Spectator (review date 31 July 1897)

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SOURCE: “Recent Novels.” Spectator (31 July 1897): 150-51.

[In the following review, the anonymous critic asserts that the strength of Dracula lies in Stoker's vivid imagination.]

Mr. Bram Stoker gives us the impression—we may be doing him an injustice—of having deliberately laid himself out in Dracula to eclipse all previous efforts in the domain of the horrible,—to “go one better” than Wilkie Collins (whose method of narration he has closely followed), Sheridan Le Fanu, and all the other professors of the flesh-creeping school. Count Dracula, who gives his name to the book, is a Transylvanian noble who purchases an estate in England, and in connection with the transfer of the property Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, visits him in his ancestral castle. Jonathan Harker has a terrible time of it, for the Count—who is a vampire of immense age, cunning, and experience—keeps him as a prisoner for several weeks, and when the poor young man escapes from the gruesome charnel-house of his host, he nearly dies of brain-fever in a hospital at Buda-Pesth. The scene then shifts to England, where the Count arrives by sea in the shape of a dog-fiend, after destroying the entire crew, and resumes operations in various uncanny manifestations, selecting as his chief victim Miss Lucy Westenra, the fiancée of the Honourable Arthur Holmwood, heir-presumptive to Lord Godalming. The story then resolves itself into the history of the battle between Lucy's protectors, including two rejected suitors—an American and a “mad” doctor—and a wonderfully clever specialist from Amsterdam, against her unearthly persecutor. The clue is furnished by Jonathan Harker, whose betrothed, Mina Murray, is a bosom friend of Lucy's, and the fight is long and protracted. Lucy succumbs, and, worse still, is temporarily converted into a vampire. How she is released from this unpleasant position and restored to a peaceful post-mortem existence, how Mina is next assailed by the Count, how he is driven from England, and finally exterminated by the efforts of the league—for all these, and a great many more thrilling details, we must refer our readers to the pages of Mr. Stoker's clever but cadaverous romance. Its strength lies in the invention of incident, for the sentimental element is decidedly mawkish. Mr. Stoker has shown considerable ability in the use that he has made of all the available traditions of vampirology, but we think his story would have been all the more effective if he had chosen an earlier period. The up-to-dateness of the book—the phonograph diaries, typewriters, and so on—hardly fits in with the mediæval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula's foes.


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Dracula Bram Stoker

(Full name Abraham Stoker) Irish novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

The following entry presents criticism on Stoker's novel Dracula (1897).

Dracula is one of the most famous horror novels of all time. Published in 1897, the book garnered much critical and popular attention at the time of its publication and through the years has spawned countless stories and novels by other authors, as well as numerous theatrical and cinematic adaptations. In fact, Dracula has never gone out of print since its first publication. Many critics regard the novel as the best-known and most enduring Gothic vampire story ever published.

Plot and Major Characters

Dracula is an epistolary novel, comprised of journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings, a ship's log, and phonograph recordings. In the first part of the novel, a young English solicitor, Jonathan Harker, is sent to Transylvania to counsel a wealthy client, Count Dracula. During Harker's two-month stay at Dracula's castle, he becomes...

(This entire section contains 944 words.)

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disconcerted by Dracula's odd appearance, eccentricities, and predatory behavior; he begins to fear for his safety. After some investigation, Harker discovers that Dracula sleeps in a coffin in a crypt beneath the castle during the day and spends his nights stealing babies from the nearby town. He attempts to escape the castle, where he has become a hostage. In the next part of the novel, the scene shifts to England and the friendship between Harker's fiancée, Mina Murray, and a young lady named Lucy. After being courted by three worthy suitors, Lucy has accepted the marriage proposal of Arthur Holmwood, the future Lord Godalming. While on vacation in Whitby with Lucy and her mother, Mina chronicles in her diary the mysterious arrival of a Russian schooner, containing fifty boxes of earth, the corpses of the ship's crew, and a large black dog, which quickly disappears after landing. Lucy begins acting strangely, and Mina finds two tiny holes in Lucy's neck. Abruptly, Mina is called to Budapest to tend to Jonathan, who has escaped Dracula's castle and is suffering from brain fever. When he is sufficiently recovered, the two marry. Meanwhile, Lucy's condition deteriorates, and she gets weaker and paler. Holmwood appeals to his friend and former rival for Lucy's affections, the doctor Seward, to assess her condition. He also calls in a specialist, Dr. Van Helsing. Despite various treatments, Lucy dies.

After Harker and Mina return to London, Harker sees Dracula on the street but begins to doubt his own sanity. Reports in the newspaper detail the abduction of several small children near the cemetery where Lucy was buried. Harker describes his experiences in Dracula's castle to Van Helsing, who connects Dracula with Lucy; he realizes that Lucy has become a vampire and is abducting and biting local children. Van Helsing, Seward, Holmwood, and another of Lucy's former suitors, Morris, trap Lucy, drive a stake through her heart, and cut off her head. Then they place holy wafers in several of the boxes of earth found on the Russian schooner, thereby rendering the coffins uninhabitable for vampires. Meanwhile, Dracula has chosen Mina for his next victim and begins to turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing and his crew try to save her, but realize they have to kill Dracula to do it. They track Dracula to his London home, yet he manages to escape. They follow him to Europe, and after a struggle, they drive a knife through his heart and cut off his head. As Dracula's body disintegrates, Mina is saved.

Major Themes

Initially, Dracula was interpreted as a straightforward horror novel. Yet later critics began to explore the theme of repressed sexuality within the story. Commentators asserted that the transformation of Dracula's female victims, Lucy and Mina, from chaste to sexually aggressive should be considered a commentary on the attitude toward female sexuality in Victorian society. Homoerotic elements in the relationship between Dracula and Harker have also been detected. Moreover, the drinking of blood has been regarded as a metaphor for sexual intercourse, and the stakes that kill Lucy and three other vampire women have been discussed as phallic symbols. Critics have since tended to view Dracula from a Freudian psychosexual standpoint; however, the novel has also been interpreted from folkloric, political, feminist, and religious points of view. Other commentators have identified themes of parricide, infanticide, and gender reversal in Dracula. Autobiographical aspects of the novel have also been a topic of critical discussion, as a few commentators maintain that the novel is based on Stoker's traumatic experiences with doctors—and particularly the procedure of blood-letting—as a sickly child. The literary origins of Dracula have been investigated, such as Dr. William Polidori's The Vampyre, Thomas Prest's Varney the Vampyre, J. S. Le Fanu's Carmilla, and Guy de Maupassant's “Le Horla.”

Critical Reception

Early critical reaction to Dracula was mixed. Some early reviewers noted the “unnecessary number of hideous incidents” which could “shock and disgust” readers. One critic even advised keeping the novel away from children and nervous adults. Today the name of Dracula is familiar to many people who may be wholly unaware of Stoker's identity, though the popularly held image of the vampire bears little resemblance to the demonic being that Stoker depicted. Adaptations of Dracula in plays and films have taken enormous liberties with Stoker's characterization. A resurgence of interest in traditional folklore has revealed that Stoker himself did not conform to established vampire legend. Yet Dracula has had tremendous impact on readers since its publication. Whether Stoker evoked a universal fear, or as some modern critics would have it, gave form to a universal fantasy, he created a powerful and lasting image that has become a part of popular culture.

Bacil F. Kirtley (essay date fall 1956)

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SOURCE: Kirtley, Bacil F. “Dracula, the Monastic Chronicles and Slavic Folklore.” Midwest Folklore 6, no. 3 (fall 1956): 133-39.

[In the following essay, Kirtley traces the origins of Dracula to Russian monastic chronicles and Slavic folklore.]

Bram Stoker's Dracula, that somewhat belated apparition from the sub-literary pits of Gothic horror fiction, has enjoyed a continuous notoriety since its first printing in 1897. Not only has the novel been republished numerous times, but its adaptions to the stage1 and to the cinema have repeatedly attracted crowded audiences. In the United States the story's impact has been sufficiently pervasive to furnish popular speech with a connotative tag in the figure of the vampire Dracula, whose mere name is evoked to suggest a stereotype of that shuddery, but not uncozy, fright purveyed by certain types of class-“C” motion pictures.

As might be expected, the materials out of which Bram Stoker put together his shocker were largely the stock-properties of Victorian supernatural fiction. Yet, certain of his themes—especially if the uncritical reader at which the novel was aimed be considered—have a curiously recondite origin and his decor possesses a surprisingly deliberate authenticity. Not only was the central figure of the novel, Dracula, ultimately historical, his exploits being preserved in the Russian monastic chronicles, but many of the supernatural beliefs and practices which provide the narrative both with its rationale and its emotional climate are rather faithful reproductions of superstitions which have undergone their most distinctive elaboration in the area of Southeastern Europe where the novel is set.

In the course of Stoker's novel, Dr. Van Helsing—whose several roles include wise counselor, shaman, and distinguished medical doctor—reveals the following information about the vampire Dracula's origin:

I have asked my friend Arminius, of Buda-Pesth University, to make his record; and from all the means that are, he told me of what has been. He must, indeed, have been that Voivode [English “Waywode”] Dracula who won his fame against the Turks over the great river on the very frontier of Turkeyland. If it be so, then he was no common man; for in that time, and for centuries after, he was spoken of as the cleverest and the most cunning, as well as the bravest of the sons of the ‘land beyond the forest.’ That mighty brain and that iron resolution went with him to the grave, and are even now arrayed against us. The Draculas were, says Arminius, a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by their coevals to have had dealing with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due. In the records are such words as ‘stregoica’—witch, ‘ordog,’ and ‘pokol’—Satan and hell; and in one manuscript this very Dracula is spoken of as ‘wampyr,’ which we all understand too well.2

This is not altogether the wild and pseudo-erudite talk of horror fiction. Stoker put in Van Helsing's speech details of a legend which have documentary confirmation.

In the monastery at Kirill-Belozersk, in northern Russia near the Finnish border, was found a manuscript which dates from the year 1490 and which is a copy of a document originally penned in 1486.3 The manuscript relates the story of Dracula (Rumanian for “devil”), which is the name bestowed in horror by monkish chroniclers upon Vlad Tsepesh, Governor of Wallachia from the years 1456 to 1462 and again in the year 1476. The material of the Kirill-Belozersk manuscript was widely circulated among the monasteries of the Eastern Slavs, and by the middle of the 16th century had reached as far as Germany, a fact attested by the appearance of the Dracula story in the vernacular edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia universa in 1541 (Latin edition, 1550).4

Dracula's exploits form a rough cycle of twelve incidents—incidents which for preposterous and whimsical cruelty challenge comparison with the outrages of young Caligula—and in the oldest manuscripts they are presented in the following order: (1) the Turkish ambassadors sent to Dracula's court in Wallachia failed to remove their fezzes in his presence. To Dracula's question about this impropriety, the emissaries replied that such was their custom. The witty governor had their fezzes nailed to their heads in order to “fix them in this observance.”5 (2) Dracula offered to join forces with the Turkish sultan upon the condition that his army be granted immunity from attack. The sultan accepted. After marching his army five days into Turkish territory, Dracula wheeled his host toward home. On the return march his men ravaged the countryside and killed, impaled, or tortured all the land's inhabitants. (3) All offenders against Dracula's laws were put to death, whatever their offense. In his domain was a spring of cool, sweet water by which he placed a golden drinking cup. No one ever dared steal this, so great was the fear he aroused. (4) Once Dracula had the aged, sick and poor of his domain summoned. He invited his guests into a large, specially made apartment and there fed them and gave them wine. He then asked the assembled unfortunates if they wished to be freed from all earthly care. They answered that they did; whereupon Dracula burned the building down upon them. (5) Two Catholic monks from Hungary visited Dracula in order to beg alms. Dracula took each separately, showed him the numerous wretches impaled upon stakes in his courtyard and asked him whether he had acted rightly. The first monk said no; the second monk said that a ruler was appointed by God to execute the wicked and reward the righteous. Dracula had the first monk impaled; the second monk he gave fifty gold ducats and dismissed with honor. (6) A merchant who had 160 gold ducats stolen from a cart appealed to Dracula for justice. Dracula had a similar quantity of gold, with the addition of one extra ducat, replaced in the cart. The merchant reported to Dracula the restoration of his money, as well as the presence of the additional ducat, at the very moment the captured thief was brought in. Dracula let the merchant go, telling the latter that had he not reported the extra ducat, he would have impaled him along with the thief. (7) Dracula was particularly cruel to lazy and unchaste women, as exemplified by this story. Once he met a poor peasant wearing a torn shirt. The peasant was asked if he had a wife, and next, if he had flax. When he replied affirmatively, Dracula had the hands of the peasant's lazy wife cut off and then ordered her to be impaled. (8) A peasant attending Dracula while he dined among the corpses of his courtyard held his nose against the stench. Dracula had him impaled in order to elevate him above such annoying odors. (9) Dracula continually set traps in the form of subtle questions for foreign envoys. If they failed to elude these, he impaled them, saying that he was not responsible for the punishment, but their master, who chose unsuitable emissaries. (10) Dracula had workmen make him iron casks which he filled with gold and lowered into a river. Afterward he had the workmen killed so that his secret would not be known.6 (11) King Matthias of Hungary defeated Dracula and imprisoned him at Vyshegrad on the Danube for twelve years. Even in prison Dracula managed to act with customary cruelty. He caught mice and impaled them, bought birds and plucked them alive. (12) In return for embracing Catholicism, the king freed Dracula and restored him to his former eminence. Ten years later, after defeating the Turks in a battle, Dracula rode to the top of a hill in order to survey his victory and was mistakenly killed by one of his own men in the failing light.7

Unquestionably the historical past that Van Helsing in his speech (quoted above) assigns the fictional vampire Dracula is that of Vlad Tsepesh, Voivod of Wallachia. Did Stoker, however, incorporate in the story any further particulars from the chronicle, beyond his identification of the character with the sinister governor and his utilization of the locale mentioned in the documents? Did he know the specific details of the Dracula legend or did he merely have a general impression of its content? Indeed, one circumstance in the story's plot indicates that he may have had more than a hazy idea of the chronicles' Dracula. In his novel Stoker seems to have adapted the legend of Dracula's imprisonment (incident no. 11 above) and to have attached it to the figure of Renfield, the zoöphagous (life-eating) maniac. Renfield, imprisoned in an asylum, devotes his energies to trapping flies. With his bag of flies he lures spiders; and with spiders, he attracts birds. “The blood is the life,”8 Renfield announces; and he values each species according to the number and complexity of life-forms it destroys and consumes. He eats flies and spiders alive, but prefers birds because they have imbibed more richly of the “life principle.”

Stoker's knowledge of Dracula may have come from any of several sources. He may have actually met with the chronicles in a little known translation; he may have encountered a mention of the Voivod in some history of the Hungarian empire; or he may have learned about the figure from a personal communication with a continental savant. Van Helsing in his speech mentions that his information about Dracula derived from a letter written him by Arminius, who may be identified as Armin (or, Latinized, Arminius) Vambery, the great Hungarian linguist, historian, explorer (Southeastern and Central Asia), folklorist and professor (at Buda-Pesth). Though Vambery mentions no Vlad Tsepesh in the English translation of his popular history of Hungary, it is not inconceivable that Stoker obtained this knowledge from him through some more intimate mode. Stoker mentions on various pretexts throughout the novel several distinguished people with whom he was acquainted (for example, Ellen Terry, the famous actress, whose theatrical manager he was), and his reference to Arminius similarly may have been an effort to lend the novel verisimilitude by the inclusion of a factual circumstance. However, this is mere speculation.

If Stoker limned the outline of his novel's central figure from a model found in legendary history, he touched in many features of his story from details he discovered in modern folklore—specifically, in the folklore of Southeast Europe. The Draculas attended Scholomance, the devil's school, in the mountains over Lake Hermannstadt, where every tenth scholar became the devil's victim.9 The following passage upon Rumanian folklore may have been the source of Stoker's information.

As I am on the subject of thunderstorms, I may as well here mention the scholomance, or school, supposed to exist somewhere in the heart of the mountains, and where the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all magic spells are taught by the devil in person. Only ten scholars are admitted at a time, and when the course of learning has expired, and nine of them are released to return to their homes, the tenth scholar is detained by the devil as payment, and, mounted upon an ismeju, or dragon, becomes henceforward the devil's aide-de-camp, and assists him in “making the weather”—that is, preparing the thunderbolts.10

In Dracula, on the Eve of St. George “all the evil things in the world will have full sway.”11 This belief is also borrowed from folklore, for one work mentions that “this is a great night to beware of witches” and speaks of “occult meetings taking place,”12 while another states that on St. George's Eve vampires go abroad to obtain their power.13

Stoker also used Southeast European forms of the vampire superstition rather consistently. The belief in these demons, about which the action of the novel pivots, is found in a wide variety of cultures, but nowhere else has it preoccupied a people to the extent that it did in the Slavic parts of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, the area from which the superstition diffused in modern times to revitalize a belief which had begun to wane in more westerly areas of Europe.14 Indeed, in 1756 Maria Theresa felt compelled to dispatch a commission to Wallachia for the purpose of investigating a vampire panic and reassuring the populace.15 Lower Hungary, even in the 18th century, became associated in popular thought with vampirism much in the same fashion as Haiti has become linked with vodun in the 20th century mind.16 Consequently, Stoker's placing Dracula's lair in the Carpathian Mountains between Moldavia, Bukovina, and Wallachia was eminently appropriate, though in itself no proof that he utilized the forms of belief indigenous to that region. However, there is much substantiating evidence which indicates that he did know the forms of belief local to the Transylvanian regions.

Dracula sometimes appears in the form of phosphorescent specks (Stoker, pp. 156-157, p. 238); the striga, or Rumanian vampire, often comes as points of light shimmering in the air (Murgoçi, p. 321, p. 345). As a vampire, Dracula “can, within limitations, appear at will when, and where, and in any of the forms that are to him; he can within his range, direct the elements … he can command all the meaner things: the rat and the owl, and the bat—the moth, and the fox, and the wolf; he can grow and become small; and he can at times vanish and come unknown” (Stoker, pp. 260-262). Murgoçi (p. 332) writes that Rumanian folk belief ascribes to vampires the powers of self-transformation. Another author confirms this statement.17 And folklore furnishes precedents for associating certain animals, as did Stoker, with vampirism. The Transylvanian Saxons (Szeklers) couple the bat with acts of vampirism.18 In Volcea, Rumania, it is recorded that vampires are reincarnated as death's-head moths (Murgoçi, p. 322). Ianga Creanga, the Rumanian folklore journal, records the incident of an exorciser of vampires being eaten by wolves (Murgoçi, p. 324), an episode which the protagonists only narrowly avert in the final chapters of Dracula. In the novel, as in folklore (Murgoçi, p. 328, 333), garlic has the power to protect against vampires; and Stoker's method of slaying these demons by decapitation and stake impalement is likewise widely recognized in folk belief.19

The above examples of Stoker's utilization of folk themes are by no means exhaustive, but they are sufficient to show that he approached his materials with a certain conscientiousness. Few with a developed critical sense would claim that Dracula is a “successful” novel; yet, the fact that it is still in print and is still read proves it has a kind of vitality, provokes a kind of interest. It would seem the story's vitality and interest, such as these are, must be attributed to its atmosphere, to the stature of its villain and to the spirit of the chase which permeates it. The story's atmosphere is Gothic, the legacy of more than a century of stylized literary treatment; its villain is in conception medieval, a product of mythopoeic imagination's entranced horror with a cruel but competent figure at a time when the few successful military leaders who maintained unbroken the thin outer rim of European sovereignty were allowed to cultivate strong and bizarre feelings without interference; the spirit of the chase, and the resulting suspense, which pervade the novel, however, has its conventions not in literary precedent, but in the canon of superstition. The manner in which the vampire is run to ground is in complete accord with the rules of folk belief.


  1. Montague Summers, The Vampire, His Kith and Kin (London, 1928), 335-336.

  2. Bram Stoker, Dracula (New York, Modern Library ed., n.d.), 264-265.

  3. A. D. Sedelnikov, “Literaturnaya istoriya povesti o Drakule,” Istoriya po russkomu yazyku i slovesti, II (1929), 623 ff.; N. K. Grudzy, History of Early Russian Literature (New York, 1949), 273-274.

  4. Sedelnikov, 623ff. A genealogy of Dracula manuscripts is listed on p. 651 of the work.

  5. This tale is later told about Ivan the Terrible (Sedelnikov, p. 644).

  6. This is, of course, quite similar to stories recounting the burial of pirate gold in which all members, save one, of the burying party are killed.

  7. The Kirill-Belozersk version of the above material is reprinted in Sedelnikov, pp. 652-659; a summary in English may be found in Gudzy, pp. 269-274.

  8. Stoker, p. 154.

  9. Stoker, p. 265.

  10. Emily de Laszowska-Gerard, The Land Beyond the Forest (New York, 1888), 198.

  11. Stoker, p. 5.

  12. Gerard, p. 193.

  13. Agnes Murgoçi, “The Vampire in Rumania,” Folk-Lore XXXVII (1926), 325.

  14. Stefan Hock, Die Vampyrsagen und ihre Verwertung in der deutschen Literatur (Berlin, 1900), 30-31.

  15. Hock, p. 40.

  16. Hock, pp. 42ff.

  17. Friederich S. Krauss, “Vampyre im südslawischen Volksglauben,” Globus LXI (1892), Nr. 21, 327.

  18. Heinrich von Wlisocki, Volksglaube und Volksbrauch der Siebenbürger Sachsen (Berlin, 1893), 163.

  19. A. L. Jellinek, “Zur Vampyrsage,” Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde XIV (1904), 234.

Principal Works

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The Duties of Clerks of Petty Session in Ireland (handbook) 1879

Under the Sunset (short stories) 1881

A Glimpse of America (essays) 1886

The Snake's Pass (novel) 1890

The Watter's Mou' (novel) 1894

Dracula (novel) 1897

The Mystery of the Sea: A Novel (novel) 1902

The Jewel of Seven Stars (novel) 1903

The Man (novel) 1905

Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (biography) 1906

The Lady of the Shroud (novel) 1909

Famous Imposters (essays) 1910

The Lair of the White Worm (novel) 1911

Dracula's Guest, and Other Weird Stories (short stories) 1914

The Bram Stoker Bedside Companion (short stories and novels) 1973

The Essential Dracula: The Definitive Annotated Edition of Bram Stoker's Classic Novel (novel) 1993

Joseph S. Bierman (essay date summer 1972)

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SOURCE: Bierman, Joseph S. “Dracula: Prolonged Childhood Illness, and the Oral Triad.” American Imago 29, no. 2 (summer 1972): 186-98.

[In the following essay, Bierman contends that Dracula “mirrors Stoker's early childhood in that it is essentially a tale of medical detection of puzzling illnesses, of obscure diagnoses, and unusual cures in which the phenomenon of the ‘undead’ person is prominent.”]

In the early summer of 1895, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, had a nightmare which he attributed to eating too much dressed crab at supper one night. He dreamed about a vampire king rising from the tomb to go about his ghastly business (Ludlam, 1962). Inspired by this dream, he set to work writing the novel, Dracula. By the fall of 1895, he was writing his first draft. Since it first appeared in London in 1897, Dracula has not been out of print. I would like to present one key answer, summarized from a wider study, to the question of what enabled and forced Stoker to write Dracula. The answer is based on an analysis of two autobiographical stories from an earlier book for children that can be considered as associations to his dream novel. The material of Dracula, and these stories, lend themselves to the application of Lewin's concept of the oral triad—i. e., the wish to eat, be eaten and sleep.

Stoker's distinctive early childhood is mirrored in both Dracula and one of these short stories. The distinction is that Stoker was expected to die from the moment of birth on. He himself says: “In my babyhood I used, I understand, to be often at the point of death. Certainly, until I was about seven years old, I never knew what it was to stand upright (Stoker, 1906).” Bram Stoker, whose given name was Abraham, was born in 1847 in Clontarf, a small seaside suburb of Dublin. He was the third child of Abraham and Charlotte Stoker. Abraham Sr. was a Civil Servant who worked in Dublin Castle. By the time young Stoker was able to walk at age seven, the Stokers had had their four additional children. The nature of this very long illness is unknown, and is made all the more puzzling by the fact that recovery was so complete that Stoker was to become the Athletic Champion of Dublin University.

Dracula mirrors Stoker's early childhood in that it is essentially a tale of medical detection of puzzling illnesses, of obscure diagnoses, and unusual cures in which the phenomenon of the “undead” person is prominent. A brief synopsis of the novel will demonstrate this.

In order to invade England and spread his vampirism, Dracula summons a young English barrister, Jonathan Harker, to Castle Dracula in Transylvania. Harker has been hired to arrange for the shipment by boat of fifty great boxes of earth to London that are to be Dracula's daytime resting places. Harker only slowly realizes that Dracula is a vampire who plans to leave him imprisoned in Castle Dracula in the clutches of his three vampire wives while he sails for England in one of the great boxes. Dracula departs, but Harker escapes to Budapest where he is put in a hospital suffering from brain fever.

Dracula comes ashore amidst a horrible storm and immediately starts to vampirize a young woman, Lucy Westenra. Lucy presents a very puzzling picture. She starts to walk in her sleep. Although she becomes increasingly weak and pale, the analysis of her blood is normal. Her canine teeth become elongated and sharp. The diagnosis baffles a close friend and rejected suitor, Dr. John Seward, a psychiatrist, who runs an insane asylum in London. Dr. Seward calls in his former teacher, a specialist in rare diseases, Dr. Abraham van Helsing. Van Helsing is also puzzled at first but, after he sees two small wounds on Lucy's neck, it dawns on him that she is the victim of a vampire. He commences to treat her with blood transfusions and garlic, but to no avail. Dracula succeeds in drawing too much life blood from her. After her death, she in turn becomes a vampire. Van Helsing with difficulty persuades Dr. Seward and two others, Quincey Morris, another rejected suitor, and Lucy's fiancee, Arthur Holmwood, that Lucy is now a vampire who is victimizing young children. Together, they cure her of her vampirism by “operations of life and death” in which they drive a stake through her heart and cut off the head with a “post-mortem knife.”

It turns out that Lucy's best friend, Mina Murray, who was with her for part of her vampire illness is Jonathan Harker's fiancee. Mina is summoned to Budapest by Jonathan's nurse before Lucy's death. There, she marries him and brings him back to London. While a prisoner in Castle Dracula, Harker had kept a diary that Dr. Van Helsing now reads. The elderly physician realizes that Dracula is the very same vampire who had bled Lucy. Further investigation reveals that Dracula has rented an old house adjacent to Dr. Seward's insane asylum. One of Dr. Seward's patients is a Mr. Renfield with the strange and interesting illness of “zoophagous mania.” He eats flies, and spiders that have eaten the flies, and even birds that have eaten the spiders, but he vomits the birds up. He keeps a notebook in which he jots down columns of figures about his prey. He becomes agitated at night. His motto is “the blood is the life.” Renfield falls under Dracula's spell and finally affords Dracula entrance to the madhouse where Mina and Jonathan Harker are now staying as guests of Dr. Seward. While Van Helsing, Harker, Seward, Morris and Holmwood are out searching for Dracula, the vampire is beginning to make Mina his next victim. This becomes apparent when Van Helsing is immunizing everyone in the group by touching their foreheads with a holy wafer. Mina's forehead is burnt by the Host, leaving her with a red scar. The only way to cure Mina before she turns into a vampire like Lucy is to find and kill Dracula. The chase begins. Dracula gets cornered but escapes and books passage on a ship back to Transylvania. The group follows by the Orient Express across Europe. At the last possible moment before sunset, they kill Dracula in a great box of earth with the battlements of Castle Dracula in the background. At the moment of his death, the scar on Mina's forehead disappears. She has fully recovered, and no trace of her illness remains.

The short story referred to earlier that also has a medical detection theme reflecting Stoker's childhood illness is contained in a book for children that he wrote in 1881—fourteen years before the vampire dream. To better understand the meaning of this book to Stoker at that point in his life, it will be helpful to have some additional biographical information.

After Stoker recovered from his long illness, he went to a private religious school in Dublin and then went on to Trinity College of the University of Dublin. There, he took honors in writing, science and mathematics. After graduation, he joined his father as a Civil Servant in Dublin Castle. In the next few years, he earned a Master of Arts degree, worked as an editor of the newspaper, wrote some “cliff hangers” for a newspaper, and also became the drama critic for one of the dailies in Dublin. In December 1878, he joined Henry Irving, who was then the foremost Shakespearean of his time, as the acting manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. He was to be Irving's factotum and alter ego for the next 27 years. His duties included reading and editing plays, accounting, being in charge of arrangements for tours, and greeting guests. Among the celebrities he was to meet in these 27 years was Sir Richard Burton, the famed orientalist, translator of the Arabian Nights and also translator of a book of Indian vampire stories. Stoker was to write later how impressed he was by Burton's canine teeth (Stoker, 1906). Right before joining Irving in London in 1878, Stoker married a girl from Clontarf, and a year later, the couple had their only child, a son named Noel. It was to this son that Stoker dedicated his first book of fiction—in 1881—a collection of short stories for children entitled, Under the Sunset (Stoker, 1882).

Under the Sunset is the land that people visit in their dreams. “A beautiful country which no human eye has ever seen in waking hours.” All of the stories take place in this land in which live both a good king with his palace and people and the King of Death with his castle. One of the stories, “The Castle of the King,” is about the King of Death and has some phraseology that is repeated almost verbatim in the description of Dracula's castle. In this story, a poet dies when he sees the face of the King of Death. The dedication of the book to Stoker's son would seem to refer to this story—To My Son Whose Angel Doth Behold the Face of the King—and reveals some death wishes toward his son. Themes from Under the Sunset are recognizable in almost all of Stoker's 14 books. It is as if he had to tell these stories again and again.

I shall relate two stories from Under the Sunset that help explain the blood sucking, madness, the psychiatrist and the insane asylum, the sleep disturbances, and the constant feeling of approaching horror in Dracula.

The first story is “How 7 Went Mad.” It contains blood letting, madness and sleep disturbances and, at the same time, manages to be quite humorous. It is about a school boy named Tineboy and his lame pet raven, Mr. Daw. One day, Tineboy was at his sums in school, and instead of tending to what he was doing, he was trying to make his pet raven come in through the window. His problem was to multiply 117, 649 by seven. After struggling unsuccessfully, he then said, “Oh, I don't know—I wish number seven had never been invented.” “Croak,” said Mr. Daw. Tineboy suddenly became very sleepy and had a dream in which his teacher was about to tell the story about how 7 went mad. The raven kept his head on one side, “closed one eye—the eye nearest the school room so that they might think him asleep—and listened harder than any of them. The pupils were all happy—all except three—one because his leg went to sleep; another because she had her pocket full of curds and wanted to eat them and couldn't without being found out, and the curds were melting away; and the third, who was awfully sleepy, and awfully anxious to hear the story, and couldn't do either because of the other.” The teacher's story starts out with the alphabet doctor being called in to see a patient at night, poor number seven. The alphabet doctor attended to “the sicknesses and diseases of the letters of the alphabet”—like a capital A with a lame leg.” No. 7 “is mortal bad. We don't think he'll ever live through it. He was foaming at the mouth and apparently quite mad. The nurse from the grammar village was holding him by the hand, trying to bleed him. The footsmith, the man who puts the feet on the letters and numbers to make them able to stand upright without wearing out, was holding down the poor demented number.”

The doctor then examined 7. He used the stethescope, telescope, microscope and horoscope “to find the scope of the disease.” Tineboy asked what “the horror scope” is, and was corrected and told to look it up in the dictionary. In this prophetic pun, horror is attached to the activities of the doctor and to the horoscope. This exchange is italicized in the book.

After this examination, the doctor interrogated No. 7 and found out what makes him mad. No. 7 said the treatment he got made him mad. He was: “wrong added, wrong divided, wrong subtracted, and wrong multiplied. Other numbers are not treated as I am and besides they are not orphans like me.” No. 7 said he was a number without kith or kin. Tineboy asked, “How can he have no skin?” “Kin, my child, kin, not skin,” said the teacher. “What is the difference between kin and skin?” asked Tineboy. “There will be but a small difference,” said the teacher, “between this cane and your skin if you interrupt.”

At that time, Tineboy had a change of heart. “I want poor old 7 to be happy. I will give him some of my lunch and share my bed.” (This interchange is also italicized.) By the end of the teacher's story, No. 7 had promised not to be mad, and he got better. Ruffin, the bully boy, then told the teacher that he didn't believe the story and, “if it is true, I wish he had died. We would be better without him.” Mr. Daw, the raven, who did not like Ruffin, then stayed in school that night stealing all the number sevens with his beak and swelling to seven times his natural size. Because the raven had stolen all the number sevens, seven o'clock was missing the next morning, and neither the teacher nor the pupils could even remember that there was a number seven. The teacher accused Ruffin of causing this state of affairs by wishing No. 7 had died in a madhouse. After Mr. Daw started to drop the sevens from his beak, the students were then able to use them for multiplication. After the third seven was dropped, the raven began to swell. At this point, very close to the end of the story, Stoker makes a slip. When the raven dropped the fourth seven, which will give seven to the fourth power, the spelled out answer given is wrong. Stoker has done what number seven complained of—wrong multiplied. The mistake is substituting a three for a four.

The parallels and similarities of this story to parts of Dracula are very apparent. In Dracula, there is the mad man who is in an insane asylum and who actually dies in an insane asylum of broken bones; there is the doctor who treats the mad man; there is even an alphabet doctor in Dracula, an assistant of Dr. Seward's, “Patrick Hennessey, M. D. M. R. C. S. L. K. Q. C. T. K. etc. etc.” Dracula is seen as a “big bird” when he is in the form of a bat. “How 7 Went Mad” is, of course, another tale of medical detection. Number seven represents Stoker as a child with his near mortal illness, his inability to stand on his two feet, and the feeling of being different from his siblings. The story, then, if one assumes this parallel between No. 7 and Stoker, gives a hint as to the kind of medical treatment which might have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for Stoker's dreaming about a vampire. That is, Stoker might have been bled just as No. 7 was bled. This was a practice that was extremely common in Ireland in the 1840's. The association in the story between madness and bleeding would then suggest that Stoker became “mad” when he was bled. Certainly in Dracula the “zoophagous mania” combines madness and blood.

There is another theme in addition to the one of Stoker as the sick, different child that is furnished by an analysis of the slip in the multiplication of seven to the fourth power in which a three is substituted for a four. The swelling and shrinking in size of the raven, the stress on kith and kin, and on the horoscope suggest very strongly that the powers of seven represent the birth order of the seven Stoker children. After the third power the raven swells, and then starts to shrink to his natural size after the fourth seven is dropped. In oral terms this sequence suggests his mother's pregnancy with the fourth born Tommy who was delivered when Stoker, the third born, was twenty-one months old. This mathematical error by a man who had received honors in mathematics at Trinity College implies not only that he felt Tommy was a mistake, who should have been “wrong multiplied” as No. 7 was, but also that Tommy, number four, should not have been the product of the multiplying, i. e., should not have been born, but that he, number three, should have taken his place. In fact, when we look at the original sum that causes Tineboy to wish that number seven had never been invented, we find that it is seven to the seventh power which would represent George, the youngest brother, who was born when Stoker was seven. Stoker must have wished, as Mr. Daw did, that George would croak, a word which in Victorian England, also, meant ‘die.’ This wish is carried out by eating and swallowing and is undone by regurgitation. The death wishes toward his baby brothers, Tom and George, may be found in Dracula in the form of three instances of infanticide by eating and sucking and the frequent usage of the names Tom and George for different minor characters and events. For example, Harker arrives at Dracula's castle on St. George's Eve. Even the novel itself is dedicated to a Tommy—to Thomas Hall Caine, a novelist friend of Stoker's.

After Tineboy wishes that number seven had never been invented—that is, after he wishes George were dead—he uncontrollably falls asleep, and even in his dream, the students have some sleep disturbances, including a girl who wants to eat her milk curds. This combination of killing, which is equated with eating in the dream, milk and sleep brings to mind Lewin's oral traid of the wish to eat, be eaten and sleep. There is a very striking passage in Dracula that demonstrates the concept of the oral triad at work and that refers back to another story in Under the Sunset called “The Wondrous Child.” In this passage in Dracula, the following action takes place. After Renfield warns that Mrs. Harker has looked like “tea after the teapot had been watered,” Van Helsing and his group break into Harker's room.

