What exactly is the theme of Dracula?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Among the many themes in the novel by Bram Stoker, you can certainly cite good versus evil as this is  the ultimate balancing act that the novel covers: who will win in the end? Us, or them? The vampires versus the prudish Victorians, basically.

However, aside from that central topic, a very interesting one develops right alongside it. It is the theme of science versus superstition. The reason why this is an important topic is because the battle of war versus evil that permeates the novel occurs within the context of the Industrial Revolution and its effects in the late 19th century society. The novel also observes the differences between the East and the West, kind of pointing a finger at the differences in technology between Eastern Europe, where the novel begins in a ruined, ancient castle, and Western Europe, where the story moves to, and the advances in medicine and technology of Victorian London.

This is even more evident when Lucy falls ill and even the most "hip"thinkers in the novel, such as Dr. Seward and Mina, cannot figure out what could be the cause of her issues. Yet, although Dr. Van Helsing is also a hip and high-tech doctor with the latest in everything, he is also respectful of superstitions and legends. That sort of mentality is unheard of from someone considered "brilliant", however, it is interesting that Stoker placed importance on this aspect to make it  the pivot that moves the plot forward. Therefore the old versus new, and ancient versus modern thinking goes together with the ultimate topic of good versus evil.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As the above posts have noted, there are many possible themes to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. All of them are reasonable and defensible. This is often the case with good literature—it can be experienced and understood on many levels.

To understand Stoker’s central meaning, it’s important to look at how danger is presented in the novel. Where does it come from? What do we know about it? It’s not likely that Stoker was really concerned about the danger posed by vampires. Obviously there is something else Stoker is getting at.

Dracula, as the primary antagonist in the novel, comes from Old World Europe. He represents a deep, dark, and mysterious past—a time and place that the West has lost touch with (if it was ever “in touch” with it in the first place). While the West has made great scientific advances, it has not kept its knowledge of the more primal, natural side of existence. The vampire is able to capitalize on modern man’s ignorance and establish itself in the West, much to the detriment of his neighbors.

With this in mind, we could state the theme as a warning: Forget the past at your own peril.

When Van Helsing saves the day, he does not do so by applying modern science, but by using what he has learned about vampires. Thus, the modern man must learn about the ancient man to successfully defeat him.

Stoker lived in an era when technological innovation was still relatively new and slow moving, at least compared to the whirlwind of invention and change we live in now. Writers like himself, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), and H. G. Wells (The Time Machine, The Invisible Man) were all concerned about where science would take us if we were not able to foresee the consequences of our expanding knowledge and capabilities. Stoker’s Dracula is a little different than Shelley and Wells in the sense that it emphasizes the need to keep our knowledge of where we come from more than just looking at what scientific advancement will bring.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A good example of a theme is when Van Helsing explains why Lucy needs to be killed.  He says that her mortal soul is trapped in her undead body, and it needs to be set free.  He acts as if it is a kindness.   This is an example of the theme of immortality and salvation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Like many novels, there isn't always one main theme.There maybe several or there may be one dominant theme and other, less prominent ones. Here are some main themes of Dracula:

1. Superstition versus logic and reason. Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing stand for logic and reason, while the villagers at the beginning stand for faith and superstition.

2. Religion versus science. Refer to the points in #1 above.

3. The struggle of good versus evil. 

4. The prevalence of the occult in society.

5. The horrific / the macabre / fear of the unknown.

6. Shapeshifting.

7. Sex and sexuality.

There are some great resources available here on Enotes. Search some of the criticism of Dracula and you'll see other themes pop up for you.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During childhood Bram Stoker suffered from a chronic illness which not only kept him from living normal childhood experiences but also forced him to live indoors or at least not exposed to direct light. It is difficult to ignore this influence upon his creation of the vampire prototype.

Into adulthood, Stoker "stole" the first fiancée of Oscar Wilde. The idea of gratifying one's wants or needs at another's expense is also a main leit motif throughout the story.

Bram Stoker was a bit obsessional about "documenting" Dracula. He spent almost eight years gathering information from weather records, ships' logs, etc. to make the setting as authentic sounding as possible.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are many themes woven throughout Bram Stoker's novel, but the prevelant is probably that of good vs. evil.  I know it sounds cliche, but most works in the Gothic genre use this as a main theme.  Freud and Jung's exploration of the human psyche and the development of psychoanalysis in the late 19th century led people to study more about the human mind and what lies in the shadowy recesses.  These ideas found their way into the literature of the time period (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example).  In Dracula, Stoker's band of righteous men battle against the evil influences of a vampire attack on the women they love. Another theme of gender roles in Victorian Society presents itself through this conflict.  The men want Lucy and Mina to return to the sweet, pure women that they knew and loved.  A vampire's bite releases the so-called "evil" side of a woman-- the sexual "vamp" who destroys men's souls by luring them into her embrace.  When Lucy is transformed, she becomes more seductive, demonstrating a release of sexual repression.  It's significant that Arthur Holmwood is the one to strike the blow that "sets her soul free" and returns Lucy's soul to the innocent state that it was in before Dracula's attack.  The one who loves her most is the one to drive a wooden stake through her heart...pay attention to the sexual overtones there as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Look at the roles of men versus women (men being the creatures of reason, women being the seducible vessal of evil). You might also look at reason versus madness or passion. Modernity also comes to the forefront when reading Dracula--the different "developments" Van Helsing has when dealing with the undead.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Here's another one: Salvation or Damnation. Another one is the Roles of Men and Women in society.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial