Dracula: Bram Stoker

I think it is certainly unnecessary to recap the story of Dracula. It has riveted the imagination of enough people, and created almost innumerable spin-offs. However, the actual book Dracula seems to have gotten lost amidst its many descendants. Modern vampire stories, almost exclusively in film, usually fall into a different category altogether from the original. There are the ‘good’ vampire stories, the glorification of the vampire stories, and especially the stories of the special elite ‘hunter’ who terminates vampires and looks cool while he does it. (I’m looking at you, Van Helsing.) None of these capture the spirit of the original Dracula, which is gripping, but not graphic. It a masterpiece that implies and leaves off-stage the really vile things that Dracula does. More importantly, however, is the ethic that it adheres to. This is the principal that I will call the humble warrior. The people who fight Dracula are only extraordinary in their courage and determination, in all other ways they are ordinary. They do not battle Dracula with the power of an ancient bloodline nor with vampiric  powers of their own only used for good, but with the determination and courage of solid folk.

I remember reading somewhere (unfortunately I cannot remember where, otherwise I would credit properly) the notion that Dracula himself is villain uniquely horrible to Christian belief. Of course, a vile undead being that drinks blood to perpetuate its unhappy life is a universally upsetting character. However, the vampire is the evil, twisted, analog of the Sacrament of the Altar. In the Eucharist, Christ gives his body and blood to ‘everlasting life’. In Dracula, the monster drinks people’s blood as a demonic perverse eucharist.

I contend that this is only half the picture. It is true that Dracula is a horrible perversion of the doctrine of the Eucharist, upon reading the book there is no real doubt. The real Eucharist is used to cleanse the monsters hideouts, and protect the people. However, the other half the picture, the half I want to point out, is that in Dracula, the heroes are also of a uniquely Christian archetype. This is the archetype of the humble warrior. In almost every modern story, an elite fighter, someone with special, Nietzschean superman powers, is required to overcome the vampire. This is the hero of pagan man. This is Achilles, half god, dipped into a river of immortality; this is not St George, the Roman soldier. It is the idea of the humble warrior that runs through the book Dracula that makes it especially pleasing to read. The people are not immune to the assaults of the monster, they are not stronger, or cleverer, or anything except brave, and full of faith. This is the hero of the common man. That is, an ordinary man (and his wife and a few others) put into extraordinary situations, and persevering through vary dark trials with courage and resolute character, and finally conquering the monster. This is a truly democratic hero.

So yes, I do recommend the actual Dracula. It is written as a series of journal entries and letters, a style I find tiring, but the story, the villain and especially the grand humble heroes are worth it.

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2 responses to “Dracula: Bram Stoker

  1. I recently read this for the first time. The style may be a challenge to the modern reader. However it is gripping and reveals much about the human condition, both in its twisted fallen state and in its state of grace.

  2. Pingback: Injunction in My Sickness « Egotist's Club

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