Before Edward, before Bill Compton and before Buffy, there was the Count. Not our monocled friend from Sesame Street, but Dracula himself. He struck fear into the straight-laced Victorians of days gone by. If you are looking for a classic read that contains any of the gothic elements that have become pop culture fodder for the last few years, Bram Stoker’s iconic horror story Dracula seems to be the perfect fit.
Dracula may as well be the anti-Twilight. Count Dracula is lusty, ugly and downright despicable. Heroine Mina Harker actually has a personality (which is more than Stephenie Meyer’s Bella can say). The gothic classic and lacks glitter, magic and other schmaltzy romantic fluff. There remains a major flaw despite some initial positive qualities.
Picture our main man Dracula with this description from the book: “His face was a strong — a very strong — aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl with its own profusion.”
Stop right there, Stoker: You had me at massive eyebrows.
There simply is not an adequately foxy vampire to be found anywhere in that description. Yes, we’ve all been reduced to impatient, instant-gratification-seeking kids due to our society’s overexposure. That doesn’t make it wrong to want a vampire protagonist with some slight appeal. Give me whiny, vanilla Edward any day over this unibrowed buffoon who started it all.
The other, non-undead characters of the story add little interest. Stoker wrote Dracula in the epistolary style, using letters and diary entries to tell the story, helping to make the size of the book more manageable. That being said, epistolary style in particular lends itself to passivity. Conflicts in the novel are always being discussed in retrospect, making the story’s level of action sporadic at best, tedious at worst and lacking creativity after the type of vampire stories we are used to now.
Some more interesting horror stories from the 19th century include Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, a meaty tale about a pious man of the cloth who finds himself seduced by the devil, and Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella, Carmilla, which involves a she-vampire who has a thing for the ladies. Trust me, this stuff sounds like the work of a bored, teenage fan fiction author but I assure you — very real — so real, in fact, that an entire English class taught by renowned professor Patrick O’Malley was designed around these and other sensationalist gothic works.
If you’re looking for a more modern horror fix that isn’t penned by Stephen King or Anne Rice, look to authors Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier. These two women have written some of the most chilling novels of the last 100 years. Works from both authors have already been successfully worked into major Hollywood productions such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Sadly, neither writer tackles vampires. Despite appearances and name-recognition, classic horror novel Dracula ends up being surprisingly less relevant to modern culture than one might assume.
And given the book’s size, it may not be worth hauling to Healy Beach on a sunny day. While captivating enough for required reading, if you really want something that restores gothic camp to its pre-Meyer heights, stake Stoker and rent a season of “True Blood” instead.
For the record, Team Eric is where it’s at.
Elizabeth Garbitelli is a junior in the College and is currently studying abroad in Oxford, England. She can be reached at [email protected]. Literary Snarknotes appears every other Friday in the guide.