I am not a vampire fan.
I am not a fan of weird Halloween decorations. It’s downright creepy: ghouls, spider webs, zombie costumes, and, yes, plenty of vampire-related paraphernalia.
When I was a kid, we dressed up as butterflies, astronauts, and a few specific characters such as Luke Skywalker or Winnie-the-Pooh. NO ONE decorated their houses; we simply lived for the night of free candy while our parents rolled their eyes.
Times have changed.
Twilight was big business when it first hit store shelves; vampire-lore and vampire-love are firmly part of contemporary pop culture. Movies like Blade and Van Helsing and TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries are old news now. Stores carry vampire teeth and makeup kits so your costume can look as gruesome as possible.
So, in this mess of creepy vampire options, why read Dracula? Isn’t it better to ignore it all? To not introduce it to our kids if we can avoid it?
My family and I chose to listen to an (excellent) audio version of Dracula this summer. My twin sons were 12, and my daughter was 13. Together, we’d already listened to the Harry Potter books, the Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit), the Ashtown books, and a host of other “scary” books. I mention this because Dracula is not for the faint of heart.
It’s also not nearly as scary or intense as most modern vampire pop culture. No, the original Dracula presents a very different picture of vampires than Twilight, Blade, or Buffy. In Dracula, vampires are evil, thoroughly and unredeemingly so. Published in 1897, it reflects a very Victorian sensibility, complete with Christian overtones, clear roles for men and women, and a fascination with mystical/supernatural elements.
When a vampire bite is suspected, the victim’s immortal soul is of utmost concern, even to “taking care of” them after death (I won’t spoil it for you). Dracula is a monster, a product of evil. The human soul is a sacred thing, able to commune with God and destined–ideally–for eternity in heaven. The intermediate state of creatures like Dracula is feared, not celebrated. The union of the soul with its Maker is of primary importance, and that is the reason Dracula is feared and hated: he threatens that union.
In Dracula, the “Christians” are fighting for the right, for the truth, and against evil. Men are willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the women they love (sometimes romantic love, sometimes platonic/brotherly love). The humans are anxious to help one another defend the community against the threat they perceive. They are brave and thoughtful, even as they fear the unknown.
In contrast, Dracula is a sinister figure, solely focused on his own self and his perceived needs. He has no thought of others save for how they can serve him. He is only brave when the ending is assured (or so he thinks).
There are gruesome scenes in Dracula. People die. People bleed. Creepy and scary things happen. But the ending is a good one, a hopeful one. The line between good and evil shines clearly. And vampires (and other supernatural creatures like them) are portrayed as evil, not merely misunderstood. Evil demands our bravery, our willingness to fight.
So, is Dracula worth reading? That’s for you to decide. My family had some great discussions about the sanctity of life, the importance of the soul, the distortions we see in popular culture, and more. I hope my kids have a healthy respect for evil, and I hope if and when their friends want to celebrate supernatural distortions like vampires, my kids won’t be tempted to do likewise.
Above all, I hope and pray they fight for right, for the truth, and against evil, knowing that their souls are priceless.
Have YOU read Dracula? What did you think?
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