Critical Context

Dracula is the most famous of all horror novels, and its central character is one of the few literary figures to have become a household name, known to people who have never read the book. Stoker’s elaborate description of the “rules” according to which vampires operate and may be opposed—the boxes of native earth that provide their resting places, their sensitivity to garlic and fear of crucifixes, their inability to cast reflections, and, above all, the fact that they must be destroyed by driving stakes through their hearts—became definitive, providing the narrative apparatus of dozens of films and hundreds of novels.

In recent times, Anglo-American culture has made a concerted effort to set aside the hang-ups of the Victorian era, recommending understanding and acceptance of one’s own sexuality and an attitude of respectful tolerance toward the sexuality of others. It is not surprising, in this intellectual climate, that charismatic vampires cast in the same mold as Dracula should have lost their force as icons of evil. It is, however, a remarkable testament to the power of Stoker’s imagination that instead of disappearing, or becoming merely comic figures, Dracula’s most conspicuous modern analogues have become overtly heroic figures in the work of such writers as Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.