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Dracula

Definition: The name of a vampire in the Bram Stoker novel of the same name (published 1897).
The name of a vampire in the Bram Stoker novel of the same name (published 1897).
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.

Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Plot Summary

The novel is told in epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, ships' log entries, and so forth. The main writers of these items are also the novel's protagonists. The story is occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings that relate events not directly witnessed by the story's characters. The events portrayed in the novel take place largely in England and Transylvania during 1893.

The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula's crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia). The purpose of his mission is to provide legal support to Dracula for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer, Peter Hawkins, of Exeter in England. At first enticed by Dracula's gracious manner, Harker soon discovers that he has become a prisoner in the castle. He also begins to see disquieting facets of Dracula's nocturnal life. One night while searching for a way out of the castle, and against Dracula's strict admonition not to venture outside his room at night, Harker falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, the "Brides of Dracula". He is saved at the last second by the Count, because he wants to keep Harker alive just long enough to obtain needed legal advice and teachings about England and London (Dracula's planned travel destination so as to be among the "teeming millions"). Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.

Not long afterward, a Russian ship, the Demeter, having weighed anchor at Varna, runs aground on the shores of Whitby, England, during a fierce tempest. All of the crew are missing and presumed dead, and only one body is found, that of the captain tied to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. These events led to the gradual disappearance of the entire crew apparently owing to a malevolent presence on board the ill-fated ship. An animal described as a large dog is seen on the ship leaping ashore. The ship's cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of "mould", or earth, from Transylvania.

Soon Dracula is tracking Harker's devoted fiance, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy receives three marriage proposals in one day, from Dr. John Seward; Quincey Morris; and the Hon. Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Godalming). Lucy accepts Holmwood's proposal while turning down Seward and Morris, but all remain friends. Dracula has a notable encounter with Seward's patient Renfield, an insane man who means to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures - in ascending order of size - in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a motion sensor, detecting Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly.

Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously. All of her suitors fret, and Seward calls in his old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Amsterdam. Van Helsing immediately determines the cause of Lucy's condition but refuses to disclose it, knowing that Seward's faith in him will be shaken if he starts to speak of vampires. Van Helsing tries multiple blood transfusions, but they are clearly losing ground. On a night when Van Helsing must return to Amsterdam (and his message to Seward asking him to watch the Westenra household is delayed), Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf. Mrs. Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright, and Lucy apparently dies soon after.

Lucy is buried, but soon afterward the newspapers report children being stalked in the night by, in their words, a "bloofer lady" (i.e., "beautiful lady"). Van Helsing, knowing that this means Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Lord Godalming, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down, and after a disturbing confrontation between her vampiric self and Arthur, they stake her heart, behead her, and fill her mouth with garlic.

Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives home from recuperation in Budapest (where Mina joined and married him after his escape from the castle); he and Mina also join the coalition, who turn their attentions to dealing with Dracula.

After Dracula learns of Van Helsing's and the others' plot against him, he takes revenge by visiting - and feeding from Mina - at least three times. Dracula also feeds Mina his blood, creating a spiritual bond between them to control her. The only way to forestall this is to kill Dracula first. Mina slowly succumbs to the blood of the vampire that flows through her veins, switching back and forth from a state of consciousness to a state of semi-trance during which she is telepathically connected with Dracula. This telepathic connection is established to be two-way, in that the Count can influence Mina, but in doing so betrays to her awareness of his surroundings.

After the group sterilizes all of his lairs in London by putting pieces of consecrated host in each box of earth, Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania, transported in a box with transfer and portage instructions forwarded, pursued by Van Helsing's group, who themselves are aided by Van Helsing hypnotizing Mina and questioning her about the Count. The group splits in three directions. Van Helsing and Mina camp in the forest outside the Count's castle, where the Count's brides appear and attempt to entice Mina to join them entirely. Van Helsing manages to drive the brides away, and during daylight, goes to the castle and kills them. Shortly afterwards all converge on the Count just at sundown under the shadow of the castle. Harker and Quincey rush to Dracula's box, which is being transported by Gypsies. Harker shears Dracula through the throat with a Kukri while the mortally wounded Quincey, slashed by one of the crew, stabs the Count in the heart with a Bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, and Mina is freed from his curse.

The book closes with a note about Mina's and Jonathan's married life and the birth of their first-born son, whom they name after all four members of the party, but refer to only as Quincey in remembrance of their American friend.

Characters

  • Jonathan Harker: A solicitor sent to do business with Count Dracula; Mina's fiance and prisoner in Dracula's castle.
  • Count Dracula: A Transylvanian noble who bought a house in London and asked Jonathan Harker to come to his castle to do business with him.
  • Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker (nee Murray): A schoolteacher and Jonathan Harker's fiance.
  • Lucy Westenra: A 19-year-old aristocrat; Mina's best friend; Arthur's fiance and Dracula's first victim.
  • Arthur Holmwood: Lucy's suitor and later fiance.
  • Jack Seward: A doctor; one of Lucy's suitors and a former student of Dr Abraham Van Helsing.
  • Abraham Van Helsing: A Dutch professor; Jack Seward's teacher and vampire hunter.
  • Quincey Morris: An American cowboy and explorer; and one of Lucy's suitors.
  • Renfield: A lawyer whom Dracula turned mad.
  • Brides of Dracula: Three siren-like vampire women who serve Dracula.