On the bed beside the window lay Jonathan Harker, his face flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor. Kneeling on the edge of the bed, facing outwards, was the white clad figure of his wife; by her side stood a tall, thin, man … the Count … his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white night dress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man's bare chest which was shown by his torn open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink.

Mina had taken a sleeping draught and Dracula had awakened her. He had first put Harker in a stupor and then sucked blood from Mina who strangely enough “… did not want to hinder him.” Dracula says to her, “and you are now to me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood; kin of my kin; my bountiful wine press for a while.”

He then pulled open the shirt and with his long, sharp nails, opened a vein in his breast. When the blood began to spurt out he took my hands in one of his, holding them tight, and with the other seized my neck and pressed my mouth to the wound, so I might either suffocate or swallow some of the—oh, my God, what have I done?

The reader by this point in the novel has become used to Dracula doing the sucking, but not to Dracula being sucked and specifically at the breast. The oral triad is represented here by Dracula eating and being eaten, by Mina being eaten and then eating after sleeping, and by Jonathan Harker sleeping. It is also a thinly disguised primal scene in oral terms. Mina's head being held to the breast for sucking just like a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink is referred to as a “baptism of blood” and is very reminiscent of part of the story of “The Wondrous Child” in Under the Sunset.

This story concerns a brother, Sibold, and sister, May, who want to have a baby of their own on the day that a baby brother arrives in their home. The older brother has a theory that babies are to be found on a bed of parsley after they have come from over the sea. After having a picnic lunch of the new baby who is called the King of the Feast, they fall asleep amidst scarlet poppies and dream that they find a baby brother on an island and placed on a bed of parsley. They become angry with each other over whose baby he is. These angry thoughts cause the baby to die. Only when they repent does the baby come alive again. Wondrously, the baby begins to talk to his brother and requests that May sing to him. When a cow suddenly appears, May thinks that the baby wants to be fed. But both she and her brother have forgotten how to milk a cow. Then follows the part that woud seem to be referred to in Dracula. “All at once, without knowing how it came to pass, she felt herself pouring milk out of a watering pot all over the baby, who lay on the ground, with Sibold holding down its head.” The baby then proves to be additionally wondrous in his ability to tame wild beasts, such as a dragon and snake. This story contains themes similar to those in “How 7 Went Mad.” There is the death of the baby brother and his revival, an oral theory of birth, the sleeping and dreaming after eating, even the falling asleep associated with scarlet—the color of blood.

There are, of course, other references to “The Wondrous Child” in Dracula, such as Dracula himself being called a child and wondrous.

Parts of the novel and the two stories that are associations to it suggest that Dracula concerns itself with death wishes toward younger brothers, nursing at the breast, and primal scenes expressed in nursing terms. All are associated with sleep disturbances. Lewin's concept of the oral triad—the wish to eat, be eaten and sleep—and the manic defense against sleep because of the fear of dying and being eaten suggest the way to synthesize these themes. Lewin (1950) feels that the genetic linkage of the three wishes of the oral triad causes them to be reactivated together, i. e., “the reactivation of one would be the reactivation of all three.” Sleep, as expressed in Harker's stupor, would be a first line of defense against being awakened by the primal sounds, but the wishes to eat and be eaten would also arise; and thus the stage would be set for intercourse being seen in terms of sucking and being sucked. Stoker, like Harker, or Dracula might have been in the parental bedroom and would have wanted to get rid of the baby-making sounds in order to stay asleep. At age twenty-one months, Tommy was born and Stoker would have seen him nursing at the breast. This would have aroused great feelings of rivalry and the wish to get rid of Tommy, the wish that he would die. Because of being bedridden, Stoker would not have had the usual outlet of motility for his aggression but would have had to express it orally. Killing would have been seen as eating up, as was the case in “How 7 Went Mad.” The eating up wishes would also have activated the other two parts of the triad—the wish to be eaten and to sleep. Because of their unacceptability to young Stoker, these passive wishes would in turn have generated anxiety and fear of sleep and death, i. e., a feeling of approaching horror. Perhaps this was another part of his and No. 7's night madness. The fears attendant on falling asleep are well described by Mina in connection with the primal scene episode: “I took a sleeping draught … but for a long time it did not act. I seemed to become more wakeful and myriads of horrible fantasies began to crowd in upon my mind—all of them connected with death and vampires, with blood and pain and trouble.” Being bled must have been interpreted by young Stoker as being eaten up. Sucking blood and eating are equated in Dracula. After the Count has sucked Mina's blood in the aforementioned scene, Van Helsing remarks, “… last night he banqueted heavily and will sleep late. …” Due to the genetic linkage of the wish to be eaten with the wish to eat and to sleep, being bled would have become linked to the latter two wishes. Milk would no longer have been white, but blood red.

Stoker was to experience the birth of four children before he himself was able to get out of bed. The last birth, the birth of George, coincided with his leaving his bed. This may account for Tineboy's remark about sharing his lunch and bed with Number Seven. The reluctance to give up the baby position to George when he was finally able to walk must have accentuated his hostile rivalrous feelings toward this younger brother.

We are now in a position to analyze the association to the vampire dream—that it was caused by eating too much dressed crab. The two stories, “The Wondrous Child” and “How 7 Went Mad” furnish us with a basis for this analysis, by combining the fantasy of the baby coming from over the sea and being found on a bed of parsley with the stress on the horoscope. Dressed crab was classically served in England at that time on a bed of parsley. Crab, when viewed horoscopically for this horror tale, is that sign of the Zodiac that covers the period between June 23 and July 23. George, Stoker's youngest brother, was born under the sign of the crab on July 20th. Eating the dressed crab meant, unconsisciously eating up and killing baby George.

Something then, in the spring of 1895, must have happened that generated some rivalrous feelings in Stoker and brought into play earlier rivalries toward his son and brothers. I would propose that the ‘something’ was the act of Queen Victoria bestowing knighthood in that spring on both Henry Irving for his acting, and on Dr. William Stoker, Bram's older brother, for his accomplishments as a physician. There are several lines of evidence in Dracula that the knighting was the stimulus for the dream and novel. In Dracula, Arthur Holmwood succeeds to the title of Lord Godalming. Dracula, of course, is of royal blood. Three of Stoker's brothers were physicians, including George who was an ear, nose and throat doctor. Three physicians are to be found in Dracula. There are also indirect references to both William Stoker and Henry Irving. In fact, Irving might be associated with George through the crab, since Irving was known to his intimates as “The Crab.” From the beginning of their friendship, Irving had been associated in Stoker's mind with the theme of fratricide as expressed through the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In their first meeting in 1876, Stoker was overcome with a sudden sense of weakness when Irving recited a poem with a Cain and Abel theme. In fact, this theme is scattered throughout Stoker's writings over the years and connected to Irving and acting. Stoker even inserts it in his first entry in Who's Who in 1898. He writes that his recreations were “pretty much the same as those of other children of Adam,” who were, of course, Cain and Abel (Who's Who, 1898). This theme is found in Dracula. Renfield, the madman, compares himself to Enoch who was Cain's son. In the beginning of the novel, Dracula is hit on the forehead with a shovel and receives a scar. Mina also has a scar on her forehead. The mark of Cain is classically thought to have been on the forehead.

In summary: When Queen Victoria knighted both Stoker's actor-employer and physician-brother, she revived memories of earlier times when he felt the threat that he would lose the favors of his family Queen to his younger brothers. These memories had been put in story form when they had been revived by the birth of his son, his new rival; and, in this form, they were available for his dream and novel. In his dream, he could be the King who would be entitled to have a Queen of his own; and in his novel, he could appropriate for his sucking pleasure the women of other men, and have them feel threatened with the loss instead of himself. But Stoker was too threatened by his own wishes—and thus the nighmare quality of the dream. To find relief, Stoker had to write his novel in which the vampire's victim could rise, disgorged from the tomb, while the Dracula in Stoker could be laid to eternal rest, unable to rise again to go about his ghastly business.

Works Cited

Lewin, Bertram D. (1950): The Psychoanalysis of Elation. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., Page 118.

Ludlam, Harry (1962): A Biography of Dracula. London: W. Foulsham and Co., Pages 99-100.

Stoker, Bram (1882): Under the Sunset. London: Sampson-Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington.

——— (1906): Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving. New York: The MacMillan Co., Vol. 1.

Who's Who (1898). London: A and C Black.

Carrol L. Fry (essay date fall 1972)

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SOURCE: Fry, Carrol L. “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula.The Victorian Newsletter, no. 42 (fall 1972): 20-2.

[In the following essay, Fry maintains that the latent sexuality of Dracula is an important part of the novel's popular appeal.]

To the general reading public, Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the best known English novels of the nineteenth century. It was an immediate best seller when it appeared in 1897, and the frequent motion pictures featuring the machinations of Count Dracula since the 1931 film version of the novel have helped make vampire folklore very much a part of the English and American popular imagination. The work's fame is in part attributable to its success as a thriller. The first section, “Jonathan Harker's Journal,” is surely one of the most suspenseful and titilating pieces of terror fiction ever written. But perhaps more important in creating the popular appeal of the novel is its latent sexuality.

This feature of the work is most apparent in Stoker's use of disguised conventional characters, placed in new roles but retaining their inherent melodramatic appeal for a sexually repressed audience. The most apparent of these characters is the “pure woman,” the staple heroine of popular fiction from Richardson to Hardy. In dozens of novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this pure woman is pursued by a “rake,” a seducer who has designs on her virtue. The melodrama is based on the reader's suspense regarding whether or not he will succeed. Those women who lose their virtue become “fallen women,” outcasts doomed to death or secluded repentance. In Dracula, there are two “pure women,” Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, the former of whom actually does “fall.” The role of “rake” is played by Count Dracula, and vampirism becomes surrogate sexual intercourse. The women who receive the vampire's bite become “fallen women.”

Stoker establishes Dracula as a rake in large part by making him a “gothic villain,” a derivative of the rake in English fiction. Like most gothic villains, Dracula lives in a ruined castle, remarkably like Udolpho, Otranto, Grasmere Abbey, and dozens of other sublimely terrifying structures in English fiction. It even has subterranean passages, slightly modified to serve as daytime resting places for the vampires. Moreover, Dracula's physical appearance is that of the rake-gothic villain. He has a “strong—a very strong” face and “massive eyebrows.” His face shows the pallor typical of Radcliffe's Schedoni, Maturin's Melmoth, and Lewis' Antonio, and, most impressively, he possesses the usual “glittering eye” of the villain. Stoker returns to this feature over and over. When Harker first sees him, he immediately notes “the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight”1 and the Cockney zookeeper interviewed by the reporter for the Pall Mall Gazette describes the Count's “'ard cold look and red eyes” (p. 120).

The rake and the gothic villain pursue and “distress” the pure woman in melodramatic popular fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and Dracula sets out in pursuit of Lucy Westenra and later of Mina Harker in the best tradition of this character type. First, however, Stoker firmly establishes his heroines in their roles. Lucy gets three proposals (a frequently used method of establishing worth in women) from thoroughly admirable men, and when she tells the heroic Quincy Morris that she has a prior attachment, he says: “It's better worth being late for a chance of winning you than being in time for any other girl in the world” (p. 56). Dr. Van Helsing says of Mina: “She is one of God's women, fashioned by his own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist—and that, let me tell you, is much in this age” (p. 161). But perhaps the most important aspect of Stoker's presentation of Lucy and Mina is that the description of both, before Dracula preys on them, completely omits physical detail. One gets only an impression of idealized virtue and spirituality. They are like Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist, who is “cast in so light and exquisite a mould; so mild and gentle; so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions.”2

Stoker had apparently done some research on the folklore of vampirism,3 and most of the detail he gives is verified by the work of Montague Summers.4 The vampire's inability to cast a reflection, his fear of daylight, and the stake in the heart as a means of killing him are all part of the folklore of eastern Europe. But one element of this folklore is particularly appropriate for melodramatic fiction: the contagious nature of vampirism. Both the rake of the popular novel and the vampire of folklore pass on their conditions (moral depravity in the former and vampirism in the latter) to their victims. In fiction, it is conventional for the fallen woman to become an outcast, alienated from the rest of mankind, or to die a painful death. If she lives, she often becomes a prostitute or the chattel of her seducer. The bawdy house to which Lovelace takes Clarissa in Richardson's novel is staffed by the rake's conquests, and in Mrs. Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest, Adeline, the heroine, is abducted by the villain and kept in a house occupied by his numerous kept women.

Similarly, Dracula's castle is occupied by his “wives,” who were at some earlier time his victims. At the outset of the novel, when the fair bride who is about to drink the blood of Jonathan Harker is stopped by the Count, she utters “a laugh of ribald coquetry,” and says to her lord: “You yourself never loved; you never love!” (p. 40). Dracula replies: “Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so?” (p. 40). He has loved them with the vampire's phallic bite, and they have become outsiders, Un-Dead, and, like the fallen woman, not part of the human race. The frequent references to “love” and to “kisses” and the type of physical description of the lady vampire makes the parallel between seduction and vampirism apparent. The wives are consistently described in terms of erotic physical beauty, but they are hard and wanton in their attractiveness. Moreover, in Victorian fiction, prostitutes, like cockroaches, most often appear at night (one thinks, for instance, of Esther in Mrs. Gaskell's Mary Barton), just as vampires, in folklore, must avoid the daylight.

The change in Lucy Westenra's appearance after she receives Dracula's attention is marked. Physically, her features are altogether different. Dr. Seward describes her in her tomb when the group goes there to destroy her: “The sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to wantonness” (p. 179). Instead of the “pure, gentle orbs we knew,” her eyes are “unclean and full of hell fire” (p. 180). She approaches Arthur with a “languorous, voluptuous grace,” saying “My arms are hungry for you” (p. 180). In all, “The whole carnal and unspiritual appearance” seems “like a devilish mockery of Lucy's sweet purity” (p. 182). Throughout, the description of female vampires underscores their sexuality, and the words “voluptuous” and “wanton” appear repeatedly in these contexts, words that would never be used in describing a pure woman. Clearly, Lucy has fallen, but in the end she is saved from herself in rather conventional fashion. Her death and the smile of bliss on her face as she passes satisfy the reader's desire for a happy ending to her story and fulfill his expectation regarding the fate proper to a fallen woman.

Much of the interest of the novel from this point on lies in the fate of Mina Harker, who begins to take on the character of the fallen woman. After the vampire has mixed his blood with hers and has been routed from her bedroom, she cries: “Unclean, unclean! I must touch him [Jonathan, her husband] or kiss him no more” (p. 240). Later, after she is burned by the holy wafer used as a weapon against the Count, she exclaims: “Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh” (p. 250). During the journey to Dracula's castle, she has begun to take on the “beauty and fascination of the wanton Un-Dead” (p. 309). But when Dracula is killed, all of the physical effects are reversed, and she again becomes a pure woman, fit for motherhood and a happy life. She never quite becomes a fallen woman and hence can be saved at the end of the novel.

There are a good many other parallels drawn between vampirism and sexuality in addition to the melodramatic effects achieved through the manipulation of conventional characters. The fact is that vampire lore has much in common with human sexuality. The vampire's kiss on the throat and the lover's kiss are easily made one in the reader's mind, and the Nosferatu's bite can be made parallel in the popular imagination with the love bite or the phallic thrust. In the novel, the very act of biting is made highly erotic. In describing Dracula's embrace, Mina says: “strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him” (p. 250). But perhaps the most suggestive passage in the novel occurs when Jonathan Harker describes his experience while in a trance induced by Dracula's wives. As the fair bride approaches him, he finds in her a “deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive,” and he feels “a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips” (p. 39). After a certain amount of coquettish argument as to who would begin, the fair bride bends over his throat, and Harker describes his sensations:

Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and I could feel the hot breath on my neck. … I could feel the soft shivering touch of the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.

(p. 39)

One can hardly wonder that the novel was enormously popular.


  1. Bram Stoker, Dracula (New York, 1965), p. 38. Further page references appear in the text.

  2. Charles Dickens, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, The Oxford Illustrated Dickens (London, 1949), p. 212.

  3. In A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (London, 1962), Harry Ludlam states that much of the author's information came from Arminium Vambery, a professor of oriental languages at the University of Budapest. Also, there was a historical Dracula. Stoker was aware that one of the fifteenth-century leaders of the fight against the Turks, Vlad V, was called Dracula; and the Count's lecture to Jonathan Harker in Ch. 3 of the novel shows that Stoker knew a little about the history of eastern Europe. But according to Professor Grigore Nandris, there is “no association in Rumanian folklore between the Dracula story and the vampire mythology” (“The Historical Dracula: The Theme of His Legend in the Western and in the Eastern Literatures of Europe,” Comparative Literature Studies, III [1966], 366-96).

  4. See The Vampire in Europe (New Hyde Park, N.Y., 1962) and The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (New Hyde Park, N.Y., 1960).

Further Reading

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Belford, Barbara. Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996, 381 p.

Biography of Stoker.


Barclay, Glen St. John. “Sex and Horror: Bram Stoker.” In Anatomy of Horror: The Masters of Occult Fiction, pp. 39-57. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.

Investigates the popular appeal of Dracula.

Carter, Margaret L., editor. Dracula. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988, 253 p.

Critical essays on Dracula.

McNally, Raymond T., and Radu Florescu. In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994, 297 p.

Examines the origins of Dracula.

Todd, Janet M. “The Class-ic Vampire.” In The English Novel and the Movies, edited by Michael Klein and Gillian Parker, pp. 197-210. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1981.

Discusses Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, a cinematic adaptation of Stoker's novel.

Wolf, Leonard. The Essential Dracula, New York: Plume, 1993, 484 p.

Places Dracula within the context of Gothic fiction.

Additional coverage of Stoker's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 23; Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction: Biography & Resources, Vol. 3; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 5; British Writers, Vol. 3; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1890-1914; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 105, 150; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 36, 70, 178; DISCovering Authors; DISCovering Authors: British Edition; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors and Novelists; DISCovering Authors 3.0; Literature and Its Times, Ed. 1; Literature Resource Center; Novels for Students, Vol. 18; Reference Guide to English Literature, Ed. 2; St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers; Short Story Criticism, Vol. 62; Something about the Author, Vol. 29; Supernatural Fiction Writers; Twayne's English Authors; Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 8; World Literature and Its Times, Ed. 4; and World Literature Criticism.

Seymour Shuster (essay date September 1973)

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SOURCE: Shuster, Seymour. “Dracula and Surgically Induced Trauma in Children.” The British Journal of Medical Psychology 46 (September 1973): 259-70.

[In the following essay, Shuster claims that Dracula is a result of Stoker's long-repressed anxiety stemming from the author's childhood experience with doctors.]

The first portion of this paper is intended to show that a connection probably exists between the horror story Dracula and surgically induced trauma experienced by its author as a child. In the second portion of this paper I will try to draw some practical inferences from the work I have done.

In a personal communication with Anna Freud, the author expressed his belief that a connexion existed between the creation of monsters like the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, and Dr Jekyll's evil counterpart, Mr Hyde, and surgically induced trauma. In her reply, Miss Freud expressed fairly strong agreement with the author and added:

I think that, probably, it is not the surgical experience as such which creates the ‘horror’, but rather this experience as it is understood and distorted by fantasies of assault and misunderstandings of adult sexual life, as they are found in every child's mind. The surgical trauma then lends reality to impressions which before had a place in imagination only. Whenever we have to prepare a child for a surgical experience, we find that the greatest difficulty is to keep the event down to its ‘real’ significance. The extraction of a tooth, the removal of tonsils or of an appendix would not be so frightening in itself. They become horrifying when the child's imagination turns them into amputation, castration, annihilation, etc., i.e. into dangers which existed previously as threats in his conscious or unconscious mind.

Extending Miss Freud's reasoning a bit, I would like to add that I think that when a child has been frightened by a doctor during an examination, innoculation or operation, an important part of that child's fear lies in his fantasy that the doctor has been a loser in the sexual-aggressive battles of the primal bedroom (i.e. he is empty or castrated), has become ‘mad’, and is seeking to alleviate his misery either by castrating the child or by emptying his body of its content. If this belief be true, then it probably provides the main reason for the chronic appearance of that hardy perennial of the fictional horror story, ‘the mad doctor’.

We will be concerned with the origin of the horror story Dracula, which was inspired by a nightmare experienced by its author, Bram Stoker (1847-1912), when he was 48 years of age. I suggest that the nightmare resulted from the emergence of long-repressed anxiety relating to the author's childhood experiences with doctors—I suggest that the character Stoker came to call ‘Dracula’ basically represents a child's perception of the surgeon who operates upon him.

In the period of Stoker's life in which we are most interested (1850-55) surgery was relatively rare. Ailments that today might be treated with drugs or by surgery were, in those days, often treated by blood-letting. However, I believe and intend to show that the quality of the terror evoked in a child by either blood-letting or surgery is similar and I think it matters little as to which procedure Stoker was subjected.

According to Katan, many child psychiatrists know that when a child has been frightened during examination by a doctor, he will soon after suggest playing ‘doctor’ with a friend. Only now, he will reverse the role. He will be the doctor and try to make the other child feel the anxiety he had just suffered (Katan, 1962, p. 476). Essentially, I believe Bram Stoker was doing just this when he wrote Dracula.

Dracula was inspired by a nightmare about ‘a master vampire at work’ and I shall treat Stoker's writings on the events that take place in Dracula's castle as if these writings were Stoker's free associations to this nightmare.

The literature is replete with papers warning of the dangers of severe, often long-lasting, emotional trauma that can be induced in children by a hospital/anaesthesiological/surgical experience. Menninger (1934) provided the earliest note of caution I can find on the acute danger of medically induced emotional trauma in children when he wrote:

Certainly there is nothing in the practice of medicine so barbarous and so fraught with psychological danger as the prevalent custom of taking a child into a strange white room, surrounding him with white garbed strangers, exhibiting queer paraphernalia and glittering knives and at the height of his consternation pressing an ether cone over his face and telling him to breathe deeply. The anxiety stimulated by such horrors is probably never surpassed in the child's subsequent life.

[1934, p. 173]

The subsequent papers of Pearson (1941), Levy (1945), Jackson (1951), Freud (1952), Jessner et al. (1952), Eckenhoff (1953) and Lipton (1962), among others, have supplied convincing evidence to attest to the accuracy of Menninger's words.

Surely, one of the most common defences, both short-term and to a lesser degree long-term, aroused by traumatic surgery is identification with the doctor. Katan made this abundantly clear on the short-term level with his remarks about children playing ‘doctor’. Miller (1951) reported on a man of 26 who underwent tonsillectomy at the age of five. Because of his identification with the surgeon, the patient suffered from a very distressing fear that some day he would knife his wife and small daughter.

I can cite other instances of long-term, active identification with the surgeon and I believe that it is not an unusual phenomenon. Hence I contend that Bram Stoker combined his literary talent with his active identification with the surgeon, became a ‘literary doctor’, and produced one of the most terrifying novels ever written.

A paper by Buxbaum (1941) encompasses almost all the ideas I have expressed so far and presents them as a unified whole in a single case history. The paper concerns the analysis of a 12-year-old boy who was taken to a therapist because he suffered extreme anxiety and was unable to study. The child's symptoms were found to be related to two instances of surgically induced trauma that occurred at the ages of five and six. The trauma had so riddled the boy with anxiety that he simply had no time to study or do his homework. In an effort to alleviate his anxiety, the boy developed a compulsion to read detective-horror stories, hoping to externalize his terror, thereby making it easier for him to deal with it. Buxbaum described the boy as ‘an addict who is afraid of going to pieces’ when deprived of his required detective-horror stories. She shows how the surgically induced trauma had woven itself into the overall fabric of the boy's psychosexual life, tying together his hostile feelings towards his family, his feelings about masturbation, and encompassing a fear of his mother's epileptic condition. The surgically induced trauma had greatly reinforced all the problem areas in his fantasy life. I believe the same thing happened to Bram Stoker and, instead of developing a compulsion to read horror stories, he developed a compulsion to write them.


Very little is known about the childhood of Bram Stoker. From the book Twentieth Century Authors there is the following biographical information about Stoker.

British novelist and miscellaneous writer, best remembered as the author of Dracula, was born Abraham Stoker in Dublin, the second son of Abraham and Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley Stoker. He had a sickly childhood being unable to stand upright until the age of seven. Stoker's illness, he said later, made him thoughtful. (The thoughts of youth, in this case, were such long, long thoughts that they led to the writing of Dracula, probably the most blood-curdling horror story in the language, when he was fifty.) This invalidism Stoker outgrew so thoroughly that he was the athletic champion of Dublin University, particularly in football, in his twentieth year, and had great physical strength for the rest of his life, which included twenty-seven strenuous years as Sir Henry Irving's manager.

[Kunitz & Haycroft, 1942, p. 1350]

Mr H. Ludlam has written the only biography of Stoker. It is called A Biography of Dracula and the first chapter deals with Stoker's childhood illness. However, this chapter provides no details of its nature or of the type of medical treatment Stoker received. I wrote to the author for this information, but he could not supply it. He did, however, provide some interesting titbits about Stoker. Mr Ludlam wrote that the dream that inspired the writing of Dracula

conveyed to [Stoker] the idea or image of a master vampire at work, a monster which Stoker came to call Dracula. To his family and friends he has always referred to the vampire as ‘Drac’, and he often had a chuckle over how he had this vampire monster wait hand and foot on Jonathan Harker as a servant (bringing Harker food at the castle, etc.).

Despite the lack of details of Stoker's medical history, I will try to show that the sense of terror and helplessness that Stoker was trying to evoke in his reader in the castle portion of the book is that of the child who has been left by his mother in a hospital to undergo surgery and/or blood-letting. Obviously, I am presupposing that Stoker had been hospitalized as a child. If he had been unable to stand upright until his eighth year, then, in all probability, those years were spent in confinement at his home and at least occasionally in a hospital.


A young Englishman, Jonathan Harker, is sent on a business trip to visit Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania. Dracula is interested in buying some real estate in England. Harker becomes apprehensive about his trip when he sees the anxious reaction of the Transylvanian peasants when they learn of his destination.

Upon his arrival at the castle, it seems that Harker's apprehension was justified. He is impressed by Dracula's strange appearance and habits, the strangest being Dracula's disappearance during the daytime and reappearance when the sun goes down. In exploring the castle, Harker finds that he is a prisoner with no means of escape. His demands that Dracula release him are to no avail. Three female vampires attempt to attack Harker on two occasions but Dracula protects him. Harker, meanwhile, is learning some of Dracula's secrets, which include his ability to turn himself into a bat, the location of his bedroom, and the kind of ‘bed’ (a coffin) in which he sleeps, and various other peculiarities; all of which increase Harker's terror. His business with Harker completed, Dracula departs for England, leaving Harker trapped with his three lecherous wives. Ultimately, Harker escapes, physically unscathed but a complete nervous wreck. He is forced to remain in a Budapest Hospital for many weeks recuperating from emotional trauma.

Meanwhile, Dracula has been in England, vampirizing women, who in turn become vampires too. The females prey only on children, while Dracula cathects his weird libidinous desires only on young, attractive women, one of whom, Lucy Westenra, is a close friend of Harker's fiancée. When Lucy comes down with an apparent ‘illness’, Dr Seward is called in. Unable to stem the tide of Lucy's condition, Dr Seward calls in an Amsterdam specialist, Dr Van Helsing. With a number of clues to guide him (and the help of Harker, who has by now married his fiancée, Mina Murray, and has returned to England), Van Helsing correctly diagnoses Lucy's condition—too late to protect her. She has become a vampire and in order to protect her eternal soul, she must be killed in a ritualistic fashion. With the ‘good’ doctors (Dracula is the ‘bad’ doctor) learning more and more about the strengths and vulnerabilities of vampires, Dracula makes a hasty retreat to his castle fortress in Transylvania. His enemies follow him, and catch him up just as he is about to enter his castle, and with the sun just going down (i.e. Dracula is helpless in daylight), they ritualistically kill him, too. The vampire is no more.


In reading the book it is obvious that Stoker's active identification is with Dracula and his passive identification is primarily with Jonathan Harker. In reading the synopsis we can see that it is only Harker who visits and is trapped in Castle Dracula. Therefore I believe my task is greatly simplified. I propose to show that Harker's ordeal in the castle represents Stoker's terrifying experiences in a hospital. I say it was the reinforcement of his psychosexual fantasies by these experiences that compelled him to write Dracula, just as the reinforcement of the psychosexual fantasies of a 12-year-old boy by medical treatment compelled him to read horror stories. Harker's ordeal in the castle must then represent the origin of Dracula.

In a paper (as yet unpublished) entitled ‘Dracula, Prolonged Childhood Illness and the Oral Triad’, Bierman cites the knighting of Stoker's doctor-brother in 1895 as having provided some of the inspiration for the nightmare that resulted in the writing of Dracula. In an attempt to show that Stoker had experienced blood-letting as a child, Bierman cites a short story which Stoker published in 1882 entitled ‘How 7 Went Mad’. The essence of the story concerns a child who is called ‘No. 7’ and who becomes mad when he is subjected to blood-letting against his will. Stoker's description of the child's madness is reminiscent of his description of Harker's madness after he escapes from Castle Dracula, and I feel that Bierman's work has provided strong, independent support for my ideas.

In her article on how to minimize the child's fear of a hospital experience, Chenevert writes:

The child only understands that he has been left in a big building called a hospital. Busy big people robed in white scurry about and mumble about shots and drawing blood. He has been abandoned and imprisoned, surrounded by strange people, strange machines, strange noise. Everything comforting and familiar is gone. And, as though that were not enough, he is poked and stuck and jabbed. He is scolded and restrained if he cries or tries to escape. Around him he sees other children who have been abandoned, hurt and mutilated. Since he doesn't understand what is to happen to him, he fears he may be punished that way too.

[1970, p. 30]

Chenevert then went on to tell of a frequently hospitalized five-year-old boy who would spin tales of vampires and witches for his mother when she visited him in the hospital.

The following is a detailed synopsis of Harker's adventures in Castle Dracula, so that we may compare it to details of a child's experiences in a hospital that will be provided later.

A young Englishman, Jonathan Harker, is on his way to Castle Dracula to transact business. He spends his last night prior to reaching his destination at an inn one day's journey from the castle. In the morning, Harker asks the innkeeper if he knows Count Dracula.

Upon hearing the question, both the innkeeper and his wife make the sign of the cross and say they know nothing at all. Harker becomes apprehensive at the strange conduct of his hosts. He arrives at the castle that evening and meets Count Dracula, whose pallid complexion, sharp canine teeth and altogether peculiar appearance tend to reinforce Harker's growing anxiety. He is soon sorry he came and wants to leave as quickly as possible. As he gets to know Dracula better, he realizes that he has never seen him in the daytime, nor has he ever seen Dracula eat or drink.

One morning Harker decides to explore the castle. In doing so, he discovers to his horror that he is a prisoner! All the doors are locked and bolted. He becomes panicky and hours elapse before his panic subsides. That same evening Dracula returns and warns Harker not to stray into other parts of the castle and, most particularly, not to fall asleep there. ‘There are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely’, warns Dracula, and Harker notes that ‘He finished his speech in a gruesome way, for he motioned with his hands as if he were washing them.’ (Is this a description of a surgeon about to operate?)

Dracula then departs and Harker takes perverse pleasure in not heeding Dracula's warning. He strays into the strange part of the castle and compounds his folly by falling asleep on a couch. Harker is awakened by the presence of three young women. He pretends to be still asleep. The women stare at him and one of them approaches, drawing closer and closer. Harker can feel her honey-sweet breath upon him and starts becoming aroused with anticipation:

I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The fair girl went on her knees and bent over me fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one's flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer—nearer. I could feel the soft shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a langurous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.

[Stoker, 1967, p. 41]

(This passage brings to mind Anna Freud's comment: ‘I think that, probably, it is not the surgical experience as such which creates the “horror”, but rather this experience as it is understood and distorted by fantasies of assault and misunderstandings of adult sexual life.’)

At this point, Dracula enters carrying a sack. He is black with rage. Dracula seizes the woman closest to Harker and flings her away, warning them all to stay away from Harker because, says Dracula, ‘he belongs to me’. But the women have been aroused with a passion and will not be turned away so easily. They notice the bag Dracula had brought with him. One of the women opens the bag and Harker hears the gasp and a wail of a child emanate from it. Dracula permits the women to take the bag. Overcome with horror, Harker falls unconscious.

(I think it is at this point in the distorted and disguised autobiography that Stoker underwent his own ‘medical treatment’. The child in the bag represents not only a fellow child-victim in the hospital, but Stoker as well. His need for mastery over the still terrifying experience keeps him from admitting that such a dreadful thing could have happened to him. ‘Then the horror overcame me and I sank down unconscious’, writes Stoker of his own induction.)

The next morning Harker awakens to find himself in his own room. He realizes that Dracula had carried him there, and now he fully understands the meaning of Dracula's warning about the dangers of sleeping in strange parts of the castle (which represents the operating room). Harker comes to look upon his own room as a ‘sanctuary’.

Sitting in his room a few days later, Harker hears a stirring in Dracula's room, ‘something like a sharp wail quickly suppressed; and then there was a silence …’. Harker then hears a woman in the courtyard. He peers out the window and when she sees him, she screams, ‘Monster, give me my child.’ The distraught woman thinks that Harker is Dracula. Annoyed with the woman for interrupting him at his ‘work’, Dracula signals the wolves who constantly surround the castle, and they devour the mother as Harker looks on helplessly. By now, Harker is at his wits' end. He is determined to escape from the castle. He reasons that Dracula keeps the keys to the castle on his person. Harker has already discovered where Dracula sleeps and knows the kind of ‘bed’ in which he sleeps. During the daylight hours, he goes down to Dracula's ‘bedroom’ opens the lid of his coffin, and

I saw something which filled my very soul with horror. There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half-renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath! The mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.

[p. 52]

(This revealing passage gives us a glimpse of Stoker's childhood fantasies about the doctor. He has suffered an awful defeat in the primal-scene battles and feels empty. Stoker equates this emptiness with a feeling of being dead, as symbolized by Dracula sleeping in a coffin. The doctor is trying to fend off his fear of emptiness—death by drinking the blood of children. I believe that many children experience a similar fantasy when undergoing surgery.)

Harker searches Dracula's body for his keys. No luck. While searching his body, Harker realizes that he must do something to rid the world of this fiend, who is soon to leave for England. He finds a shovel and whacks Dracula on the head, leaving an ugly gash on his forehead. Dracula turns to stare at Harker—and simply grins. Harker's courage deserts him and he runs in panic.

That very same night Dracula leaves the castle bound for England, leaving Harker to the tender mercies of the female vampires. He arrives in England and attacks Lucy Westenra, the friend of Harker's fiancée, while she is asleep. When Lucy awakens, she has no awareness of what has happened. She only knows she is pale and weak, and has a pain in her throat.

Meanwhile Harker's fiancée, Mina, is terribly worried about him. She has not heard from him for weeks. A letter arrives from Budapest. It is written by a nurse who tells Mina that Harker, who had escaped from the castle, has been a patient in a hospital for six weeks, suffering from a fearful shock. He has been ranting and raving while in a state of delirium and the nurse cautions Mina to always be careful with him because ‘The traces of such an illness as his do not lightly die away.’

Mina rushes out to Budapest. Harker recovers sufficiently to marry Mina and return to England. But he is still a nervous wreck. Harker's wife then shows Dr Van Helsing a copy of Harker's diary. Van Helsing writes Mina a letter professing to believe that Harker's journal is a true account and not the rantings of a madman. When Harker hears of this, he writes in his diary:

It seems to have made a new man of me. It was the doubt as to the reality of the whole thing that knocked me over. I felt impotent, and in the dark, and distrustful, but now that I know, I am not afraid, even of the Count.

[p. 170]

Re-reading Chenevert's brief description of the child's perception of a hospital experience, one finds that every line has its distorted, disguised equivalent in some of the passages from Dracula I have just quoted.

