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Why Is Bram Stoker's Dracula Popular?

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Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the most adaptated and greatest horror books of English literature. It was first published in 1897 and became a successful book after the film adaptations. At first Bram Stoker used The Undead as a title but after his research he used Dracula. Dracula is an epistolary novel. The story is told in diary entries, letters and some newspaper extracts and this helps characters learn about the events. The setting of the novel is 19th century England. The story begins with Jonathan Harker’s journey to Transylvania to conclude a real estate transaction for Count Dracula. He lives in a big castle and in time Jonathan Harker becomes a prisoner in Count’s castle. He is attacked by three vampire women and he is saved by Count Dracula. Then we find him in a hospital and Count is on his way to England. Count arrives in England by a ship called Demeter and the ship is wrecked on the shore. The crew of the ship is dead except only a dog, shape-shifted Count Dracula, is alive and its cargo which is boxes of soil from Transylvania. Then Count attacks Lucy Westenra and Dr. Seward cannot make a diagnosis and he sends for Dr. Van Helsing but they cannot cure her and she becomes a vampire attacking children at nights and she was killed by a stake through her heart and then they cut off her head and fill with garlic. Then Renfield, Dr. Seward’s patient, lets Count Dracula in and he attacks Mina Harker. He makes her suck his blood and this leads Mina to make a telepathically connection with the Count. With the help of Mina they track Dracula and they catch him on his way back home to Transylvania, they open the box that Dracula hides in and they cut off his head with a knife.

Vampirism has appeared in all cultures, in legends. There were poems and short stories telling about vampires before Stoker’s Dracula but in those Romantic Period poems the vampire were not a real character it was symbolic. Male vampires symbolized the sexual predator and the female symbolized the sexual seductress. The vampire used as a character first in John Polidori’s The Vampyre. Ruthven, the main character of the novel is an actual vampire and he stalks and kills women. The first full-length vampire novel is Varney the Vampire, attributed to James Madison Rymer and Thomas Preston Priest. There is, in this novel, a Hungarian vampire comes to England. There are some common things between Dracula and Varney the Vampire. First Varney is the first vampire that turns his victims into other vampires, second Varney is from an aristocrat family and finally his shape shifting from a monstrous creature to an attractive aristocrat. Bram Stoker also used non-fiction books. The most influential one is Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest. He learnt about the life, history of Transylvania, a distant and exotic place he chose for the setting of the novel and William Wilkinson’s An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia introduced him viovode of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler, whose notorious reputation for staking his enemies to death provided Stoker a model for Count Dracula. “As a military leader, Vlad was known to favour night attacks with his most spectacular against the invading Ottoman Turks in the summer of 1462. So, Stoker’s Dracula operates only at night and shuns the sun” (Trow 2-3). Stoker uses this information and applies to vampire’s attacking technique. For instance in Count’s castle after writing letters to England Dracula warns Jonathan Harker by saying “вЂ?…let me warn you with all seriousness, that should you leave these rooms you will not by any chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle…Be warned! Should sleep now or ever overcome you, or be like to do, then haste to your own chamber or to these rooms, for your rest will then be safe. But if you be not careful in this respect, then-вЂ¦Ð²Ð‚™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Dracula 29) Jonathan Harker sleeps in another room and he is attacked by three female vampires at night, Count Dracula attacks Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker at night and Lucy attacks children at nights. “Traditionally, the only means of destroying a vampire, which Stoker employs via a vampire-hunting Dr. van Helsing in the novel, is to drive a stake through its heart and hack off its head. The driving of stakes -impalement- was Vlad’s favoured method of torture, and gave rise to his nickname, Tepes.” (Trow 3). Stoker takes Vlad’s favourite torture method and turns it against the Count as a killing weapon. Vlad was rewarded by the king of Hungary for his fighting against Ottomans with the Order of the Dragon which was a brotherhood against Muslims. Latin word for dragon is draco and Vlad was known as Vlad Dracul but draco had another meaning which is вЂ?the devil’. So, Stoker combines what he learnt from The Land Beyond the Forest about Transylvania and things he found about Vlad the Impaler and this combination created a book that adaptated for so many movies. This paper, therefore, will be analysing Bram Stoker’s Dracula in terms of its main characteristics and their contribution to Dracula’s popularity in film adaptations.

Vampires represent many things to different people: immortality, forbidden desires, rebellion, power, eroticism, etc. Unlike other "monsters", vampires attract as well as repel; and they are in many ways so much like us. Add that to the general fascination with the darker side of our natures, with the supernatural, and with the nature of evil, and you have the fascination with Count Dracula. One major reason that Dracula has survived is his adaptability. He is, after all, a shape-shifter. Writers, artists, film-makers and others have done creative new things with the vampire in general and Dracula in particular. Every generation creates its own Count Dracula, reflecting the fears, anxieties and fantasies of its own time. (Miller “Dracula’s Homepage”)

Vampires appear in so many cultures but film adaptations based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are sixteen film adaptations including German, Turkish, Spanish, Mexican, and Korean. Dracula has become the rule book of these film adaptations because it gives the main characteristics of the vampire. The characteristics of the Count that appear in Dracula are:

1- He is immortal

2- He survives on the others’ blood

3- He turns into a bat or wolf

4- He can appear as mist and dust

5- He has no reflection



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