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Dracula by Bram Stoker
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Dracula by Bram Stoker

Why I Recommend This Book

I’m not much for reading horror, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula is really well-written and has a lot of interesting discussion points. I liked how the whole book is told through letters and journal entries and it is legitimately creepy.

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Summary

Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer (solicitor) from London travels to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula, a rich nobleman. He is there to help the Count purchase an estate in England, where the Count plans to immigrate to. The business trip turns strange and dangerous as Harker finds himself imprisoned in the castle by the Count far from home and no way to contact his loved ones. In England awaits Jonathan’s fiancee, Mina Murray, who begins to suspect something is wrong. Soon Mina, her best friend Lucy and Lucy’s suitors are pulled into the mystic and deadly world of Count Dracula.

Quotes and Info About The Author

Bram Stoker 1906
  • Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847
  • Stoker was a sickly child and was often bedridden. During these years, his mother entertained him with stories and legends from Ireland, which included tales of the supernatural, death and disease. (telegraph.co.uk)
  • He married Florence Balcombe in 1878. They settled in London and had a son, Irving Noel Thornley.
  • During his time in London, he became friends with the famous authors Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats and the creator of famous Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (online-literature.com)
  • He published first literary work in 1879, which was The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, a handbook of legal administration.
  • Dracula was published in 1897 and deemed a classic horror novel.
  • He worked as a civil servant at Dublin Castle and on the side as an unpaid writer for the local newspaper review theatrical productions. Through this, he met the famed English actor Sir Henry Irving who offered him a management position at his production company. This career move opened the door to traveling and exposure to the arts. (biography.com)
  • The original title for Dracula was The Undead.
  • To date, more than 1000 novels and 200 films have been made about the vampire, Dracula. (telegraph.co.uk)
  • It has always been said that a key inspiration for Dracula was  Vlad the Impaler, Transylvanian-born prince also known as Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia who ruled in the 15th-century. Manus the Magnificent, also known as Manus O’Donnell, who once ruled part of Ireland as was Stoker’s direct ancestor was also an influence on the book. (telegraph.co.uk)
  • Death: April 20, 1912, in London, England

“It is to such art that we look for the teaching of our eyes. Modern science can record something of the actualities of voice and tone. Writers of force and skill and judgment can convey abstract ideas of controlling forces and purposes; of thwarting passions; of embarrassing weaknesses; of all the bundle of inconsistencies which make up an item of concrete humanity. From all these may be derived some consistent idea of individuality. This individuality is at once the ideal and the objective of portraiture.” (wikiquote.org)

Major Characters

  • Count Dracula: Aristocrat in Transylvania and vampire
  • Jonathan Harker: Young Solicitor who travels to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula
  • Mina Murray: Fiancee/wife of Jonathan Harker
  • Lucy Westenra: Love interest of John, Arthur and Quincey, and Mina’s best friend
  • Professor Van Helsing: John Seward’s mentor and wise physician
  • John Seward: psychologist over an asylum in London
  • Arthur Holmwood: wealthy English landowner
  • Quincey Morris: Texan, friends with Arthur from hunting days
  • Renfield: Resident of asylum Seward is over.

Book Club Discussion

  1. The book is told through journals, letters, and newspapers as clips of evidence to prove the supernatural aspects of a vampire are real. Did this type of storytelling make the story feel more believable for you?
  2. Discuss the roles of Mina and Lucy in the novel. How are they similar? How are they different? How do their narratives propel the novel forward?
  3. While Stoker didn’t invent the mythology of vampires, his writings in Dracula established the parameters of vampire folklore. What aspects of Stoker’s writings and ideas concerning vampires are still prevalent in the media we see today?
  4. Discuss the role of sexuality In Dracula. Would you say he is trying to reproduce himself through his victims? What conclusions does the novel draw concerning seduction and evil and sexual purity and innocence? What are the contrasts between love and lust in the novel?
  5. It’s likely that our first encounters with the idea of Dracula were through film or in popular modern media. What aspects in the book were most surprising to you or different from what you expected?
  6. Was the book misogynist? Was it racist? 
  7. Considering the time period when this book was written, in some ways this novel was forward-thinking in blending or reversing gender roles. Can you think of examples from the book of this occurring?  (For example Stoker shows the women as problem solvers and at times the men breaking down and weeping, only to be comforted by a woman.)
  8. This novel brings together religion, science and the supernatural unknown. How does this novel make a case for each of these? How do they work together throughout the novel?
  9. At what points in the novel does Stoker elicit our sympathy for Dracula? Does it work?
  10. Out of the group, why do you think Stoker chose Quincey to be the character that dies? Why do you think Stoker chose to have this occur instead of having a happy ending?
  11. There are many heroes in the novel Dracula. How does Stoker portray what it means to be heroic?

Quotes From The Book

Quote 1: “She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me. I did not know what to do, for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind.”

Quote 2: “This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror!”

Quote 3: “When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.”

Quote 4: “The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!”

Quote 5: “There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which – for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death – and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no breath, no beating of the heart.”

Quote 6: “Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

Quote 7: “Well, I shall tell you. My thesis is this: I want you to believe.”  “To believe what?” “To believe in things that you cannot.”

Quote 8: “There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solved only in part. Believe me, we are now on the verge of one.”

Quote 9: “…for at sundown the Un-Dead can move.”

Quote 10: “But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him; that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him – without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best.”

Quote 11: “But we are face to face with duty; and in such case must we shrink? For me, I say, no…”

Quote 12: “Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine – my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed.”

Quote 13: “It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way – even by death – and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.”

Quote 14: “I should have felt terrible fear at seeing Jonathan in such danger, but that ardour of battle must have been upon me as well as the rest of them; I felt no fear; but only wild, surging desire to do something.”

Quote 15: “There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”

Quote 16: “Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker”

Quote 17: “I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”

Quote 18: “Despair has its own calms.”

Additional Activities

Bran Castle, Transylvania – Known as Dracula’s Castle

This article explains the myths and history from Romania that Dracula is based on.

Whitby Bay Abby. Whitby Bay is where Dracula preys on Lucy.
Another view of Whitby Bay.

Watch segments of this episode about Bram Stoker’s life from biography.com.

These very cool bookmarks from nabuonline.co.uk would make a great book club favor.

Refreshments

There are so many ideas for Dracula on Pinterest, but here are a few of my favorites.

This cute straw idea from danslachambredemesenfants.fr of course paired with your favorite red drink.
These vampire pie bites from eatingrules.com
These Dracula cupcakes from wilton.com
Or for something quick and easy, these vampire donuts from onelittleproject.com
If you ware wanting to keep vampires away, try this recipe for garlic knots with marinara sauce from bakerbynature.com

janiWood