But Chenevert's description provides us with a broad, general picture that can only give us a feeling that we may be on the right track. Robertson's work (1956), however, provides solid evidence. She kept a detailed diary of her four-year-old daughter's pre- and post-operative reactions to a tonsillectomy. The following is a portion of her record:

March 1st. Jean was seen by the surgeon today, and he recommended removal of her tonsils and adenoids. The operation was arranged for six weeks ahead, and I have decided not to say anything to Jean about it until about a week before she goes to hospital.

March 2nd to 5th. During these few days Jean became increasingly difficult about her food. She ate little and appeared angry or unhappy at meal times. This puzzled me until I overheard her say to herself, ‘Don't eat it. Better not to eat it or you'll go to sleep.’ So, although I had planned to give her only about a week to adjust to the idea of an operation and a stay in hospital, I decided to begin telling her at the first opportunity lest her eating disturbance was in fact connected with fantasies about anesthetics.

March 8th. At breakfast, she examined her fork and said, ‘This fork would dig right into my throat and it would hurt. I've got a big hole in my throat, haven't I … ?’ ‘Why do the doctors wear that thing on their faces?’

March 12th. At teatime, she cut her poached egg very carefully, saying, ‘I want it [the yolk] to run out.’ She watched her Daddy having tea half an hour later and said, ‘Look, when Daddy cuts his egg it all runs out.’ (A week before this record started Jean had said, ‘When all the blood runs out of cut and hurt people they die.’) She put her thumb and first finger in her mouth and pinched the back of her tongue, remarking, ‘It hurts when I do it.’

March 14th. Jean saw a picture of a man, a prisoner being led between two policemen; and for the next twenty minutes she questioned me persistently about ‘naughty men’. ‘Do children go away when they are very naughty? Were you naughty, Mummy? Did you go away when you were little?’ I spoke of the coming hospitalization, and we talked about the reasons for it.

March 15th. At lunch she talked again of knives and forks being sharp. ‘They could poke our throats’, she said, then ate her lunch mostly with her fingers. She pretended to cut my hand and arm with a knife.

April 4th. Several of the children were playing hospital in the garden, and Jean was the patient.

April 6th. When I discussed with her sister the arrangements for her care while Jean and I were away, Jean asked, ‘Why?’ as if the whole idea were new to her, and added, ‘But I don't want to go to the hospital.’

The child was taken to the hospital in her daddy's car and the diary continues:

April 8th. She held my hand tightly and seemed apprehensive as we walked into the office to register, and as we went into the ward. She said several times, ‘I don't want to have my tonsils out. I don't want to stay in this hospital. …’

For an hour I sat in our cubicle while Jean went to and from the balcony, reporting back to me every few minutes as one child after another was examined by a doctor in the open ward.

At 5 o'clock she was invited into the ward to see television, but unluckily, the anesthesist came just then to examine her. She cried when I brought her back to the cubicle, and made examination almost impossible by her struggling and screaming.

April 9th. At 9 a.m. the ward sister came on duty and told Jean she could get up and walk around in slippers and dressing gown. Jean commented, ‘I like that Big Nurse. She is kind because she lets me get out of bed.’ For the next hour she walked about aimlessly, saying again and again, ‘I want to go home … I don't like doctors and nurses … I don't want my tonsils out.’

At 10 a.m. she took her premedication (two pills) from me with great difficulty … She sat quietly on my knee for half an hour, and then had an injection (Atropine) which made her cry bitterly.

The child undergoes the tonsillectomy and Robertson's diary continues:

April 10th. Her restless doze continued until 3 a.m. when she became fully awake …

She talked a lot. ‘My tonsils are out now …

‘I didn't feel my tonsils coming out.—When did the doctor take my tonsils out?—Were you there?—My throat does hurt me now.—You said it would hurt.—I didn't smell the funny smell to make me go to sleep.—I didn't like the pills, or the prick in my legs—I didn't feel my tonsils come out; that's funny, I thought I was in my cot all the time.’

Many times during the day she asked me to tell her how she got her tonsils out. Each time I reminded her of what she already knew: ‘You had pills and a prick in your leg, and you sat on my knee going to sleep. I was going to put you on the trolley with the red blanket, but you didn't want that so I put you into your cot. When the doctor was ready to take out your tonsils I carried you to the trolley and I took you to the special room. I was with you when you smelled the funny smell, then you slept the special tonsils sleep. The doctor took out your tonsils and carried you back to your cot …’

After each telling she was ready with questions: ‘Where is that doctor now? Where does he live? Will he come again? Where is the special room?’

April 11th. At 9 a.m. the ward sister came on duty and allowed Jean to walk about … She spoke in a friendly way to her Big Nurse, but then she shot a flying toy which hit the Big Nurse's leg.

At 10 a.m. on April 11th Jean left the hospital and the diary continues:

April 13th. Third day home … she added, ‘Why did you take me to the hospital? I wanted to come home the very first minute I was there.’ She recalled with a laugh how her flying toy had hit the Big Nurse.

April 24th. Fourteenth day home. The ‘why’ questions continued throughout yesterday and today. At bedtime she asked, ‘Who takes people to prison?’ I assured her that children did not go to prison.

April 25th. Fifteenth day home. At breakfast Jean lay back, quietly licking a grape. With a puzzled frown she said, ‘It was my Big Nurse who pricked my leg. I didn't like it. Why did she?’ (This apparently referred to the injection given before the operation by the ward sister—Jean's ‘Big Nurse’. Until today Jean had insisted that the prick had been given by a student nurse with whom she had no relationship.)

April 26th. Sixteenth day home. She told her sister Katherine with impish laughter of the time when her flying toy hit the Big Nurse's leg.

April 27th. Seventeenth day home. During last night she had had a nightmare with ‘doggies’ in her bed. …

A few minutes later I heard her singing in her room. ‘And then her tonsils popped out, and if I do she'll be sure to die.’ (In this she was parodying the end of the nursery rhyme ‘Little Boy Blue’: ‘Will you wake him? No not I, for if I do, he'll be sure to cry.’)

Shortly afterwards she came to me and said, ‘I won't ever have to go to hospital again, will I? I don't want to.’

April 29th. Nineteenth day home. At breakfast she recalled: ‘When I cut my finger the blood came out. I licked it and the blood went down into my tummy. It doesn't matter, does it? Blood can go down?’

Ten minutes later, she called me to the lavatory and said very brightly, ‘Mummy, I feel sick.’ I did not take her seriously, and she said again: ‘I do feel sick—something might dribble out—I did dribble out all the blood, lots of it. Why did I? Why do tonsils make blood in my tummy? I want to go to see the Big Nurse today.’

April 30th. Twentieth day home. (Day of return visit to hospital.)

She showed no anxiety as we went into the hospital. When we reached the ward she skipped ahead of us, almost dancing, and went straight to her former cubicle. …

Her ball ran into the induction room, and she was hesitant to go after it until encouraged by the ward sister. She tiptoed in, and in picking up her ball she peeped quickly into the operating theatre which lay beyond, then hurried out with a flushed face. (She knew the purpose of these two rooms.)

Soon after Jean left the hospital, the detailed portion of the diary ended because:

… it seemed that Jean had worked through her hospital experience. She looked well, ate and slept normally, spoke little of hospital, and showed no special anxieties. She started nursery school for the first time, and settled quickly and happily. After a few days she insisted that I should not accompany her to school, and went cheerfully with a neighbor and her children. Her increased confidence and independence of me was commented on by our neighbors. Her extreme fear of dogs had almost disappeared, as she herself remarked, ‘That dog looked at me, and I wasn't even afraid’.

[Robertson, 1956, pp. 413-26]

Thus we can see more vividly how a child typically perceives the hospital experience. I believe I am justified in calling Jean's reactions ‘typical’, since at the end of Robertson's diary, Miss Freud comments:

From the first part of the diary, which covers the preparatory period we learned that Jean confirmed almost all our theoretical expectations of what operation and hospitalization may mean to children of her age.

[p. 428]

Now let's defeat Stoker's intent to disguise the origin of his story and its autobiographical nature. Let's strip away the disguises and distortions, the aura of the supernatural and its attendant horror, and make a point-by-point comparison of Harker's experiences in Castle Dracula and Jean's pre- and post-operative reactions.

(1) Harker travels to the strange land of Transylvania, where he has never been before, to visit a place called Castle Dracula. Little Jean is put in her daddy's car and taken to a place called a hospital located in an area which is as strange to a four-year-old as Transylvania is to Harker.

(2) Harker has a premonition that he is embarking on a perilous journey as he leaves the inn for Dracula's castle. When the innkeeper and his wife learn of Harker's destination, they display their anxiety by making the sign of the cross and then they lapse into silence. Harker becomes apprehensive. When Jean's friends learn of her pending trip to the hospital, they attempt to cope with the anxiety aroused in them by playing ‘hospital’. Jean is the ‘patient’. Her apprehension grows and soon after she flatly declares that she does not want to go to the hospital.

(3) The castle and its inhabitants are eerie and frightening to Harker. He is soon sorry he came and wants to leave as soon as possible. The child feels the same way about the hospital with its doctors and nurses.

(4) Harker thinks Dracula is a peculiar-looking fellow and wonders about his strange comings and goings. Jean thinks the doctor is a peculiar-looking fellow. She wonders why he wears a mask. She wonders where he lives and when he will return.

(5) Harker explores the castle just as the child explores the children's ward of the hospital.

(6) Harker feels he is a prisoner in the castle and the child has repeated fantasies of being taken away to prison.

(7) Harker is warned that there is danger lurking if he falls asleep in strange parts of the castle. The child warns herself about the dangers of falling asleep.

(8) ‘There are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely,’ says Dracula. So do many of the authors of papers on surgically induced trauma without, of course, couching their warnings in language or tone designed to terrify. Harker spends six delirious weeks in a Budapest hospital, proving the correctness of the warning. Jean confirms the truth of the warning by having a nightmare with ‘doggies’ in her bed.

(9) Harker strays into the strange part of the castle. The sight of a child (who also represents Stoker) being dragged into a ‘special room’ causes him to fall ‘unconscious’. Jean is wheeled into an operating room and is anaesthetized.

(10) A vampire tries to sink her sharp teeth into Harker and a nurse jabs the child with a needle.

(11) The only victims that Harker sees in the castle are children. The only ‘victims’ that Jean sees are also children. (Children's wards did exist in hospitals during Stoker's childhood.)

(12) While it is true that Jean did not see any children being dragged into the ‘special room’ as did Harker, there is no doubt that until a few years ago, the dragging of terrified, screaming children into an operating room was a fairly common event in American and European hospitals.

(13) While ‘unconscious’, Harker is carried back to his own room by Dracula, and the child learns that while asleep the doctor had carried her from the ‘special room’ to her cubicle.

(14) Harker becomes so terrified of the forbidden parts of the castle that he comes to look upon his own room as a ‘sanctuary’. For the child, the strangest and most frightening part of the hospital is the ‘special room’. On her return visit to the hospital, just a glimpse of the operating room is enough to make her face flush. She is so afraid of the operating room that she cannot bear to look at it long enough to absorb the reality of its existence. It is as if she feels that if she consciously acknowledges its existence, doctors and nurses will grab her and drag her in to undergo another operation.

(15) I have reasoned that Harker's miraculous avoidance of a vampire attack was simply Stoker's defence against the still terrifying doctors—a defence by denial that it ever happened. During his stay at the castle, Harker and Dracula have a few friendly discussions about business, life in England and Magyar history, and Stoker cannot admit that his friend ‘Drac’ would hurt him. Jean never developed a relationship with the doctor, but a relationship did develop between her and the ‘Big Nurse’. At least on two occasions the child said she liked the nurse. But it was her friend, ‘Big Nurse’, who jabbed her with a needle and the child coped with this betrayal by refusing (for 15 days after her return home) to admit that it was ‘Big Nurse’ who had done this.

(16) Harker is terrified of being drained of his blood, and the child is terrified of bleeding to death. This is why I do not believe that there is much difference between a child's perception of blood-letting and surgery.

(17) Harker sees the vivid proof that Dracula is a blood-sucking fiend and hits him with a shovel. The child sees the nurse who has jabbed her with a needle and flings a toy at her. Even the circumstances surrounding the counter-attacks of our two heroes are similar. Both attacks are farewell gestures. Dracula is about to leave the castle and Jean is about to leave the hospital.

(18) Dracula attacks Lucy Westenra in her sleep. She wakes up feeling weak, sickly and has a pain in her throat. She has no awareness that anything has happened to her. The doctor operates on Jean. She wakes up and also has no awareness of what has happened. She says, ‘That's funny, I thought I was in my cot all the time.’ She too feels weak and sickly, and has a pain in her throat. (It is entirely possible that after blood-letting proved useless, Stoker was forced to undergo tonsillectomy.)

(19) The nurse in the Budapest hospital warns Mina that Harker will suffer long-term trauma as a result of his experiences in the castle. There are also many papers in the literature that warn of long-term trauma resulting from a child's hospital experience.

(20) Weeks after Harker has escaped from Castle Dracula, a sense of unreality pervades his consciousness. He is grateful when Dr Van Helsing positively affirms that his experiences in the castle were real and not imagined. Regaining his sense of reality makes a ‘new man’ of Harker. Weeks after Jean has left the hospital, she is still flooded with a sense of unreality and persists in asking the same questions about her hospitalization. Nineteen days after her release, the ‘why’ questions are still continuing. The child cannot yet believe her mother's explanations. Then Jean says, ‘I want to go to see the Big Nurse today.’ In saying this, the child is struggling to regain her sense of reality. She reasons that if everything her mother has been telling her is true, then she should be able to enter the hospital, see the doctors and nurses and leave the same day without being ‘attacked’. The next day she does visit the hospital and it begins to seem that everything her mother has been telling her is true. The child is now able to accept her mother's assurances and, at this point, Robertson reports that Jean ‘had worked through her hospital experience’. She no longer asks the ‘why’ questions, and she loses her fear of dogs, and becomes more independent. Her mother's assurances have now done for Jean what Van Helsing's assurances have done for Harker—helped her regain a sense of reality. Even the neighbours notice the nice changes in her. Regaining their sense of reality makes a ‘new’ man of Harker and a ‘new’ girl of Jean.

(21) Bram Stoker identified with the doctor by writing Dracula. Jean identified with him by performing imaginary operations on herself and members of her family.

(22) In private life, Stoker often referred to Dracula as ‘Drac’. (It is difficult to overlook the similarity in the common shortening of the word ‘doctor’ to ‘doc’, and the first two letters of the name ‘Dracula’ are the common abbreviation for the word ‘doctor’.) Also, according to Mr Ludlam, Stoker ‘often had a chuckle over how he had this vampire monster wait hand and foot on Harker as a servant’. In both instances, Stoker was still trying to feel a sense of mastery over the terrifying doctor. In the first, by informally referring to the vampire as ‘Drac’, he is saying that the vampire is really his buddy and a buddy would not hurt him. In the second, Stoker goes even further. Not only will the vampire not hurt him, but the vampire likes him so much that he waits upon him hand and foot. So who's afraid of the big, bad vampire? Not Bram Stoker! Jean sought a sense of mastery over the nurse by often chuckling over how she hit her with a toy.

Thus our two heroes, Harker and Jean, have come full circle. From emotional equilibrium to a slowly mounting anxiety, to a flood of terror that leads to emptiness and a loss of a sense of reality lasting a few weeks, to a sudden regaining of the sense of reality coming from assurances from powerful figures, and back to the emotional equilibrium both had enjoyed prior to their ordeal. Many other children have not been so fortunate.

I believe we now know the identity of Dracula and I will not concern myself with the remainder of the story, since I feel that I have reached the heart of the matter in showing that the book was probably inspired by a residue of hospital-reinforced, primal-scene terror that was reawakened in the author some 40 years later.


Of what practical use is it to learn the origin of Dracula? One obvious benefit is that we have a much better insight into the fantasies that a hospitalized child can experience. By simply identifying with Jonathan Harker, we can more readily understand the quality of a child's sense of horror.

However, I feel that the deepest significance of the work I have done lies in the question of why the origin of such a popular classic published 75 years ago has remained so obscure for all these years. The basic reason, I believe, is this: surgically induced trauma in children is far deeper than most therapists realize (including many of those who have published papers on the topic). In his superb essay on the psychology of childhood tonsillectomy, Lipton (1962) states that years of psychotherapy may be required before a surgically traumatized patient even begins to uncover the trauma in his associations. I will go further than Lipton and state that I believe that many who have been severely traumatized by childhood surgery can undergo years of therapy without ever being aware that they were ever traumatized.

Only once have I encountered an instance of total repression of an event that occurred as late in life as age 16. This happened when I was telling a lady acquaintance of mine (aged 43) that I was doing research in surgically induced trauma in children and mentioned the fact that some parents take their children to doctors more to punish them than to help them. Suddenly, she gasped and said, ‘My God, how could I have forgotten. It was so excruciating.’ Clearly, the woman was in a state of shock as she began to recall an event she had totally repressed, both in memory and affect. When she was 16 years of age, she suffered recurrent headaches and her mother had taken her to a hospital clinic, where her mother suggested to the doctor that he clean out her daughter's sinuses. Although there was no history of sinus trouble, the doctor proceeded to carry out the mother's suggestion! The woman described the agony she experienced as ‘it felt the top of my head was going to come off’. While she was groaning in pain, she recalled her mother staring at her, saying over and over again, ‘It's good for you, it's good for you …’

When my acquaintance regained her composure after telling me of this event, I asked her if the reason for her total repression might not lie in the possibility that she sensed that a sadistic, unconscious liaison had been established between her mother and the doctor, and that she was the victim. She rejected this idea, but could offer no other explanation for the repression.

I have told this little tale to impress upon my reader the potency of medically induced trauma. Clearly, the mother's sadism played a major role in the subsequent repression of the event. But we should keep in mind that a parent is almost always involved when a child is taken to a doctor, and we can see in reading Robertson's account that, however unrealistically, Jean clearly suspected her mother of harbouring sadistic motives.

I have conducted many informal interviews of adults selected at random and I am convinced that instances of long-term surgically induced trauma are far more prevalent than most people suspect. By asking a few pertinent questions, evidence can be uncovered in minutes that may take years of therapy to uncover. In conducting these interviews, I have taken a hint from Dracula himself, who warned that ‘there are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely’.

Many people, of course, reported that they could remember no bad dreams right after a surgical experience, but in conducting these interviews, I found a pattern emerging. In its bare essentials, the pattern is this: If a child panics during an experience, either in a doctor's office or in a hospital, and finds to his horror and rage that overwhelming physical force is being used to subdue him or, even worse, if he experiences an asphyxiating induction, then evidence of long-term emotional sequalae will very likely be found and reflected in the dream-life. I have interviewed about 20 adults who were able to recall such grisly events in their childhood and only two could not recall experiencing the same repetitive dream for many months or even years after the event. Two of these people who did recall were about 50 years of age when interviewed and both reported that the dreams that commenced in childhood soon after their medical experiences had continued to the present day!

In closing, I would like to suggest that, based on the informal interviews I have conducted to date, two possibly fruitful studies could be made and used for a Ph.D. thesis by students of clinical or child psychology. The first study would include a fairly large sampling of adults who experienced overwhelming force in order to subdue them and/or an asphyxiating induction during a medical or surgical experience in childhood.

The second study would include a fairly large sampling of adults who could recall a childhood circumcision. These two populations could be interviewed (perhaps by questionnaire) on their dream-life with emphasis on any repetitive dreams. I believe the outcome of these two studies would instil in the practising psychotherapist an enduring respect for the frequency and destructiveness of surgically induced trauma in children.

Works Cited

Buxbaum, E. (1941). The role of detective stories in a child analysis. Psychoanal. Q. 10, 373-381.

Chenevert, M. (1970). Taking the hurt out of the hospital. Fam. Hlth, February.

Eckenhoff, J. (1953). Relationship of anesthesia to postoperative changes in children. Am. J. Dis. Child. 86, 587-591.

Freud, A. (1952). The role of bodily illness in the mental life of children. Psychoanal. Study Child 7.

Jackson, K. (1951). Psychological preparation as a method of reducing the emotional trauma of anesthesia in children. Anesthesia 12.

Jessner, L., Blom, G. E. & Waldfogel, S. (1952). Emotional implications of tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy on children. Psychoanal. Study Child 7.

Katan, M. (1962). A causerie on Henry James's ‘The Turn of the Screw’. Psychoanal. Study Child 17.

Kunitz, S. & Haycroft, H. (1942). Twentieth Century Authors. New York: Wilson.

Levy, D. (1945). Psychic trauma of operations in children. Am. J. Dis. Child. 69, 7-25.

Lipton, S. D. (1962). On the psychology of childhood tonsillectomy. Psychoanal. Study Child 17.

Ludlam, H. (1962). A Biography of Dracula. London and New York: Fireside Press.

Menninger, K. A. (1934). Polysurgery and polysurgical addiction. Psychoanal. Q. 3, 173-199.

Miller, M. L. (1951). The traumatic effect of surgical operations in childhood on the integrative functions of the ego. Psychoanal. Q. 20, 77-92.

Pearson, G. (1941). Effect of operative procedures on the emotional life of the child. Am. J. Dis. Child. 62, 716-729.

Robertson, J. (1956). A mother's observations on the tonsillectomy of her four-year-old daughter. Psychoanal. Study Child 11.

Stoker, B. (1967). Dracula. London: Arrow Books.

Judith Weissman (essay date July 1977)

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SOURCE: Weissman, Judith. “Dracula as a Victorian Novel.” Midwest Quarterly 18, no. 4 (July 1977): 392-405.

[In the following essay, Weissman perceives Dracula as a Victorian novel, asserting that the novel “is an extreme version of the stereotypically Victorian attitudes toward sexual roles.”]

The sexually straightforward and insatiable woman, a stock figure in much of English literature, virtually disappears from the novel after Fielding and Richardson—until she is resurrected by Bram Stoker in Dracula as a vampire. The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror, some terror of being weakened and hurt by one's lover, but Dracula, a Victorian novel, a novel about marriage, embodies sexual terror in a very particular form. A man's vision of a noble band of men restoring a woman to purity and passivity, saving them from the horrors of vampirism, it is an extreme version of the stereotypically Victorian attitudes toward sexual roles.

Voraciously sexual women are usually presented unsympathetically, but without terror, in literature before the nineteenth century. In Chaucer, Criseyde is indeed as fickle as Troilus fears, and the wife of Bath supports through her actions the contentions of all the anti-feminist satire that she attacks. In Shakespeare, Gertrude is weak and, to Hamlet, disgusting in her sexuality, and women like Juliet's nurse are comic. Only Cleopatra is both sexual and—despite her spitefulness and selfishness—magnificent. The evil of Milton's temptresses is self evident; the older women who chase young men in Restoration comedy are objects of contempt.

In the eighteenth century, Swift and Pope both treat highly sexual women with anger and disdain, but still take their existence for granted. In the eighteenth century novel, both Fielding and Richardson treat women's sexuality quite explicitly. Few men in English literature treat women with more generosity than Fielding does. In Tom Jones, Lady Bellaston, certainly, is an unsavory character, very similar to the women of Restoration comedy, but Fielding dislikes her for her dishonesty and exploitiveness more than for her sexual appetite. Molly Seagrim and Mrs. Waters are not heroines, but neither are they objects of contempt. They both like sex, and a lot of it, and though Fielding values a woman like Sophia, who can control her sexuality for the sake of her integrity, more than he could value Molly and Mrs. Waters, he treats them not as contemptible or frightening creatures, but simply as less-admirable women. When Mrs. Waters, after sleeping with Tom, discovers that he is in love with someone else, Fielding says, with admirable freedom from rancor:

She was not nice enough in her amours to be greatly concerned at the discovery. The beauty of Jones highly charmed her eye; but as she could not see his heart, she gave herself no concern about it. She could feast heartily at the table of love, without reflecting that some other already had been, or hereafter might be, feasted with the same repast. A sentiment which, if it deals but little in refinements, deals, however, much in substance; and is less capricious, and perhaps less ill natured and selfish, than the desires of those females who can be contented enough to abstain from the possession of their lovers, provided they are sufficiently satisfied that no one else possesses them.

(Book IX, chapter vi)

Fielding values warmth and finds nothing to fear in sexual warmth that transgresses the bounds of modesty and chastity.

Richardson, on the other hand, comes as close to expressing real terror of sexual women as any novelist before Stoker. The licentious women who are the allies of Mr. B. and Lovelace in their efforts to destroy the virtue of Pamela and Clarissa are bestial and disgusting, and to Clarissa, when she is imprisoned, figures of almost supernatural terror. “Thus was I tricked and deluded by blacker hearts of my own sex than I thought there were in the world. I was so senseless, that I dare not aver that the horrible creatures of the house were personally aiding; but some visionary remembrances I have of female figures flitting before my sight, the wretched woman's particularly” (Miss Clarissa Harlowe to Miss Howe, Thursday, July 6, Night). Lovelace, who is not consciously afraid of women (though his behavior suggests that indeed he is, since he treats them as enemies to be conquered) persistently uses the word devil to describe them. There are only two possible kinds of women for Lovelace, and as far as I can tell, for Richardson—devils, sexually active ones; and angels, absolutely chaste ones. The women who are helping him trap Clarissa are devils: “what devils are women, when all tests are got over, and we have completely ruined them” (Mr. Lovelace to John Belford, Esq. Friday Evening [May 26]). And of Clarissa, he says, “Surely, Belford, this is an angel. And yet, had she not been known to be female, they would not from babyhood have dressed her such, nor would she, but upon conviction, have continued the dress” (Mr. Lovelace to John Belford, Esq. Sunday, May 21). To be female, in his mind, is to be a potential devil, who needs only sexual initiation. He believes in the sexual theory of Fanny Hill and adds demonism to it: in Fanny Hill it takes only one sexual experience to make a woman insatiable, and to Lovelace once she is insatiable, she is a devil. Clarissa disproves his mythology by not desiring him after he rapes her: “By my soul, Belford, this dear girl gives the lie to all our rakish maxims. There must be something more than a name in virture! … Once subdued, always subdued—'tis an egregious falsehood!” (Mr. Lovelace to John Belford, Esq. Monday, June 19). Nevertheless, there is nothing left for Clarissa herself to do but die, since she is not married and no longer a virgin, and can no longer believe in her own sexual myth, that of Comus, that chastity can conquer all attempts to defile it. She has proved Lovelace wrong, but she cannot prove that a woman who has been sexually violated can live a human life.

Though the women of the nineteenth century novel are by no means all Pamelas and Clarissas, they are not Molly Seagrims either. Those who bear illegitimate children, as Molly does, like Hetty Sorrell and Tess Durbeyfield, suffer terribly instead of going on to enjoy more sex. The aggressive flirt survives in the novel, for example in Trollope's Madalina Demolines and Thackeray's Becky Sharp, but their aggression is not really sexual. Thackeray does sometimes treat Becky with terror, because she has so much power over men and is so unscrupulous, so selfish, so dishonest. But she is using her sexuality as a source of credit in a capitalist economy and like Moll Flanders is more interested in the money that sex—or, in her case, perhaps only the promise of sex—can get for her, than in sex itself.

The one violently sexual woman in a major Victorian novel is Bertha Rochester, an older woman (after the wedding Rochester learned to his horror that she was several years older than he was) and a Creole, part black. Rochester sees her as a monster and describes her without a hint of compassion:

What a pigmy intellect she had, and what giant propensities! How fearful were the curses those propensities entailed on me! Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through all the hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste … a nature the most gross, impure, depraved I ever saw, associated with mine, and called by the law and by society a part of me. And I could not rid myself of it by any legal proceedings: for the doctors now discovered that my wife was mad—her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity.

(Chapter 27)

Bertha is not she; she is “it.” Her sexuality has cost her her humanity in Rochester's eyes. I wish I could believe that Charlotte Bronte disapproved of Rochester's view of his wife, but I see nothing in the novel to indicate that she did not share it. Having learned of Bertha's existence on what was to be her own wedding day, Jane leaves, refusing to live with Rochester—but not out of sympathy for Bertha. She is angry, understandably, that she has been deceived, but she cares about maintaining her own chastity and her own pride rather than about refusing to betray another woman. Her pride is apparently more concerned with the letter of the law than with a new understanding of the defects of Rochester's character, for she goes back to him as soon as Bertha has been killed by a timely fire and utters not a word of pity for her. In fact, her own vision of Bertha is as extreme as Rochester's.

Oh, sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face—it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments! … The lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed; the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes. Shall I tell you of what it reminded me? Of the foul German spectre—the vampire.

(Chapter 25)

For Jane too, Bertha is an it, an inhuman demon, a vampire. When she describes Bertha here, she does not know who she is, having seen her only when Bertha came into her bedroom to tear her wedding veil, but even after she knows Bertha's identity, she never retracts these words.

Nor does she ever protest against the language that Rochester uses to describe herself—a bird, an elf, a fairy, a delicate flower—all images which imply frail asexuality. He says that he needs her to cure him from the taint that Bertha has left, the mark of the vampire, in a way. Though there are passages in which Jane speaks of her passionate love for Rochester, and though at the end she says she is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the language of the book suggests that she basically accepts his idea that sexual women are monsters and that good ones are asexual. I would find it impossible to argue that Charlotte Bronte stands apart from Jane Eyre and is using her to expose the power that men's myths have had over women's minds. I think that she shares the sexual myths of men like Richardson and that sexual fear is one of the deepest feelings in Jane Eyre, fear substantiated by the drastic mutilation that Rochester suffers before Jane can come back to him. It would not be hard to control a blind man with one hand.

The vampire is only mentioned in Jane Eyre, but Charlotte Bronte clearly understands the psychological connection between sexuality and demonic blood-sucking. Neither the vampire nor the extremely sexual woman is important in the Victorian novel again until Dracula, a great horror story and a very extreme version of the myth that there are two types of women, devils and angels. Because it is an epistolary novel it has no narrator whose views might be understood as those of the author, but the band of men who gather to fight vampires are amazingly similar in their thoughts about women, as well as in their actions. Arthur, Quincey Morris, and Dr. Seward all begin as suitors of Lucy; Van Helsing is called in to try to save her, and then all four of them join Jonathan in saving Mina. Their lives are devoted to chivalrous concern for women; they are never jealous of each other, never quarrel, and never argue about how women should behave. They all give Lucy transfusions and apparently agree with Seward's sentiment that “No man knows, till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own lifeblood drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves” (Dr. Seward's Diary, 10 September). Van Helsing, the old-fashioned, courtly man, has most of the big lines on women; perhaps his most striking statement to Mina is, “We are men and are able to bear; but you must be our star and our hope, and we shall act all the more free that you are not in the danger, such as we are” (Mina Harker's Journal, 30 September). He has the last line in the book, about Mina's son: “Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.” It is not easy to find many other books in which women are praised and loved for being passive inspirations to men; Mina sounds like the Virgin Mary of Medieval lyrics. Even Pamela and Clarissa have more spirit than Mina as Van Helsing describes her.

The two women (Lucy's mother dies too early in the book to be much of a character) are, at least superficially, perfect objects of such chivalry. Young, beautiful, chaste, coy, they revel in their passivity. Lucy comes under Dracula's evil influence virtually as soon as we meet her and does little but sleep walk and have blood transfusions; when Mina too gets bitten, she learns to resign the active role she had taken in pursuing Dracula and becomes passive, helping only by being hypnotized and giving messages while in a trance. She loves being called “little girl” by Quincey Morris, especially because she knows he has called Lucy the same thing. And as she grows weaker and weaker, she says more and more often things like “Oh, thank God for good, brave men!” (Jonathan Harker's Journal, 3 October). Knowing that she may become a vampire, she asks her band of men to kill her if they must: “Think, dear, that there have been times when brave men have killed their wives and their womenkind, to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Their hands did not falter any the more because those that they loved implored them to slay them. It is men's duty towards those whom they love, in such time of sore trial” (Dr. Seward's Diary, 11 October). I am not sure what—if any—historical incidents she has in mind; but some women, Like Cleopatra and Lucrece, have been capable of killing themselves when faced with what they considered a fate worse than death. Mina, however, relies entirely on the strength of men.

Mina's final proof of her womanhood is acting as an intercessor for Dracula. The men, naturally, approach him with the purest hatred and vindictiveness, but she pleads:

Jonathan dear, and you all my true, true friends, I want you to bear something in mind through all this dreadful time. I know that you must fight—that you must destroy even as you destroyed the false Lucy so that the true Lucy might live hereafter; but it is not a work of hate. That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all. Just think what will be his joy when he, too, is destroyed in his worser part that his better part may have spiritual immortality. You must be pitiful to him, too, though it may not hold your hands from his destruction.

(Dr. Seward's Diary, 3 October)

As the Virgin Mary intercedes with God for sinners, Mina uses her womanly power of pity to intercede with men even for the worst of criminals, insisting that even he can be redeemed. Her idea of dying to one's worse self so that the better self may live is the traditional Christian idea of dying to the flesh that the spirit may live: vampirism is only an extreme version of the evil of the body against which Christians have been told to fight for almost two thousand years. And Mina is the ideal Christian woman, recalling men to an ideal of charity and love through her holy influence.

Lucy and Mina, however, occasionally say things which reveal—without Stoker's conscious knowledge, I am sure—his anxieties about women's sexuality. Writing to Mina about her three proposals in one day, Lucy says, “Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it” (Letter from Lucy Westenra to Mina Murray, 24 May). The intended meaning is that she would like to be kind to these three fine men who love her; the implicit meaning is that she feels able to handle three men sexually. And her friend Mina, writing ostensibly about the lunch that she and Lucy have eaten, says, “I believe we would have shocked the ‘New Woman’ with our appetites. Men are more tolerant, bless them!” (Mina Murray's Journal, 10 August, 11 P.M.). Mina of course does not like the ‘New Woman’ and continues: “Some of the ‘New Women’ writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the ‘New Woman’ won't condescend in the future to accept; she will do the proposing herself. And a nice job she will make of it, too!” She wants to defend women from the dangers of feminism, but on the other hand admits that she has an appetite that not even what she imagines nineteenth-century feminism to be would be able to accept.

The only other women in the book are vampires, lost souls controlled by inhuman appetites. Jonathan Harker knows perfectly well that the vampire women in Dracula's castle offer him the temptation of illicit sex:

I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down; lest some day it should meet Mina's eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth.

(Jonathan Harker's Journal, 15 May)

She seems familiar because he does know, subconsciously, that women are sexual, and terrifying; if they did not represent real women to him, he would have nothing to be ashamed of with respect to Mina. They are the forbidden women, the other women, whose existence is produced by bourgeois marriage. Though he says later, “I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!” (Jonathan Harker's Diary, 30 June, morning), the whole book reveals the fear that they do indeed have something in common. There is always the possibility that the chaste Victorian wife will become the kind of woman that her husband both desires and fears.

We never know who these women were before Dracula transformed them into vampires, but it is significant that the two women he attacks in the book, Mina and Lucy, are either engaged or newly married. He does not attack single women, preadolescent women, or old women. He attacks women who are desired by other men and who are becoming sexually experienced. We watch Lucy change as she comes more and more under Dracula's influence: during the day she simply becomes weak, sad, absentminded; but at night, even before her death, she becomes very sexual. Seward reports: “in a sort of sleep-waking, vague, unconscious way she opened her eyes, which were now dull and hard at once, and said in a soft, voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips:—Arthur! Oh, my love I am so glad you have come. Kiss me!” (Dr. Seward's Diary, 20 September). She becomes even more frightening as a vampire: “the sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness” (Dr. Seward's Diary, 29 September, Continued). She has again tried to seduce—and therefore, attack—Arthur as a vampire, but she spends most of her time attacking children. The women in the castle are also satisfied with a child when they are denied Jonathan; there is obviously a suggestion that women become child molesters. The one group of people that they never attack is other women.

