Tuesday, 6 March 2012

HELLO A Classics Challenge

The prompt for March is the setting. I have been reading Dracula by Bram Stoker, which has a number of settings from Eastern Europe to North Yorkshire. I have chosen to look at the first major setting-Castle Dracula. 

The story of Dracula is told through the journal entries, telegrams and letters made by  Jonathan Harker (solicitor); Mina Murray (Harker's fiancee); Lucy Westenra (Mina's friend); Dr Seward, Quincey Morris and Hon. Arthur Holmwood (Lucy's suitors), and Professor Van Helsing. It begins from Jonathan Harker's journal, a solicitor sent to deal with Count Dracula's purchase of an estate in England. He journeys from Vienna to Budapest by train, coach, and then by caleche through the Carpathians to Bukovina, Romania.


CALECHE (source)
I'm not sure that I'd want to be travelling in the Carpathian mountains in this, but it was the mode of transport at the time-late Victorian.

BRAN CASTLE (source)
This picture shows the castle commonly known as Castle Dracula, but there is no proof that Stoker actually went there. To get to the castle, they have to climb up steep hills:

 'everywhere a bewildering mass of fruit blossom-apple, 
 plum, pear, cherry. And as we drove by I could see the 
   green grass under the trees spangled with the fallen petals.' 

This description seems to foreshadows the fate of the women.

In the beginning of the book we are led on sensual journey: this continues throughout the book. Initially, Harker writes happily about the food he has eaten, the friendly people he has met, which mirrors the pleasant May weather, and visual description of his surrounds. As he nears his destination, the locals behave with suspicion, making him anxious, he leaves the company of his travellers to go on ahead with just his driver. The night draws in, the wolves make their presence known, and the castle looms over him. By the time he reaches the castle it is dark. Harker is left alone, in the cold, to gain entry into Castle Dracula.

'I stood close to a great door, old and studded with large iron nails,
and set in a projecting doorway of massive stone.'
The morning after his arrival, Jonathan eats breakfast alone and notices the oddities in the house. There is evidence of wealth: gold wrought table service, expensive fabrics that upholster the furniture, and made into curtains, but there are no servants.

CASTLE DRACULA-TUDOR STYLE (source)
Harker likens the look to Hampton Court.
Castle Dracula is cold, remote, and  built in the Carpathian mountains on the edge of a precipice. It is a superior, unobtainable fortress, that is viewed with mystery and suspicion. This more or less describes Dracula. The Gothic, medieval house represents Dracula. He states he is from an old family and that a new house would kill him. This leads me to believe that the house and the man are akin. 

The tension builds as the once welcoming Count abandons Harker in the house (during the day), leaving him cut off from the world. He has become a solitary man in a large, empty house. It is Dracula's lair: his rat trap. 

    'Doors, doors, doors everywhere, and all bolted...
    ...The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!

The setting and mood changes again as the story moves to England. I will leave it up to you to find out how this effects the story. Having read the book I was surprised at how involved I became with the characters, as I was compelled to continue with them, on their journey of discovery. And I'm glad I did.



19 comments:

  1. Oh wow - now I must re-read this too! I remember enjoying it more when the setting moved to England - I remember struggling up to that point! I don't know why exactly - it was such a long time ago!

    Yay for such a wonderful prompt! Take care
    x

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Old Kitty.

      Do give it another read. Enjoy the journey (with Jonathan) with new eyes.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the challenge, Debbie - I'll put it on my list. I always enjoy reading the classics.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Victoria.

      I'll be re-reading some, but the new ones I've read I've enjoyed.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for your post, Debbie! I hadn't realized the book was written in a kind of epistolary format. I love how you've included quotes with your images. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Katherine.

      I do like this format. As I was reading, it made me think about how this is all lost to us. Most of us text, tweet, etc. How different would it be if the characters communicated in this way.

      Delete
  4. What a great setting - lucky you were reading something with such a powerful place (it's almost like the castle is a character itself).

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jacqui.

      That's how I felt whilst reading Dracula, that the castle was a mirror to him.

      Delete
  5. Great post. Setting is so important otherwise a story can be told as if it's set in a white washed room and be bland and unconvincing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Madeleine.

      That's the balance I'm trying to obtain with my WIP, that is, setting v. characters. It's easy to get carried away with descriptive writing, but I love reading it.

      Delete
  6. One of my favorite novels.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Elisa.

      Am glad you've enjoyed it too.

      Delete
  7. I read this not long ago. The settings in this book are great, so atmospheric and essential to the plot - I was surprised at how good the book is.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you Margaret. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the journey.

      Delete
  8. I enjoyed your post of Jonathan's visit to Dracula's castle--great pictures, and I liked the description of the food and how it matched the setting as well.

    I visited Whitby in 2009, and really enjoyed visiting the abbey and retracing Mina and Lucy's steps in the graveyard.

    I enjoyed Dracula so much more than I anticipated and the Stoker really does a wonderful job with setting the mood with his spooky scenes.

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  9. I'm glad you enjoyed the book too, Jane.

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  10. The setting in Dracula really is great - he does a good job of making you feel like you're there, not that you'd want to be! I didn't notice the reference to Hampton Court when I read it (or don't remember it anyway), but that's interesting. That helps me visualize it even more since I've now been to Hampton Court. That's one of the things I like about traveling - getting to "get" references better after you've seen something in person.

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