Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Dracula - Group Read
The real skill of this book is Stoker's incredible ability to continually provide climactic points that keep you interested. First, we have Jonathan Harker trapped in Dracula's castle. This interaction becomes increasingly intense, as Jonathan realizes how serious the situation is and then acts courageously to overcome it. As time ticks by, Jonathan knows a showdown is coming, and I couldn't believe it was the day before his face-off with Dracula a mere 24% into the story! (I read this on my Kindle...) Yet when Stoker suddenly switches to Lucy's story and leaves Jonathan hanging, I found I was equally interested in her predicament. Once again, I thought this would be the main plot, but after another intense climax, this portion of the story also ends. So he follows up by creating a new challenge, and it is time for the epic hunt for Dracula together with the danger surrounding Mina. If I heard about these developments without actually reading the story, I would probably assume that the writing was unskilled and the transitions to multiple climaxes would be clumsy and sudden. However, Stoker weaves them together seamlessly, and they interact and overlap to create one continuous, action-packed story.
But my favorite thing about the novel is the vampire-fighting dream team. I can't think of another story that so successfully puts together a team of equal contributors who band together to defeat their foe. (Ok, ok, I can hear Lord of the Rings fans screaming in my ear, but I personally enjoyed the teamwork of these vampire slayers better.) Arthur, Quincey, John, Jonathan, Mina, and Van Helsing form such a great team. I love the characterization Stoker gives to each person, and I especially love that he includes Mina as a vital and intelligent member. Keep in mind that this was written in 1897, long before "Buffy" and female characters who were capable of discussing such a dangerous adventure, let alone acting in one!
And yet, I'm not sure I can say that Mina is my favorite. I love the good, brave heart of Quincey Morris and was thrilled to see him give Americans a good name. All of the characters balance each other in wits, looks, skills, and personalities so that they form a fairly eclectic crew. But I think my favorite of all is Professor Van Helsing. I just love that the leader of this group is an old Dutch professor who has the tenacity and intelligence to do what needs to be done and conquer Count Dracula. (I also couldn't help thinking that he and fellow professor Indiana Jones might be great friends...)
With eloquent writing and stimulating descriptions, Stoker creates a fascinating story which was destined to survive countless generations. My heart was pounding as I neared the end of the novel, and it sets up such a perfect final image to conclude the epic tale. So please, do yourself a favor and read Dracula this month for an exciting October Classic. And be sure to check out the other posts in the group read!