Mina fights becoming a vampire much harder than Lucy did, and never becomes wantonly sexual. Nevertheless, in the scene where her friends discover Dracula with her, Jonathan has been attacked by a vampire, and is not clear whether she or Dracula was the attacker. Dracula is forcing Mina to drink blood from his chest, while “on the bed beside the window lay Jonathan Harker, his face flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor” (Dr. Seward's Dairy, 3 October). Van Helsing says that “Jonathan is in a stupor such as we know the Vampire can produce,” but he does not say which vampire produced this stupor. Flushed and tired, Jonathan seems to have just had intercourse, and we do not know whether Dracula produced this state in order to have access to Mina, or whether Mina, during what she thought was normal intercourse with her husband, produced the stupor. At any rate, Mina realizes that she must never again have sex with Jonathan, as long as she is a vampire, in order to keep him from becoming one too: “Unclean, unclean! I must touch him or kiss him no more. Oh, that it should be that it is I who am now his worst enemy, and whom he may have most cause to fear.” As the women in Dracula become vampires, they become too sexual for their husbands or fiances to endure.

Jonathan, however, seems unaffected the next day by his brush with vampirism. In this book men do not become transformed into sexual demons as women do. Dracula himself is cruel and powerful but not particularly sensual in the same way that the women are. The women at the castle say, “You yourself never loved; you never love” (Jonathan Harker's Journal, The Morning of 16 May), and though he answers, “Yes, I too can love, you yourselves can tell it from the past,” the book seems to support what the women say. He seems more interested in power and conquest than in the sensual pleasure of being a vampire, which the women clearly enjoy. His control and brutal power is clear when he forces Mina to drink blood from his chest, a demonic reversal of the Pelican's feeding of its child from its own blood, an image of Christ's sacrifice: “with his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker's hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. … The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink” (Dr. Seward's Diary, 3 October). Mina does not want to be a vampire—to drink blood—and he is trying to force her to become one. His cold control is also shown by his power over animals, especially wolves, and the zoo-keeper in London reveals the connection between this power and the power that he has over Mina and Lucy when he says, of the wolf which has escaped: “He was a nice well-behaved wolf, that never gave no trouble to talk of. I'm more surprised at ‘im for wantin’ to get out nor any other animile in the place. But, there, you cannot trust wolves no more nor women” (The Pall Mall Gazette 18 September).

The difference between the sexuality of Dracula and the women vampires is, I think, the key to the psychological meaning of the book. For him, sex is power; for them, it is desire. He is the man whom all other men fear, the man who can, without any loss of freedom or power himself, seduce other men's women and make them sexually insatiable with a sexual performance that the others cannot match. He is related to Lovelace and to the tradition of noble rakes who ruin middle and lower class women and go scot-free, but the women who are the victims of Lovelace and the young squires of The Vicar of Wakefield and Tom Jones (the one who preceded Tom in Molly's bed) are not said to be ruined for other men because they are now insatiable. They are, supposedly, simply no longer respectable. And yet I think that Dracula reveals one of the reasons why they are no longer respectable, why there has been an obsession in western culture with marrying virgins. Our culture is founded on the belief that men are more powerful than women, and perhaps women who are not virgins have not been considered eligible for marriage because they may make invidious sexual comparisons between their husbands and their previous lovers. Fielding, that great man, recognizes this possibility without horror when Shamela Andrews complains that all men are “little” compared with Parson Williams and says that she might have been well enough satisfied, too, on her wedding night, if she had never been acquainted with Parson Williams.

For Fielding, differences in sexual capacity are not a cause for terror; for Stoker, they are. His band of trusty men, loyal and chaste, are not simply trying to destroy Dracula, who has come to England to “create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless” (Jonathan Harker's Journal, 30 June morning). Their fight to destroy Dracula and to restore Mina to her purity, is really a fight for control over women. It is a fight to keep women from knowing what the men and women of the middle ages, the renaissance, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries knew, and what people of the nineteenth century must also have known, even if they did not want to—that women's sexual appetites are greater than men's.

Bibliographic Note

The sexual imagery in Dracula and the varieties of sexual activity implied by vampirism have been discussed by C. F. Bentley in “The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker's Dracula” (Literature and Psychology 22: 27-34). In “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula” (Victorian Newsletter 42:20-22) Carol L. Fry points out that Lucy and Mina are the pure women of Victorian fiction, that Dracula is a rake, and that vampirism is surrogate intercourse; but she does not really pursue Stoker's tranformation of the fictional conventions.

Phyllis A. Roth (essay date 1982)

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SOURCE: Roth, Phyllis A. “Dracula.” In Bram Stoker, pp. 87-126. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.

[In the following excerpt, Roth discusses Dracula as a seminal work of Gothic fiction and offers a psychoanalytical interpretation of the novel.]

Dracula exerts a complex fascination owing both to Stoker's skill and to the enduring appeal of the Gothic genre of which it is a superb and instructive example, following a tradition originated, by critical consensus, by Horace Walpole with his Castle of Otranto (1764). The most commonly cited pillars of the tradition are William Beckford's Vathek (1786), Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797), Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), and Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820).

While Stoker's themes and techniques in Dracula resemble those appearing in his other fictional works, only in several of the short tales and Dracula did he write true Gothic fiction, as superbly defined in a recent study by Elizabeth MacAndrew:

The later authors added new devices to fit their particular needs but all these works are set up as revelations of horror. They present as psychological evil a sexual obsession, overwhelming guilt, or pride that defies the limits God has set for man, and they seek to arouse fear and sickening horror in the reader. These tales may see evil as an aberration of man or as an inherent part of his nature, they may question the value judgments placed on the phenomena they are symbolizing, but they all show the world its own dreams, drawing the reader into their closed worlds, playing on his emotions, and preventing him from denying that what he experiences in the novel may also be within himself.1

Moreover, and especially later in the nineteenth century, Gothic fiction is increasingly dreamlike in ambience, if not explicitly entailing a dream or dreams, and symbolic in import. As we have seen, Stoker is fascinated by dreams and dreamlike states, such as hypnotic trances and catalepsy. Throughout Dracula, the manifestations of the vampire occur in dreams or produce trances.

The cause of the increasing emphasis on dreams in the fiction of the second half of the nineteenth century lies in the changing views of the human psyche, and the function of the dream and other typical devices of the Gothic is to indicate to the reader that the Gothic occurrences are externalized, “quasi-allegorical” representations of internal conflict: “increasingly writers chose the Gothic tale as a vehicle for ideas about psychological evil—evil not as a force exterior to man, but as a distortion, a warping of his mind.” Thus, the Gothic originated late in the eighteenth century as a moral tale directing readers to eschew the evil which, though external, threatened them, but developed by the end of the nineteenth century into a psychologically more complex mode with “ambiguous presentations that questioned the nature of evil itself.”2

MacAndrew's argument that the Gothic tale is to be taken symbolically is illuminating, too, with regard to typical Gothic devices. The castle, in particular, perhaps the preeminent emblem of the Gothic3 and its typically alien and exotic location, is the domain not only of the villain, but of a certain mode of behavior or manifestation of self: entered by hero and/or heroine, it is the locus of trials which, in the best fiction, represent maturing lessons for them. (This is especially clear in the novels of Ann Radcliffe and in Jane Austen's parody of the genre, Northanger Abbey; one can also argue that Emily Brontë uses Wuthering Heights in a similar fashion.) Thus, the castle and related structures—in Dracula, there are three such edifices, all important, the Castle Dracula itself, Carfax in London, and its nearest neighbor, the lunatic asylum—are visual emblems of mental aberrations, transformations, and tests, the symbolic force of which may help to explain their appeal and threat.4

The apparently archetypal vision of Castle Dracula, although more implied than explicitly described, which the reader glimpses as Harker is first swept to his destination, is itself suggestive, not only of the exotic and isolated, but also of the terrifying interior of the grave (rife with the sickeningly corrupt odor of fleshly dissolution) and of the hauntingly familiar face of the mother, as we shall see. Thus, the castle itself is the visible and uncanny emblem of that which is repressed.5

Seward's asylum is equally suggestive, for when Dracula's attacks on Mina begin, we are continuously reminded that Renfield, who attempts to fight his “Master” to save her soul, is locked in a cell in a lower part of the building analogous to the “lower” impulses in the psyche. Thus, the asylum is the arena for a psychomachia in which the madman is simultaneously the locus of the edifice's vulnerability (Dracula enters at Renfield's invitation) and the most clear-sighted of all the men wishing to protect Mina. This is an especially vivid example both of the ambivalence of the male characters toward the female and of the symbolic significance of the Gothic edifice.

Reinforcing the symbolic rendering of the castle, the magical spaces of the Gothic are frequently hung with mirrors or fraught with various reflecting devices. Mirrors are a central metaphor for the self and, certainly, their near-universal appearance in doppelgänger tales (tales involving characters who double for each other, who split into or are multiplied by either identical or complementary characters) confirms this. Most enigmatically and terrifyingly in the vampire tale is, of course, the “fact” that a vampire does not cast a reflection, being “undead,” soulless. “In Stoker's fiction … the invisibility of the vampire [in the mirror] serves the larger Christian allegory [of the presence or absence of souls] by emphasizing that we cannot see vampires because (a) we tend not to believe in them and (b) we choose not to see those aspects of ourselves that are most likely those of the vampire.”6 Thus, vampires may strike with even less warning than other ghouls or revenants.

In addition to the use of the castle, dungeon, or cave as magical spaces which exacerbate terror, writers of Gothic tales employ narrative devices which enhance both the mystery and suspense and the sense of an alien world. MacAndrew remarks that the technique of multiple narration mediates between the reader and the mysterious space, especially when the several narrators are separated by large spans of time as well as by space. But “when the tale is no longer set in the distant past, a system of ‘nested,’ concentric narration maintains the illusion of a strange world, isolating a symbolic landscape within the ordinary ‘world.’”7 Additionally, as in Dracula, those to whom letters are being addressed while initially safely separated from the alien world, are often increasingly drawn in, and so, with delighted discomfort, is the reader. In Dracula, while the dialogue of the characters is frequently and distractingly laughable—notably that of Quincey Morris, the Texan, and Abraham Van Helsing, the Dutchman—Stoker achieves remarkable success in sustaining suspense by careful pacing of disclosures and painstaking collating of evidence individually collected, what MacAndrew refers to as a cumulative technique employed not only by earlier writers of the Gothic, but also by practitioners of detective fiction which was an established subgenre before 1897.

Thus, the alien worlds of the Gothic are clearly demarcated from the ordinary world by a number of techniques, and this delineation of boundaries reinforces the symbolic import of the tale. We recall from The Jewel of the Seven Stars, Stoker's careful and evocative use of space and the labyrinthine path to the cave followed by the initiates, duplicating Trelawny's earlier journeys to Queen Tera's rock-tomb in Egypt. In The Lady of the Shroud, Stoker once again employs Transylvania as the exotic land, but neither Rupert's castle nor the twist the plot takes is calculated to sustain the symbolic or the suspense. For unlike the developments in Dracula, the rational West invades the mysterious East, de-mystifying both the East and what terror the story began with.

In Dracula, however, Stoker was able to sustain the Gothic mood and symbolism, indeed, to achieve terrifying effects by bringing the world of Castle Dracula into contemporary London. Jonathan Harker, we recall, is driven almost mad when he first catches sight of Dracula on the streets of London. This politically and racially chauvinistic equation of evil and irrationality with the East and virtue and sanity with the West8 breaks down, however, in a number of ways. Not only does Van Helsing speak to his former pupil, Dr. Seward, of the necessity for recognizing the existence of seemingly unnatural phenomena, but the evil that is Dracula invades far more than just England itself. While it is unclear to what extent Stoker was aware that his vampire represents the evil or repressed fantasies of his characters, it is the case that the associations of violence with madness and vampirism with sexuality are typical in the Gothic. True to the nature of the Gothic, Dracula is the external representation of Renfield's insanity, Lucy and Mina's sexuality, and Harker's episodes both of delirium and passivity.

By setting part of Dracula in a lunatic asylum and including doctors of the human psyche as two of the major characters, Stoker gives additional evidence of his continued interest in unconscious forces and provides further corroboration of his conscious psychological speculations. And, with his interest in the fusing of identities, an interest relevant also to his appreciation of Henry Irving's ability utterly to transform himself into his roles, it is impossible that Stoker was unaware of some of the ways in which Dracula is a projection of the characters in the novel. Moreover, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had been published in 1886, and from at least as far back as Frankenstein the “monster” is portrayed as the double of the hero. In choosing to write of vampires, Stoker chose a creature which is “in origin the human victim of another vampire.”9 Dracula is a true Gothic villain, “a mythic, symbolic figure. He is presented through techniques that show, not frail humans, but the nature of human frailty. These villains are symbolically … diabolical, and they appear along with ghosts and monsters to reproduce evil, madness, and torment located in the human mind. Their vices are presented as distortions of human nature and as essentially unnatural.”10

Thus, characterization in Dracula is typical of the Gothic genre in the Victorian Era if not before. Dramatizing the theme that external horrors are manifestations of internal states, character doublings and splittings abound. While the most obvious examples of this technique are the splitting of Lucy into pure maiden and vampire, and the doubling of Van Helsing, the leader of the virtuous, for Dracula, the king of the undead, other doublings and fusions of character are equally significant. Indeed, doublings and splittings as a technique of both characterization and thematic dramatization are critical to Dracula as a Gothic fiction and to an understanding of the fantasy's import.


Bram Stoker's Dracula is an enduring success “not merely because it has been skillfully marketed by entrepreneurs but because it expresses something that large numbers of readers feel to be true about their own lives.”12 In other words, Dracula successfully manages a fantasy which is congruent with a fundamental fantasy shared by many others. This “core fantasy”13 appears to derive from the Oedipus complex—indeed, Dracula has been seen as “a quite blatant demonstration of the Oedipus complex … a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match.”14

Nevertheless, the exploration of an Oedipal conflict does not go far enough in explaining the novel: in explaining the primary focus of the fantasy content and in explaining what allows Stoker and, vicariously, his readers, to act out what are essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes which must engage the most polarized of ambivalences.

In the following, we will argue that the primary source of the ambivalences and fantasies in Dracula is pre-Oedipal, alternately focusing on “morbid dread”15 and lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother. For both the Victorians and twentieth-century readers, much of the novel's great appeal derives from its ambivalence toward female sexuality, a recurrent theme in Stoker's fiction, as we have seen. In Dracula the polarization of responses toward women characters receives its definitive embodiment, manifested both in the conflicting attitudes of the male characters and explicitly in the portrayals of the females.

The ambivalence toward female sexuality is dramatized in a series of thematically interlocking scenes, scenes portraying heightened female sexuality in all its oral seductiveness and, in reaction, scenes depicting extraordinary phallic violence. The most striking instances of the ambivalent attitude and its attendant imagery include, first, the scene in which, searching Castle Dracula in a state of fascinated dread for proof of his host's nature, Harker is greeted by three vampire women whose relation to Dracula is incestuous16 and whose appeal is described almost pornographically: “All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.” The three debate who has the right to feast on Jonathan first, but they conclude, “He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all,” Jonathan meanwhile experiencing “an agony of delightful anticipation” (Chapter 3). At the very end of the novel, Van Helsing falls prey to the same attempted seduction by, and the same ambivalence toward, the three vampires.

Two more scenes of relatively explicit and uninhibited oral and phallic sexuality mark the novel about one half, then two thirds, through. First the scene in which Lucy Westenra is laid to her final rest by her fiancé, Arthur Holmwood, later Lord Godalming, which is worth quoting from at length:

Arthur placed the point [of the stake] over the heart, and as I looked I could see its dint in the white flesh. Then he struck with all his might.

The thing in the coffin writhed: and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it.

(Chapter 16)

Finally, we recall the scene which Joseph Bierman has described quite correctly as a “primal scene in oral terms,”17 the scene in which Dracula slits open his breast and forces Mina Harker to drink his blood: “With his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker's hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man's bare chest which was shown by his torn-open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink” (Chapter 21).

Two major points are to be made here, in addition to marking the clearly erotic nature of the descriptions. These are, in the main, the major sexual scenes and descriptions in the novel; they are not only undeniably sexual,18 but also incestuous, especially when taken together, as we shall see.

To consider the first point, only relations with vampires are sexualized in this novel; indeed, a deliberate attempt is made to make sexuality seem unthinkable in “normal relations” between the sexes. All the close relationships, including those between Lucy and her three suitors and Mina and her husband, are spiritualized beyond credibility. Only when Lucy becomes a vampire is she allowed to be “voluptuous,” yet she must have been so long before, judging from her effect on men and from Mina's description of her. (Mina, herself, never physically described, never suffers the fate of voluptuousness before or after being bitten, for reasons which will become apparent.) Thus, vampirism is associated not only with death, immortality, and orality, but also with sexuality.

Further, in psychoanalytic terms, the vampirism is a manifestation of greatly desired and equally strongly feared fantasies. These fantasies have encouraged critics to point to the Oedipus complex at the center of the novel. Dracula, for example, is seen as the “father-figure of huge potency,”19 and he “even aspires to be, in a sense, the father of the band that is pursuing him. Because he intends, as he tells them, to turn them all into vampires, he will be their creator and therefore ‘father.’”20 The major focus of the novel, then, would appear to be the battle of the sons against the father to release the desired woman, the mother, she whom it is felt originally belonged to the son till the father seduced her away: “the set-up reminds one rather of the primal horde as pictured somewhat fantastically perhaps by Freud in Totem and Taboo, with the brothers banding together against the father who has tried to keep all the females to himself.”21

Moreover, the Oedipal rivalry is not merely a matter of the Van Helsing group, in which “Van Helsing represents the good father figure,”22 pitted against the Big Daddy, Dracula. Rather, from the novel's beginning, a marked rivalry among the men is evident, one with which we are familiar from almost all of Stoker's fiction. This rivalry is defended against by the constant, almost obsessive, assertion of the value of friendship and agape among members of the Van Helsing group. Specifically, the defense of overcompensation is employed, most often by Van Helsing in his assertions of esteem for Dr. Seward and his friends. The others, too, repeat expressions of mutual affection ad nauseum: they clearly protest too much. Perhaps this is most obviously symbolized, and unintentionally exposed, by the blood transfusions from Arthur, Seward, Quincey Morris, and Van Helsing to Lucy Westenra. The great friendship among rivals for Lucy's hand lacks credibility and is especially strained when Van Helsing makes it clear that the transfusions (merely the reverse of the vampire's bloodletting) are in their nature sexual; Van Helsing's warning to Seward not to tell Arthur that anyone else has given Lucy blood indicates the sexual nature of the operation.23 Furthermore, Arthur himself feels that, as a result of having given Lucy his blood, they are in effect married. Thus, the friendships of the novel mask a deep-seated rivalry and hostility.

Dracula does then appear to enact the Oedipal rivalry among sons and between the son and the father for the affections of the mother. The fantasy of patricide and its acting out is obviously satisfying. According to Norman Holland, such a threatening wish-fulfillment can be rewarding only when properly defended against or associated with other pleasurable fantasies. Among the other fantasies are those of life after death, the triumph of “good over evil,” mere man over superhuman forces, and the rational West over the mysterious East.24 Most likely not frightening and certainly intellectualized, these simplistic abstractions provide a diversion from more threatening material and assure the fantast that God's in his heaven, all's right with the world. On the surface, this is the moral of the end of the novel: Dracula is safely reduced to ashes, Mina is cleansed, the “boys” are triumphant. Seemingly, then, the reader of Dracula identifies with those who are doing battle against the evil in this world, against Count Dracula. On the surface of it, this is where one's sympathies lie in reading the novel.

However, what is far more significant in the interrelation of fantasy and defense is the duplication of characters and structure which betrays an identification with Dracula and a fantasy of matricide underlying the more obvious patricidal wishes, a fantasy for which we have been prepared by our analysis of Stoker's other novels.

As observed, the split between the sexual vampire family and the asexual Van Helsing group is not at all clear-cut: Jonathan, Van Helsing, Seward and Holmwood are all overwhelmingly attracted to the vampires, to sexuality. Fearing this, they employ two defenses, projection and denial: it is not we who want the vampires, it is they who want us (to eat us, to seduce us, to kill us). Despite the projections, we should recall that almost all the onstage killing is done by the “good guys”: that of Lucy, of the vampire women, and of Dracula. The projection of the wish to kill onto the vampires wears thinnest perhaps when Dr. Seward, contemplating the condition of Lucy, asserts that “had she then to be killed I could have done it with savage delight” (Chapter 16). Even earlier, when Dr. Seward is rejected by Lucy, he longs for a cause with which to distract himself from the pain of rejection: “Oh, Lucy, Lucy, I cannot be angry with you. … If I only could have as strong a cause as my poor mad friend there [significantly, he refers to Renfield]—a good, unselfish cause to make me work—that would be indeed happiness” (Chapter 11). Seward's wish is immediately fulfilled by Lucy's vampirism and the subsequent need to destroy her.

Obviously, the acting out of such murderous impulses is threatening: in addition to the defenses mentioned above, the use of religion not only to exorcise the evil but to justify the murders is striking. In other words, Christianity is on our side, we must be right. In this connection, it is helpful to mention the name “Lord Godalming” (the point is repeated).25 Additional justification is provided by the murdered themselves: the peace into which they subside is to be read as a thank you note. Correlated with the religious defense is one described by Freud in Totem and Taboo in which the violator of the taboo can avert disaster by Lady MacBeth-like compulsive rituals and renunciations.26 The repeated use of the Host, the complicated ritual of the slaying of the vampires, and the ostensible, though not necessarily conscious, renunciation of sexuality are the penance paid by those in Dracula who violate the taboos against incest and the murder of parents.

Since we now see that Dracula acts out the repressed fantasies of the other male characters, since those others wish to do what he can do, we have no difficulty in recognizing an identification with the aggressor on the part of characters and reader alike. Indeed, this identification between male characters and Dracula is physically manifest in the complementary doubling between the Dracula we meet early in the novel and the deteriorating Harker. Indeed, we recall the horror with which Harker observes Dracula returning from the kill dressed in his—Harker's—clothing, “as if it had been given him to encounter an aspect of himself in Transylvania with which he was doomed to merge. In the course of the novel he and Dracula, pivoting around Mina, whom they both love, slowly change place and form. It is a strange transformation in which via Mina, Harker has been weakened by a succubus, who in turn nourishes her incubus, the ever more youthful Dracula. It will be seen too, that except for the final moments of the fiction, Harker becomes increasingly more supine as Dracula grows more active.”27 It is important, then, to see what it is that Dracula is after.

The novel tells of two major episodes, the seductions of Lucy and Mina, to which the experience of Harker at Castle Dracula provides a prologue and a hero, one whose narrative encloses the others and with whom, therefore, one might readily identify. This, however, is both a defense against and a disguise for the central identification of the novel with Dracula and his sexual assaults on the women. It is relevant in this context to observe how spontaneous and ultimately trivial Dracula's interest in Harker is. When Harker arrives at Castle Dracula, his host makes a lunge for him, but only after Harker has cut his finger and is bleeding. Dracula manages to control himself and we hear no more about his interest in Harker's blood until the scene with the vampire women when he says, “This man belongs to me!” (Chapter 3) and, again a little later, “have patience. Tonight is mine. To-morrow night is yours!” (Chapter 4). After this we hear no more of Dracula's interest in Jonathan; indeed, when Dracula arrives in England, he never again goes after Jonathan. For his part, Jonathan appears far more concerned about the vampire women than about Dracula—they are more horrible and fascinating to him. Indeed, Harker is relieved to be saved from the women by Dracula. Moreover, the novel focuses far more extensively on the Lucy and Mina episodes from which, at first, the Jonathan episodes may seem disconnected; actually, they are not, but we can only see why after we understand what is going on in the rest of the novel.

In accepting the notion of identification with the aggressor in Dracula, what we accept is an understanding of the reader's identification with the aggressor's victimization of women. Dracula both desires Lucy and Mina and wills their destruction. What this means is obvious when we recall that his attacks on these two closest of friends seem incredibly coincidental on the narrative level. Only on a deeper level is there no coincidence at all: the level on which one recognizes that Lucy and Mina are essentially the same figure.28 Moreover, the ambivalence becomes understandable once we recognize that this figure is the mother, an identification explicit in the text. In the initial and aborted seduction of Harker by the vampire women, Stoker reveals both Jonathan's ambivalence and the identity of the women. Interestingly, Harker seeks out this episode by violating the count's (father's) injunction to remain in his room: “let me warn you with all seriousness, that should you leave these rooms you will not by any chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle.” This, of course, is what Harker promptly does. When Dracula breaks in and discovers Harker with the vampire women, he acts like a jealous husband and an irate father as well: “His eyes were positively blazing. The red light in them was lurid. … ‘How dare you touch him, any of you?’” (Chapter 3). Jonathan's role as child here is reinforced by the fact that, when Dracula takes him away from the women, he gives them a child as substitute.

But most instructive is Jonathan's perspective as he awaits, in a state of erotic arousal, the embraces of the vampire women, especially the fair one: “The other was fair as fair can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment now or where” (Chapter 3). As far as we know, Jonathan never recollects, but we should be able to understand that the face is that of the mother (almost archetypally presented), she whom he desires yet fears, the temptress-seductress, Medusa. Moreover, this golden girl reappears in the early description of Lucy who, as “bloofer lady,” preys on children. Lucy is as attractive and threatening to the children as the vampire women are to Jonathan.

In its depiction of women Dracula employs the conventional fair/dark opposition, Lucy, for example, being transformed from a fair and lovely maiden to a sinister and darkly voluptuous vampire (thus reinforcing the understanding of the fair female at the castle as mother, albeit mother as vampire): early in the story, when Lucy is not completely vampirized, Dr. Seward describes her hair “in its usual sunny ripples” (Chapter 12); later, when the men watch her return to her tomb, Lucy is described as “a dark-haired woman” (Chapter 16).29 While Mina's coloring is never specified, for which there is good reason as we shall see, once assaulted by Dracula, Mina is stained with the mark of Cain.

The dark stain of the vampire woman, equivalent to the portrayal of fallen women in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction, is associated with sexual aggressiveness.30 Indeed, the argument has been advanced that the vampire women are examples of sex-role reversal, with the women assuming the active, aggressive role, allowing the males to enjoy a passive sexual position. We should recall especially Harker's catalepticlike stupor when approached by the vampire sisters or while Mina sucks at Dracula's breast. Clearly, Stoker is both employing and reversing a number of conventional stereotypes: “vampire women not only reject motherhood, they dine on children, as special gourmet items peculiar to the female palates. …”31 Moreover, the portrayal of Mina as an extraordinary woman with the mind of a man, one who provides maternal nurturance for all of the male characters, as well as the means to destroy Dracula—both through her transcriptions of journal and phonograph accounts and through her telepathic rapport with the count—anticipates Stoker's later depictions of the strong, intelligent, and independent Marjory Drake and Stephen Norman, of The Mystery of the Sea and The Man, respectively.

However, the facile and stereotypical dichotomy between the dark woman and the fair, the fallen and the idealized, the sexualized and the saintly is sustained on the surface throughout Dracula. Indeed, among the more gratuitous passages in the novel are those in which the “New Woman” who is sexually aggressive is verbally assaulted. Mina Harker remarks that such a woman, whom she holds in contempt, “will do the proposing herself” (Chapter 8). Additionally, we must compare Van Helsing's hope “that there are good women still left to make life happy” (Chapter 14) with Mina's assertion that “the world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it” (Chapter 17). A remarkable contrast! Perhaps nowhere is the dichotomy of sensual and sexless women more dramatic than it is in Dracula, and nowhere is the suddenly sexual woman more violently and self-righteously persecuted than in Stoker's thriller.

Divided into three major sections, Dracula begins with the Harker prologue portraying the exciting and threatening seduction by the mother. The rest of the novel comprises a revenge story of matricide told twice. In the first telling, the mother is more desirable, more sexual, more threatening, and must be destroyed. In Lucy's depiction we see concrete evidence that “the vampires … suggest not marauding sexual assault so much as awakening sexuality.” However, the sexuality, once awakened, is terrifying, requiring for its defeat “all the resources of society and religion.32 Not only is Lucy the more sexualized figure, she is the more rejecting figure, rejecting two of the three “sons” in the novel. This section of the book ends with her destruction, not by Dracula but by the man whom she was to marry. The novel could not end here, though; the story had to be told again to assuage the anxiety occasioned by matricide. In the second telling, the mother is much less sexually threatening and is ultimately rescued, as are numerous Stoker heroines. In Dracula, certainly, and to some extent in all Stoker's horror tales, the rescue motif is linked to this splitting of the female image into the configuration Freud describes as mother/prostitute.33 Stoker, of course, is by no means alone in this depiction of female characters. Nonetheless, in Dracula, the split between the sexualized female and the madonna is especially vivid and obvious. The consequence of this perception of women is both the ambivalence toward and the doubling of Lucy and Mina we have described.

Perhaps the story needed to be retold because the desire to destroy the mother was originally too close to the surface to be satisfying; certainly, the reader would not be comfortable had the novel ended with Arthur's murder of Lucy. The desire to destroy Mina is more skillfully disguised, more successfully defended against, both for the reader and for the characters.34 Moreover, Mina is never described physically and is the opposite of rejecting: all of the men become her sons, symbolized by the naming of her actual son after them all.

Mina indeed acts and is treated as both the saint and the mother (ironically, this is particularly clear when she comforts Arthur for the loss of Lucy). She is all good, all pure.35 When, however, she is seduced away from the straight and narrow by Dracula, she is “unclean,” tainted, and stained with a mark on her forehead immediately occasioned by Van Helsing's touching her forehead with the Host. Van Helsing's hostility toward Mina is further revealed when he cruelly reminds her of her “intercourse” with Dracula: “‘Do you forget,’ he said, with actually a smile, ‘that last night he banqueted heavily and will sleep late?’” (Chapter 22). The hostility is so obvious that the other men are shocked.36

Nevertheless, the “sons,” and the reader as well, identify with Dracula's attack on Mina; indeed, the men cause it, as indicated by the events which transpire when all the characters are at Seward's hospital-asylum.37 The members of the brotherhood go out at night to seek out Dracula's lairs, and they leave Mina undefended at the hospital. They claim that this insures her safety; in fact, it insures the reverse: the real purpose in leaving Mina out of the plans and in the hospital is to insure her vulnerability. They have clear indications in Renfield's warning of what is to happen to her, and they all, especially her husband, observe that she is not well and seems to be getting weaker. That they could rationalize these signs away while looking for and finding them everywhere else further indicates that they are avoiding seeing what they want to ignore; in other words, they want Dracula to get her. This is not to deny that they also want to save Mina; it is simply to claim that the ambivalence toward the mother is fully realized in the novel.

At the end of his prologue, Jonathan exclaims, “I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common.” Clearly, there is. Mina at the breast of Count Dracula is identical to the vampire women whose desire is to draw out of the male the fluid necessary for life. That this is viewed as an act of castration is evident from Jonathan's conclusion: “At least God's mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot a man may sleep—as a man. Good-bye, all! Mina!” (Chapter 4; my italics).

We can now return to that ambivalence and, I believe, with the understanding of the significance and power of the mother figure, comprehend the precise perspective of the novel. Several critics have correctly emphasized the regression to both orality and anality in Dracula.38 Certainly, the sexuality is perceived in oral terms. The primal scene already mentioned makes abundantly clear that intercourse is perceived in terms of nursing: “Stoker is describing a symbolic act of enforced fellatio, where blood is again a substitute for semen, and where a chaste female suffers a violation that is essentially sexual. Of particular interest in the passage is the striking image of ‘a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink,’ suggesting an element of regressive infantilism in the vampire superstition.”39 The scene referred to is, in several senses, the climax of the novel; it is the most explicit view of the act of vampirism and is, therefore, all the more significant as an expression of the nature of sexual intercourse as the novel depicts it. Moreover, the description affirms the identification of sexuality with destruction. In it, the woman is doing the sucking.

While it is true that the reader may most often think of Dracula as the active partner,40 and certainly many of the plays and films so present him, the scenes of detailed and explicit sexuality are described from the male perspective, with the females as the active assailants.41 And, in this climactic scene, the role of Dracula is complex and revealing. More obviously threatening to Mina than ever before, Dracula is viewed here as the mother suckling her child. Thus, again, it is the female who is most actively threatening. Only the acts of phallic aggression,42 the killings of all the vampires including Lucy, involve the males in active roles. Dracula, then, dramatizes the child's view of intercourse as a wounding and a killing. But the primary preoccupation, as attested to by the behavior of both Mina and Dracula in the primal scene, is with the role of the female in the act. Thus, it is not surprising that the central anxiety of the novel is the fear of the devouring woman.43

The threatening pre-Oedipal fantasy, the regression to a primary oral obsession, the attraction and destruction of the vampires of Dracula are, then, interrelated and interdependent. What they spell out is a fusion of the memory of nursing at the mother's breast with a primal scene fantasy which produces the fear that the sexually desirable woman will annihilate if she is not first destroyed. The fantasy of incest and matricide evokes the mythic image of the vagina dentata evident in so many folk tales44 in which the mouth and the vagina are identified with one another by the primitive mind and pose the threat of castration to all men until the teeth are extracted by the hero. The conclusion of Dracula, the “salvation” of Mina, is equivalent to such an “extraction”: Mina will not remain the vagina dentata to threaten them all.

Central to the structure and unconscious theme of Dracula is, then, primarily the desire to destroy the threatening mother, she who threatens by being desirable. Otto Rank best explains why it is Dracula whom the novel seems to portray as the threat when he says, in a study which is pertinent to ours: “through the displacement of anxiety on to the father, the renunciation of the mother, necessary for the sake of life is assured. For this feared father prevents the return to the mother and thereby the releasing of the much more painful primary anxiety, which is related to the mother's genitals as the place of birth and later transferred to objects taking the place of the genitals [such as the mouth].”45 Finally, the novel has it both ways: Dracula is destroyed46 and Van Helsing saved; Lucy is destroyed and Mina saved. The novel ends on a rather ironic note, given our understanding here, as Harker concludes with a quote from the good father, Van Helsing: “We want no proofs; we ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare so much for her sake” (Chapter 27).

As the preceding analyses of Dracula and of Stoker's fiction in general indicate, Dracula is the most complex, fully worked out, and compelling of Stoker's stories, one which nonetheless reveals all of Stoker's major themes and fantasies, strengths and weaknesses as a writer. In its painstaking sustaining of suspense, its evocation of horror, its visions of nightmare landscapes, it is Stoker at his very finest; and in its questioning of the boundaries between life and death, the real and the fantastic, and its ambivalent portrayal of women and of men's response to women, it is Stoker at his most interesting.

Clearly in the Gothic tradition, Dracula is replete with characters who superficially resemble those of sentimental fiction and who are ostensibly engaged in conflict between the opposed forces of a facilely conceived right and wrong. However, as a late manifestation of the Gothic, Dracula reveals, upon closer scrutiny, a far more complex rendering of the nature of evil and the threat of sexuality than its early predecessors. The appeal of Dracula derives, not only from its masterful sustaining of suspense and its nightmarish depiction of landscape, castle, and cemetery, but from its portrait of a seemingly universal horror—the horror of the human mind faced with its own desires for sexual fusion and violence.

We have made little mention so far of the appeal of the “undead,” the seduction of immortality which is so manifestly a component of Dracula's portrait, and one which others have remarked. In the present analysis, this theme does not exist apart from Stoker's depiction of women, specifically as mother. We should recall the questioning of female nature in The Man, the archetypal mother of “The Shadow Builder,” the nature of Lady Arabella in The Lair of the White Worm, the ambiguous vitality of Queen Tera in The Jewel of Seven Stars and of the Voivoda Teuta and Rupert's mother in The Lady of the Shroud. In all of these instances, the female characters are ambivalently portrayed. Often seemingly both living and dead or chaste and promiscuous, spiritual and animal, woman in Stoker's fiction achieves fullest realization in Lucy and Mina, woman as both mother and vampire, source of life, death and life eternal.

