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Five Reasons to Read Bram Stoker's Dracula

British Literature Five Reasons To Teach Series

Dracula is more than blood and gore–although it does have a bit of that. Filled with fascinating characters like the resourceful Mina Murray, the knowledgeable Professor Van Helsing, the crazed mental patient Renfield, and the diabolical Count Dracula himself, the story is equal parts horror, mystery, and adventure. From a historical perspective, it’s also a fascinating time capsule for the Victorian Era. So without further ado, here are five reasons to teach Dracula.

  1. The modern concept of the vampire starts with Dracula. Bram Stoker’s novel was not the first vampire novel, nor did he invent vampire lore. What he did do, through extensive research, was coalesce centuries of vampire lore into a single, enigmatic character. He also gave Dracula the coolest villain name ever: Dracula means “son of the dragon” or “son of the Devil.” All of the other vampire tropes are there, too:  no reflection, death by stake, repelled by garlic and crucifixes, sleeping in boxes or coffins, etc. The only vampire trope that didn’t start with the novel is the idea that sunlight kills vampires, which came from a later film adaptation (Nosferatu 1922). Otherwise, all the vampire lore is here in one handy, dandy place.
  2. Dracula is a literary version of “found footage.” “Found footage” is a film-making technique where the film is presented as footage shot by the characters in the story and later “discovered” by the filmmakers. Dracula has a similar feel. Inspired by Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, which told its story through a series of diaries, Bram Stoker told his story in a similar, faux-realistic way, through journal entries, phonographic records, telegrams, invoices, business letters, newspaper clippings, and even a ship’s log. It gives the story a realism that would otherwise be lacking.
  3. The novel is a mash-up of various storytelling genres. The story begins like a gothic horror novel:  At Castle Dracula, Jonathan Harker witnesses a series of supernatural horrors. Then Dracula arrives in England, and although the horrors continue, all of a sudden the novel reads like a detective novel. Readers wonder, “Just where is Dracula, and what is he planning to do next?” The story concludes like an adventure novel with a dramatic race against time as the heroes must defeat Dracula before a character near and dear to them is lost. (I won’t spoil it for anyone who has never read the book.) This ever-changing storytelling style keeps the story fresh.
  4. Dracula is a Victorian time capsule. Any classic novel is a product of its time, and Dracula is no different. Its characters live in the nineteenth century and consider themselves “up-to-date with a vengeance.” They use typewriters, telegraphs, trains, steamboats, phonographs, written shorthand, and even Winchester rifles to combat Dracula. They are also buttoned-up Victorians through and through, and some people interpret Dracula’s bloodsucking as a metaphor for a culture that had (at least publicly) renounced sensuality. Mina, the novel’s heroine, encapsulates the changing role of women in British society at the time. On one hand, she is a traditional, dutiful wife, but on the other, she is modern, educated, and resourceful.
  5. Dracula is the most famous literary character…ever. I know that’s a bold statement, but think about it. Everyone knows Count Dracula. He’s been kiddy-fied into Count Chocula to sell breakfast cereal and Count Von Count from Sesame Street to teach counting. He’s a popular Halloween costume, and almost everyone can impersonate him:  “I vant to suck your blood.” Now, it can be argued that it’s not really Dracula the literary character, but Bela Lugosi’s film portrayal of Dracula that’s so famous, yet only Frankenstein’s monster rivals Dracula for worldwide fame. 

Dracula, while a brilliant novel, is not always an easy read. Its pacing and dense language is difficult for many high-school students, which is why we have created a collection of six Reader’s Theater script-stories that adapt Dracula. Click here to find out more about the adaptation.

The Dracula Dossier:  If you want your students to experience real excerpts from the novel alongside the adaptation, check out the Digital Classroom Version, which includes the Dracula Dossier, “primary documents” from the novel:  diaries, letters, full-color maps, news clippings, and ship’s logs. There’s even a handout about the history of vampires and an alternate ending to the novel. That's a grand total of 70 pages of supplemental materials! Click here to find out more about these materials.

Want to test the waters before you buy? You can read “Dracula: Part I” for free by visiting this page here!  (The link for the free script is in the middle of the page.)

Content Warning:  Although none of the description is graphic, some of the story elements in Dracula are recommended for grades 9-12.

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