How does Dracula reflect on Victorian era?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Victorian era was one of enormous economic, social, and scientific change. It is against this background that Dracula can best be understood and appreciated. In the story, modernity has advanced to an enormous extent. Throughout the book we are presented with numerous examples of the latest developments in technology, science, and medicine. We see Mina Murray using a portable typewriter; Dr. Seward records his diary using a phonograph, a recent invention; and Professor Van Helsing employs the very latest scientific methods in carrying out blood transfusions.

Yet this is only one side of the story. As well as being a period of rapid modern development, the Victorian era was  deeply infused with a fervent spirit of religiosity. Despite the advance of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, Victorians on the whole remained staunch believers in the God and Christianity. We can see then a profound contradiction at the heart of what Victorians believed—a contradiction that is amply reflected in Dracula. The book's tensions explicitly reflect those of the era in which it was written.

But still, there is a sense in which the traditional elements of Christian faith have been submerged beneath the huge tidal wave of scientific and secular advancement. Dracula's evil is a dark force emerging from the primeval depths of pre-modernity. And Victorian religion, with its concessions to the secularizing spirit of the time, is simply inadequate to deal with the diabolical power unleashed by the risen vampire.

The same can also be said of natural science. The positivist spirit of the age has systematically suppressed any worldview or belief system which cannot be evaluated according to the same standards used by scientists. The clear and present danger represented by Dracula is not fully acknowledged because, to the scientific mind, it is mere superstition; and science cannot deal with something it doesn't believe truly exists.

The moral is clear. No matter how far a society advances, it must never try to suppress the traditional elements that constitute its very foundation. In particular, it must retain a clear and consistent understanding of the reality of evil, the better to confront and destroy it whenever it rears its ugly head.

 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples of Victorianism in Stoker's work.  The work does a good job in establishing and supporting the gender stratification of Victorian society. The idea that men are to save women, who are essentially damsels in distress, is a powerfully evident one.  Johnathan and his colleagues are there to save Mina from the dark forces.  This helps to bring out the idea that men are at the top of this hierarchy.  Another Victorian element that is present is the distinct conception of right and wrong.  Dracula is seen as the force of evil or what is wrong in the word, while Johnathan and the others are shown to be the forces of good.  In this collision of ideals, the forces of good win over that which is evil.  Similar to Victorian Society, there is a distinct and singular representation of good and evil, and this order is reaffirmed through the novel.