While the Gothic tradition in general is distinguished by its portrayal of “the attractive fascination of the monster …, in Dracula the fear of and fascination with women is a pulsating theme of the fiction. In The Lair of the White Worm the fear and fascination are writhing, horrid presences. Both books, earnestly examined, make one wonder just how genial Bram Stoker's inner life could have been.”47 Moreover, when we recall that, as a child, Stoker remained bedridden till the age of seven, with the expectation that he might never live to arise from the supine, and that during these years he was nursed by a strong woman who nourished both his life and his invalidism while she told him horror tales of plagues and banshees, worked, and gave birth to four more children, we can begin to gain a sense of possible biographical sources of his ambivalent obsession with women.

Finally, Dracula succeeds because it realizes a perfect balance between terrifying but desired fantasies and appropriate defenses which were certainly workable in Victorian England with its notorious splitting of rational West and mysterious East, mother and whore, right and wrong, and its repression of sexuality, defenses which have not lost their viability today. What Stoker provides in Dracula is the means for us to enact our fascination and attraction, our repulsion and violent impulses while remaining at least partially unaware of our more threatening desires, those both loving and murderous. As Philip Hallie puts it in his essay on horror and cruelty, the reader “too feels this awe before an immense power, he too ‘identifies’ with both the suffering victim and the acting villain. Like the horror of the victim, his horror is a commingling of desire and disgust, of admiration and the desire to participate in immense power, as well as fear for his own life.”48

In choosing the vampire as the particular manifestation for his combination of the Wandering Jew/Byronic hero/overreacher, Stoker was working in a tradition which included, among the romantics, the works not only of Mary Shelley, but of Byron (see “Manfred,” “Cain,” and “The Giaour”), Keats (“La Belle Dame sans Merci” and “Lamia”), Coleridge (“Christabel” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), and Goethe, to name but a few,49 as well as considering subjects similar to those of such contemporaneous works as “Heart of Darkness,” and anticipating some of the works of Franz Kafka, for example.

As is true elsewhere in the tradition, the dark spirit in Dracula is proud and haughty, tortured and desperate. Mina makes quite explicit that we are to experience pity as well as horror in contemplation of the count, saying “That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all. Just think what will be his joy when he, too, is destroyed in his worser part that his better part may have spiritual immortality. You must be pitiful to him, too …” (Chapter 23). Moreover, since Mina is explicitly comparing both herself and Lucy to Dracula in this passage, the reflection of the human in the vampire is quite apparent, engaging our sympathies with villain as well as hero, two halves of the one self.

As we have seen so far with particular emphasis on the female characters in Stoker's fiction, Stoker employed doubling and splitting of characters as a device for realizing human nature in its ambiguity. More than a fictional device, this technique reflects a psychological reality for Stoker, one on which many of his interests and occupations were based. Leonard Wolf remarks that “the most enigmatic relationship of Stoker's life is … the one he had with the actor Henry Irving. …”50 In our final chapter, we will recall this relationship in the context of Stoker's interest in the doubling of identities.


  1. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction, p. 22.

  2. Ibid., pp. 4, 5.

  3. This is certainly the argument of Thomas Ray Thornburg, “The Quester and the Castle: The Gothic Novel as Myth, with Special Reference to Bram Stoker's Dracula” (Ph.D. diss., Ball State University, 1970; available through University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan).

  4. Three articles in particular deal in fascinating ways with the effect on the reader of the Gothic, especially the Gothic castle (pictures of several Gothic cathedrals are among Stoker's papers at the Rosenbach): Claire Kahane, “Gothic Mirrors and Feminine Identity,” Centennial Review 24, no. 1 (Winter 1980): 43-64; Norman N. Holland and Leona F. Sherman, “Gothic Possibilities,” New Literary History 8, no. 2 (Winter 1977): 279-94; Philip P. Hallie, “Horror and the Paradox of Cruelty,” Monday Evening Papers, no. 16 (Middletown, Conn., 1969). Hallie comments that “by heightening the strength of the strong one and by rendering the victim more passive, the castle helps generate and maintain the difference of power that helps make cruelty, like a spark of electricity, possible. The castle is the dynamo of cruelty” (p. 9).

  5. In his essay on “The Uncanny” (in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey, vol. 17 [London, 1962], pp. 217-52), which is especially important for analyses of the Gothic, Freud argues that the sense of uncanniness is created by a nexus of themes, all of which are relevant to Dracula: for example, the perception of doubling, arousing “an uncanny feeling which, furthermore, recalls the sense of helplessness experienced in some dream states” (p. 237); our uncertainty about the firmness of the boundary between life and death; the widespread terror of being buried alive. Moreover, the uncanny is manifested in superstitions such as “the dread of the evil eye” (p. 240). There is, according to Freud, one essential condition for uncanniness: “An uncanny experience occurs either when infantile complexes which have been repressed are once more revived by some impression, or when primitive beliefs which have been surmounted seem once more to be confirmed” (p. 249). Thus, the uncanny arises from the return of the repressed, specifically and frequently, repressed infantile incestuous longings.

    Moreover, as a noteworthy addendum here, Freud maintains that, “whenever a man dreams of a place or a country and says to himself, while he is still dreaming: ‘this place is familiar to me, I've been here before’, we may interpret this place as being his mother's genitals or her body” (p. 245). This analysis is explored with specific reference to the Gothic castle in Claire Kahane's article mentioned in note 20 and is one which complements our later discussion of the primary focus of Dracula.

  6. Leonard Wolf, The Annotated Dracula (New York, 1975), p. 27. In MacAndrew's words, “the figure of the vampire is even farther from the human [than ghosts]. A grotesque that refuses to yield itself to direct symbolic interpretation, it has a correspondingly greater suggestive power. A polymorphous, protean monster that drains the blood of the innocent, it is an embodiment of evil of special interest in Gothic fiction because of the decidedly sexual nature of its suggestiveness” (p. 166).

  7. MacAndrew, p. 48.

  8. For the most extensive study of this phenomenon, see Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978). In an excitingly original article entitled “Dracula: The Gnostic Quest and Victorian Wasteland” (English Literature in Translation 20 [1977]: 13-26), Mark M. Hennelly, Jr. argues that the East/West opposition includes the opposition between two types of wasteland—“nocturnal-lunar Transylvania and diurnal-solar London”—each requiring the other for fertilization just as the “child-brain” of Dracula seeks the “man brains” of the hero, and indeed of Mina (p. 14); and that Dracula is an allegorical rendering of the oppositions between two types of wasteland and of the quest from each to the other.

  9. MacAndrew, p. 165.

  10. Ibid., p. 81.

  11. An earlier version of the following analysis of Dracula appeared as “Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Literature and Psychology 27, no. 3 (1972): 113-21.

  12. Royce MacGillvray, “Dracula: Bram Stoker's Spoiled Masterpiece,” Queen's Quarterly 79 (Winter 1972): 518.

  13. See Norman N. Holland, The Dynamics of Literary Response (New York: Norton, 1975).

  14. Maurice Richardson, “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” Twentieth Century 166 (December 1959): 427.

  15. Richardson, p. 419, refers to Freud's observation that “morbid dread always signifies repressed sexual wishes.”

  16. C. F. Bentley, “The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Literature and Psychology 22, no. 1 (1972): 29.

  17. Joseph S. Bierman, “Dracula: Prolonged Childhood Illness and the Oral Triad,” American Imago 29 (Summer 1972): 194.

  18. Bentley, p. 28.

  19. Richardson, p. 427.

  20. MacGillvray, p. 522.

  21. Richardson, p. 428. The Oedipal fantasy of the destruction of the father is reinforced by a number of additional, and seemingly gratuitous, paternal deaths in the novel. See also MacGillvray, p. 523.

  22. Richardson, p. 428. One cannot help but observe in the context that Bram's name was short for Abraham, the name of his father.

  23. See, for instance, Richardson, p. 427. Wolf asks us to “note, too, that Lucy is getting the wish she made when she cried, ‘Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?’” (p. 158).

  24. Richard Wasson, “The Politics of Dracula,English Literature in Translation 9, no. 1 (1966): 24-27.

  25. Ibid., p. 26.

  26. Freud, Totem and Taboo, trans. James Strachey, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 13 (1913-14) (London, 1962), pp. 37ff. For Freud's discussion of projection as a defense, see pp. 60-63.

  27. Wolf, p. 267.

  28. “Mina takes over and becomes everyone's bride, including, in time, Dracula's. What we have here is a matronly parallel to the scene in which Lucy receives three proposals, accepts one, and wishes she could accept all” (Wolf, p. 206).

  29. Wolf, too, observes the change in Lucy's hair color and while he does not account for it, he does link her blondness to the mysterious face Jonathan sees: “This is a major mystery in the book. Whose face is it? There is the smallest hint that this blonde beauty may have something in common with Lucy … but see Chapter XVI … where Lucy is described as dark-haired” (p. 39).

  30. See Carrol Fry, “Fictional Convention and Sex in Dracula,Victorian Newsletter 42 (Fall 1972). For further analysis of the prevalence of the Gothic light/dark heroines and their place and symbolic significance in the English literary tradition, see Elizabeth MacAndrew and Susan Gorsky, “Why Do They Faint and Die?—The Birth of the Delicate Heroine,” Journal of Popular Culture 8 (Spring 1975): 735-45.

  31. Stephanie Demetrakopoulos, “Feminism, Sex Role Exchanges, and Other Subliminal Fantasies in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Frontiers 2 (1977): 107. Demetrakopoulos also maintains that this “collective fantasy” of female sexual aggressiveness was expressive of Victorian ennui with conventional sex roles, an argument less convincing to us than that of the fear of the devouring mother. Judith Weissman (“Women and Vampires: Dracula as a Victorian Novel,” Midwest Quarterly 18, 1977: 392-405), argues that “voraciously sexual women” existed in English literature long before Stoker but only with Stoker's vampires (and, as an exception to the generalization, Jane Eyre's Bertha) are they clearly portrayed as terrifying. In contending that the primary threat of the novel is sexualized woman, Weissman observes that Dracula's threat is power, specifically the power to unleash female sexuality. In an article already cited, Mark Hennelly perceives Mina as the androgynous hero of the allegorical quest in Dracula who can give birth to a new king in whose blood hers mingles with that of both her husbands, Jonathan Harker and Dracula.

  32. MacAndrew, pp. 167, 230.

  33. One of the contexts in which Freud discusses the rescue motif in fantasy, a motif we have seen repeatedly in Stoker's fiction, is in his 1910 essay on “A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men” (which is usefully read with another essay also subtitled “Contributions to the Psychology of Love,” this one entitled “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love”). The situation Freud describes is one in which, as a consequence of an unresolved and unusually strong fixation on the mother, the male splits women into two opposite groups, mother and prostitute, the first of which engages his feelings of affection and respect, the second elicits his sensuality. In the second of the essays, Freud indicates that this splitting is a defense occasioned by the incest taboo which, internalized, causes the sensual feelings awakened by the mother to be repressed, or displaced. Repressed, too, is the awareness the little boy has gained of his mother's sexual experiences. Around the same time, according to Freud, that is, prior to puberty, the boy becomes aware that certain women receive money for these sexual favors.

    In the first of the two essays referred to, Freud describes one manifestation of this situation: in this case, the boy makes the connection between mother's activities with father and those of the prostitute. His response may then be the desire to “rescue” the mother from what is perceived as her tendency to “fall” into “sin.” For Freud, however, this explanation is in fact a rationalization, screening the actual and unconscious motive of the rescue fantasy which has to do with the boy's desire to reciprocate the mother's life-giving relation to him. “The son shows his gratitude by wishing to have by his mother a son who is like himself: in other words, in the rescue-phantasy he is completely identifying himself with his father” (Standard Edition, 11: 173). (The hostile component of the rescue fantasy, as we have indicated elsewhere, is more extensively described in Otto Rank's essay on “The Myth of the Birth of the Hero,” a fuller discussion of the “neurotic family romance” Freud mentions in the essay under discussion here.) All of these elements appear in Dracula, as well as in the early story from Under the Sunset, “The Wondrous Child.”

    An additional manifestation of the incestuous fixation on the mother, described by Freud in the second essay, develops as a marked and sustained split between the mother and the prostitute images, as a consequence of which the male “overvalues” the woman whom he sees to resemble the mother, but is impotent with her. In this situation, the male can only enjoy his sensuality with a woman whom he perceives as debased; indeed, only she is perceived as a sexualized woman. It is possible, though not ascertainable, that this dilemma describes Stoker's sex life; certainly it would explain the events leading to Stoker's degenerative illness and death as described by Daniel Farson.

    What Freud describes in these essays characterizes a typical manifestation of the sexual lives of the Victorians (see also Stephen Marcus, The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England (New York, 1974).

  34. In a beautifully written piece entitled “Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel” (Yale Review 52 [1963]: 236-57), Lowry Nelson, Jr., similarly claims: “By its insistence on singularity and exotic setting, the gothic novel seems to have freed the minds of readers from direct involvement of their superegos and allowed them to pursue day dreams and wish fulfillment in regions where inhibition and guilt could be suspended” (p. 238).

  35. Wolf observes that “Mina” is almost “anima,” or soul (p. 264).

  36. Wolf, who also marvels at this cruelty (p. 276), claims that “Mina echoes the Victorian (and not yet wholly altered) masculine view that the rape victim was morally stained by the violent embrace she endured. Though Jonathan Harker rejects the notion, the rest of the action of the book is predicated on its force. Mina has been stained, spotted” (p. 252).

  37. “One could argue that, beginning with Professor Van Helsing's secrecy, all the catastrophes of the book … have come about because of unshared confidence” (Wolf, p. 258).

  38. Bentley, pp. 29-30; MacGillvray, p. 522.

  39. Bentley, p. 30.

  40. Bierman, p. 194. Bierman's analysis, as we have seen earlier, is concerned to demonstrate that “Dracula mirrors Stoker's early childhood …” and is a highly speculative but fascinating study. The emphasis is on Stoker's rivalry with his brothers but it provides, albeit indirectly, further evidence of hostility toward the rejecting mother.

  41. Ludlam cites one of the actors in the Hamilton Deane stage production of Dracula as indicating that the adaptation was so successful that “‘Disturbances in the circle or stalls as people felt faint and had to be taken out were not uncommon—and they were perfectly genuine, not a publicity stunt. Strangely enough, they were generally men’” (p. 165).

  42. “Sharp-pointed instruments seem to be sexually totemic for the men in this book. The weapons, in order of increasing size, are as follows: Seward carries a lancet; Quincy Morris will be armed with a bowie knife; Jonathan Harker with a kukri knife; and Dr. Van Helsing, their teacher, produces, when the time comes, the most formidable weapon of all—the stake” (Wolf, p. 60).

  43. In the terms of Philip Hallie's argument, “the curious fact remains that these Romantic-sensationalistic novels glorify the power of the victim, and glorify especially her power to victimize her victimizer. Here …, the moral and the esthetic come together (in a successful Gothic tale) to produce an esthetic cum moral consummation” (p. 26). In the terms of the present analysis, the fact is not at all curious. Moreover, devotees of the horror tale will recall both the ending of the original Nosferatu, in which the heroine destroys the villain and the original film of King Kong which ends with the line, “'Twas beauty killed the beast.”

    Gabriel Ronay's analysis of vampirism is tied up with this peculiar though not unique conception of female sexuality, one he sees manifest in the very earliest of vampire tales: “A type of female vampire that used the pleasures of lovemaking to ensnare handsome youths and drain them of blood and devour them, was greatly feared in ancient Greece. Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius describes a classic case of erotic vampirism, revealing the sources of the belief in this particular species of the genus vampiricus: man's primordial sexual fear of the woman who initiates and then devours (castrates) the male as the received him” (p. 5). Indeed, Ronay expends considerable effort to straighten out the history of Vlad the Impaler who, while noteworthy for his sexually tinged atrocities against enemies and compatriots alike, in his lifetime impaling thousands of victims in all manner of hideous postures, was not a vampire according to Ronay. Rather the true vampire was one Countess Elisabeth Báthory, a “famous society beauty and offspring of one of the ancient European aristocratic families” (p. 94) living in the Carpathians in the early seventeenth century. According to the trial transcripts and depositions Ronay cites, Elisabeth Báthory was responsible for the brutal murders of six hundred and fifty girls whose blood she required for purportedly rejuvenating bloodbaths. Though Ronay acknowledges that Elisabeth Báthory was heterosexual, he accounts in part for her sadism by reference to an initiation she received while visiting “her aunt, the Countess Klara Báthory, a well-known lesbian” (p. 102). Thus, Ronay concludes, Elisabeth received support in acting out “her sadistic lesbian fantasies” (p. 96). Indeed, for him, there is a sort of equation between lesbianism and vampirism, an identification shared both by Sheridan Le Fanu in Carmilla and by the makers of many contemporary pornographic vampire films. Ronay claims of Carmilla that “Le Fanu sketched in convincing detail the lesbian root of real life vampirism” (p. 126).

  44. See, for instance, Wolfgang Lederer, M.D., The Fear of Women (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), especially the chapter entitled, “A Snapping of Teeth.”

  45. Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 73.

  46. When discussing the present analysis with a class, two of my students argued that Dracula is not, in fact, destroyed at the novel's conclusion. They maintained that his last look is one of triumph and that his heart is not staked but pierced by a mere bowie knife. Their suggestion that, at least, the men do not follow the elaborate procedures to insure the destruction of Dracula that they religiously observe with regard to that of the women, is certainly of value here, whether one agrees that Dracula still stalks the land. My thanks to Lucinda Donnelly and Barbara Kotacka for these observations.

  47. Wolf, p. 255, xviii.

  48. Hallie, p. 15.

  49. To explore further the Gothic impulse among the Romantics, see The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism, ed. G. R. Thompson (Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press, 1974). For an exploration of the vampire in Romanticism, see James B. Twitchell, The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Durham, N.C., 1981).

  50. Wolf, p. xv.

Alan P. Johnson (essay date 1984)

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SOURCE: Johnson, Alan P. “‘Dual Life’: The Status of Women in Stoker's Dracula.” In Sexuality and Victorian Literature, edited by Don Richard Cox, pp. 20-39. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

[In the following essay, Johnson explores the depiction of women in Dracula, contending that the novel “presents an incisive and sympathetic analysis of the frustration felt by women in late-nineteenth-century Britain.”]

Leonard Wolf has described exactly the theme in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) which seems to account for the novel's widespread and persistent appeal: “energy without grace, power without responsibility.”1 “Dracula is considerably more,” Wolf points out, “than a sexual danger. Stoker insists on his brooding, primordial animality—he is antirational, childlike, instinctual,” and, “in Christian terms he is a creature cut off from God because, for the sake of breath and motion, he has abjured salvation.” A rebel against the limits of mortal life, Dracula is “a hero of despair” (pp. 220, 233). As Mina Harker says in the novel itself, “[H]is action is based on selfishness.”2Dracula may be read as an epic struggle between the Count and the forces of western civilization led by Dr. Van Helsing or as a Bildungsroman in which Jonathan Harker and the novel's other young men learn to know and control the energy personified in Dracula.3 The division of materials in the novel, however, implies that the significance of Dracula as an embodiment of “energy without grace, power without responsibility,” is rooted importantly in the experience of his two victims, Lucy Westenra and Mina.

Despite the novel's focus on Jonathan in Transylvania in its first four chapters, the narrative in the remainder of the book forms a diptych—a portrait first of Lucy and then of Mina—which invites the reader to dwell upon and compare the two women, especially with regard to their respective involvements with Dracula. Chapters 5-16 focus upon Lucy in London and in Whitby, where Dracula lands by ship and attacks her, and then in London again, where her several male admirers, led by Dr. Van Helsing, gather to try to release her from Dracula's demonic influence and to find and destroy him. When, in Chapter 17, Mina and her husband Jonathan join the search after Lucy's death and exorcism, the focus shifts to Mina as Dracula's second victim and as an indispensable aid to the men in the pursuit and destruction of Dracula. In this diptych each woman develops what Van Helsing at one point calls a “dual life” (p. 206)—a life of conscious and willing conformity to her society and yet also a life of largely subconscious rebellion against it. In the case of each woman, Dracula symbolizes her inner rebelliousness, and its crisis coincides with her commerce with Dracula. The diptych also shows, however, that each woman's rebellion is justified and has been provoked by the undue constraints and condescension which have been inflicted upon her by her society, chiefly by the men around her and chiefly because the thinking of the society is dominated by anachronistic notions of social class and chivalry. By the end of the novel Dracula's significance as a symbol of selfishness includes the male characters as well as Lucy and Mina, but, with regard to the two women, the facts that he is a male and an aristocrat mirror of the kind of power that frustrates Lucy and Mina, and thus the kind of power they would like to wield. Both are frustrated by male prerogative: Lucy is expected to make an aristocratic marriage, and Mina is simultaneously apotheosized and nullified by the men's chivalry. Dracula is a complex book, but in the main it is not the sadistic exercise in misogyny for which it has sometimes been mistaken.4 On the contrary, with the aid of some remarkable psychological symbolism, it presents an incisive and sympathetic analysis of the frustration felt by women in late-nineteenth-century Britain.

In general the historical counterpart of Lucy's and Mina's rebelliousness is the complex of frustrated hopes and resentment which must have motivated and accompanied British women's slow, uphill struggle toward equal status with men in the last half of the nineteenth century. Stoker was definitely interested in this long, wide-ranging effort, but his novel seems particularly to be a response to the concept of the “New Woman” which became hotly controversial in the early 1890s. The frustrating slowness of the general progress toward equality for women is evident in the lapse of forty-eight years between the first Parliamentary defeat of women's suffrage in 1870 and its passage in 1918, and in the long lapse between the first listing of a woman (Elizabeth Blackwell, who held a U.S. medical degree) in the Medical Register of the United Kingdom in 1859 and the decision of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to grant their diplomas to women in 1908. Women were far less free to enter professions such as medicine and law than to become nurses and teachers, who were honored but underpaid, and clerical workers, who could find “a new type of employment created by such technical inventions as the … typewriter” (first marketed by E. Remington and Sons, for example, in 1874) without competing with an established male work force.5

Even as a youth Stoker must have been aware of the practical abilities of Victorian women and aware that they merited self-sufficiency if they wished it. His biographer, Harry Ludlam, notes that Stoker's mother, Charlotte, was active in Dublin in “social welfare work and determined championing of the weaker sex.”6 In her published lecture, On Female Emigration from Workhouses (Dublin, 1864), she advocated government-supported emigration for Irish pauper girls in order to “equalize the sexes” numerically. While she recognized marriage as “the true and legitimate end of a woman's existence,” she did not rank marriage as “by any means the first (much less) the only object of emigration.” For her, emigration and numerical equalization were “the best and surest means” by which pauper girls and other “young women of good character” might become “self-supporting young wom[e]n” and attain “that independence in other countries from which they are debarred in this” (pp. 8-9). Ludlam states that Bram himself spoke on the issue of votes for women at the Trinity College (Dublin) Philosophical Society in the late 1860s, but he does not tell us which side Bram took (p. 27).

While Stoker was certainly aware of the late-Victorian women's movement in general and had Charlotte's precedent for sympathy toward it, Dracula seems clearly a response particularly to the “New Woman” controversy of the 1890s because he mentions the “New Woman” in the novel (p. 99) and focuses upon precisely the sort of frustration depicted repeatedly in the so-called “New Woman” fiction published in the first half of the decade. According to Linda Dowling, the “New Woman” concept was a demand for “sexual equality and self-development” for women and a challenge to the traditional Victorian marriage arranged for money and position, to the subservience of wives to their husbands, and even in some cases to the ideas of motherhood and distinctively womanly human “nature.” The “New Woman” concept, Dowling says, was expressed in fiction such as George Egerton's Discords (1893), Mona Caird's The Daughters of Danaus (1894), Grant Allen's The Woman Who Did (1895), and, from a critical viewpoint, Hardy's Jude the Obscure (1895). Dowling points out that the outspoken defiance of “established culture” by this fiction created “deep cultural anxiety” in contemporary reviewers and commentators and moved them to respond with an “apocalyptic vocabulary” in which they compared the novelists' attacks to the French Revolution and the decline of Rome. In The New Woman and the Victorian Novel, Gail Cunningham emphasizes that in the “New Woman” novels the usual consequence of the heroine's struggle for sexual and social independence is that she suffers “nervous disorder, disease, and death” as a result of her opposition to the society she lives in.7

Nervous disorder is precisely what Stoker's two heroines are driven to suffer by the clash between their aspirations and social rejection, and in Lucy's case he adds not only disease and death but also a period of postmortem vampirism. His handling of feminine rebellion differs from the “New Woman” fiction in three notable ways, however. First, despite his sympathetic understanding of the causes of the rebellion, he resembles the “New Woman's” anxious critics by characterizing the rebellion with the “apocalyptic” figure of an alien vampire. Like the journal, Lady's Realm, which characterized the modern woman of 1887 as “this feminine Frankenstein” (Calder, p. 164), Stoker is ultimately conservative, as the novel's ending will show, although he implies that the traditional family and social structure should be conserved by means of reform. Second, neither Lucy nor Mina is literally a full-fledged “New Woman.” Lucy is a traditional, upper-class, Victorian young woman and is consciously unconcerned with feminist reform, whereas Mina is aware of, and has strong affinities with, the “New Woman,” but desires only recognition within a freely chosen marriage rather than radical sexual and social independence. And, third, since Stoker has chosen to show that women like Lucy and Mina who are consciously and outwardly conformists feel the same rebellious impulse displayed by the overt, radical rebels of the “New Woman” fiction, he has introduced the element of dual personality within each of his heroines. In responding to the “New Woman” controversy, then, he sees the broad scope of feminine rebellion and focuses upon its subconscious and barely conscious, rather than polemical and overt, mode, and he attempts to suggest changes which will obviate feminine rebellion and preserve the ideal of family-centered society.

Stoker depicted the public, fully conscious personalities of Lucy and Mina with a wealth of detail. As Stephanie Demetrakopoulos has pointed out, Lucy is what Peter Cominos has called the Victorian “Womanly Woman” in Suffer and Be Still. Lucy is the fragile, feminine “angel in the house” whose activities are never more than trivial. In the eyes of those around her, Lucy in her normal, public character is repeatedly “sweet,” for example.8 Her family has some continuity socially as her father, who is dead at the time of the story, has inherited an entailed estate (Dracula, p. 174). The family is at least modestly wealthy, for they have servants, a home called Hillingham in the London area, and perhaps a second residence at 17 Chatham Street, London, and they take rooms for the summer in a house at the Crescent in Whitby. In Whitby Lucy goes out “visiting with her mother” on “duty calls” (p. 74) and in London Lucy goes “a good deal to picture-galleries and for walks and rides in the park” and to the “pops” or popular concerts (p. 64; cf. 103, 116). Her vocation is apparently to be courted, and, although she receives proposals from Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris before Arthur Holmwood proposes, it seems understood by her mother and Lucy that she will marry Arthur, the only son of Lord Godalming, an aging peer. Early in the novel, Lucy writes to Mina that Arthur “and mama get on very well together; they have so many things to talk about in common,” and Lucy goes on, “Mina, I love him,” although she doesn't say why (pp. 64, 65).

In contrast to Lucy, Mina, even in her public, conscious role, resembles the “New Woman,” but not in the sexually advanced mold of Grant Allen's Herminia in The Woman Who Did or Hardy's Sue Bridehead. Rather, Stoker's characterization of Mina recalls George Eliot's heroines or, more precisely, Wilkie Collins' Marian Halcombe, the independent, practical young woman who helps the young art teacher, Walter Hartwright, in solving the mystery of her helplessly “feminine” half-sister Laura's supposed death and in rescuing her from incarceration in an asylum by her fortune-hunting husband in The Woman in White (1860).9 Probably the type of woman Stoker intends to represent in Mina is described in his remark in his printed lecture, A Glimpse of America (London, 1886), that American women are not bound by “those petty restraints which, with us, are rather recollections or traditions than social needs, or the logical outcome of the spirit of the age. In the United States, a young woman is, almost if not quite, as free to think and act for herself as a young man is. This personal freedom is of course based on a large measure of education, practical as well as of book-learning, and has its correlative in a very stringent law of personal discretion” (pp. 24-25).

In her journal Mina jokes about the “New Woman's” disapproval of the conventional feminine appetite for “severe tea” and about the “New Woman's” probably wanting to do the proposing of marriage; but Mina also adds, “And a nice job she will make of it, too! There's some consolation in that” (pp. 99-100).10 Mina's status as “New” is suggested in the fact that she is an orphan and “never knew either father or mother” (p. 164). All that is known of her background is that she and Lucy have been childhood friends. Mina's “New Woman” status is established mainly by her practical competence. She supports herself at the novel's beginning as an “assistant schoolmistress” (p. 63), and, when she marries, she chooses a rising solicitor rather than an artistocrat who might give her vacuous leisure. As Harker's fiancée she has learned typing and stenography so as to “be able to be useful to Jonathan” (p. 63), and after their marriage she memorizes train schedules “so that [she] may help Jonathan in case he is in a hurry” (p. 192; cf. 343). After joining the alliance of Lucy's friends in pursuit of Dracula, she puts all their information in chronological order, types all of it in triplicate, and, except for a brief and disastrous interval, acts as “secretary” to the group.

As Professor Van Helsing soon sees, Mina “has a man's brain,” but she also has “a woman's heart” (p. 241; cf. 344). Her engagement to Harker is a donnée at the outset of the story, and her devotion to him in her public, conscious role is a pattern of romantic fidelity. She marries him when he is a mental wreck in Budapest after his escape from Castle Dracula and sustains him through his subsequent self-doubt by “keeping up a brave and cheerful appearance” (p. 165). When she learns that she has been infected with vampirism, she is stricken with “horror and distress,” and when she sees “some sure danger to him: instantly forgetting her own grief, she seize[s] hold of him and crie[s] out:— … ‘Stay with these friends who will watch over you!’” (p. 289). To the young men who have courted Lucy, Mina acts as an affectionate, maternal, and sisterly comforter. Along with her romantic fidelity and perhaps her feminine sympathy, her religious faith and a ludicrous sense of propriety also set her off from the “New Woman.” She shows the religious fiber of her character, for example, as she writes about her marriage: “Please God, I shall never, never forget … the grave and sweet responsibilities I have taken on me” (p. 115). After becoming consciously aware that Dracula has attacked her, she cries out, “What have I done to deserve such a fate, I who have tried to walk in meekness and righteousness all my days” (p. 294), and she persistently reassures her allies “that it is in trouble and trial that [their] faith is tested … and that God will aid [them] up to the end” (p. 295; cf. 301, 313, 321). Mina's propriety is a curious oddity. When she leads Lucy back from a sleepwalking in Whitby's parish churchyard, for example, and has put her own shoes on Lucy's bare feet, Mina daubs her own feet with mud “using each foot in turn on the other, so that … no one, in case we should meet any one, should notice my bare feet” (p. 102). Nevertheless, Mina's practical competence makes her a self-sufficient woman in the style, for example, of Collins' Marian Halcombe and Stoker's own Glimpse of America and an obvious contrast to Lucy.

Although Dracula presents the traditional, Victorian, womanly ideal in Lucy and an approximation of the “New Woman” in Mina, both Lucy and Mina are led by the conflict between their personal wishes and their social surroundings to develop a mainly unconscious, egocentric rebelliousness whose crisis coincides with, and is symbolized by, Dracula's attacks upon each character. In giving Lucy and Mina each a powerful, subconscious mental life distinct from her conscious self, Stoker drew upon the general notion of double personality, or dissociation, which had been developed in recent psychology—for example, by Jean Charcot, who is mentioned in Dracula (p. 197)11—and had been popularly immortalized in Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Stoker's awareness of double personality within one person in the years preceding Dracula is suggested in his Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906) in references to Irving's opinion that while performing a role an actor should have “‘a double consciousness, in which all the emotions proper to the occasion may have full sway, while the actor is all the time on the alert for every detail of his method.’” Stoker discussed his employer Irving's views with him at least by 1889 and probably read them in Irving's preface to Diderot's Paradox of Acting edited by W. H. Pollock in 1883.12 Stoker made explicit use of the literary “double,” a character who is an external embodiment of a “self” which exists naturally within the mind of another character, in the playful story “Crooken Sands,” published in 1894. In it, the central character not only sees his own “double,” but also reads what seems to be a book invented by Stoker, “Die Döppleganger [sic,] by Dr. Heinrich von Aschenberg.”13 In Dracula Stoker uses not only the notions of “dual life” and the external double, Dracula, but also the notion of “unconscious cerebration.” According to Leonard Wolf, the term was used by nineteenth-century physicians to label thought processes which were examined in contemporary research such as Dr. Thomas Laycock's Treatise on the Nervous Diseases of Women (1840) (The Annotated Dracula, p. 71, n. 27). In Personal Reminiscences of Irving, Stoker once uses the term synonymously with “dual consciousness” (I, 265). In Dracula Dr. Seward uses the term twice to refer to the thought processes of his patient, Renfield (pp. 79, 276). The rebellious selves of Lucy and Mina seem to be largely the product of their unconscious cerebration as they respond to their social surroundings. After their discontentment develops to the stage of strong rebellion, Dracula appears and attacks each character. He is thus in this context a symbolic double of each woman's rebellious egoism, and the literal vampirism which results from his bite represents the change in personality produced by the egoism.

Lucy's duality first shows itself in the novel in her sleepwalking at Whitby and culminates in her funeral vault, where Arthur, under Van Helsing's direction, hammers a three-foot stake through her heart and sees “Lucy as she [lies] there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth … the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance,” change to “Lucy as we had seen her in her life, with her face of unequalled sweetness and purity” (pp. 220, 222). Between her death and the exorcism, Van Helsing sums up her condition as a polarity of sleeping and waking: “[H]ere is some dual life. … She was bitten by a vampire when she was in a trance, sleep-walking … in a trance could he best come to take more blood. In trance she died, and in trance she is Un-Dead, too” (p. 206). To the reader who focuses upon Dracula as a literal creature with extraordinary powers, Lucy's sleepwalking and trances may seem to result simply from his influence. The novel suggests, though, that the sleepwalking precedes his influence. Lucy's sleepwalking first occurred in her childhood, and, during the seven-month period of the novel's present-time action, the sleepwalking recurs shortly before July 26, twelve days before Dracula's move upon England. He probably does not and cannot know of her existence until he disembarks from the Demeter on the night of August 7 and becomes aware of her at the funeral of the Demeter captain in the Whitby parish churchyard on August 10. She is apparently first attacked by Dracula on the night of August 10.

The emergence of Lucy's “vampire” self is a product of her feelings of vigorous sexual desire and a disinclination for the constraint of marriage which confronts her as a girl who is attractive, about to turn twenty, and comfortably placed in polite society, but it is also a product of the ineffectuality of her fiancé, Arthur, and the impercipient selfishness of her mother, who promotes Lucy's and Arthur's marriage. Writing to Mina in a mood of playful vanity in May, Lucy boasts of “Three proposals in one day!” and later comments, “Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her … ?” (pp. 65, 68). Although her tone is still playful, the comment reflects her genuine sexual attraction to Seward and Morris, whom she has refused. She has found Seward “handsome … one of the most resolute men I ever saw, and yet the most calm” (p. 64), and she reflects, “[I]t isn't at all a happy thing when you have to see a poor fellow, whom you know loves you honestly, going away … and to know that … you are passing quite out of his life” (p. 66). With regard to Morris, whom she regards as “manly,” she “would worship the very ground he trod on … if [she] were free” (pp. 68, 69).

When Mina first refers to Lucy's sleepwalking in July, she mentions at the same time that “Lucy is to be married in the autumn” to Arthur “and … is already planning out her dresses and how her house is to be arranged,” noting that Arthur is expected to join them soon at Whitby (p. 81). Apparently to Lucy the house she is in at Whitby represents the coming marriage since her sleepwalking takes her outside, and when her somnambulism is frustrated by Mina, Lucy “tries the door, and … goes about the room searching for the key” (p. 82; cf. 103). Her antipathy to the social role she is expected to assume is underscored in the sleepwalking section of the novel by her similarity to the “white lady” who, according to local legend, haunts Whitby Abbey. The white lady is supposedly the nun described in Walter Scott's poem “Marmion” who was unfaithful to her vows by plotting with Marmion in an attempt to win his love and was punished by being immured in the abbey. Like the lady, Lucy characteristically wears white. The parallel is recalled later when Lucy, after her death, becomes the “Bloofer Lady” or beautiful lady attacking children in London, again wearing white. The fact that her victims are all children suggests that her animosity, like the rebelliousness of the most radical heroines in “New Woman” fiction, is directed not only at the vows and legal constraints of the role she has been expected to assume but at motherhood itself.

