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Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula (Credit : Wikimedia)

The third book is a story better known through film than book.  This my third week on this on line course with Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World  by Eric Rabkin. The book is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 

In reading this book again I surprised myself at how much I had forgotten of the original story and how much film had influenced my perception of it. I had read it about twenty years ago and thought that I knew the story. Mina is a lot stronger in the book than in some of the films and Harker more of a wimp.  All the characters went on a great length about Mina and how lovely, pure and virtuous she was.

Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.

Here is the essay that I submitted which received an average 4.


In chapter three of Dracula, Harker encounters three beautiful female vampires. This is a highly erotically charged scene. Their relationship to Dracula and purpose in the story is not clear.In Victorian England an audience would want to be titillated but not shocked by overt sexuality.

Three women appear in many stories. In Grimm’s there are Three Spinsters, in Shakespeare Three Witches and in Mythology Three Fates controling the thread of life from birth to death just as the vampires threaten Harker’s life. In ‘Theogony’ Zeus has three sisters representing three stages of desire. Zeus marries two of his sisters. The three are called ‘the sister’s” . Two of them have The Count’s ‘aquiline nose’ suggesting relationship. Dracula says that he once loved them. The ‘sisters’ represent myth or fairy-tale adding to the ancient legend of the vampire whilst reducing their sexuality to fantasy. The ambiguous relationship obscures any incest.

When this book was written Victorian England was shocked by the Oscar Wilde affair. Stoker was married to Wilde’s ex-girlfriend so he would have been sensitive to this. The eroticism of the vampires ‘kiss’ was acceptable when the count’s teeth were penetrating his female victims, but shocking for Victorians if the victim were a man. In the scene with the ‘sisters’ Harker is recumbent with the ‘sisters’ over him, reversing typical gender roles. The count declares his possession of Harker but it is the women who touch and inflame him, obscuring any homosexuality.

A final role for the sisters is as a foil for Mina. Mina is described as pure as virtuous rather than beautiful or sensual. She is held up as the ideal woman. In chapter 14 Van Helsing says of Mina “She is one of God’s women”.

Stoker used these characters well. They brought an air of myth to the story. They acted as a foil for Mina and obscured any behaviors which would be considered inappropriate in Victorian society. They also gave the story eroticism to attract more male readers. 


Works cited:

Please note that this essay is written in British English.

Sources of information:

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Household Tales – Grimm Brothers

MacBeth – William Shakespeare

Theogony – Hesiod


Peer Review 

The review process is split into three parts.

Part one FORM

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the FORM of the essay you have just read.  FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct?  Are the words properly used?  Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly?  An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Very good, aside from a couple of typos.
peer 2 → It is a good essay with an adequate form. I would suggest revising some typos in the work and the repetition of words, such as obscured. It takes out some of the impact of your argument. Nonetheless, the argument is laid out clearly. The score for the Form is 2.
peer 3 → The essay is well written.
peer 4 → Good form

Please grade the FORM of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct? Are the words properly used? Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly? An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Everyone should strive for perfect grammar. However, if someone writes in ways that are particularly vivid or uses particularly incisive key terms to focus the argument or in some other way is outstanding in usage or structure, that essay should be awarded a 3 but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part two CONTENT

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the CONTENT of the essay you have just read. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Good insight, interesting topic and good analysis and examples.
peer 2 → The essay illustrates some of the main themes of the story implying some thoughtful reading. The score for the Content is 2.
peer 3 → About the content of the essay I thought the idea was interesting but the author diverted a bit out of the subject. The reversal of gender roles is indeed interesting more could be said on the subject.
peer 4 → Content a little bit unclear.

Please grade the CONTENT of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Most people will offer their readers a new insight and some detailed reference to the text that argues for the significance of that insight and for an appreciation of how that detail functions, so most essays will enrich our reading and earn a 2. Some essays will be astonishingly new or persuasive or useful by making the story much richer and even by helping you understand better how to read stories in general. Such essays earn a 3 in Content, but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part three COMMENTS 

Please write here any other comments which you feel might be of use to you or the writer of this essay.
peer 2 → It is a good essay, yet it is focused in only one episode. I would recommend picking up themes in the whole work to add a bit more depth to the points that are raised in next essays. Keep up the good work.

What I will take forward. 

As with my two previous essays I focused this one on a small part of the book as a whole. Having read some essays that include the whole book, or books as in the case of Alice, I find them very diluted. Although the scope is broader they don’t give information that enhances my understanding of the book.  For my next essay I will try to broaden the scope to the whole book. I am not sure how I will do this for weeks where we are reading several short stories by different authors on different themes. I will need to find a way.

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