During my senior year of high school, my English teacher told us that we would be reading Dracula. I rolled my eyes at the thought of reading yet another required book. Why? I had only truly enjoyed one book that any of my high school English teachers assigned and that was The Count of Monte Cristo. And, being the stubborn young woman that I am, I was decided that this was to be yet another one of those boring books they called classics.
I knew I wasn’t going to like this book. I could feel it deep in my gut. In fact, I had seen the old movie adaptations of Dracula and I knew I wasn’t interested. The whole vampire thing just didn’t get me. I didn’t care how eloquent, attractive, or powerful vampires are; they are still dead. I was also a little afraid to read the book. Vampires—and Dracula in particular—are so sexual and I wasn’t comfortable reading those sorts of novels. But, I had faith in my teacher so I began to read.
The funny part about reading Dracula is that I had the exact same response to it as I had to The Count of Monte Cristo. The book starts out slow and I’m not very interested, but then something catches me and it refuses to let go. And then, like a baited fish, I’m hooked.
I think the part that intrigued me the most was the symbolism that Bram Stoker embeds throughout the text. If we hadn’t been discussing the text in class, I would have noticed the symbolism, but I don’t think I would have paid any attention to it. For example, Lucifer was a son of the morning, but he fell into darkness. And just as Lucifer fell, Lucy does also; she was a daughter of the morning (also called a human), but eventually she becomes a creature of the night, succumbing to the darkness she lives in but also the darkness that lives within her. I found this to be so poetic and beautiful, even though it scared me a bit.
To find something beautiful in something horrifying—there is no feeling like it. I guess it is like watching a train wreck: you don’t want to look because it is so shocking, but at the same time you can’t seem to look away. I reacted in the same manner to Dracula as Jonathan Harker reacts to the character Dracula. There is something so enticing about this creature of the night; there is an ugly beauty Dracula’s white, papery skin and sharp, claw-like fingers. And then, just as the ugly duckling transformed, so does Dracula, becoming as beautiful and eloquent as ever. Isn’t there a problem with being hot and dangerous? Once Dracula becomes younger, he gains the trifecta: wealth, power/looks, and smarts. He’s every woman’s dream and nightmare.
In the book, Van Helsing says one of the most memorable quotes: “Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.” I love the psychology throughout this book because Jonathan doesn’t know what is going on and he is constantly doubting his own memories. I do the same thing because there is no power in memory for it will all fade away. But, there is power in knowledge because that is more likely to stay. So yes, knowledge is stronger than memory because it lasts, but also knowledge gives you new power, whereas memory only gives or reminds you of power you already have.
Another quote I like is “I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.” I believe in things that most say I cannot or are impossible to know, such as God. Harker’s belief can be similar to this because he knows that something is up and yet he can’t quite explain it. My belief in God is the same way.
Ultimately, I think I relate best to Jonathan Harker, believing that—hopefully—I would do everything I could to stop an evil man. There is hope in charity and selflessness, a hope that I hope I can have in both humanity and myself. Jonathan wants the world to change for the better (i.e. without Dracula in it) and I want to help change the world, just as this character did in the book. He was selfless and courageous, something that I hope to be although I don’t know if I am. I guess drawing parallels with characters in the book helps me to enjoy the book more. It’s always nice to find some truly humanist ideals because it makes the character appear more human.
The quote I would like to end on is this: “No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.” This is where I draw the most hope and strength from in the book. No matter your life story, we are all still going through trials. But, the morning will always come which gives us a new perspective; we just need to have hope and patience as we wait for the sun. The messages of hope despite the horror are what gives me the most comfort in this book and are ultimately why I read it and enjoyed it so much. Sure, the story is about supernatural creatures, but the underlying tones are what help me to connect and that is what a good novel should do.
Thanks to my senior English teacher, I love reading Dracula and it’s no wonder why. There are lessons we can each learn from any book, lessons we may not understand as well if we were to learn it in any other way. Not only can we learn from characters, but we can also relate to them which helps us to draw a connection with the book. I related to Dracula because I strive to make a change in the world, and to find hope in such a seemingly dark place. (Though sometimes I forget to live by this standard.) Life gets better, but only if you take action—that’s something I learned from Dracula and it’s something I hope we can all strive to implement in our lives.