Literary Qualities

Paradoxically, Dracula has been judged both a failure and a masterpiece. To most modern readers the novel seems uneven, containing passages filled with suspense and others which are uneventful and slow. The most effective section of the novel is the beginning, describing Jonathan Harker’s trip to Transylvania, his stay with Count Dracula, and his growing suspicion of his host.

The second section of the novel contrasts sharply with the first. Stoker turns to an epistolary (letter-writing) technique to structure this part. Having left Harker at Dracula’s mercy and fearing for his life, Stoker turns to the rather frivolous correspondence of the two young women. The novel moves slowly until the first hint of Dracula’s presence in Whitby. One of the novel’s greatest problems is that Dracula is a great deal more interesting than the other characters, and when he is not on the scene the book seems flat.

The novel also suffers somewhat from Stoker’s unsuccessful use of dialect. He is inconsistent in his attempts to reproduce the English of the Texan Quincey Morris and the Dutchman Van Helsing and fails to make the speech of either character seem authentic. While his use of dialect is clumsy, it does serve to remind the reader of the important fact that the band is composed of men from different countries.

Also generally seen as a flaw in the novel is the tone of a passage that follows Lucy’s death and burial. Dr. Seward records in his diary his conversation with Van Helsing, who makes a lengthy speech, known as the “King Laugh” speech, to explain his laughter at this apparently inappropriate time. His laughter is caused by Arthur’s statement that he felt married to Lucy following the blood transfusion Van Helsing performed. Van Helsing and Seward know, as Arthur does not, that Lucy also received transfusions from the two of them and Morris. The function of this passage is not clear, but it does seem to contain symbolically important ideas concerning blood and marriage.