Dracula: My First Book
I have got a very close bonding with Bram Stoker’s book Dracula because it was the first book that I ever read on my own. I was at that time in the third-grade. I was at school during the summer vacations because mama (who was a teacher in the same school) had got a lot of paper work to do with the other teachers and she could not leave me at home all alone. Without any children around to play with, I was bored stiff and somehow in desperation to find some company, dragged my tiny chubby feet up to our library. I did not find anyone there but the librarian, but I found somebody that would lure me into the paradise of literature forever; stumbling over the long and high shelves I found: Dracula.
“Whats this all about?” I asked the librarian.
“Why child its a horror book,” she answered with a start.
“May I borrow this one?” I timidly asked.
“As you wish, don’t blame me if it scares you,” she stated, quite matter of factly as she stamped the card I gave her (my mama’s) and carrying the fat book to my chest went into an empty classroom to read. The librarian was right; the book did scare me, it scared me right out of my wits, but I liked it. I devoured an unabridged classic at the age of seven for over five hours, FINISHING it, UNDERSTANDING every part of it and then returned it to the librarian that very same day before mama could take me home.
“Scared you?” asked the librarian in a sarcastic tone.
“Yes indeed, the evil was very bad but the good was very good,” said I meekly, with a twinkle in my raven black eyes, for I knew at once that hence forward, I had new friends better than the ones I used to play hide & seek with. They were books … mountains of them … millions of them; but who brought me to them? Dracula and I had entered of my own free will.
Well, that was my little history with the monster and seducer Dracula. Now to the literary part of the whole matter. Dracula, it is said, when it was published, did not give any profits to his creator who we all know as Bram Stoker but from the onset of cinema and television, the vampire who stalks the innocent for their life saving blood became an instant success bringing the classic out into the limelight. Each movie or drama based on Dracula color him in different ways but my concern is with the vampire…or the undead creature that Bram Stoker tried to put forward in his novel.
The real Dracula, as Stoker put it, was once a royal figure of great intrigue during the middle ages, known for his intellect and soldier blood, but who lived or survived after his supposed ‘death’ as a vampire who is more spirit and blood than really human. We all are well aware that Bram Stoker in his research for a real life character to play the role of his vampire took the personage of the infamous Vlad Dracula who was a great warrior, but had some rather nasty habits of impaling people and dining where he could see this happening. There was a lot of speculation as to his death (whether he really died or did not). Facts are that when his casket was removed from the earth and checked, well … he wasn’t there. This was enough for Stoker. Now his vampire would be this very same impaler king who returned to drink the red blood of the human race … Stoker even recorded the history of this king in his novel and gave his vampire that king’s very own name – DRACULA.
Thus now backed by historical evidence, Dracula started to unleash his spell of evil on all and sundry.
But coming to the theme of Stoker; it is evident that in his time (the Victorian Period) a vampire was still considered as a thing of evil, and something which was ugly and ghastly. Stoker’s Dracula however is a learned and very dignified count who lives in a castle and dresses rather well. Although he has all the physical features of a vampire (hair on palms, no reflection, pale skin, canine teeth, etc.) he can yet pass off as a regular human being to an ignorant person. He is also a master seducer of women which was exaggerated to a great extent by modern film makers. But, Stoker was Victorian and for him, Dracula was evil incarnate, someone who was damned by God (unlike the modern day teenage vampire’s who somehow have warped the idea of vampirism completely), even though he looked very human to the eye.
Stoker was clear cut in his analysis of his own vampire: Dracula was different, but he was still evil, maybe even more evil than the vampires of his predecessors (Varney & Carmilla to name a few).
While Dracula is evil incarnate, the person who is all good and wanting the death of Dracula is Dr.Van Helsing, a medical man who like Dracula is also learned, but has deep faith in the living and especially God. It is he who realizes the presence of a vampire in the tragic case of Lucy and he is shrewd enough to know when he should shift from the objective world to the world of superstition. He attributes this to his experience and age. He saw what the others could not see (except poor Mr. Harker who almost got killed in Dracula’s castle), and knew what science was not willing to believe. Undoubtedly the true hero of the story is Dr. Van Helsing, but since humans are more fascinated with evil, we all regard Dracula as the real hero of this story although after the draining of Lucy’s blood, he really does not appear that much in the narrative.
The narrative itself is uniquely written in the form of journals, ship logs, diaries, etc. not only of one person but many individuals put together. All events fall into place and this style of telling a story has affected most of my writings.
Some of the folklore behind the origin of vampires is made accurately by the writer however, some parts are exaggerated. It is scary, no doubt about that, and it also shocks. Catholic customs and traditions are intricately used against the vampires and with a mad house in the story, the novel excels itself in generating a new (at that time) kind of horror which was and is still imitated by many authors today.
The best part of the story is the mystery itself and how biblical terms can be changed to mean something absolutely horrid (the blood is the life).
This was about the 20th time I was reading Dracula, and yet I felt a shiver run up my spine. But now I have got an extra amount of literary backing not to be shocked out of my wits. Dracula introduced me to literature and the beauty of books. I thank the count a thousand times today for doing at least one good turn in his all so cruel life.