Synopses & Reviews
Of the many admiring reviews Bram Stoker's Dracula
received when it first appeared in 1897, the most astute praise came from the author's mother, who wrote her son: 'It is splendid. No book since Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein
, or indeed any other at all, has come near yours in originality, or terror.'
A popular bestseller in Victorian England, Stoker's hypnotic tale of the bloodthirsty Count Dracula, whose nocturnal atrocities are symbolic of an evil ages old yet forever new, endures as the quintessential story of suspense and horror. The unbridled lusts and desires, the diabolical cravings that Stoker dramatized with such mythical force, render Dracula resonant and unsettling a century later.
Introduction by World Fantasy Award-winning author Peter Straub (Ghost Story).
"If there were a machine that could selectively erase memories, I would use it to erase all knowledge of the name Dracula from my mind so that I could read Stoker's novel without any notion of what was coming next....Stoker cleverly tells the story entirely through diary entries, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper articles. There is no traditional narrative. This device pulls you into the story and presents a puzzle to be solved, as there is some chronological reconstruction required to get the sequence of events....If you have never read the book because you've seen the films and you think you know the story, think again." Doug Brown, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
Bram Stoker's classic gothic novel about the bloodthirsty Count Dracula continues to thrill readers more than a century after it was first published.
About the Author
Peter Straub is the author of fourteen novels, including Ghost Story, Koko, and Mr. X. He has won three Bram Stoker Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, and the British Fantasy Award. He was named Grand Master at the 1998 World Horror Convention.
Reading Group Guide
1. Dracula relies on journal fragments, letters, and newspaper clippings to tell its story. Why might Stoker have chosen to narrate the story in this way? Do letters and journal entries make the story seem more authentic or believable to you? Likewise, discuss the significance that many of the male protagonists are doctors (Dr. Seward) or men of science (Dr. Van Helsing). Why is this important to the story?
2. How does the novel invert Christian mythology in its description of Count Dracula's reign of terror? For instance, what specific elements of Stoker's story parallel scenes or images from the New Testament? Why might this subversion of Christian myth be significant?
3. Discuss the roles of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker in the novel. How are the two women similar? Different? What accounts for their differences? To what extent does the novel depend on both of these women to propel the narrative forward?
4. Discuss the role of sexuality in Dracula. Would you say that Dracula attempts to reproduce himself sexually or by some other means? In what ways does the figure of Dracula subvert conventional notions of heterosexuality? Consider, for instance, his predilection for drinking blood and his habit of making his victims feed from his chest.
5. What are the elements of vampire folklore? For example, what, according to the novel, attracts or repels a vampire? How do you kill a vampire for good? Although Stoker did not invent the mythology of the vampire, his novel firmly established the conventions of vampire fiction. Choose another novel that deals with vampires and compare it with Dracula. (Consider, for example, one of Anne Rice's vampire books.) In what ways are the novels similar? Different?
6. Consider Freud's essay "The Uncanny" in relation to Stoker's Dracula. How would Freud describe the world that Stoker evokes in the novel? Is this a world of common reality? Or is it a world governed by supernatural belief? Or both? Discuss Freud's claim that the writer of gothic fiction is "betraying to us the superstitiousness which we have ostensibly surmounted; he deceives us by promising to give us the sober truth, and then after all overstepping it." In what ways does Stoker's narrative strategy of employing newspaper clippings and journal entries promise the "sober truth"? To what extent do you think Dracula achieves a sense of the uncanny?