Why I Read Dracula

Instead of doing a “review” of Dracula where I tell you about the plot and my thoughts and we discuss the already-discussed-to-death novel’s interpretation of conservative Victorian culture, gender, and religion, I thought I would simply explain why I read Dracula and if it lived up to my expectations.

We are overrun with vampires today, from Twilight to True Blood, and I thought it was time I understood where these stories came from. Yes, I understand Stoker didn’t invent vampires and the Vampire myth, in various forms, has been around for ages in many cultures. Yet, I think it is fair to say Bram Stoker’s creation of Count Dracula and the mythology surrounding it has had the biggest influence on our common understanding of what a vampire is.

Because of this, I expected to find the “traditional” vampire in Count Dracula – none of this sparkling nonsense. I wanted the night-loving creature who drinks blood, sleeps in coffins, cowers from crucifixes and garlic, cannot survive in sunlight, and is defeated with a stake through the heart. However, it turns out that Stoker’s original Dracula isn’t exactly this vampire. The drinking blood, crucifix, garlic part is alright, but Dracula is fine in sunlight (though weakened during the day), must rest in his native soil, and is eventually defeated with two simple knives (although vampire-Lucy is defeated with a stake through the heart). He can also shift into other animals besides the bat and he cannot pass running water.

It seems the various movie adaptations of Stoker’s story (which contain at least the sunlight bit) have managed to shape our understanding of vampires as much as the original novel. And today, with the competing mythologies of the various vampire books, television shows, and movies, perhaps we have new understanding of “vampire” and my classic vampire idea doesn’t exist anymore.

I love that people have taken the vampire myth and made it their own, but I certainly hope people 100 years from now don’t picture Edward as the quintessential vampire. Yes, I read and enjoyed Twilight for what is it, but I’ll take Count Dracula for the standard thank you very much. Even if this notion is quite accurate.

Have you read Dracula? Did anything surprise you about it? What is your favorite interpretation of “vampire?”