The importance of Arthur as an effective cause of Lucy's rebellion is implied by the extreme destructiveness of her intention when, on her deathbed, she invites him in a “voluptuous” voice to kiss her (pp. 167-68) so that she may draw out his blood and infect him, too, with vampirism. In fact, he has given her reason to regard him not only as a prime agent of social constraint because he is her fiancé, but as a mere nullity as well. When Arthur visits Lucy at the end of August, he takes her on a merely conventional round of diversions—“walks and drives, and rides, and rowing, and tennis, and fishing” (p. 116)—and before and after that visit he is detained at the bedside of his dying father. When the illness that accompanies Lucy's vampirism appears during Arthur's visit at the end of August, he calls in Seward and returns to his father for a week. He returns briefly on September 7 and gives blood at Van Helsing's request but immediately goes away again to his father until Lucy calls him to her deathbed on September 19. Although Van Helsing sees Arthur as “stalwart … and … strong” and eager to help at the time of the transfusion (p. 130), Stoker's management of the story hints that Arthur's attachment to the class system of the past keeps him from thoroughly effective action in the present.14 Lucy frequently proclaims her love for Arthur, but she reserves her specific adjectives of praise for Seward and Morris. Her antipathy becomes murderously evident when Arthur approaches her deathbed, and after her death she repeats her offer of a fatal kiss, now with a mocking tone, when Arthur sees her as a vampire returning to her tomb on what would have been their wedding night.

By means of the conclusion of Lucy's story, in which Arthur hammers a stake through her heart, Stoker suggests that her rebellion could have been prevented by the presence of a strong self-dependent fiancé. Van Helsing apparently insists that Arthur perform the exorcism and that the phallic stake be used in order to teach him the masculine strength he has lacked. However, because Arthur's ineffectuality was largely a result of his subordination of personal interest in Lucy to aristocratic family duty, Stoker seems to imply that the aristocratic duties prevent vigorous, independent, procreative, life-sustaining action and should be thrown off or transcended. In the words of A Glimpse of America, Arthur has been governed by outmoded “tradition” rather than “social needs, or … the spirit of the age.” Although he retains the title he inherits from his father, Arthur subsequently takes an active part in the hunt for Dracula and devotes distinctly aristocratic contributions to its success: terriers to destroy Dracula's rats, the weight of the Godalming title to persuade a locksmith to open Dracula's Piccadilly house, and a steam launch which Arthur stokes, repairs, and pilots himself. While he learns through the exorcism to use the resources of his class in a self-dependent, socially beneficial way, his “mercy-bearing stake” seems to release Lucy's waking self, now her soul, from the domination of her rebellious, vampire self by assuring her that the aristocracy could have provided her with a strong partner worthy of her submission to the constraints of marriage and motherhood.

Arthur is an important cause of Lucy's rebellion and almost becomes the first victim of her vampirism, but her rebelliousness seems to be brought to the intensity of vampirism by her antipathy toward Mrs. Westenra. Although Lucy never speaks against her, Lucy must see Mrs. Westenra as repressive, outdated, and selfish. In mid-August Mina writes that Mrs. Westenra expects to die of heart disease “within a few months” and “is rejoiced that [Lucy] is soon to have some one [Arthur, that is] to protect her” (p. 105). Lucy will have little choice but to accept this protection because Mrs. Westenra has altered her will so as to leave her entire estate, against her lawyer's advice, to Arthur rather than Lucy. Mrs. Westenra's domination by the past is suggested generally, as is old Lord Godalming's, by failing health but especially by her tampering with the garlic with which Van Helsing tries to protect Lucy from Dracula. Because of Mrs. Westenra's heart trouble, the physicians Seward and Van Helsing conceal from her any information about Lucy's sickness which might upset Mrs. Westenra and cause her “sudden death” (p. 127). Since she has not been told that the garlic wreath which Van Helsing puts around Lucy's neck and the garlic seal on her closed window are protection against a vampire, Mrs. Westenra removes the wreath and opens the window “to let in a little fresh air” (p. 142), as she says, exposing Lucy to an attack by Dracula. Mrs. Westenra's reasoning is traditional, and her error suggests that the traditional social ideal which she embodies cannot comprehend or cope with a threat to its existence such as Lucy's rebelliousness. Moreover, the fact that the error allows Dracula to enter through the window suggests that Lucy's rebelliousness is directly fostered by her mother's traditionalism.

Mrs. Westenra's selfishness appears clearly when Dr. Seward introduces Van Helsing to her as his consultant about Lucy's illness. Seward notes that Mrs. Westenra is “alarmed, but not nearly as much as I expected. … Here, in a case where any shock may prove fatal, matters are so ordered that … things not personal … do not seem to reach her.” Seward calls her attitude “an ordered selfishness” (p. 129). Later on, when a wolf which Dracula has freed from the London Zoo thrusts his head through Lucy's window while her mother is with her, Mrs. Westenra, according to Lucy's report of the incident, “crie[s] out in fright … and clutche[s] wildly at anything that would help her,” including the protective garlic wreath which she tears from Lucy's neck (p. 151).

Lucy's antipathy toward her mother is strongly suggested in Lucy's affection for a particular seat in the Whitby parish cemetery and is suggested also in the episode of the wolf. The cemetery seat is introduced in a scene in which Mina and Lucy, sitting in the seat, talk with Mr. Swales, an old native, who argues that epitaphs are usually untrue. To prove his claim he points to the epitaph of George Canon on a slab under their feet. The epitaph says that the slab and seat were “erected by his sorrowing mother to her dearly beloved son” and that he “died, in the hope of a glorious resurrection.” Swales states that “the sorrowin' mother was a hell-cat that hated him … an' he hated her so that he committed suicide in order that she mightn't get an insurance she put on his life.” Although George Canon was outspoken in his filial rebellion, the antagonism between him and his hypocritical mother parallels closely the implicit antagonism between Lucy and Mrs. Westenra. Lucy's response to Swales is revealing: “Oh, why did you tell us of this? It is my favourite seat, and I cannot leave it; and now I find I must go on sitting over the grave of a suicide” (pp. 76-77).

While Lucy occupies the cemetery seat nine days later on August 10, Dracula apparently becomes aware of her for the first time and draws her blood. He has come from Transylvania on the Demeter, has taken refuge in George Canon's grave, and thus is there when Lucy and Mina use the seat during the funeral of the Demeter captain on the morning of the tenth. On the evening of the tenth, Mina discovers that Lucy has sleepwalked and finds her “half reclining with her head lying over the back of the seat” with Dracula bending over her (p. 101). Four days later the two girls see his “dark figure” on the seat, and in the evening Lucy is attacked a second time (pp. 104-05). Stoker's use of the seat and his timing of events suggest that the suicide's grave symbolizes Lucy's antipathy toward her mother and that psychologically Lucy progresses from resisting marriage with Arthur, to the antipathy against her mother for promoting the marriage, to a climactic indulgence in selfish hatred toward her mother which is symbolized by the advent of Dracula from the grave.

The later episode in London in which the wolf thrusts himself into Lucy's window reiterates the suggestion that her submission to Dracula—that is, her rebellious egoism—is partly and importantly a response to her mother's actions. As literal narrative the episode is a peculiar combination of events. Prior to the episode, Van Helsing has successfully protected Lucy in her room at night by means of garlic, and Dracula has released a wolf, “Bersicker,” from the London Zoo. In the episode Mrs. Westenra looks in on Lucy at night, and as they lie together in Lucy's bed for warmth, they hear “the flapping and buffeting” of Dracula in the form of a bat at the window. Bersicker breaks in, and Mrs. Westenra clutches at Lucy's garlic wreath, then dies. As she falls, her head strikes Lucy's, making the young woman “dizzy for a moment or two.” Lucy sees the wolf withdraw, and “a myriad of little specks [seem] to come blowing in through the window.” The specks are a characteristic vampire form, as Van Helsing later explains (p. 245). Lucy at first feels as if she is under “some spell” and is unable to move, but she “recover[s] consciousness” and places all her garlic flowers on her mother's body (pp. 151-52).

In the literal narrative the wolf is Dracula's means of creating a passage through the window, which apparently has been sealed with garlic, but because Dracula has become symbolic of Lucy's rebellious egoism, the wolf is perhaps symbolic of her potentiality for physical violence. This meaning is supported emphatically by the zoo-keeper's description of Bersicker, which precedes the episode. Bersicker is docile to his trainer and so accustomed to captivity that he “ain't … used to fighten' or even providin' for hisself,” but “you can't trust wolves no more nor women,” the zoo-keeper says, and he fears that if Bersicker cannot find food during his escape, he might devour an untended baby in the park (pp. 145, 148). With reference to Mrs. Westenra, the wolf's intrusion through the window seems to suggest that she now perceives the potential violence in Lucy's character as they lie in Lucy's bed. With reference to Lucy, Stoker's use of the wolf suggests that she feels a desire to destroy her mother completely, whereas the vampirism which expresses Lucy's essential egoism drains the victim of his power but permits him to exist. The events following Bersicker's intrusion suggest that Lucy advances to a new affirmation of her vampirish rebelliousness. As she is literally stunned by her mother's fall, so apparently is Lucy stunned by the revelation of selfishness in her mother's clutching at the garlic wreath. At this point Dracula enters in the form of specks—that is, Lucy's egoism rises climactically within her—and this development seems to determine her next action. She puts the protective flowers on her dead mother and away from herself even though they can do her mother no good and even though Lucy recalls Van Helsing's instructions to wear them. As she is recalling her experience immediately afterward, “the air seems full of specks.” Although she has “recovered consciousness” and goes on to pray for divine help, she has apparently given her allegiance decisively to her rebellious impulse in response to her mother's self-revealing clutch at personal survival.

The characterizations of Arthur and Mrs. Westenra which emerge from their relationships with Lucy suggest that Stoker does not intend his presentation of her to be a simple excoriation of a lustful woman whose mask of superficial propriety falls away. Of course, Lucy begins with a vigorous sexual vitality and, after her infection with vampirism, becomes seethingly “voluptuous,” and Stoker's lurid rendering of Arthur's driving a stake through her heart suggests that a lustful woman must be shown her place with a vengeance. The intensity of the imagery strongly supports speculation that Stoker wrote under the grip of an Oedipal fantasy or saw female sexuality as what Phyllis Roth calls the “pre-Oedipal threat” of the vagina dentata of folk lore.15 The totality of Lucy's story, however, represents her as a victim before she becomes a villainess, a victim not only of her own vitality and vanity but especially of the class system which is perpetuated by Arthur's subordination of himself to aristocratic duty and by Mrs. Westenra's egocentric, socially ambitious management of Lucy's life. Lucy's story suggests that the ideal courtship would be one between an independent man and woman, both oblivious of aristocratic concerns—that is, between a man and woman like Jonathan and Mina.

Having shown that aristocratic concerns block the way to satisfactory marriage and evoke rebellion even in a thoroughly conventional, relatively unthinking young woman like Lucy, Stoker shifts his focus to Mina and shows that even in the seemingly ideal marriage of an independent, freely choosing man and woman, the woman encounters reluctance on the part of the men around her, including her husband, to accept her as an able, self-determining person. The dual life which such reluctance evokes in Mina passes through two phases: its emergence, culminating in her commerce with Dracula, and the extension of her dual life from the time the men discover her vampirism until they destroy Dracula at the end of the novel. The emergence of Mina's dual life is a clear, direct result of her exclusion from the pursuit of Dracula by Jonathan, Van Helsing, Seward, Arthur, and Quincey Morris because of their chivalric preconceptions about her proper role.

The men's exclusion of Mina is foreshadowed by their persistent protectiveness toward and apotheosis of her. Jonathan, for example, writing journal entries during his adventures in Transylvania at the beginning of the novel, wishes to spare Mina “the pain” of learning about his “wicked, burning desire” to be kissed by the vampire women there (p. 46) and supposes that although “Mina is a woman,” she has “nought in common” with “those awful women” (p. 61). Similarly when Seward meets Mina and she asks him to inform her about Lucy's death, he thinks of Mina as “a sweet-faced, dainty-looking girl” whom he “must be careful not to frighten” (p. 226), although he is soon struck by her “courage and resolution” and gives her his full journal to read (p. 229). Quincey Morris, at his first meeting with Mina, expresses his admiration for her but diminishes her with the title, “‘Little girl’—the very words,” Mina reflects, “he had used to Lucy” (p. 237). Van Helsing is the most florid of the men in the exercise of paradoxically condescending courtliness. To him, at his first meeting with Mina when he visits her in Exeter to acquire information about Lucy, Mina is “one of God's women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist … in this age, so sceptical and selfish” (p. 194, cf. 191 and 225). He has greeted her with a “courtly bow” and has been surprised that she seems to have a “good memory for facts, for details[, since i]t is not always so with young ladies” (p. 189). When the men and Mina gather at Seward's London asylum to raid Dracula's house, Carfax, next door and to discover his other lairs, Van Helsing proposes that Mina be excluded and is supported by the other men. On September 30, the eve of the Carfax raid, he says to Seward, “[A]fter to-night she must not have to do with this so terrible affair … it is no part for a woman. Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her. … And, besides, she is … not so long married; there may be other things to think of some time, if not now” (p. 241). “[Y]ou must be our star and our hope,” Van Helsing tells her, “and we shall act all the more free that you are not in danger” (p. 248). Jonathan is “relieved” by the exclusion since the men's work “is too great a strain for a woman to bear” (pp. 248, 260; cf. 254, 268), and Seward reflects after the Carfax raid that “if she had remained in touch with the affair, it would in time infallibly have wrecked her” (p. 262; cf. 241).

Ironically, it is by being put out of touch with the pursuit of Dracula that Mina indeed is “infallibly … wrecked.” Her response to the exclusion is foreshadowed in her reaction to Van Helsing's underestimation of her ability to remember facts at their first meeting at Exeter. In an uncharacteristically discourteous act, Mina shows him the area of her competence and his ignorance by handing him her diary to read in shorthand. As she describes the action in her journal, she notes her similarity to Eve: “I could not resist the temptation of mystifying him a bit—I suppose it is some of the taste of the original apple that remains still in our mouths” (p. 189). Later, the exclusion of Mina is followed immediately by her overt cooperation but also by her conscious displeasure and covert commerce with Dracula. When Van Helsing announces the exclusion on September 30, she sees it as “not … good … a bitter pill for me to swallow,” but she agrees because the men's “minds were made up,” and, she writes, “I could say nothing, save to accept their chivalrous care of me.” Their instruction for her “to go to bed and sleep” as they set off for Carfax she describes immediately afterward as “manlike” (p. 248). While the men count coffins and kill the rats with which Dracula decoys them in the Carfax chapel, Mina experiences Dracula's first attack upon her, which she recalls confusedly as a dream of a “pillar of cloud” from which emerge two fiery red eyes and then a “livid white face” (pp. 264-65). The image of the phallic pillar suggests her desire to exercise the power which the men reserve for themselves. Consciously, the following morning, Mina continues to assent to the exclusion although she finds herself, she says, “crying like a silly fool” (p. 262).16

As the exclusion continues through the two days, October 2 and 3, Dracula's visits continue during the nights, culminating in what Van Helsing calls Mina's “baptism of blood” (pp. 327, 347). Although the episode is not without puzzling details, it clearly implies a magnification of Mina's rebellious desire for power. She is awake rather than sleeping when Dracula enters her room, and, although she is “bewildered” when he prepares to take a “little refreshment,” she recalls later that “strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him.” When he finishes he tells her, “You shall be avenged in turn; for not one of them but shall minister to your needs.” Somewhat puzzling are the facts that when Mina tries to awaken Jonathan, who sleeps next to her, she cannot, and that Dracula forces Mina to drink from a wound he makes in his own chest. By the depth of Jonathan's sleep, Stoker perhaps intends to represent the stolidity of Jonathan's misconception of Mina's needs and abilities. Mina's forced drinking of Dracula's blood seems to suggest that when Mina has yielded up her energies to her wish for egocentric power, then, next, the newly energized wish for power forces itself upon her conscious, everyday mind and begins to energize it.17

As soon as Van Helsing and the other men discover Mina's vampirism, they see that their exclusion of her has been a mistake and include her once again in their councils “in full confidence” (p. 296). This rectification of the condition which was the immediate cause of her discontent and consequent vampirism does not, however, halt or reverse the effects of her vampirism. Her teeth elongate, for example, and she discovers that she has a telepathic connection with Dracula. When, before departing to ambush Dracula at his Piccadilly house, Van Helsing touches Mina with a sacramental wafer to protect her and it burns her forehead, the Cainlike “mark of shame” it leaves convinces Mina and the others that she is still “unclean” even in the eyes of God (p. 302, cf. 290). While the vampire, or rebellious, self persists in Mina, her pious and loving self rises in reaction to it to the level of saintly martyrdom, but without freeing her from the vampirism. She repeatedly expresses religious hope, for example, and she offers her telepathic link with Dracula as a means of locating him. Realizing that it may be a danger to the men and that she must obey if Dracula summons her, she vows, with eyes that “sh[i]ne with the devotion of a martyr,” to die at the first “sign of harm to any that [she] love[s]” (p. 296). She also excludes herself from the men's councils, asks for posthumous exorcism, and memorializes her self-sacrifice by having Jonathan read a burial service for her in the presence of the other men. Even her saintly, martyrlike intentions, however, do not break the telepathic link or erase her Cainlike mark until Jonathan's and Quincey's knives destroy Dracula in the final scene in Transylvania.

The persistence of Mina's dual life implies that even after the men redress their error of excluding her they remain guilty of their chivalric prejudice or of the egoism from which it sprang. The second, saintly phase of Mina's rebellion, then, calls attention to the fact that Dracula has been available throughout the novel as a symbol of egoism in the men as well as in the women. The nature of the men's error is suggested by their lack of control over Dracula. He himself points out their freedom from his domination when they confront him at his Piccadilly house and he taunts them: “Your girls … are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine - my creatures” (p. 312). While his threat prophesies that the men will become his subjects, it also admits that they are not yet under his power. He, however, is not under their power either. All they have succeeded in doing is to identify him as their enemy. Van Helsing has learned of Dracula's identity by reading Jonathan's Transylvanian diary and documents pertaining to Dracula's acquisition of Carfax and has taught Seward, Arthur, and Quincey “to believe” in Dracula's reality when they discover Lucy returning to her tomb in vampire form. In the novel's opening chapters, Jonathan has found Dracula in his box of earth in Transylvania and attempted to destroy him with a shovel but has been “paralyse[d]” by his look so that “the shovel turn[s] in [Jonathan's] hand” and merely wounds Dracula's forehead (p. 60). Later Jonathan comes to wonder whether he has imagined Dracula's existence until Van Helsing assures Jonathan, “[I]t is true.” With the reassurance, Jonathan feels himself to be “a new man … I was in doubt,” he says, “and … did not know what to trust, even the evidence of my own senses” (pp. 192-94). Neither Jonathan nor the other men, however, succeed in seizing Dracula when they confront him at his Piccadilly house, and, after that confrontation, they cannot pursue him without Mina's help. Jonathan and the other men have learned to believe in the reality of egoistic energy but apparently have not learned how to grasp and eradicate it as it lingers elusively within themselves.

The fact that, as Dracula flees to Transylvania, Jonathan and the other men can track him only by means of the telepathic link between Dracula and Mina suggests that the men can know and master the egoistic energy in themselves only by studying it in Mina and letting what they see in her guide them on a psychic journey into themselves or perhaps into a species of collective unconscious.18 Perhaps at the novel's end, Stoker assigned the exorcism of the sensual, Transylvanian vampiresses to Van Helsing because of his earlier mental philandering when he jokes, for example, about his blood transfusion to Lucy as a sort of marriage. And perhaps Quincey, who is repeatedly characterized by rough-and-ready resolution, assists at the destruction of Dracula to stress that Jonathan has acquired that quality as his knife shears the Count's throat. In any case, the pursuit of Dracula into Transylvania suggests the sort of psychic journey which Rider Haggard implied in She (1886) and Conrad would depict in “The Heart of Darkness” in 1899. A journey into the underworld of the mind is suggested, for example, by Mina's, Jonathan's, and Seward's comments that, since Dracula's escape, “it is almost impossible to realise that the cause of all [their] trouble is still existent” (p. 327). Later, as Jonathan journeys upriver during the pursuit he comments, “We seem to be drifting into unknown places and unknown ways; into a whole world of dark and dreadful things” (p. 361). Moreover, a psychic journey is implied not only by Mina's telepathy but also by the fact that Van Helsing taps the telepathic link by hypnotising Mina. The telepathy, he tells her, is a “power … you have won from your suffering,” and the hypnosis is his “volition”—that is, his desire to learn what she has suffered (p. 347). Mina's telepathy provides the clues to Dracula's escape from London into Transylvania and makes the men's journey possible. Without her telepathy, Van Helsing's epic struggle would fail, and his and the younger men's education would fall short of self-knowledge and self-mastery.

The persistence of Mina's dual life until the men destroy Dracula implies, then, that the rebellion of an intelligent, good woman may be the only means by which she and the men who slight her can destroy the egoism which the men inadvertently admit from their own psychic depths and evoke from hers. In the context of Dracula as a whole, the men's chivalric preconceptions, which frustrate Mina's desire for acceptance as an able, independent person, recall the outworn concerns with social class which were a major cause of Lucy's rebellion against her conventionally Victorian, arranged, socially advantageous marriage to an ineffectual husband. Whereas Stoker symbolized the constructive male response in Lucy's case with the phallic stake, representing a strong, self-dependent transcendence of the obligations of class, at the novel's end the emasculating knife symbolizes a rejection of the male egoism implicit in the chivalric ideal. The ideal which the novel affirms is summed up in its final vignette of solidarity among its “little band of men” and Mina, and in the procreative, married love between Mina, the novel's “New Woman,” and its “new man,” Jonathan, who are equal in their marriage and equally capable in the larger society.


  1. A Dream of Dracula: In Search of the Living Dead (Boston: Little, Brown, 1972), p. 302.

  2. Dracula (1897; rpt. New York: New American Library, 1965), p. 347. Unless otherwise noted, all page numbers cited in text are from this edition. For a photooffset edition of the first edition (second printing) and textual notes, see The Annotated Dracula, ed. Leonard Wolf (New York: N. Potter, 1975). The NAL edition omits the first edition's untitled, unsigned 77-word prefatory note which states that the book is a sequence of records written by persons who were contemporary with, and close to, the events they describe. The only serious typographical error in the NAL edition is madams on p. 123 for The Annotated Dracula's madmans.

  3. See, e.g., Richard Wasson, “The Politics of Dracula,” English Literature in Transition, 9 (1966), 24-27, and Mark M. Hennelly, Jr., “Dracula: The Gnostic Quest and Victorian Wasteland,” English Literature in Transition, 20 (1977), 13-26, which provocatively argues that Van Helsing leads the novel's young men through an initiation into the mystery of procreative force and that Dracula embodies that force.

  4. See especially Daniel Farson, The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976), pp. 212-16, 233-35; Stephanie Demetrakopoulos, “Feminism, Sex Role Exchanges, and Other Subliminal Fantasies in Bram Stoker's Dracula,” Frontiers: Journal of Women's Studies, 2 (1977), 104-13; Phyllis A. Roth, Bram Stoker (Boston: Twayne, 1982), pp. 111-26; Judith Weissman, “Women and Vampires: Dracula as a Victorian Novel,” Midwest Quarterly, 18 (1977), 392-405; and Gail B. Griffin, “‘Your Girls That You All Love Are Mine’: Dracula and the Victorian Male Imagination,” International Journal of Women's Studies, 3 (1980), 545-65. My essay is not a blanket contradiction of these works but differs from them by focusing upon evidence of Stoker's understanding and disapproval of victimization of women by men.

  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 ed., s.v. “nursing,” s.v. “women”; ibid., 15th ed., Macropaedia, s.v. “typewriter,” s.v. “women, status of.”

  6. A Biography of Bram Stoker, Creator of Dracula (London: New English Library, 1977), p. 14, retitled from A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (1962). I am indebted to Miss Ann Stoker for permission to use the pamphlet by Charlotte Stoker, cited below in my text.

  7. Linda Dowling, “The Decadent and the New Woman in the 1890s,” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 33 (1979), 434-53, esp. pp. 438, 446, 450, 453, and 446-48. Gail Cunningham, The New Woman and the Victorian Novel (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978), p. 49. See also ch. 12 of Jenni Calder, Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976), and Lloyd Fernando, “New Women” in the Late Victorian Novel (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1977), esp. pp. 1-25, 129-33. Although Calder and Fernando use “New Woman” to refer broadly to the “modern” woman of the last quarter or so of the nineteenth century, their quoted uses of “New Woman” come from the 1890s.

  8. Demetrakopoulos, “Feminism … in Dracula,” p. 109.

  9. I am indebted to Professor Elaine Showalter for the comparison between Mina and Marian and the suggestion that Stoker's two young women may derive from Collins'. It is generally recognized that he borrowed Collins' concept of the novel as a collection of documents written by various characters and edited by one of them. Stoker's MS notes for Dracula do not mention Collins or his work but do show that from the start Stoker planned to include a “girl,” who becomes Lucy in a plan dated March 8, 1890, and a shrewd, skeptical woman, who seems to become Mina, Lucy's “Schoolfellow” and a “teacher” in the March 8 plan. His inclusion of a “detective inspector,” Cotford, in the notes may suggest The Moonstone (1868) as his model, however. The fact that Stoker associates Lucy with “the white lady” who allegedly haunts Whitby Abbey (p. 72) is probably a misleading clue. The MS notes show that he learned the legend of the white lady from three fishermen in Whitby on July 30, 1890, at least four months after planning the novel. Thus the question of his specific debt to The Woman in White remains open. For permission to use and quote from Stoker's MS notes for Dracula, I am indebted to Ann Stoker and to the Phillip H. and A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation of Philadelphia and its assistant director, Walter C. Johnson. For the materials cited, see Notes, bk. 1, p. 35; bk. 2, n.p., slip dated 30/7/90; and book lists and reading notes in bks. 2 and 3.

  10. As Phyllis Roth notes (Bram Stoker, p. 48), Stoker based his novel The Man (1905) on a foolish and egocentric proposal of marriage by a “modern” girl who ultimately learns that true feminine love is submissive and sexual. The novel, however, does not reject her desire for a useful education and social function and portrays her as an intelligent, capable person. Stoker is also highly sympathetic toward the “modern” woman while advocating the submissiveness and sexuality of true feminine love in The Mystery of the Sea (1902) and Lady Athlyne (1908).

  11. See ch. 10, “Psychiatry from Pinel and Mesmer to Charcot,” in Gardner Murphy and J. E. Kovach, Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, 3rd ed. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972); Edwin O. Starbuck, “Double-Mindedness,” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. T. Clark, 1911); Bernard Hart et al., “The Concept of Dissociation,” British Journal of Medical Psychology, 6 (1926), 241-63; and Ralph Tymms, Doubles in Literary Psychology (London: Bowes and Bowes, 1949), ch. 3, esp. p. 95.

  12. Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1906), II, 1, 19-21; see also I, 149, 170, 265. The only distinctly psychological work mentioned in Stoker's MS notes for Dracula is Theory of Dreams (attr. to Robert Gray, Bishop of Bristol), 2 vols. (London: F.C. and J. Rivington, 1808), from which he abstracts such anecdotes as reports of a woman who became cataleptic twice daily and of a man able to die and revive at will (Notes, bk. 3).

  13. Bram Stoker, Dracula's Guest (1914; rpt. London: Jarrolds, 1966), p. 185, originally titled Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (see The English Catalogue of Books: vol. 9, London: Publishers' Circular, Ltd., 1916, p. 1306). Crooken Sands (New York: T. L. De Vinne, 1894) is listed in The National Union Catalogue, Pre-1956 Imprints, vol. 570 (London: Mansell, 1978), p. 623. For the concept of the literary double see especially Angus Fletcher, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1964), pp. 151, 192-95; Edwin Honig, Dark Conceit: The Making of Allegory (1959; rpt. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1966); and C. F. Keppler, The Literature of the Second Self (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1972), esp. pp. 1-13, 182-210. For its use in Victorian literature generally, see Masao Miyoshi, The Divided Self (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1969).

  14. Arthur's ineffectuality and subordination to his father are noted as an example of the Oedipal pattern by Richard Astle, “Dracula as Totemic Monster: Lacan, Freud, Oedipus and History,” Sub-stance, 25 (1980), 99. Astle also notes, as I do in the text below, Arthur's demonstration of strength later in the novel.

  15. Roth, Bram Stoker, p. 123; cf. Demetrakopoulos, “Feminism … in Dracula,” p. 108. For Oedipal fantasy, see Astle, “Dracula as Totemic Monster”; Maurice Richardson's seminal “Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” Twentieth Century, 166 (1959), 419-31; C. F. Bentley, “The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Literature and Psychology, 22 (1972), 27-34; Royce MacGillivray, “Dracula: Bram Stoker's Spoiled Masterpiece,” Queen's Quarterly, 79 (1972), 518-27; and Joseph Bierman's untenable “Dracula: Prolonged Childhood, and the Oral Triad,” American Imago, 29 (1972), 180-98.

  16. Gail Griffin (“‘Your Girls That You All Love Are Mine,’” 461-62) notes the “bitter pill” exchange and other provocation of Mina cited in my text in order to argue that the men's “chivalric glorification of womanhood” causes Mina and Lucy to assert their sexuality. My point is that, as their vampire mate, Dracula serves as a symbol of their self-concern (their indignation), which may include an assertion of sexuality but is not limited to it.

  17. The parallel between Mina's “baptism of blood” and fellatio is often noted, and, like the staking of Lucy, it supports speculation that Stoker was gripped by Oedipal fantasy (see, e.g., Bentley, “Monster in the Bedroom,” p. 30) or fear and hatred of women (Roth, Bram Stoker, p. 122). As a symbol for Mina's psychological experience, however, the “baptism” is consistent with the preceding narrative's presentation of her increasing resentment toward the men's chivalry and represents an act of mind.

  18. For anticipations of the collective unconscious in the 1890s, see Yeats's postulation of an Anima Mundi as reported in his Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1953), p. 158; also see Oscar Wilde's “collective life of the race … race-experience … the dreams, and ideas, and feelings of myriad generations,” in “The Critic as Artist” (1890) in his Poems and Essays (London: Collins, 1956), pp. 319-21, which is noted by Wendell Harris in “Arnold, Pater, Wilde, and the Object as in Themselves They See It,” Studies in English Literature, 11 (1977), 745.

David Seed (essay date June 1985)

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SOURCE: Seed, David. “The Narrative Method of Dracula.Nineteenth-Century Fiction 40, no. 1 (June 1985): 61-75.

[In the following essay, Seed provides a stylistic analysis of Dracula.]

When Bram Stoker's Dracula first appeared in 1897, it was greeted with a chorus of acclaim for its power from the reviewers. One dissenting voice was that of the Athenaeum, which charged the novel with structural weakness:

Dracula is highly sensational, but it is wanting in the constructive art as well as in the higher literary sense. It reads at times like a mere series of grotesquely incredible events; but there are better moments that show more power.1

This aloof dismissal seems to have established a consensus attitude toward the novel that has met with an almost complete critical silence. Only of recent years have critics begun to examine its methods, and even now all too little attention is paid to its formal complexities.

The main emphasis in Dracula criticism has been on its sexual themes. Stephanie Demetrakopoulos declares confidently: “It is obvious that the very attraction of the novel was that all this sexuality was masked and symbolic; it can be enjoyed surreptitiously and hence denied even to oneself.”2 And C. F. Bentley has given a thorough, Freudian account of this area of the novel, proposing incest, rape (the “killing” of Lucy), and repulsion at menstruation (Mina's stained nightgown) as subjects that receive this oblique treatment.3 His argument demonstrates conclusively that the novel introduces issues that the English characters treat as taboo and that can be understood only by probing beneath the text's surface. Thus when a wolf leaps at Lucy's bedroom window and literally frightens her mother to death, it can be interpreted as an emblematic representation of the incursion of the animal and the death of the maternal in Lucy. Hence her haunting of Hampstead Heath inverts motherhood into callousness when she seizes children for prey.4 Or again, Dracula's assault on Mina is presented as a literal defilement of the marriage bed. Her husband (Jonathan Harker) lies in a drugged stupor as Dracula forces Mina to drink his blood. This quasi-sexual tableau is followed by some heavily underlined symbolism. The blood from her mouth stains her husband's white nightrobe and a piece of the host brands her forehead with a mark of Cain, which can only be purged by Dracula's death.

An alternative tack is taken by Franco Moretti and Burton Hatlen. In the course of Marxist readings of the novel, Moretti sees Dracula as a personification of capital, while Hatlen takes him to represent “the threat of a revolutionary assault by the dark, foul-smelling, lustful lower classes upon the citadels of privilege.”5 The one argument depends on crude transposition, the other on an astonishing distortion of Dracula's true nature. He represents a reversion to a feudal aristocracy that imperiously claims allegiance independently of legal checks and balances. As David Punter rightly notes, “the vampire in English culture, in Polidori, in Bram Stoker and elsewhere, is a fundamentally anti-bourgeois figure. He is elegant, well dressed, a master of seduction, a cynic, a person exempt from prevailing socio-moral codes.”6 In short, he is a combination of Gothic villain, Regency rake, and monster.

While both of these approaches shed useful light on certain areas of the novel—particularly its repeated mating of sexuality with death and defilement, and its terminology of battle—neither pays adequate attention to the rigorous narrative method that Stoker uses. Unlike The Lady of the Shroud (1909) in which vampirism turns too easily into romance, Stoker followed out the logic of his chosen method in Dracula quite consistently.7 The recent discovery of Stoker's notes for the novel in the Rosenbach Foundation library of Philadelphia has now made it possible to see how he planned the structure of the novel. It was to consist of four books, each containing seven chapters, and to be entitled “To London,” “Tragedy,” “Discovery,” and “Punishment,” respectively.8 Book One was to start with the letters between Dracula and lawyer Hawkins of Exeter, whereas the final novel actually begins during these negotiations. A surviving fragment from the original draft of the novel, which Stoker's widow published under the title Dracula's Guest, and his notes indicate that he had originally intended to set the novel in Styria as a tribute to J. Sheridan Le Fanu's “Carmilla.”9 Eventually this plan was dropped.

While Book One corresponds more or less to the opening section of the novel (chapters 1-5), Book Two received considerable changes. The Whitby sections were contracted from three to two chapters, and the rest of the section was enlarged as Stoker developed Lucy's role. Chapters 6-16 of the novel describe Lucy's “illness,” the fight for her life, her death, and the subsequent opening of her tomb. The ceremonial vow to pursue Dracula to the end is retained as a conclusion to that section. Stoker originally planned to have Quincey Morris go to Transylvania in the middle of Book Three; this would have awkwardly complicated the novel's use of setting and perhaps for that reason was dropped. Book Three corresponds to chapters 17-21, and Book Four to chapters 22-27 of the novel. Stoker seems to have seen his four books as representing a narrative preamble, the working out of Dracula's intentions, their discovery, and the final pursuit. Although he altered the relative lengths of the sections, he retained these broad distinctions.

The first section of the novel dramatizes the gradual breakdown of rational explanation before mystery. Jonathan Harker, though a “business-like” lawyer, is denied the privileged prominence of Wilkie Collins' first narrator in The Woman in White, Walter Hartright. Rather, the fact of his professional status makes his subsequent breakdown all the more ominous. Harker constantly tries to normalize the strange into the discourse of the nineteenth-century travelogue. As a defensive reaction to his voyaging into an unmapped area beyond the reach of train timetables, he first tries to rationalize his experiences in terms of local color, and then, failing that, through muffled unease. When a peasant woman begs him on her knees not to go to Castle Dracula, he comments: “It was all very ridiculous, but I did not feel comfortable.”10 In practice this ostensible rejection of the strange becomes more and more difficult to maintain. Harker's entry into the East, which he notes starts at Budapest, is signaled by the narrating pronoun shifting from “we” to “I” and is further confirmed by Harker's total loss of direction in his journey to the castle.

