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Dracula

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Overview

Dracula has appealed to readers for almost a century, at least in part because it deals with one of the great human conflicts: the struggle between good and evil. Stoker acknowledges the complexity of this conflict by showing good characters attracted to evil. For example, Jonathan Harker, the lawyer who journeys to Transylvania, is almost attacked at Dracula's castle by three young female vampires. In fact, he seems to be actually welcoming the attack before it is interrupted by the count. In this scene, as well as others, Stoker suggests that evil, represented by the vampires, is an almost irresistible force which requires great spiritual strength to overcome. It eventually takes the combined forces of a band of men, representing different countries, to defeat the vampiric count. Stoker's novel is a symbolic exploration of a conflict which has long troubled humankind.

Dracula also has considerable cultural importance. Stoker was not the first writer to make use of the vampire legend. Throughout the 19th century vampires appeared in a number of works, including Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla (1872), which Stoker read as a young man. But it is Stoker's version of the vampire legend that has had the most enduring popular appeal and the greatest influence on modern writers and filmmakers. In his book Vampires Unearthed, Martin Riccardo tells the story of a survey taken by Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum to determine the world's "most hated person." Dracula ranked fifth. Clearly, Stoker's creation continues to capture readers' imaginations.

SETTING

Stoker uses a circular structure for his novel, incorporating two settings. Transylvania is the setting for the beginning and end of the novel, and, since he had never been there, Stoker had to rely on research for his description of the country and its people. The rest of the novel takes place in England, a setting familiar to Stoker and his audience.

The novel begins with Jonathan Harker's journey to Transylvania on May 3 of an unspecified year. Harker later states that seven years elapse between the events themselves and his compilation of them, so we may assume that the action of the novel takes place from May to November in 1890. Harker's initial enjoyment of a country filled with wonderful new sights, people, and food contrasts sharply with his apprehension as he approaches the count's castle and his terror when he finally realizes he is Dracula's prisoner. This section, the first four chapters of the novel, has been highly praised for its accurate descriptions of the region and its use of those descriptions to create suspense and terror.
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