novel is only Helsing giving transfusions, I'd think he hasn't read it properly.

    As for the ending being rushed...please, they have to kill the character before night when he will be unstoppable. What does Brian suggest to improve this perceived flaw?
  6.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Heh, I had a funny feeling you'd disagree, Ravenus. :)

    It was more that the blood transfusions were extremely repetitive and took a lot from the pace. The suitors wasn't too bad an idea, but the characters were essentially lifeless (I'm sure there's a pun there :) ).

    Didn't you find the ending very rushed, though?
  7.  
    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    No Brian, I like the idea of a clipped ending that leaves one gasping...to put it this way, I was thoroughly bored towards the end of the film of Return of the King. It was like "Isn't this thing ever going to end?"

    But seriously how else should it have ended...should the characters have given grand speeches before they did the deed? Should they have waited till nightfall, have Dracula raise mayhem and then pull out some rabbit out of the bag like Tolkien's characters had a habit of doing by which they finally quell him?
  8.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    It's more the pace of the ending, and how quickly after arriving in Transylvania Dracula was found and killed. There seemed a lack of tension or build up - though I'm sure there's a converse argument that the pre-Transylvanian events provided the necessary tension and increased pace. I simply never felt that when I originally read it - there was a sense of sustained climax missing.

    Btw - I'm happy to be critical about any writer, so please don't think I'm trying to lay a particular attack on Classic Horror. Just say "Tom Bombadil" and I'm happy to rant on Tolkien, too. :)
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    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    Tom Bombadil.
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    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    (sheeeply hands up :D ) "Tom Bombadil"
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    McMurphy

    McMurphy Apostate Against the Eloi

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    Not in my book; I couldn't agree with your opinion of the novel more. The book felt it was idling with Victorian form and subplot until the very anticlimatic ending. It is no wonder that most film adaptions drastically change the final showdown with Dracula into a scene where the famous Impaler-inspired character is actually conscious.
  12.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    For whatever it's worth it, I belive Stoker was a gourmand, as he got the Roumanian's plates perfectly. For the rest, he didn't know much about Vlad Tepes. Actually, I think his documentation in geography and history when he decided to write "Dracula" was poor and this is strange as he made a real effort to gave a chronological evolution of the story from May till November. The first chapters, as Brian said were promising for something interesting. I didn't understand how Jonathan Harker really escaped from the castle. All we know is that he wrote about it into his journal and Mina, his future wife read it and then passed the journal to Dr. Van Helsing. And how come his future wife, Mina never transformed in a vampire after all. And who were the three women in the castle. And how Lucy got blood transfusions from different persons. O.K. maybe I can pass over this one, as she became a vampire after all.

    I have to admit it was something special and courageous to write this in 1897 with all its feable points.
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    I assume that Stoker was not so interested in presenting a historically/geographically accurate narrative as he was in gving us a horror tale in the epistolatory format which I believe works quite well for the book.

    I think in the book people don't turn into vampires until they have died. It's a convention that Stoer follows.

    Blood types were first outlined by Landsteiner in 1901. Stoker was probably not in the least aware of the issue...his works never betrayed any scientific interest other than references to new-fangled inventions like the phonogram.
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    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    Well, for a horror tale a gave him the courage for his writings.

    For someone with no scientific interest, the blood transfusions were quite impressive.
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    Leto

    Leto Outside

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    And IMHO it's his only good book. Yes, the pace of the book is quite slow, yes there's a strange sense of chivalry between Lucy's 3 gentlemen. But for me, this slow pace is part of the charm. After all, Carmilla's Le Fanu has a rather slow pace too.
    other charm elements for me are the type of narration chosen : letters, extract of diaries, and so on. And the description of the asylum.
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    ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    The Lair of the White Worm was quite awful but I still liked it in a campy vein.

    Some of Stoker's short stories like Dracula's Guest, The Judge's House, The Squaw are quite good IMO.
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    Leto

    Leto Outside

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    I've tried all of them (mostly thanks to an anthology for the 100Th anniversary of Dracula) and no, it's definitly not my cup of blood.
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    Circus Cranium

    Circus Cranium New Member

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    I read it finally last year, because I was taking a trip to Whitby. (I"m from the US). I thought the language was beautiful, but it was a bit tedious reading all of those letters back and forth. I have to agree, however, the the Coppola version kicked so much butt.

    Funny, you've got to wonder about the time period it was written, if it was MORE shocking to the readers then when it first came out. I for one have grown desensitized and perhaps a bit impatient with my fiction. I need it to get to the goods fast, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but I guess we're products of the culture changes/trends in literature to a point.
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    Space Monkey

    Space Monkey Science fiction fantasy

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    I loved Dracula, the book, even better than Coppola's film. I didn't feel the tedium to be honest, although like you say, you have to bear in mind it was the style of the times - and the fact that there was nothing like it around either. It was down to all the tiny details that by the end of the story you care so much about everybody involved. I felt that everything was necessary - even Harker taking recipes down in his notebook, just to give you the feel of Eastern Europe and his total isolation.

    By the time Harker got back to Whitby, you were so engrossed it was like watching it in real time, partly through the newspaper/journal style and partly through the thoroughness of the storytelling. A crucial part that Coppola missed out of the film was how Lucy was nursing her sick mother, and it was Dracula smashing the window in as a wolf that finally killed her. That was the cause of Lucy's exhaustion, grief and partial dementia that let the count manipulate her so easily in the first place.

    And if you know Whitby, you'll know how well Stoker did in portraying the place too.

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