The four chapters of Harker's journal all end on a point of crisis: the attack by the wolves, his realization that he is a prisoner, his near seduction, and his vision of Dracula in his box. The progression of events is remorselessly toward confronting Dracula's own vampirism, confronting the very thing that Harker's rationalism is unwilling to accept. There is therefore a constant backwards pull in Harker's journal, an attempt to retard or even suspend the flow of events so that he can organize them into some kind of explanation. Thus on the morning after his encounter with the “young women,” he notes: “If it be that I had not dreamt, the Count must have carried me here. I tried to satisfy myself on the subject, but could not arrive at any unquestionable result” (p. 40). The language of proof and evidence breaks down before the gaps and ambiguities in Harker's experiences. Franco Moretti has rightly pointed out that the first-person narratives in this novel represent characters' efforts to preserve their individual identities against the threat posed by Dracula, but without indicating how precarious they are.11 In common with Seward and Mina, Harker decides to record events in as much detail as possible in the anxious hope the circumstantiality can counter strangeness. Keeping his journal thus becomes a therapeutic act of self-preservation, apparently all the more secure from Dracula's scrutiny because it is written in shorthand. In spite of this defense, Harker's journal breaks off at the point where he has resigned himself to meeting death at Dracula's hands, and we subsequently learn that Harker has gone through a complete mental and physical collapse.

His journal gives the reader a “memory,” a store of images that enables him to interpret the fragmentary signs that fill characters' later accounts. Their very incapacity to analyze their accounts—in this respect as in others, Harker sets the pattern—compels them to be as accurate as they can. One of the crucial events in the novel's opening sections is Harker's vision of Dracula shortly after one of his feasts. He is described thus:

There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half-renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood.

(p. 51)

An exclusively sexual interpretation of this passage would not do justice to its multiple suggestiveness. Blood here brings rejuvenation as well as repletion from sex and from the consumption of food. Blood is extended metaphorically in the novel to include feeling (Arthur Godalming's heart as well as body bleeds for Lucy), sexuality, and the vital principle itself. The lunatic Renfield's repetition of the biblical phrase “the blood is the life!” (p. 141) draws explicit attention to this line of symbolism, which is introduced by Dracula's view of his blood as inheritance.12 His assaults are thus dictated as much by ancestral pride as by magical necessity. The redness of his eyes visually extends the blood-symbolism to the color of the setting sun, which brings the vampires to life. Similarly Stoker plays on the double meaning of “sanguine,” which defines Renfield's temperament and hints at his susceptibility to Dracula. The main point, however, about the description is that, whatever meaning it may carry, visually it is completely unambiguous. Considering the treatment of the supernatural in nineteenth-century literature, Andrew Lang suggests that the writer is caught between the Scylla of vagueness and the Charybdis of being absurdly explicit: “If you paint your ghost with too heavy a hand, you raise laughter, not fear. If you touch him too lightly, you raise unsatisfied curiosity, not fear.”13 Stoker contains these rather stagy revelations within a journal that tries to avoid recognizing their disturbing implications. Nevertheless, Harker's journal conveys the overwhelming physical force of Dracula, on which later chapters can capitalize, and sensitizes the reader to the significance of dogs or wolves, bats, the sunset (which characters naively insist on treating as merely “beautiful”), and other details. The reader is thus invited to make a series of recognitions, to spot resemblances between later events and those in the opening four chapters. The excursion to Whitby, for example, repeats Harker's travelogue; Mina thinks she sees Dracula's eyes glowing in the night but dismisses it as an optical illusion, exactly the kind of rationalizing reflex that Harker makes; and Dr. Seward thinks, again like Harker, that he is going mad. In all these cases a principle of delay is involved. Until the third section of the novel, only the reader has access to all the journals and letters, and he is therefore in a position more favorable to making these recognitions.

A rhetoric of resemblances is implied at many points in the novel, in chapter 5, for instance. There is no greater jolt in Dracula than this abrupt transition from horror to domestic happiness in Lucy's letters from Mina. It is as if the novel has changed mode without sacrificing immediacy. Richardson, after all, insisted that Clarissa would contain “instantaneous Descriptions and Reflections.”14 In his discussion of the epistolary novel, Ian Watt has stressed its historical connections both with suburban privacy and with revealing the individual self,15 but Stoker's use of the letter form stresses its social significance as an act of communication from sender to recipient. Harker can only rhetorically address his journal to Mina in its closing lines because he has no confidence that anyone else will see it, whereas in chapter 5 we suddenly find ourselves within a set of social relationships. It is only here that the characters who will be Dracula's opponents begin to define themselves. The stylistic gap between these letters and Harker's journal implies a moral gap between two worlds that cannot have contact, and yet details like the Bradshaw in Dracula's library have already indicated that the remote and exotic can join, albeit grotesquely, with the facts of contemporary life. Lucy's triple proposals parallel in inverted and sexually reversed form Harker's near seduction by the female vampires. This rhetorical parallelism looks forward to further similarities (between Lucy and Renfield particularly), defines Lucy's role as prize, and forces together two spheres that the characters' culture and very assumptions about reality lead them to keep separate. Such a parallel thus forms a rhetorical anticipation of the sequence of events that begin with Dracula's arrival in England. The second phase of the novel is introduced appropriately by a guidebook description of Whitby that repeats the rhetorical pattern of Harker's journal. In both cases local lore and jargon of the picturesque give way to sublime terminology and the reluctant admission of mystery.

At this point we need to recognize a crucial difference between the respective structures of The Woman in White and Dracula. Walter M. Kendrick has argued convincingly that “the reader of a sensation novel engages in the discovery of an artificial pattern, and the enterprise need not teach him anything.”16 In spite of Hartright's editorial role as an arranger of texts, Kendrick shows that the promised continuity emerges only at the very end of the novel. This is not the case with Dracula. In spite of the complexity of its second section, Stoker never uses so peripheral narrators as does Collins, and he allows the pattern of events to emerge well before the end of the novel. We shall see in a moment how this process takes place, but it is also important to note that in the second section Stoker presents two sequences of action (that of Dracula's and that of his opponents'), one explicit and one implicit. His principle of narration is that only Dracula's opponents are granted narrative voices and they can only record what in each case they have plausibly experienced.17 One of Wilkie Collins' characters obligingly summarizes his author's principles in this way:

The plan he has adopted for presenting the story to others, in the most truthful and most vivid manner, requires that it should be told, at each successive stage in the march of events, by the persons who were directly concerned in those events at the time of their occurrence.18

No such summary could be provided in Dracula because the narrative means varies according to the four stages of the novel.

Vincent Gilmore's explanation only approximately fits the practice of Section Two, the section in which Dracula reaches England and corrupts Lucy. The proliferation of letters, journals, telegrams, and newspaper articles fragments this section far more than any other. Stoker is here creating a narrative in which the gaps between the narrating documents become as important as the sections of narrative proper. Pierre Macherey has drawn attention to the silence out of which a book grows, “a matter which it endows with form, a ground on which it traces a figure.”19 Stoker's novel increasingly exploits its own silences in such a way that Dracula himself in Section Two becomes paradoxically a personification of absence. Since his actions now take place “offstage,” we only apprehend them through tantalizing glimpses or through the parallel pathologies of Lucy and Renfield. Stoker simultaneously emphasizes the modern means of recording and transmitting information (telegram, portable typewriter, phonograph, etc.) and their inadequacy to cope with Dracula's protean threat. Dracula's opponents are drawn together by misfortune and also by the socially cohesive means that they use to communicate with each other. This is why the letters take on importance as summons or requests for help and why they repeatedly give way to the urgency of telegrams. The transmission of these letters not only reassures the correspondents as to their mutual dependability but also agonizingly reminds them of how much may be taking place in the gaps between those letters.

This textual complexity in the second section must surely be related to Stoker's treatment of the Gothic mode. The first four chapters seem to present a miniature pastiche-Gothic novel. In place of the Apennines, as in Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, we now have the mountains of Transylvania. Although Dracula claims that his descendants stretch back to Attila the Hun, his literary pedigree is rather more obvious. Like Montoni and Heathcliff, he is defined by his strength, pride, and recurring association with darkness. Transylvania clearly supplied Stoker with a revamped Gothic setting, which he then filled out by drawing on contemporary anthropological accounts.20 After chapter 4, however, he had the problem of introducing fantastic and feudal materials into a familiar contemporary country. Here again we should turn to Wilkie Collins. Reviewing M. E. Braddon's Aurora Floyd in 1865, Henry James praised Collins for introducing “the mysteries which are at our own doors” into fiction and for getting rid of hackneyed Gothic props. He continues: “Instead of the terrors of ‘Udolpho,’ we were treated to the terrors of the cheerful country-house and the busy London lodgings. And there is no doubt that these were infinitely the more terrible.”21 The historical shift that James sees taking place in fiction of mystery happens within Dracula. Stoker exploits the reader's memory of Section One, an intensely literary memory, by keeping Dracula well below the surface of the text once the novel has shifted the setting to England. By so doing he avoids a head-on collision between modern and ancient materials.

Literary allusion performs a very specific function in nineteenth-century accounts of mysteries or the supernatural. A dismissive reference to earlier Gothic fiction usually increases the authenticity of the narrative and paves the way for a fresh evocation of the mysterious. Thus the narrator of Le Fanu's Uncle Silas rejects Ann Radcliffe's laborious descriptions, or the governess in The Turn of the Screw denies that her house was a Udolpho or that it possessed a confined lunatic. The one allusion precedes a violent murder, the other notoriously ambiguous apparitions. In the same way, Stoker introduces references to the fantastic in order to challenge the reader's secure distinction between literature and reality. A fellow passenger of Harker's quotes Gottfried Bürger's “Lenore” when Dracula's coachman arrives, as if to confirm that the dead can walk. As his skepticism decreases Harker himself compares his journal to the Arabian Nights. Even more important for complicating the relation of fantastic texts to reality are the allusions to “The Ancient Mariner” in the Whitby chapters. Mina's own mariner, Mr. Swales, actually reverses Coleridge's character in arguing against the lies and exaggerated claims inscribed on the tombstones of dead sailors in Whitby graveyard. But then a newspaper account of the arrival of Dracula's ship quotes Coleridge's poem to better convey the mystery of the event. This transposition of one kind of text to another reflects what is happening at this point in the novel. As if to put the minimum strain on the reader's credulity, Stoker presents Dracula's voyage to England through a medium at several removes from direct narrative. The ship's log is translated by the Russian consul, transcribed by a local journalist, and finally pasted by Mina into her journal.

Section Two then begins with a proliferation of narrative details that cannot immediately be understood. Stoker's exploitation of literary allusion and the journal form both increases the reader's uncertainty and fragments the narrative. It is true, initially at least, that the journals' styles reflect character, Harker's being rather ceremonious, Lucy's more girlish and verbose, Seward's businesslike, and so on. But the characters of all the protagonists except Mina are superficial and easy to grasp. When Lucy states, “I must imitate Mina, and keep writing things down” (p. 108), she is echoing the compulsion felt by the main journal writers to record experience in as much detail as possible. Each partial and individual account is based on the general principle that the recorder's capacity to analyze lags well behind the circumstantial detail recorded. And this is where Van Helsing comes in.

Abraham Van Helsing combines the roles of detective, psychic investigator, philosopher, and scientist. He seems to have been based partly on Max Müller (a friend of Stoker's) and partly on Le Fanu's Dr. Hesselius.22 Whatever his origins, his narrative role is clear. He is called into the novel to cure Lucy, who becomes the rallying point for Dracula's opponents. It is Van Helsing who counteracts the fragmenting effects of the narrative documents in Section Two. His injunction at the end of chapter 12 (“wait and see”) is as much a comment to the reader as to Dr. Seward, since Van Helsing is gradually leading characters and reader alike out of their bewilderment. He articulates the confidence that an explanation exists for the partial and diverse phenomena that fill the narrative and accelerates the process of coming together that takes place in the second half of Section Two. That section's concluding chapter (16) is startlingly homogeneous after the interruptions of letters, telegrams, and newspaper articles. It consists not only of one single journal entry but of a group action (the second killing of Lucy), whose solidarity is confirmed by the final vow of resolution.

Van Helsing not only confronts the irrational but explains it. At two key points in the novel (in chapters 14 and 24) he expounds vampire lore to his skeptical companions by locating vampirism within a broad context of Nature's mysteries. Even the caves inhabited by Dracula are “full of strangeness of the geologic and chemical world.” The caves become a Shelleyan metaphor of man's ignorance: “There are deep caverns and fissures that reach none know whither” (p. 319). In the article quoted earlier Andrew Lang expresses astonishment at the survival of the supernatural in an era of scientific progress: “Why, as science becomes more cocksure, have men and women become more and more fond of old follies, and more pleased with the stirring of ancient dread within their veins?”23 Lang finds a partial answer in evident dissatisfaction with positivism, and Van Helsing similarly criticizes Seward for being too literal-minded. The former then embodies an authoritative intellectual evolutionism that acknowledges the persistence of the primitive and that leads toward a Manichaean account of the clash between good and evil. Van Helsing's standpoint in this respect anticipates Stoker's own in a 1908 article entitled “The Censorship of Fiction.” Here, as in Dracula, Stoker suggests a battle that is both internal as well as external:

The force of evil, anti-ethical evil, is the more dangerous as it is a natural force. It is as natural for man to sin as to live and to take a part in the necessary strife of living. But if progress be a good and is to be aimed at in the organisation of national forces, the powers of evil, natural as well as arbitrary, must be combated all along the line. It is not sufficient to make a stand, however great, here and there; the whole frontier must be protected.24

Dracula comes from a frontier area and in a sense emerges from the mysteries of Nature herself. Van Helsing's rallying of the troops parallels the masculine rhetoric of steeling one's self to duty.25 The possibility of demonic depths to the self must be suppressed so that Dracula can be disposed of through external action.

Both Van Helsing and Stoker in his article insist that opposition to evil must be a collaborative, even national, enterprise; and Hatlen has rightly pointed out that Dracula's opponents represent key areas of the Victorian establishment: Seward and Harker are members of the medical and legal professions; Lord Arthur Godalming is the liberal aristocrat; Quincey Morris (in effect a courtesy Englishman) is a man of action and a protector of frontiers.26 Their collective action thus represents society, even civilization itself, turning to the defensive, and the first signs of this process are textual. When Lucy dies, Van Helsing seizes the opportunity to read her diary and correspondence. This is the first in a series of instances in which characters read each other's records. This act of information gathering fills Section Three of the novel, although it begins earlier in chapter 14, for instance, where Mina reads her husband's journal. We are given no description of their wedding ceremony, but a ritual transmission of texts takes place. Mina wraps Harker's journal in white paper and seals it as “an outward and visible sign for us all our lives that we trusted each other” (p. 105). Mina does not act on this textual sacrament until sixty pages later when she reads it, transcribes it, and then calls on Van Helsing to validate it. This he does and thereby releases Harker from his agonizing uncertainty about the truth of his record. In chapter 17 Mina strikes a bargain with Seward, exchanging Harker's journal with the doctor's phonograph cylinders, partly so that they can get to know each other better.

This collaboration makes explicit the social dimension to recording characters' experiences. Stoker's surprisingly modern emphasis on the means and transmission of information brings society's self-defense into the very narrative process of the novel. Since understanding Dracula is a necessary precondition to defeating him, the exchange and accumulation of information literally is resistance to him. Characters become proportionately less vulnerable the more they act together, and the more they act together the more conscious they become of recording. Mina, for instance, recognizes the crucial role Harker's journal has to play in predisposing her to accept Lucy's fate (“If I had not read Jonathan's journal first, I should never have accepted even a possibility”; p. 181). And Van Helsing urges Seward, as he gives him Lucy's diary, “Read all, I pray you, with the open mind” (p. 219). At this stage the novel draws repeated attention to its own processes. Thus on 30 September Seward notes: “Harker has gone back, and is again collating his material. He says that by dinner-time they will be able to show a whole connected narrative” (p. 225). Whereas The Woman in White moves toward an end point where all the pieces will fall into place, Dracula narrates its own textual assembly. The reader participates in this formation of continuity. He becomes a reader among other readers.

As this collaboration takes place the surface of the text changes radically. In chapter 17, the first of Section Three, Seward's diary breaks off at the point where Mina is entering his study. Her journal takes over immediately from that point. There is, in other words, no gap between their accounts, only a shift in perspective. This is crucial. As the gaps between individual accounts close, so Dracula becomes better known, better defined, and therefore the easier to resist. This explains why Dracula simultaneously assaults Mina and tries to destroy the journals (luckily, there is another copy). Their very existence poses a threat to him and enables the initiative to action to swing round to Van Helsing. The less Dracula is formulated, the more of a threat he represents. Once the different accounts have been put together, Dracula begins to diminish in stature. He turns out to be subject to Nature's laws (though only some of them) and to be a disappointingly conventional embodiment of Nordau's and Lombroso's criminal type. In spite of the rather whipped-up excitement of the chase back to Transylvania, Dracula's actual death comes as rather an anticlimax, partly because he has been progressively scaled down in the preceding chapters.

The concluding section of the novel (chapters 22-27) revolves around the formulation of a plan of pursuit and the pursuit itself. It contains the resolving action that the assembling of information facilitates, and, as Moretti has pointed out, is narrated collectively.27 It is no longer relevant for Stoker to maintain stylistic idiosyncrasies, so these attenuate themselves more or less out of existence. Although the narrative is still refracted through three journals (those of Harker, Seward, and Mina), nothing stands in the way of the narrative's linear impetus. On the contrary, Stoker exploits the brevity of entries in chapter 26 to accelerate the flow of events toward their predictable conclusion.

The note that precedes the text of Dracula makes it clear that Stoker was anticipating skeptical resistance to his subject from the reader. He therefore builds the skepticism into his characters and into the very organization of the narrative. The two central sections fragment and distance the true nature of events and then lead the reader toward acceptance through an arduous process of comparison and assembly. The existence and nature of Dracula is confirmed by the plausibility of the text, by our predisposition toward evidence, proof, and verification. All the non-Transylvanian characters keep records (even Renfield has a notebook to tot up his finds) or contribute to the record; the porters, sailors, and lawyers on the periphery of the action primarily serve to supply information. And Mina even goes to the lengths of converting herself into a text to be studied when she examines the transcript of her hypnotic trances. It is the authenticity of this assembled text that Stoker tries to shake in his postscript to the novel, as if to demand through Van Helsing an act of faith in the reading. In fact, Dracula demands no such leap and demonstrates a considerable agility in manipulating the reader's imagination.


  1. Review of Dracula, in Athenaeum, 26 June 1897, p. 835; also quoted by Harry Ludlam, A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (London: W. Foulsham, 1962), p. 108.

  2. “Feminism, Sex Role Exchanges, and Other Subliminal Fantasies in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Frontiers, 2, No. 3 (1977), 105-6.

  3. “The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Literature and Psychology, 22 (1972), 27-34.

  4. Demetrakopoulos. “Feminism, Sex Role Exchanges, and Other Subliminal Fantasies,” p. 107.

  5. Moretti, “The Dialectic of Fear,” New Left Review, No. 136 (1982), p. 73; Hatlen, “The Return of the Repressed/Oppressed in Bram Stoker's Dracula,Minnesota Review, N.S., No. 15 (1980), p. 92.

  6. The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (London: Longman, 1980), p. 119.

  7. In The Lady of the Shroud the protagonist Rupert St. Leger inherits a castle in the Balkans, where he is visited at night by a woman dressed in grave-cloths. The hints that she is a vampire evaporate when it is revealed that she is actually a princess hiding from the Turks. The two marry and live happily ever after.

  8. Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu print these chapter headings in The Essential Dracula (New York: Mayflower Books, 1979), p. 27.

  9. McNally and Florescu, The Essential Dracula, p. 40; Bram Stoker, Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (London: G. Routledge, 1914), p. 9.

  10. Dracula, ed. A. N. Wilson, World's Classics (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1983), p. 5. Subsequent page references are incorporated into the text.

  11. “The Dialectic of Fear,” p. 77.

  12. Punter discusses some aspects of the novel's blood symbolism in The Literature of Terror, pp. 256-58.

  13. “The Supernatural in Fiction,” in his Adventures Among Books (London: Longmans, Green, 1905), p. 277.

  14. Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, abridged and ed. George Sherburn (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962), p. xx.

  15. The Rise of the Novel (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957), ch. 6.

  16. “The Sensationalism of The Woman in White,Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 32 (1977), 21.

  17. The one apparent exception to this plan is the lawyer's letters relating to the transportation of Dracula's boxes from Whitby to London. Harker reads them approximately a hundred pages after they appear in the text. This probably reflects a concession to narrative clarity on Stoker's part.

  18. William Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, ed. Harvey Peter Sucksmith Oxford English Novels (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1975), p. 112.

  19. A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), p. 85.

  20. For these sources, see McNally and Florescu, The Essential Dracula, p. 23.

  21. Notes and Reviews, ed. Pierre de Chaignon la Rose (1921; rpt. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1968), p. 110.

  22. See McNally and Florescu, The Essential Dracula, pp. 26, 117.

  23. “The Supernatural in Fiction,” p. 279.

  24. “The Censorship of Fiction,” The Nineteenth Century and After, 64 (1908), 481-82.

  25. The various connections between narration and gender have been admirably explored by Geoffrey Wall in his “‘Different from Writing’: Dracula in 1897,” Literature and History, 10 (1984), 15-23.

  26. “The Return of the Repressed/Oppressed in Bram Stoker's Dracula,” pp. 82-83.

  27. “The Dialectic of Fear,” pp. 77-78.

Clive Leatherdale (essay date 1985)

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SOURCE: Leatherdale, Clive. “Social and Political Commentary.” In Dracula: The Novel & The Legend, A Study of Bram Stoker's Gothic Masterpiece, pp. 206-22. Willingborough, Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press, 1985.

[In the following essay, Leatherdale considers Dracula as a valuable piece of social and political commentary, maintaining that the novel mirrors “the ideological strains and tensions that afflicted the Britain of Stoker's middle years.”]

From the bourgeois point of view, Dracula is … a manic individualist; from his own point of view … he is the bearer of the promise of true union, union which transcends death. From the bourgeois point of view, Dracula stands for sexual perversion and sadism; but we also know that what his victims experience at the moment of consummation is joy, unhealthy perhaps but of a power unknown in conventional relationships. Dracula exists and exerts power through right immemorial; Van Helsing and his associates defeat him in the appropriate fashion, through hard work and diligent application, the weapons of a class which derives its existence from labour.

—David Punter, The Literature of Terror, p. 260

In this, a fifth and final perspective on Dracula, attention comes back ‘down to earth’. The concerns of this [essay] are not biblical or occult, but social and political. Dracula is a valuable period piece, mirroring the ideological strains and tensions that afflicted the Britain of Stoker's middle years. His attitudes towards the place of women in society have already been considered. In the following pages issues relating to, among others, social class, race, crime, Nazism, Marxism, and the Cold War will be explored, where they can usefully shed light on Dracula. In the process some understanding will be reached on how the Dracula myth has been manipulated for the purposes of twentieth-century propaganda.

Bram Stoker, as befits the age in which he lived and his own perceived place in the social hierarchy, was notably class conscious and socially prejudiced. The dramatis personae of Dracula are, with the exception of Renfield, all drawn from the well-to-do, the guardians of the Empire, and the book is shot through with social, class, racial, and sexual prejudices. The novel is unabashedly ‘conservative’, firstly, in that all those who die show qualities of rebelliousness or independence; secondly, in having the bourgeois characters at the conclusion revert back to the bliss of the opening without benefiting from any social, as opposed to spiritual, advancement in any form; and thirdly, in a more ideological sense. Stoker was writing an ostensibly non-political novel, yet he still manages to create a work which reinforces the prevailing establishment beliefs of the ruling classes. Jackson has remarked, with reference to Stoker's final fantasy novel The Lair of the White Worm: ‘the shadow on the edges of bourgeois culture is variously identified as black, mad, primitive, criminal, socially deprived, deviant, crippled, or (when sexually assertive) female’.1 Likewise in Dracula, Stoker's conscious world is rigidly middle class, monogamous, and male dominated—under an all-seeing God. When Renfield is introduced to Morris, Godalming, and Van Helsing he at once recognizes their prized virtues as stemming from, respectively, ‘nationality, heredity, and the possession of natural gifts’ (D [Dracula] 18:292): in other words it helps to be of Anglo-Saxon stock, to possess unearned riches, and to have taken advantage of an élitist (British) education.

Let us glance at some of the peripheral characters in Dracula. The existence of maids and servants is of course axiomatic, although the novel is concerned with the adventures ‘above stairs’, not ‘below’. Stoker has little patience with those employed in domestic service: he denigrates the elaborate ritual of mourning rigidly observed by the ‘lower classes’ (D 12:179); he describes them as untrustworthy and lacking courage when it comes to finding suitable blood-donors (D 12:180); and includes among their number the obligatory thief—someone who could even stoop to stealing a crucifix from a corpse (D 13:200).

Stoker's real scorn, or rather contempt, is reserved for the ‘harijans’, the untouchables. He seems to flinch every time his demure ladies and gallant gentlemen are forced into social contact with the manual working classes. Their one redeeming feature is their uniform deference to their betters, but everywhere they are encountered they are shown to exhibit the same unspeakable characteristics: uncouthness, illiteracy, peculiar dialects riddled with expletives, excessive drinking, and preparedness to offer favours only for monetary or, better, liquid reward. (In this, their demands are merely parodies of Dracula's: ‘First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions’ (D 21:342). His blood is their liquor.) Harker, Stoker's principal alter ego, is of lower social standing than his acquaintances, and he is predictably the most disdainful of those of lower class than himself. He has ‘an interview with a surly gatekeeper and a surlier foreman, both of whom were appeased with coin of the realm’ (D 20:314), and when Harker does encounter a ‘good, reliable type of workman’ (D 20:311) it is only to underline his rarity and obsequiousness.

For their part, the social superiors live according to a kind of cash nexus. ‘Money talks’ is the dominant unwritten philosophy. Harker is grateful that ‘Judge Moneybags will settle this case, I think!’ (D 25:397), referring to Godalming's generous funding of their Continental trek. Mina sighs at the thought of ‘the wonderful power of money! What can it do when it is properly applied; and what might it do when basely used’ (D 26:423). Actually, Mina is not too fussy how it is used. Bribery, for example, is frequently resorted to, and draws no admonition from Stoker. Returning to Transylvania Harker remarks: ‘Thank God! this is the country where bribery can do anything, and we are well supplied with money’ (D 25:397). Ethically, England and Transylvania are on a par: the mere mention of Lord Godalming's title wins him favours from cowering peasants/proletarians in the manner to which Count Dracula has long been accustomed. ‘My title will make it all right’, his Lordship announces whenever he wishes to break the law or breach confidences (D 26:412).

Paradoxically, what might be termed a ‘business ethic’ surfaces in several places in the novel. On his first arrival in Transylvania, Harker is not deterred by the premonitions of the locals: ‘there was business to be done, and I could allow nothing to interfere with it’ (D 1:13). Later, when Seward is acquainted with Harker for the first time, he comments upon his ‘quiet, business-like’ quality (D 17:269), which is obviously to be taken as complimentary. Again, when one of the solemn vows is taken to pursue the Count, come what may, Seward notes that the oath was made ‘as gravely, and in as business-like a way as any other transaction of life’ (D 18:285; author's italics). Bram Stoker the Lyceum businessman was evidently imbued with the business world's ethos, and he was equally favourably disposed to the propriety of inheritance. Harker inherits Mr Hawkins' legal practice, and Godalming, despite his existing wealth, comes to acquire the Westenra family estate. The unspoken lesson that Stoker teaches is that wealth, and its acquisition, are morally virtuous.

Clearly, too, the novel provides a social lesson. It is a celebration of the middle classes at the expense of the aristocracy. Count Dracula, of course, is a fiend incarnate, while Lord Godalming is a fringe character achieving little of note. Indeed, what he does achieve is to propose marriage to a commoner, Lucy Westenra, as if to reduce his class-laden threat to his bourgeois companions. Godalming has been labelled a ‘safe’, ‘tamed’, ‘bourgeois’ aristocrat.2

These archetypal representatives of respectable England implicitly know their place in society. It would have been as unthinkable for upper-middle-class Lucy to contemplate wedlock with, say, lower-middle-class Harker, as it would have been for school-ma'am Mina to be courted by Holmwood. Dracula proscribes socially vertical liaisons—the bedrock of much literary romance. Indeed, a firm and tacitly acknowledged social hierarchy pervades the book. Long after the Harkers are first introduced to the socially elevated Lucy Admiration Society, they persist—even in the privacy of their journals—in their expressions of respect, usually referring to their ‘betters’ deferentially as Dr Seward, Mr Morris, and Lord Godalming. Even more noteworthy, all the questers speak respectfully of their aristocratic foe as ‘the Count’, notwithstanding the utter loathing with which they regard him. (In this instance Stoker may be alluding to the tradition among occultists of never speaking of malign forces by name for fear of summoning them.)

Yet the novel is not totally static in its hierarchical structure. There is one instance of upward social mobility—Jonathan Harker, and with him his wife. They are ‘special’ in many ways, not just in their shared capacity to survive the attentions of Dracula. Originally a provincial solicitor's clerk, Jonathan Harker graduates as a fully-fledged west-country solicitor at the commencement of the novel. In time he becomes a partner (‘Hawkins & Harker’) before inheriting his mentor's legal practice. He also sires the child supposed to represent the light of the twentieth century. Harker, in other words, comes to possess a fortune beyond his dreams, a wife who is his fairy princess, and a child of the future—pure fairy tale.

What is curious is that in the expression of his class prejudices Stoker is seen to have been unconsciously influenced by the pseudosciences of his time, which themselves contributed greatly to the reinforcement of social divisions. In particular, Dracula reveals an indebtedness to the ‘science’ of physiognomy, which blossomed in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Given its respectability by a Swiss clergyman, John Casper Lavater, and later modified by Charles Darwin and many others, physiognomics held that the true character of an individual could be deduced by the structure of the head and body, as well as from facial expressions and physical gestures. Regarded with disdain nowadays, its practitioners once insisted that the shape and angles of the forehead and the nose, together with the size and contours of the eyes and mouth, constituted reliable guides to the bearer's strength of character. Lavater had noted that a pale face was an indication of a natural inclination towards sexual pleasures,3 and Dracula fully complies. As late as 1873 a Dr Joseph Simms, in a quack work entitled Nature's Revelations of Character, propagated a clear distinction between the ‘straight’ and the ‘curly’. Those persons with curly hair, and preferably with rounded features to match, were dismissed as thoughtless and careless, and to be avoided at all costs; whereas those blessed with straight hair and straight features were naturally endowed with ‘straight’ minds.

In Dracula, Van Helsing obviously approves of physiognomy (as does Stoker), for the professor comments favourably on Harker's casual deduction of personality from physical features (D 14:226). Perhaps Stoker had read Simms, for Dracula has ‘curly hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion’, and virtually all that is said of the flaccid aristocrat Godalming's appearance is that he is ‘curly-haired’. Similarly, the Count's forehead is ‘domed’ (i.e. rounded), while the professor's is ‘almost straight, then sloping backwards’. Dracula's nose is hooked and curved, ‘aquiline’, whereas Van Helsing's is ‘rather straight’. The Dutchman also has a ‘square chin’ to match, and his big, wide apart eyes are those, according to Simms, of the turtle dove: they signify the morally chaste.

Further instances of Victorian pseudo-science emerge when Van Helsing gives vent to his ‘philosophy of crime’ (D 25:405-6). Criminals, apparently, are all of a type. They are at one and the same time necessarily insane, childish, and incapable of breaking the habits of a lifetime: ‘in all countries and at all times’ criminals stick to the one form of crime with which they are most familiar. ‘The Count is a criminal and of criminal type’, pronounces Mina, and Stoker draws upon the theories of contemporary doctors and criminologists to develop his argument. Max Nordau's controversial book Degeneration (1893) had set out to demonstrate the close correlation between genius and moral degeneracy,4 and Cesare Lombroso, often considered to be the father of modern criminology, was in no doubt about the relevance of physiognomy as regards criminal tendencies. According to Lombroso, those individuals best described as ‘born criminals’ are physiologically related to their primordial ancestors. Among the personality traits Lombroso attributes in his Criminal Man to those of a law-breaking predisposition are sensuality, laziness, impulsiveness, and vanity. Needless to say, these also refer to Dracula; but when it comes to the visible hallmarks of the criminal there can be no doubt about the association. If Stoker had read Simms, he had certainly assimilated Lombroso:

[The Count's] face was … aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils.
[The criminal's] nose … is often aquiline like the beak of a bird of prey.
His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose.
The eyebrows were bushy and tend to meet across the nose.
his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed.
with a protuberance on the upper part of the posterior margin … a relic of the pointed ear.(5)

It was a popular Victorian view that each society is afflicted by the criminals it deserves. This would imply that as Dracula is the worst possible criminal, England in the 1890s was the worst possible society. This equation of vampirism with criminality serves to indicate where in Stoker's mind virtue and purity reside—in those whose lives have been sorely touched by Dracula. Leaving physiognomy aside, what Stoker seems not to appreciate is that the bulk of criminal activity is performed not by Dracula but by his opponents. Senf expresses this succinctly:

Even if Dracula is responsible for all the Evil of which he is accused, he is tried, convicted, and sentenced by men (including two lawyers) who give him no opportunity to explain his actions and who repeatedly violate the laws which they profess to be defending: they avoid an inquest into Lucy's death, break into her tomb and desecrate her body, break into Dracula's houses, frequently resort to bribery and coercion to avoid legal involvement, and openly admit that they are responsible for the deaths of five alleged vampires.6

Further, by happy coincidence, the disposing of Dracula and his three consorts will be accompanied by their rapid dissolution into dust. As Van Helsing cannily explains (D 25:398), there is no need to fear prosecution, for without a corpse there is no crime.

None of the foregoing invites a hint of moral questioning in the mind of Bram Stoker. His heroes have stooped to imitate Dracula, and have become primitive, violent, and irrational. They play the game he plays, never stopping to reflect upon the probity of their actions. In short, the ethical standards that Stoker assumes to be laudable are, upon closer examination, far from comforting.

Stoker's attitudes to race are similarly ambivalent, and there is more than a hint of racial prejudice in Dracula. Even the sweeter-than-sweet Lucy is not immune from it. When she relates to Mina the ‘anguish’ of having had three proposals of marriage she recalls Othello and sympathizes with Desdemona having been regaled by tales of adventure poured in her ear—‘even by a black man’ (D 5:74). Gypsies are shown as despicable hirelings of the Count, taking Harker's gold and then betraying him (D 4:56); and the one Jewish figure encountered is pure stereotype, down to requisite ‘sheep's’ nose and a reluctance to impart information except through ‘a little bargaining’ (D 26:415). And of course, to Stoker, no country can be truly civilized if its trains fail to run on time, as Transylvania's notably fail to do.

More fundamental to the racial structure of the novel is the composition of its three major foreign imports, none of whom are allowed to speak standard English, which immediately makes them objects of suspicion. The Count, of course, is so malign as totally to deny him the honour of being British. (In fact, in none of Stoker's fiction is the villain a true Briton.) Furthermore, Dracula smells!—and racism over the centuries has frequently harped on the distinctive and offensive smells supposedly emitted by ‘foreigners’.

The introduction of a Dutchman and an American seems on the face of it to possess less racial significance; yet Morris' inferiority is persistently demonstrated. Firstly, he is rejected by Lucy in favour of a true-blooded Englishman; secondly, although the provider of raw, frontier courage (which is itself slightly un-British), the American is dispensed with—cancelled out with the Count—at the climax. Perhaps, too, a trace of nationalism can be detected here: the evil Transylvanian and the vulgar Texan are expunged so that, having made full use of Morris, the superior English are no longer compromised by the presence of someone who typifies America's growing power and potential rivalry with Britain.

