Welcome back to another Spooky Saturday! Today, I want to talk about a classic work of horror…Stoker’s DRACULA. Remember to check out my other Spooky posts this month!
Bram Stoker was a genius.
When he published Dracula in 1897, Stoker did three things. First, he capitalized on the popular epistolary style of writing by expanding it into a truly multi-genre work. Second, he wove folk tales together with Victorian psychosis to create a story you could really sink your teeth into. Third, he launched the vampire phenomenon that persists to this day.
If you haven’t actually read Dracula, now is a great time to remedy that! I first read this book a few years ago in October, in the spirit of Halloween, and it has become my annual must-read book to herald the spooky season.
Stoker tells the now-famous tale in a unique way: through letters, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and transcribed audio recordings. The multi-genre storytelling technique has been employed many times since, but Stoker was a true pioneer. He expanded on the epistolary style (novels told through letters) and created a tapestry of voices. The reader is sucked into the story from a number of character viewpoints, which makes it easier for every reader to find a character they can connect with. Connection between the reader and the story is vitally important for the success of a book, and Stoker hedged his bets with a multitude of narrators.
Not only does Stoker play with literary style, he creates a true mash-up of international folklore and Victorian beliefs to create the chilling character of Count Dracula. Vampires (or something like them) exist in most cultures, and predated Stoker’s novel. But it is from Stoker that certain tropes of the monster were synthesized and publicized: the ability to shape-shift, the hunger for female victims especially, the sexualized nature of the vampire, and the association with wolves and bats.
When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, I doubt he anticipated the global phenomenon that his story would launch. The multiple movie versions of the story have helped: it seems like we can’t go through a decade without some Dracula-based film springing up. But it’s more than just the popularity of the story in film. Stoker’s vampire was cultured and predatory, sexual and polished, stimulating and frightening. It’s these conflicting character traits that have led to the success of the vampire story more than a hundred years after Dracula’s initial publication. When you think of vampires, what do you picture? For most of us, if we can get beyond the sparkle, we picture a figure that is pretty darn close to the illusive Count introduced by Stoker.
Has the genre changed since Stoker penned his sensational novel? Absolutely. Do we still see Stoker’s influence in modern horror? Without a doubt. I think we can safely say he’s the grandfather of the modern vampire story.
Now, go read (or re-read) Dracula. Keep the lights low, and, if possible, read it during a thunderstorm. You won’t be disappointed.