Dracula was written in 1897 by Irish writer Bram Stoker. This is his major claim to fame; his other being the personal assistant of Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in London. While the book has been considered one of the first true gothic horror novels of its era, the title should go to one of its many predecessors such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which debuted roughly seventy years before.
Readers in the 18th and 19th centuries were fascinated by dark, macabre literature which any student of classic literature can see from the titles published throughout those two centuries.
Should the fact that Dracula was published on the end of the Victorian Gothic literature scene lessen its credibility for being one of the foremost horror novels? Absolutely not. Dracula is the stepping stone from which the vampire novel niche as we know it now was created.
If you aren’t familiar, the novel tells the story of the infamous reclusive Count Dracula coming from Transylvania to London in a series of letters written by the main human characters. The most endearing and humorous character in the novel is Van Helsing, who is a learned doctor in the metaphysical world as well as the physical world.
Thoughts on Dracula:
As a paranormal researcher and formal sociology student, the overall themes that are presented in the book are fascinating. In the twenty first century, we have been geared to think that the actions of drinking blood are erotic, sexual, and deadly. We think this because of the publishing of all of the mass media that has resulted because of this novel. Blood drinking is portrayed exactly the same way, but Stoker didn’t face the harsh ridicule that Oscar Wilde, nor D. H. Lawrence, did later for what could be described as an intense sexual, harmful act.
Vampire lore itself can also be considered highly offensive to individuals who hail from Romania and other Eastern European countries. Vlad Dracul, on whom the novel was based, ruled Romania in the mid-1400’s. History remembers him as a barbarian due to his tactics of placing men on pikes on the castle grounds. To Romanians; however, he is regarded as a hero for their country. Bram Castle is a popular tourist destination largely due to the popularity of Stoker’s book. The castle capitalizes on the story, even in the form of vampire memorabilia. Regardless of that, the smaller communities of people in the region wholeheartedly believe that vampires do exist, as did their ancestors before them.
Van Helsing impresses me the most in the novel because he deals with what is going on with the other characters in a metaphysical and physical way. In the late 1890’s, society was at the end of when interest in what we would term “New Age Spirituality” was popular parlor entertainment. Parlor entertainment in this case was séances and talking boards to get in touch with the dead.
The Victorians wanted to know and look for something else that was going on in the world around them aside from what could be found at church. That was why horror literature was so popular and why spirituality became so immensely popular during that period. Van Helsing’s character is one that seems as if he would have studied everything he could about those subjects too, as well as new scientific theories for medicine during his lifetime. If it weren’t for his research, the lead characters would have had no idea what to do against Dracula.
If I were in school…
Read the novel as a novel first. Then go back, and write down some of the concepts that stand out to you that can be pertinent to a person in our social world today.
Always research the background of the story that you’re reading and the author before you write your paper. You want to get a feel for who they are, what the story is about, and what their inspiration is.
Resources for Teaching Dracula:
Dracula Lesson Plans: Discovery Education
Teacher’s Notes Booklet
Lesson Plans from BookRags
20 file download Teacher Resource
Worksheets and Activities
The Literature Network bio of Bram Stoker