20 April 2012
A Formalistic Criticism of Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Published in 1897, Dracula is an immensely popular novel that has never been out of print, has been translated into at least a dozen languages, and has been the subject of more films than any other novel. Only recently, however, have students begun to take it seriously from a literary standpoint due to the escalating interest in popular culture (Senf). Despite this growing interest in Bram Stoker’s best-known novel, the majority of literary critics read Dracula as a popular myth about the opposition of Good and Evil without bothering to address more specific literary matters such as style, characterization, and method of narration. This criticism, on the other hand, focuses on Stoker’s narrative technique in general and specifically on his choice of unreliable narrators. As a result, my reading of Dracula is a departure from most standard interpretation in that it revolves, not around the conquest of Evil by Good, but on the similarities between the two as it relates to the novel’s characters.
More familiar with the numerous film interpretations than with Stoker’s novel, most modern readers are likely to be surprised by Dracula and its extremely topical themes, and both the setting and the method of narration which Stoker chose contribute to the sense of immediacy. Instead of taking place in a remote Transylvanian castle or a timeless and fictional “anywhere,” most of the action occurs in nineteenth-century London. Furthermore, Stoker de-emphasizes the novel’s mythic qualities by telling the story through a series of journal extracts, personal letters, and newspaper clippings- the very written record of everyday life. The narrative technique resembles a vast jigsaw puzzle of isolated and frequently insignificant facts; and it is only when the novel is more than half over that the central characters piece these fragments together and, having concluded...