Power of Epistolary Form of Dracula

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Dracula is a gothic novel from 1897 by Bram Stoker. It became a very popular story during that time, but nowadays, it is still very influential. Dracula is one of the most important gothic and horror characters of all times. The success of Bram Stoker not only has to do with the literary elements of his novel but with the characteristics and peculiarities of the places mentioned and the characters involved. But in particular we have mention the structure of his work. The effectiveness of the novel is mostly based on its epistolary form because of the connotations it had during the Victorian period. It may seem insignificant at first sight, but we should have a look on temporal and social circumstances that did from Dracula a successful masterpiece and how Bram Stoker used that circumstances on his favor to create it. Moreover, analyzing readers’ interpretation we can understand its impact on Victorian society.

Firstly, the epistolary form of Dracula is based on telling the story through letters, journal entries and newspaper clippings. This way Bram Stoker assures the credibility of the story and makes it believable for the readers. For instance, Philippe Lejeune analyzed how epistolary forms introduced in literature created a new relationship between author and reader, giving to the reader a more active role (Brindle, 2013: 7). Also, it gives us clues and keeps the reader interested during the whole story. This tool often is used in mystery and crime fictions. Despite of the use of this resource, the reader knows from the very beginning that Dracula is the antagonist. The way the author achieves that is by referring to a remote and mysterious place: Transylvania. By that time, Dracula was not the first gothic story, so people could link remote places with horror. The function of remote places used in literature is also making the readers feel safe at the same time they are feeling terrified.

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Secondly, the epistolary form was related to the literature made during the French Revolution. For the Victorian point of view that implied chaos and non-sense. The boom of epistolary novels took place in France during the second half of the seventeenth century with the novel by Guilleragues, Lettres portugaises (1669). In which, the protagonist expresses her personal sadness after her lover abandons her. (Messina, 2017: 2).

The power of epistolary novels presides at the power thoughts have. They cannot be disputed and doubted. The fact that epistolary novels were related to French Revolution was an important part of Stoker’s work. Late nineteenth century was a hard moment for British economics. Population was concerned about bankerization. The author’s purpose was Count Dracula to translate the preoccupations of Victorian society in a way of a horror story. By making readers associate the story with more serious issues gives it power. As Gail Houston suggests that Count Dracula is the representation of foreign banking exchanges while Harker, Dr. Steward, Arthur and Lucy are the representation of English economy, which somehow is being in danger. The main character shows the loss of individual personality caused by capitalism and the Victorians’ subconscious fear of globalization. (Houston, 2005: 117,118)

Thirdly, the movement called ‘’The new woman’’ emerged in the United Kingdom was a real concern for the patriarchy. This movement was based on female emancipation from men in a economic and personal way and it also reclaimed sexual freedom. That preoccupation is the main interpretation of Dracula and it was the main reason for using the epistolary form. As it was related to the chaos during French Revolution, it was a subliminal way of making readers feel concerned and worried. The relation between The French Revolution and The New Woman movement was the disorder and chaos they provoked over society as something that cannot be controlled. Dracula’s figure prove how women are infected by this new thought. The women bitten by Count Dracula suddenly start being uncontrollable. This fact also has religious connotations. In the novel, the bitten woman is said to be no longer an angel because of her sexual freedom and her opposition to patriarchal impositions. The importance of this revolutionary movement was an inspiration for Stoker.

To sum up, the epistolary form in Dracula has a huge importance in the way we understand the novel today and in the way it was understood by Victorian readers. Bram Stoker knew very well how to influence on readers’ minds by using very particular literature resources. The connotations of these resources made out of Dracula one of the most important gothic novels of all times. The analysis of this work is not easy for readers of today because its effectiveness is primarily based on the socio-cultural characteristics of the Pre-Victorian and Victorian era. Anyways, everybody can enjoy Dracula as a simple gothic story but for the better understanding of its success we have to take into account not only the brilliant story it is but the union of every form thought for its magnitude.

The use of letters, diaries and newspaper clippings gives to the reader the opportunity of understanding the story from different points of view that another forms won’t. It helps to solve the mystery by comparing them and collecting the clues each one give. As a consequence of reading characters’ diaries we get to know them better. This is how the author achieves giving the reader a more active role in his work. Consequently, we are solving the mystery by ourselves while reading. This is a very significant part of mystery and horror novels like Dracula.

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