Dracula: the very name instantly brings to mind visions of vampires, stakes, garlic and crucifixes. But when I bothered to read the novel I realised, sadly, how twisted modern vampire fiction has become.
Vampires are not meant to exist as heroes. Go back a few hundred years and men believed truly that the vampire was a real immortal, cursed to quench his undying thirst with a living mortal's blood. The very idea of a blood drinker inspires the very image of a villain in my mind. And that is what the titular character of this novel is.
I say novel, but I could also write that this is a collaboration of journals, letters and papers. For that is how Bram Stoker chose to fashion his famous novel (in epistolary form). And the different viewpoints through each journal serve to create suspense which suits the gothic tone of the novel perfectly.
In all it is a macabre novel that serves to make the reader reflect upon good and evil. The vampire to me is nothing more than an indication of man's own cursed nature and that unless he is delivered he must suck life from others around him. Ultimately only the righteous can destroy the darkness that serves to drain life.Additional thoughts after my first re-read (this is like the appendix of a book - which you skip if you want):
The first thought I had upon re-reading this were: oh I see the annotated version's notes show some awesome things! For instance I could see the contradiction in how all along the characters had spoken of how organised their notes were and then Stoker himself made errors in logic and with the dates to indicate that perhaps the narration was not so reliable. Which interestingly is how the book ends: with the narration indicating that it did not matter who believed their convoluted story.
My second thought was that I could see all the references to other texts. Hamlet, Homer and the various poets of the time (there was some reference in an essay attached to the story that perhaps the older version of Dracula - when he has gone without blood - was based on Oscar Wilde much as how Robert Louis Stephenson based his Long John Silver on William Henley)
My third thought was that I could see why I loved this book the first time I read it. The image of a bestial vampire like Dracula sucking the life out of victims to continue his un-dead existence is so metaphoric for the very idea of evil. Evil can be seductive, it can look appealing but ultimately it leads only to a sort of un-dead experience in which you seek to gain satisfaction and purpose through draining others of their vitality. And in this case it is an evil which can only be driven out through holy means (it is interesting that there are many allusions to the Bible in the actual figure of Dracula - is he meant to be represented as a sort of anti-Christ spirit?)
My fourth thought is that this is an incredible classic that has to be read to be understood. The little flaws in it make it more appealing and humanised if anything and the tragic nature of its story causes its readers to be both appalled by the villain (who is unforgettable) and to feel sorrow for the victims. As mentioned above: vampires are not meant to be messianic figures (the true message of Dracula I think) but they instead represent the very opposite of holiness and virtue*. While Dracula is not the first vampire novel it is perhaps the greatest as it shows the vampire as a truly malevolent and brutal figure (not a sparkly heartthrob but a killer). As [b:The Lord of the Rings|33|The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)|J.R.R. Tolkien|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347257199s/33.jpg|3462456] inevitably altered the idea of the fantasy genre so too Dracula undeniably changed the idea of the vampire.
A later fifth thought is about religion and Dracula. I read recently in a book about fantasy how Dracula 'blasphemes' against Christianity. I disagree. I think the book reveals an aspect of what sin does to man in the aspect of the un-dead vampire. The idea that a man under a curse is doomed to suck the life out of others. Because blood is symbolic of life and ultimately life is what Dracula takes because, well, he's a selfish old devil. To be honest I don't care about the reinterpretations, the interpretations of this book. It's a solid horror story that can be read by anyone.
*used in Dracula in its true archaic form to indicate a link to spirituality