Atmosphere: Extreme Goth
Chill factor: Sufficiently spine-tingling
I've never been a fan of Dracula; somehow, the image of him, with his Brillantined-hair, cape, and bad manicure, appealed far less than Mary Shelley's creature with its zipperneck, green complexion, and droopy eyes.
But, then, that just goes to show how my ideas of these famous monsters was influenced by Hollywood.
Reading Bram Stoker's version has been a revelation: I get it!
Let's get the mechanics out of the way, and say that old Bram's plot was tight as rigor mortis. His prose goes purple now and again, and the dialog is frequently overwrought and stilted. But you know what? It works!
And I think that is because Stoker had gotten such a handle on this character. Count Dracula is the archetype of all time. And, with Stoker's skillful plotting, he sucks the most out of it (bad pun intended). Let's take a look at a few broad interpretations that can be applied to this story:
1) Count Dracula represents counter forces (Eastern Europe versus Western Europe) that threaten the stability of civilization.
2) Dracula is the "other," the "dark force," symbolic of foreigners, the underclass, the physically or socially repressed.
3) Dracula is a morality tale, good versus evil.
What gripped me throughout was, of course, the subliminal notion of sex. Dracula represents not only the repressed sexuality of the heros in the tale, but also the fear/threat of the sexual female. Here's some insight from Carol A. Senf, 'Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror':
'On the surface the novel appears to be a mythic re-enactment of the opposition between Good and Evil because the narrators attribute their pursuit and ultimate defeat of Dracula to a high moral purpose ... Yet, in spite of the narrators' moral language, Stoker reveals that Dracula is primarily a sexual threat, a missionary of desire whose only true kingdom will be the human body. ... Neither a thief, rapist, nor an overtly political threat, Dracula is dangerous because he expresses his contempt for authority in the most individualistic of ways - through his sexuality. In fact his thirst for blood and the manner in which he satisfies his thirst can be interpreted as sexual desire which fails to observe any of society's attempts to control it - prohibitions against polygamy, promiscuity, and homosexuality.'
Definitely a story that transcends mores of any particular time. I'm very very glad I read it, and now I'm interested to read how other authors handle this tale -- and which interpretations they choose to emphasize. I may swap out my choice of Lisey's Story with King's Salems' Lot or maybe an Anne Rice novel. I will be checking out Carl V.'s recommendations, as well as what people are reading over at RIP-ing Yarns.
Reminder: October 1 is the start of the Horror Short Story Short Challenge! I'll list my Top 10 picks on this site. Just choose one from my list that you vow to read. Leave the name(s) of horror short stories you like that weren't on the list, or post your own top 10 and leave me a link. I'll compile all the readers' lists and post the reader choices mid-October. Hope you'll join in!