Tired of vampire and Dracula stuff yet? They’re everywhere! Vampire Diaries, Twilight Saga, Vampire Academy, a new Oreo commercial with Dracula in it … I could go on for days! I, myself, was Dracula’d ad nauseum … until I reread the original, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading it the first time … the rich images, the haunting ambiance, and the refreshing manner in which the network of protagonists work together to annihilate impurity.
It’s funny. I’ve read a number of Dracula analyses, and it’s always curious to me the breadth of views, not so much of the Count, but of the book itself. Understandably, people tend to see the fictional character, and especially the historical figure of Vlad Tepes, in varying ways. Dracula is antagonist; no, he’s protagonist. Some see Vlad the Impaler as a hero to be lauded; others see him as a torturer to be decried. People often, especially in these ‘anything goes’ times, see heroes as villains and villains as heroes.
What I find perplexing … maybe enigmatic is a better word … is the diametrically opposed notions of the book of Dracula. I have read theses on this work that run the gamut. It’s anti-Christian; it’s pro-Christian. It’s misogynistic; it’s pro-feminism. It’s erotic; it’s a work of high morality. Dracula, the book, has been linked to Darwinism, paganism, Catholicism, and just about every major religion. The Count was even portrayed in one film (one of my favorites, and this is a spoiler if you haven’t seen it), Dracula 2000, as Jesus’ betrayer, Judas. And Stoker’s characters oft have been criticized for having little depth … the good ones have no real humanity because they’re just too good; the bad ones (really just one, Drac, of course) are top-to-bottom evil.
My feelings about Dracula … besides being a wildly exciting read with some crazy good imagery, it is pure melodrama, meant to evoke strong emotions in every direction, which, I suppose, is a reason for the polarized views on it. Regardless of how provocatively he wrote it, though, I believe Bram Stoker intended Dracula to be just as it reads, an intensely clear depiction of right and wrong. In fact, I find this perfectly clear distinction to be one of the major reasons to read this book. With the loads of ambiguity surrounding us in our times, it’s revitalizing to read a book, even if it is fictional, about a group of people who see it as their duty to unify against evil. It’s a noble lesson we could all learn in this age of moral relativism.
As you probably would have guessed, here is my suggestion … read Dracula. And if you don’t like to read … maybe even better … try this: Turn down the lights, get a glass of deep red wine (for obvious reasons), sit alone or with a friend, and listen to one of the many enormously captivating audio versions. You probably won’t be able to listen to the whole book at one time, but I believe you’ll have so much fun the first night that you’ll look forward to the next night when you’ll again be sitting with your wine in the dark, privy to the journals of Professor Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray and the rest of the vampire slayers. I bet you’ll be as Bram stoked as I am.