Background

Between 1879 and 1898, Stoker was a business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula published on 26 May 1897.:269 Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer holidays. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences was by 1897 very familiar to readers of fantastic adventure stories. Victorian readers enjoyed it as a good adventure story like many others, but it would not reach its iconic legendary status until later in the 20th century when film versions began to appear.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions".

Despite being the most widely known vampire novel, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871 "Carmilla", about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman, and by Varney the Vampire, a lengthy penny dreadful serial from the mid-Victorian period by James Malcolm Rymer. The image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, was created by John Polidori in "The Vampyre" (1819), during the summer spent with Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley, her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron in 1816. The Lyceum Theatre, where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898, was headed by the actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker's real-life inspiration for Dracula's mannerisms and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Although Irving never did agree to do a stage version, Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker's original titles for Dracula, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. Stoker's notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally "Count Wampyr", but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the name "Dracula", after reading William Wilkinson's book Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them (London 1820), which he found in the Whitby Library, and consulted a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula was the patronym (Drăculea) of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who took the name "Dracul" after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Romanian language, the word dracul (Romanian drac "dragon" + -ul "the") can mean either "the dragon" or, especially in the present day, "the devil".

The novel has been in the public domain in the United States since its original publication because Stoker failed to follow proper copyright procedure. In the United Kingdom and other countries following the Berne Convention on copyrights, however, the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker's death. When F. W. Murnau's unauthorized film adaptation Nosferatu was released in 1922, the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to the controversy caused when Stoker's widow tried to have the film removed from public circulation.

Historical and geographical reference

Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references. The historical connections with the novel and how much Stoker knew about the history are a matter of conjecture and debate.

Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Bram Stoker's fictional Dracula attracted popular attention. During his main reign (1456-1462), "Vlad the Impaler" is said to have killed from 40,000 to 100,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals and anyone else he considered "useless to humanity"), mainly by using his favorite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. The main sources dealing with these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighboring Transylvania, who had frequent clashes with Vlad III. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Turks. His impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000 Ottoman Turks.

Historically, the name "Dracula" is derived from a Chivalric order called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (then king of Hungary, later also Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The name Dracula means "Son of Dracul". Stoker came across the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history, and chose this to replace the name (Count Wampyr) that he had originally intended to use for his villain. However, some Dracula scholars, led by Elizabeth Miller, have questioned the depth of this connection. They argue that Stoker in fact knew little of the historic Vlad III except for the name "Dracula". There are sections in the novel where Dracula refers to his own background, and these speeches show that Stoker had some knowledge of Romanian history. Stoker mentions the Dracula who fought against the Turks, and was later betrayed by his brother, historical facts which unequivocally point to Vlad III:

Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkey-land; who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph! (Chapter 3, pp 19)

The Count's intended identity is later speculated on by Professor Van Helsing:

He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. (Chapter 18, pp 145)

The Dracula legend as he created it, and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows, may be a compound of various influences. Many of Stoker's biographers and literary critics have found strong similarities to the earlier Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu's classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla. In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn on stories about the sedhe, some of which feature blood-drinking women. The folkloric figure of Abhartach has also been suggested as a source.

In 1983, McNally additionally suggested that Stoker was influenced by the history of Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who tortured and killed between 36 and 700 young women over a period of many years. It was later commonly believed that she committed these crimes in order to bathe in their blood, believing that this preserved her youth.

In her book The Essential Dracula, Clare Haword-Maden opined the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castle, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll. According to Miller, he first visited Cruden Bay in 1893, three years after work on Dracula had begun. Haining and Tremaine maintain that during this visit, Stoker was especially impressed by Slains Castle's interior and the surrounding landscape. Miller and Leatherdale question the stringency of this connection. Possibly, Stoker was not inspired by a real edifice at all, but by Jules Vernes's novel The Castle of the Carpathians or Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). A third possibility is that he copied information about a castle at Vecs from one of his sources on Transylvania, the book by Major E.C. Johnson. A further option is that Stoker saw an illustration of Castle Bran (Torzburg) in the book on Transylvania by Charles Boner, or read about it in the books by Mazuchelli or Crosse. Many of the scenes in Whitby and London are based on real places that Stoker frequently visited, although in some cases he distorts the geography for the sake of the story.

Daniel Farson, Leonard Wolf and Peter Haining have suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Armin Vambery, a Hungarian professor he met at least twice. Miller argues "there is nothing to indicate that the conversation included Vlad, vampires, or even Transylvania" and that, "furthermore, there is no record of any other correspondence between Stoker and Vambery, nor is Vambery mentioned in Stoker's notes for Dracula."

 

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Dracula (Bram Stoker)

 

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| Count Dracula | Stoker, Bram |

Resources:

  external linkComplete Dracula Novel (BramStoker.org) Bram Stoker
  external linkWikipedia Entry

 

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