In the case of Van Helsing, Stoker may have felt uncomfortable about making an English hero a Catholic, in the same way that a native villain would reflect badly on Britain. The effect of this, by revolving the central conflict of the novel around a Continental vampire pitted against a Continental vampire-sleuth, is to emphasize the foreign, alien quality of this demonic invasion of Britain. Once Van Helsing's knowledge has been utilized and his enlightening functions exhausted, he is despatched to the margins of the action, allowing the Anglo-Saxon race the glory of the final scenes.

Throughout, the hard core of Englishness is represented as true grit. Even the insane Renfield is permitted to die a martyr's death in the cause of saving Mina. Returning for a moment to the Victorian ‘wasteland’ analogy, all the foreign imports in the novel serve collectively to provide that dynamic element of which insular England stands in need if domestic tranquillity is to be restored.7 Once that objective has been attained, the foreign intruders can be struck out. Two of them meet their end, while the third is an old man whose time was the nineteenth century, not the twentieth.

The English axis around which the novel pivots is reinforced by the manner of its telling. None of the three foreigners is allowed to keep a diary or supply other written records, save for the odd memorandum of Van Helsing and brief inconsequential letters by Morris. The reader is never made privy to Dracula's thoughts, and is left with his tantalizing statement: ‘There is reason that all things are as they are, and did you see with my eyes and know with my knowledge, you would perhaps better understand’ (D 2:32). Without access to his point of view the Count is never described ‘objectively’, but always through the impressionable eyes of those he encounters. The same is true of Van Helsing and Morris. This gives rise to a peculiarity in the novel's structure. To give an example: what is told by someone to Harker may be passed on to his wife, who might take Van Helsing into her confidence, before he in turn entrusts Seward to summarize the information on his phonograph. The evidence by then is fifth-hand. It follows that the selective epistolary framework of the novel is bound to refract the testimony of those unable to present their case in their own words. As a result, there is a virtual exclusivity of the English point of view in the provision of primary documentation.

To be more precise, there is a virtual exclusivity of the middle-class English point of view, with which Stoker was most able to identify. The bulk of the testimony in Dracula is reserved for Harker, Mina, and Seward—solicitor, teacher, and doctor. Stoker can handle the unfamiliar lady of leisure, Lucy, because she is one-dimensional and killed off early. Lord Godalming is effectively neutered. He is allowed to say nothing of importance: as with the three aliens, the reader derives impressions of his Lordship only through the impressions of others. But the case of Renfield is especially curious, for Stoker allows his lunatic the luxury of keeping his own little notebook (D 6:88). (The Count, it seems, has the knack of making everyone with whom he has any dealings take up their pencils.) Stoker never allows Seward to divulge the contents of Renfield's scribblings. Irritatingly, Seward will tell only of masses of figures, added up in batches ‘as if he were “focusing” some account, as the auditors put it’. What figures? What account? From that moment Renfield's ‘diary’ is forgotten and does not feature in the accumulating pile of written evidence that awaits posterity.

Dracula has also been described as reflecting a concern with ‘alienation’, a sociological term that refers to a pathological condition of man in modern industrial society. There is dispute as to what produces alienation, but in its Marxist version it is said to occur as a result of capitalist exploitation and the division of labour, leading to a loss of identity between the worker and what he produces. He feels dehumanized, becomes isolated, withdrawn, purposeless, and may end up ‘alienated’ not only from his work, but also from his fellow men. This can result in total estrangement from the society in which he lives, and detachment from its prevailing moral values.

This concept can be borrowed and applied in a more general sense to the Count, who is alienated from almost everything around him. As a vampire he casts no reflection: metaphysically he has no identity. He is a pure inversion of man, and as such constitutes the complete alienation of mankind. He is, furthermore, a source of epidemic alienation, reminiscent of the social effects of the early dehumanizing period of industrialization, despoiling the lives and identities of his victims.8 Yet when Dracula confides to Harker that he longs to walk the streets of mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, and to share its life, change and death, he seems to be alluding to more than just the urge to prey on new victims. In human terms, the Count is supremely lonely. He has no more armies to command, no children to rear; he can no longer ‘love’, and his castle is surrounded by a wasteland devoid of vitality. His loneliness is in vivid contrast to the excessive, almost cloying, friendship and family sentiment expressed by his pursuers, all of whom would willingly sacrifice themselves (Morris fulfilling his offer) for each other. More than one critic has speculated whether Dracula's quest to England might embrace a forlorn hope that he might be defeated and laid to rest in perpetuity. How else, it is asked, could such a formidable warrior and campaigner allow himself to be outmanoeuvred by such opponents?

Renfield, through his incarceration in his small cell and his occasional stints in a ‘strait waistcoat’, provides an echo of his patron's alienation.9 But what would have induced Stoker to incorporate such themes into his novel? Very likely, as with other aspects previously noted, he made unconscious use of autobiography. Perhaps Stoker's development from bed-ridden child to athletics champion is reflected in the Count's progress from tomb to master vampire. Again, Stoker spent the first thirty years of his life in Dublin, remote from the hub of British artistic and cultural life. Along with having his early literary and cultural ambitions frustrated, Stoker also had to contend with the ‘alienation’ of being a minority Protestant in a Catholic land. Most important of all, Dracula was not alone in coming to teeming London to better himself: Bram Stoker had done exactly the same thing when uprooting from Dublin in 1878. The sense of alienation to be experienced in a vast impersonal city (and having to learn how to mix with Irving's elevated circle), was something which Stoker had lived through and understood intimately. And in organizing Irving's many tours with the Lyceum, and the endless crates of stage equipment involved, Stoker must have gained an insight into the problems involved in organizing the fifty boxes of earth which Dracula must transport by land and by sea.

Stoker, it should be remembered, was no political innocent. His inaugural address to the Trinity Historical Society had been a blueprint for a league of nations of the time. He was a committed supporter of Irish Home Rule and of Gladstonian Liberalism. His fiction, by and large, steers clear of overt political comment, but there is one notable exception. One of his later novels, The Lady of the Shroud (1909), opens as another, apparent, vampire yarn. By the climax, the supernatural element has been transformed into pure political allegory relating to the Balkan crisis. Even without any ‘actual’ vampires, The Lady of the Shroud still manages to resemble Dracula in its south-east European setting and in its evocation of Turkish menaces, past or present. In the sense that the Austro-Hungarian Empire (of which Transylvania was a part in the 1890s) was a likely British adversary in any future European war, the Anglo-Dutch-American alliance of Dracula hunters lined up against representatives of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires comes close to providing a dress rehearsal for the First World War.10

The Dracula myth has been hailed over the years as providing justification for, or illumination of, all manner of political beliefs. In this, Count Dracula has merely emulated Vlad Dracula, who, within a century of his death, had his impaling exploits seized upon by Ivan the Terrible in Russia. Vlad had shown himself to be a ‘hero’ of the Orthodox faith and a model of the harsh, autocratic ruler. As such he was taken to justify Ivan's supposed divine right to tyranny and sadism.11

Recent Marxist critics have alighted on Dracula as illustrating what they see as the inherent contradictions in capitalism. Through Marxist spectacles the Count presents a distorted extension of feudal droit de seigneur, which, irrespective of his own peasant-like links with the soil, is founded on a life-style of constant exploitation: he starves the populace and feeds upon them. As long ago as 1741 the word ‘vampire’ was used in English, metaphorically, to refer to a tyrant who ‘sucks’ the life from the people.12 Karl Marx himself was familiar with the vampire metaphor: ‘Capital is dead labour that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks’. He went on to remark that ‘the prolongation of the working day quenches only in a slight degree the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour’.13

Seen in this light, the ‘vampire’ presents a metaphor for capital. Dracula is the archetypal capitalist exploiter, for whom the objective, according to classical Marxist theory, is the total ‘possession’ of every aspect of his victims' lives. He is not interested in any arrangement by ‘contract’: he demands his slave labour for eternity. Like the vampire, in other words, the capitalist's driving force is seen to be insatiable and unlimited. Like the vampire, too, the capitalist is unable to break the cycle of exploitation followed by yet more exploitation. Neither is propelled so much by the desire for blood/wealth as by the curse of blood/wealth. The capitalist is enmeshed in the drive for ‘accumulation’, and is unable to withdraw from the stark choice confronting him—prosper or ‘go to the wall’.

As noted previously, Dracula is not a destroyer. He is an accumulator. Moretti describes him as a saver, an ascetic, an upholder of the Protestant ethic.14 The Count has hoarded his gold for such a plan as now festers in his brain. Armed with his capital he can embark upon his schemes for economic control of the City of London. In this he acts as a perfectly rational entrepreneur. It is noticeable that for several economic groups there is no conflict of interest with Dracula. The assorted solicitors, gypsies, seamen, porters, and estate agents with whom he conducts business do very nicely from their client. He pays well, and in cash. For both his menial requirements and his property deals he is the perfect employer-client. These accomplices have no need to fear his sucking their blood: he can buy it.

In fact, Dracula, the arch-capitalist, is no mere common entrepreneur. In his vampiric/financial dealings he acts as an ardent monopolist, someone who will brook no competition. ‘Like monopoly capital, his ambition is to subjugate the last vestiges of the liberal era and destroy all forms of economic independence’.15 No wonder he holds such terrors for his complacent, bourgeois competitors. In the name of destroying an agent of the devil, Stoker's heroes are, on a socio-economic reading, ridding themselves of a materializing threat to their bourgeois ideology and prosperity.16 It is they, representatives of a petty free-trade ethos, whom he is out to subjugate. The vampire/monopolist concedes no possibility of independent survival, personal or economic. Unlike Godalming, the ‘tamed’ aristocrat who accepts the legitimacy of middle-class hegemony, Dracula is the embodiment of the anachronistic land-owning class, seeking to sequestrate the newly-earned privileges of the nouveaux riches and reopen the historic struggle between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Feudal monopoly and the free-competition principles of nineteenth-century capitalism are shown as irreconcilable concepts, historically bound to precipitate an economic struggle to the death.

Actually, during the 1890s monopolistic concentration of capital was even more evident in the economies of some of Britain's advanced, industrial competitors than in her own. All the more reason, then, why ‘monopoly’ should appear as a foreign, alien threat and why Van Helsing is necessarily on the side of the British, for Holland was a neighbouring sanctuary of free-trade.17 On the other hand, by the end of the Victorian era many economists saw free-trade as already moribund. The age of the giant, multi-national monopoly was about to be born. From this angle, the narrow-minded laissez-faire fanatics opposing Dracula who would seek to stifle this development are themselves no better than reactionary relics of a bygone age, attempting to arrest the course of history.18

If only for the sake of parity, as Marxism has been read into Dracula so has fascism. Elements of Bram Stoker's novel actually found their way into the philosophical underpinnings of Nazi Germany. The late and unexpected flowering of the Gothic genre at the turn of the century unearthed a receptive audience in the German-speaking world. What may have been no more than a harmless release in Britain appeared frighteningly profound elsewhere. In the depths of her disillusionment following the First World War, Germany was searching for her own Teutonic hero capable of restoring her past glory. Count Dracula offered the perfect model, being of a conquering race and descended from Attila the Hun. Many German authors, among them Hans-Heinz Ewers, were attracted by the potential of the vampire metaphor. The sexual element was frequently exaggerated, and a combination of Nordic myths, Teutonic blood rites, and Wagnerian imagery haunted and thrilled the reading public of defeated Germany, gradually acquiring a political significance of its own. In the same way that Dracula could be depicted as a Darwinian ‘superman’, vampires in German literature came to represent superhuman Übermenschen, whose function was to herald the establishment of a New Order based on blood.19

Racist elements of German nationalism were also accommodated by German vampire fiction. In the works of Ewers,20 the undead were on occasions depicted not as supermen but as squalid, wandering Jewesses, symbolic of a race that was seen to be infecting the Continent, and leading to an upsurge of blood-mania in the common people. Prior to gaining power in 1933, Hitler and the ideologists of the National Socialist Party were happy to utilize any powerful myth for their own ends, and Ewers' depiction of sacrilegious blood-lust, gratuitous cruelty, and his exultation of pre-Christian, Germanic forms of worship made him a celebrated author, until he became too much of an embarrassment.21Dracula was also ripe for a new medium: the screen. The German director F. W. Mirnau adapted the novel for the silent cinema, and the classic Nosferatu (1922) was the result. Stoker's widow, however, successfully sued for breach of copyright, so that the only extant copies of the film are pirate versions.22

During the Second World War the equation of the Hun-like Dracula with the Hun-like Nazi produced a happy circumstance for the Allies to manipulate and exploit. The Americans recognized the hate-appeal of Stoker's vampire, and Dracula was presented to encapsulate the image of the traditionally cruel Germany. On American wartime propaganda posters a German soldier would appear. He wore a hellish expression on his face and sported bared canine teeth dripping with blood. Later, the association of the Count with whichever enemy America happened to be fighting was reinforced by the provision of free copies of Dracula to U.S. forces serving overseas.23

With the passing of the years the immortal Count has confirmed his adaptability. After Germany's second defeat he proved equally adept at symbolizing the perceived Soviet menace in the Cold War. In the era of the McCarthy-ist witch-hunts for alleged communist sympathizers in the United States, Dracula switched from exemplifying the cruelty of the Nazi to personifying the Red threat. Similarly, he was no longer the exemplar of capitalism: he was now its staunchest enemy. These turn-arounds were made all the more plausible in the light of the adjustment of European frontiers. Transylvania was again part of Romania, and conveniently lay behind the Iron Curtain. Dracula was a communist; the bogeyman from the East.

In fact, the novel consistently leans heavily on the distinction between East and West, dark and light, the primitive and the modern. Harker, in the first paragraph of the book, is made aware as he travels beyond ‘Buda-Pesth’ that he is leaving the West and entering the East—that part of Europe that had been indelibly influenced by the Ottoman Empire (and later by the Soviet Union). Then, as his calèche carries him up the Borgo Pass leading to Dracula's castle, he notes the dark, rolling clouds overhead, and a heavy, oppressive sense of thunder in the air: ‘It seemed as though the mountain range had separated two atmospheres, and that now we had got into the thunderous one’ (D 1:18). Everything, to the cloistered Harker, that is civilized and enlightened about the West is being left behind. So, in the 1890s no less than today, the upright citizen of the West is alarmed by the concealed terrors presented by the East.

Dracula as a Cold War parable equates the demonic Count with the power of Soviet-inspired communism: both present a material threat to the Western world.24 Neither intends to further its ends by outright invasion, which carries too many risks. Subversion is the chosen instrument. The complacent defences of the West are not attacked by storm but infiltrated by stealth, though the aim in each case is the subjugation of the West into East European colonies/vampires. Furthermore, just as communist subversion has the industrial work-force as its principal focus, so Dracula directs his attack at helpless women, turning them, in effect, into a ‘fifth column’ to assist his schemes. Dracula is now a Red under the Bed, as well as a vampire hovering above it. His subversive strategy is revealed in his painstaking legal preparations, so as not to arouse suspicion in the British police or legal profession. He ensures he has numerous hideaways once he arrives. He shrewdly does not permit any of his unwitting official collaborators (solicitors, estate agents, etc.) to know the identities, far less anything of the duties, of the others (D 3:43-4). That is why he employs an Exeter solicitor to purchase a house in London, while he himself arrives at Whitby.

The Cold War moral is that constant vigilance must be observed. Otherwise the vampire/communism will achieve its objectives by taking advantage of the built-in vulnerability that has accompanied the West's rapid scientific and technological progress. This smug superiority has contemptuously discounted the probability of successful subversion, and even British laws will assist the Count: the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ philosophy hands him a ticket to success. Moreover, the Van Helsing clique dare not publicize the danger for fear of ridicule. They are therefore compelled to act as clandestinely on their part as Dracula does on his: they must operate outside the confines not only of conventional medicine and religion, but also of the law.

This hawkishness in the name of defending home values is manifested in Van Helsing's strictures against the naïve liberalism of Seward: ‘Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot?’ (D 14:229). Van Helsing is referring to hidden knowledge shared only with Dracula, and he is seeking to override ‘rational’ objection so that he can perform his desecrations without opposition. Dissenters against the McCarthy excesses were swept aside in ways which were uncomfortably comparable.25 It is significant that the war against Dracula/communist infiltration should be spearheaded by a specialist of the mind, who is well able to manipulate the inarticulate fears of honest citizens for devious ends. One isolated attack on appropriately-named Light-of-the-West Lucy is to be avenged by the full weight of Western revenge.

Intruding into this analysis, and not for the first time, is the strange twist provided by Quincey Morris, the embodiment of the United States. It has been proposed that Stoker is covertly challenging United States reluctance to involve herself in world affairs, and to bring about an end to the isolation behind which she was, in the 1890s, sheltering.26 The evidence for this emerges when Renfield, in a bubble of sanity, comments upon the Monroe Doctrine (D 18:291)—an axiom of American foreign policy dating back to 1823, but operational for a century thereafter. The Monroe Doctrine, in essence, decreed that Europe should stay out of American affairs, and the United States would reciprocate. This policy naturally hampered Anglo-American understanding and contributed to the mutual ignorance that prompted Stoker's book A Glimpse of America. Renfield probably speaks Stoker's thoughts, looking forward to the day ‘when the Pole and the Tropics may hold allegiance to the Stars and Stripes’ (D 18:291).

Actually, Stoker did not have long to wait. The year of Dracula's publication, 1897, also marked Diamond Jubilee Year, celebrating sixty years of Queen Victoria's reign. The year was awash with imperial pageantry and festival. The British Empire, although actually in decline, had never appeared stronger. But across the Atlantic the American giant was beginning to stir. Dracula, in fact, becomes in retrospect curiously prophetic of the Spanish-American war of 1898, which is often taken to mark the United States' inaugural appearance in global power-politics. By the time of Stoker's final years the United States was on the brink of superseding the old-established European balance-of-power system and its ageing empires—such as that of Austria-Hungary, which Dracula represented.27 Moreover, in the novel Morris provides military aid to the effete Europeans in the form of Winchester rifles (D 25:396). America thereby becomes the arms supplier of the free world in fiction not long before she does so in fact.

It might be said that the Texan has declared war on a European adversary with the objective of gaining ultimate supremacy over the Old World. America fails in the novel, only to succeed in the real world over the course of the twentieth century. Some might say that America has come to colonize Britain as effectively as Dracula had once aspired to do. Morris' spirit has been recycled through the triumphant ‘family’ to flourish in economic terms in the succeeding generations.28 America is the land of the future, just as Quincey lends his name to the child of the future.

Ideologically, it is the collective resources and talents of the West that must be seen to prevail; the alliance of free men and women. It can be no isolated hero operating alone who will slay Dracula, but a corporate body in which everybody has a part to play in the downfall of the ‘solitary’ Count. The totalitarian monolith, embarked on a kind of inversed imperialistic quest—‘the primitive trying to colonise the civilised world’29—must meet his match against the power of combination; the strength and solidarity which emanate from the democratically organized, committee-style ‘Council of War’ (D 18:285; 26:420). The Western partners would weaken their own security should they withdraw from their alliance. A disorganized group of individuals is easy prey to the concentrated force of the vampire/communism. Only when the alliance is forged in the second half of the novel can Dracula be confronted by an adversary whose combined strength is superior to that of its constituent elements.

The NATO allies in Dracula (Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands) possess two other decisive advantages over their Eastern adversary. The first is their freedom of thought and action: the Dracula-hunters perceive themselves as having ‘self-devotion in a cause and an end to achieve which is not a selfish one’ (D 18:285)—that is, they want to save the world (or so they think), not control it. Even Stoker's mode of address—diaries, letters, journals, etc.—emphasizes the plurality of perception and sense of individuality which the vampire threatens to subjugate, until they are collated to present an amalgamated account prior to the trans-continental quest. The second advantage is that of scientific ingenuity and progress. The East, then as now, is described as lacking sophisticated technological hardware. Transylvania is behind the times, rundown, unable to advance from traditional crafts and practices. Britain, however, is portrayed in Dracula as a veritable showpiece of efficiency and modern engineering: Mina taps away on her typewriter, Seward goes one better and records his diary on to a phonograph, Harker takes advantage of a telephone, and Morris is an amateur photographer. Throughout, letters and telegrams are delivered with improbable despatch. It is, then, no surprise that armed with these weapons—social, political, psychological, and technological—ultimate victory for the West is assured.


  1. Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: the Literature of Subversion, p. 121.

  2. Burton Hatlen, ‘The Return of the Repressed/Oppressed in Bram Stoker's Dracula’, p. 83.

  3. Ornella Volta, The Vampire, p. 145.

  4. See the discussion on evolutionary degeneration, page 190.

  5. Reproduced in Leonard Wolf, The Annotated Dracula, p. 300.

  6. Carol A. Senf, ‘Dracula: the Unseen Face in the Mirror’, p. 163.

  7. Mark M. Hennelly Jr, ‘Dracula: the Gnostic Quest and the Victorian Wasteland’, p. 22.

  8. R. W. Johnson, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, p. 433.

  9. Royce MacGillivray, ‘“Dracula”: Bram Stoker's Spoiled Masterpiece’, pp. 525-6.

  10. Richard Astle, ‘Dracula as Totemic Monster: Lacan, Freud, Oedipus and History’, p. 103.

  11. See Gabriel Ronay, The Dracula Myth, pp. 149-55.

  12. Ernest Jones, in Christopher Frayling (ed.), The Vampyre: Lord Ruthven to Count Dracula, p. 327.

  13. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Chapter X.

  14. Franco Moretti, Signs Taken for Wonders: Essays in the Sociology of Literary Forms, p. 91.

  15. ibid., p. 92.

  16. Jackson, p. 122.

  17. See Moretti, p. 93.

  18. ibid., p. 94.

  19. Ronay, pp. 157-9.

  20. For example: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1910), The Vampire (1921), Nightmare (1922).

  21. Ronay, pp. 159-60.

  22. Harry Ludlam, A Biography of Bram Stoker: Creator of Dracula, p. 190.

  23. Ronay, p. 166.

  24. See Richard Wasson, ‘The Politics of Dracula’.

  25. See Ronay, p. 169.

  26. Wasson, p. 26.

  27. See Astle, p. 103.

  28. Moretti, pp. 251-2.

  29. Senf, op. cit., p. 164.

S. L. Varnado (essay date 1987)

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SOURCE: Varnado, S. L. “The Daemonic in Dracula.” In Haunted Presence: The Numinous in Gothic Fiction, pp. 95-114. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Varnado views Dracula as a dramatization of the “cosmic struggle between the opposing forces of darkness and light, of the sacred and the profane.”]

Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of those rare novels that merits the timeworn phrase “it needs no introduction.” Since its publication in 1897 the book has established an undeniable claim on the public imagination. Not only has it passed through innumerable editions (including foreign translations), it has entered the domain of popular culture through constant dramatizations, including radio, motion pictures, and television. The world has taken the book's grim protagonist to its heart in a way reserved for only a few mythical figures. In another decade Dracula will celebrate its hundredth anniversary, the benchmark Samuel Johnson thought should be the required testing period for a classic.

As with certain other works of supernatural literature, however, public approbation has done little to enhance the book's critical reputation. For reasons already set forth, supernatural literature has fared poorly among scholars and critics; consequently popular approval may at times prove to be a liability. It is only in recent years, with the rise of a more eclectic spirit in scholarly studies, that the novel has received any comment at all.1 It should be clear, however, that the novel, like its vampire protagonist, is not going to die an easy death. Critics who in the past have not bothered to taste its strange contents (to continue the spectral metaphor) might well consider doing so. Far too much attention has been paid to Dracula's supposed weaknesses and not enough to its central strengths.2

The alleged weaknesses turn out to be of the same type that critics assign to the entire genre of supernatural tales: lack of relationship to the major themes of realistic literature. Critics who take such a view (for example, Edmund Wilson) cannot respond to the strengths of Gothic literature without attempting to rationalize the supernatural element in it. Impervious to the numinous core of this genre, they continually attempt to turn it into something else—repressed sexuality, sociology, Marxism, or whatever is at hand. An extreme example of this tendency is seen in Glen St. John Barclay's discussion of Dracula in his delightful but wrongheaded study, Anatomy of Horror. Despite the humor that informs Barclay's work, Barclay manages thoroughly to misconceive the nature of many of the books he discusses, including Dracula. Stoker, he says, “has in the first place the deficiency commonly found among writers who concern themselves almost exclusively with occult themes of having either no interest in human personality, or no ability to analyze it.”3 This, as explained above, is to mistake the purpose of such literature; it is like complaining that a limerick is not sufficiently metaphysical or that Oedipus Rex is not duly concerned with political theory.

A myopic view such as this leads Barclay into all sorts of misinterpretations. Jonathan Harker is simply “half-witted.” The several women in the story “acquire the faintest interest as human beings only when they begin to turn into vampires.” Finally, Barclay is led to the logical impasse of attempting to explain the book's undeniable popularity as the result of repressed sexuality: “towering erotic symbolism, which is what Dracula is all about.” The vampires, Barclay assures us, are “incarnations of sexual desire”; the passages in which they pursue their bloodletting are “the literary equivalent of orgasm.” The scene in which Lucy is impaled by Van Helsing and her suitors is an example of mutual rape culminating in mutual orgasm. And so on. It never seems to occur to Barclay (whose pungent wit deserts him) that if such a reading is correct—if the appeal lies in sublimated sexuality—the book would of necessity have died a natural death in an age like ours when explicit sexual description is all too common. Despite his keen humor (for example, the proper background music for the impalement of Lucy would be the “Anvil Chorus”), Barclay's conclusions are ultimately of the sort Edmund Wilson arrived at in his reading of James's The Turn of the Screw.

Fortunately more substantial assessments of the book are available. For example, David Punter recognizes that Dracula “is not only a well-written and formally investive novel but also one of the most important expressions of social and psychological dilemmas of the late nineteenth century.” Sensing a mythic quality in the book, he sees it in essence as “the inversion of Christianity and particularly of Pauline Christianity in that Dracula promises and gives—the real resurrection of the body, but disunited from the soul.”4

The suggestion of Christian symbolism is echoed by Leonard Wolf. According to Wolf, Dracula takes on the aspect of an anti-Christ as he seeks to spread his infection to others. Wolf points out a number of biblical and Christian references, including vampire-like sacraments of baptism and marriage.5

Both Punter and Wolf approach the book in what I believe is the correct way, for Dracula more clearly than other Gothic works of fiction dramatizes the cosmic struggle between the opposing forces of darkness and light, of the sacred and the profane. Indeed, this antinomy which we have seen in other works of the occult is at the heart of Dracula, where it takes on the proportions of a worldwide struggle, sweeping racial, geographical, even ontological counters in its wake. The actors in the story, whether human or superhuman, take on symbolic significance, so that they become surrogates for traditions, cultural forces, and races of people of Europe and Asia.

These ideogramic structures are glimpsed in the novel's dramatic opening section. The story begins with a seemingly prosaic account from a journal kept by Jonathan Harker, a London solicitor. At the request of the law firm for which he works, Harker undertakes a journey across Europe to the Carpathian Mountains. There, in a castle set among the mountains, he is to meet with a client of the firm, a certain Count Dracula, and work out business arrangements for the Count's intended move to England. Harker reveals himself through his journal entries as a modest, pleasant, eminently businesslike member of the middle class. He carefully notes train schedules, hotel arrangements, dates, food, and comments with naïve enthusiasm on the landscape, the local people, and the customs he encounters. Everything is normal, decent, even ordinary, characteristics which invest the account with what Otto might have described as the rational element that surrounds reality and structures it.

Despite the sanity and objectivity of these passages, Stoker mingles subtle hints of the numinous, or nonrational. As the train on which Harker travels reaches Budapest, he notes: “The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most Western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.”6 A feeling of something akin to wonder emerges as Harker penetrates this region of eastern Europe, suggesting that the rational and the nonrational are symbolized in terms of West and East, respectively.

Harker has read up on the region in the British Museum and notes its curious racial mix: “The section of Rumania is composed of Saxons, Dacians, Magyars, and Skeleys, the latter of whom are descended from the Huns.” Unable to “light upon any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula,” Harker has discovered that it is set “on the borders of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian Mountains, one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe.” These mysterious hints and suggestions are pointed up when he adds,

I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the center of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so, my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)

At a hotel in Klausenburgh, where he spends the night, he notes:

I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty.7

The accumulating sense of mysterium registers on Harker as he penetrates farther into this alien region. At the Golden Krone Hotel in Bistritz, the “cheery-looking woman” who greets him delivers a letter from Count Dracula, welcoming Harker to “my beautiful land”; but Harker grows apprehensive when the landlord pretends that he cannot speak German and his wife rather histrionically crosses herself and insists on giving Harker a rosary. There is irony (almost humor) in Harker's British imperturbability when confronted with these ominous tokens. The following day, as he travels by coach toward the Borgo Pass, where he is to meet his mysterious client, Harker notices the peasants making the sign against the evil eye and murmuring vrolok and viboslak (“werewolf” or “vampire”); but he merely notes: “Mem. I must ask the Count about these superstitions.”8

As the carriage proceeds on its way, Harker is entranced by the sublime mountain scenery but cannot escape a growing sense of unease.

As the evening fell it began to get very cold, and the growing twilight seemed to merge into one dark mistiness the gloom of the trees, oak, beech, and pine, though in the valleys which ran deep between the spurs of the hills … the dark firs stood out.

The road grows steep, the passengers in the carriage become excited, and at last, at the entrance to the Borgo Pass, Dracula's carriage appears. After one of the passengers quotes a line from Burger's “Lenore” (“For the dead travel fast”), Harker at last succumbs to the sense of mysterium, commenting: “I felt a strange chill and a lonely feeling come over me.”9

It is notable that up to this point everything has been kept within the established boundaries of the natural, or rational. After Harker is transferred to Dracula's coach, however, the sense of the nonrational manifests itself with increasing intensity. As the coach pursues its steep ascent to the castle, Count Dracula displays his preternatural powers by dispersing a pack of wolves that menace the coach and by locating a treasure trove by means of the blume falem—the magical flame that appears on the eve of St. George. These clear signs of occult activity increase the conflict between rational and nonrational that grips Harker; but he persists in his determined resolve to ignore anything that threatens his sane, rational outlook.

Nonetheless, once he is within the walls of Dracula's castle, Harker's defenses begin to crumble. Like other “haunted castles” in Gothic literature, this castle stands as a symbol of the mysterium tremendum. In the exciting scenes that follow, Stoker intensifies the sense of the numinous and establishes its cosmic dimensions in the tale. To better understand the idea Stoker is projecting in this section of the tale, we must refer again to an important passage in The Idea of the Holy in which Otto works out the implications of what he calls “negative numinous.” This passage, which appears in a long footnote, is only a suggestion of a concept Otto referred to several times but never satisfactorily explained. There is enough, however, to indicate that had he lived he might have provided a finished metaphysic of the “negative numinous.”

The “ferocity” is the origin of Lucifer, in whom the mere potentiality of evil is actualized. It might be said that Lucifer is “fury,” the hypostatized, the mysterium tremendum cut loose from the other elements and intensified to mysterium horrendum. The roots at least of this may be found in the Bible and the early Church. The ideas of propitiation and ransom are not without reference to Satan as well as to the divine wrath. The rationalism of the myth of the “fallen angel” does not render satisfactorily the horror of Satan and of the “depths of satan” (Rev. 2:24) and the “mystery of iniquity” (Thess. 2:7). It is a horror that is in some sort numinous, and we might designate the object of it as the negatively numinous. This also holds good of other religions than that of the Bible. In all religions, “the devilish” plays its part and has its place as that which, opposed to the divine, has yet something in common with it. As such it should be the subject of a special inquiry, which must be an analysis of fundamental feelings, and something very different from a mere record of the “evolution of the idea of the devil.”10

Otto's concept of the “negative numinous” finds a striking embodiment in the character of Dracula. Though inimical to all evidence of the divine (he cringes with horror at Jonathan Harker's rosary), he nevertheless shares certain aspects of the divine power, for example, the ability to change his shape, become invisible, and read thoughts at a distance. Similarly, his lust for blood is a kind of propitiation of the dark forces he is leagued with as he seeks to evangelize the world to this ominous religion. Moreover, the mysterious laws that govern his activities are related to the divine. When he learns that Harker's law firm has purchased for him a large, ancient manor house in England with an antique chapel on its grounds, he says: “I rejoice that there is a chapel of old time. We Transylvanian nobles love not to think that our bones may be amongst the common dead.”11

Such negative religious aspects of Dracula extend to his castle, his class, and to Transylvania itself. “We are in Transylvania,” he tells Harker, echoing biblical language, “and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” As the story continues it becomes evident that England and Transylvania stand as archetypes of the known in contrast to the unknown, the rational to the nonrational. “I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London,” Dracula says, “to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is.”12

Throughout the book Stoker surrounds Dracula with an aura of legendary associations. He seems to personify the East, with its mystery, as opposed to the orderly, rational bourgeois life of the West. The feeling is reinforced by Dracula's numerous references to his race:

We Szekelys have a right to be proud for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent. … Here too when they came they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches who, expelled from Sycthia, had mated with the devil in the desert. Fools, fools! What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?13

In these and other passages Stoker incorporates both legendary and historical elements, thus imbuing the story with a cosmic dimension. He reinforces this dimension with the character of Dracula himself. Dracula is apparently based on the historical figure of Vlad Tepes, a voivoide (or ruler) of Wallachia from 1456 to 1462, who must rank as one of history's bloodiest tyrants. His favorite method of execution was impalement, which he often witnessed with sadistic delight. “There was impalement from above—feet upwards—and impalement from below—head upwards; or through the heart or navel. There were nails in people's heads, maiming of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, the cutting of noses and ears.”14

One of Stoker's imaginative triumphs in the novel is his synthesis of the vampire legend in the person of Vlad Tepes, who was known as Dracula (son of the Devil). By means of this central ideogram, Stoker was able to draw together racial, geographic, and cosmic notes and fuse them into a striking image of the “the daemonic.” In The Idea of the Holy, Otto returns several times to a discussion of the daemonic element. A striking exhibition of it, he says, is seen in some remarks by Goethe, from which he quotes:

“The Daemonic is that which cannot be accounted for by understanding and reason. It chooses for itself obscure times of darkness. … In a plain, prosaic town like Berlin it would hardly find an opportunity to manifest itself. …”

“Does not the daemonic (asks Eckermann) also appear in events?” “Pre-eminently so,” said Goethe, “and assuredly in all which we cannot explain by intellect or reason. And in general it is manifested throughout nature, visible and invisible, in the most diverse ways. Many creatures in the animal kingdom are of a wholly daemonic kind, and in many we see some aspect of the daemonic operative.”15

Goethe's remarks may explain the association of the vampire with bats, wolves, and rats. Similarly, the daemonic is associated with such qualities as energy, fury, implacable hatred, and a general “overpoweringness.” The daemonic, says Goethe, was manifested in Napoleon, a

daemonic character [which] appears in its most dreadful form when it stands out dominatingly in some man. Such are not always the most remarkable men, either in spiritual quality or natural talents, and they seldom have any goodness of heart to recommend them. But an incredible force goes forth from them, and they exercise incredible power over all creatures, nay, perhaps even over the elements. And who can say how far such an influence may extend?16

The preternatural powers with which Stoker invests his vampire are aspects of the daemonic. Like the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Dracula is symbolically associated with darkness, slyness, cruelty, and fierce egotism. Like the monster, he commits various atrocities, although these seem at times like mere means to ends; for his ultimate goal is to establish and maintain himself in opposition to that sacred power in which he indirectly participates.

After Harker's escape from the castle, the setting of the novel changes to England, where Dracula, bringing with him his coffins of sacred earth, has established himself at his estate of Carfax. This change of scene is used to introduce a new ontological tension into the story. England, as we have already seen, is the polar opposite of Transylvania and the East. It is the rational center of the novel, the realm of reason, science, practicality, order, common sense.

To carry out this idea, Stoker assembles in England a cast of characters who, in one way or another, are all representatives of the rational. This small group of people, who become Dracula's opponents, are members of the bourgeoisie, with its norms of respectability, hard work, probity, and good sense. As a consequence, they are deliberately depicted as “type characters” but in the best sense of the term. Stoker distinguishes each character by a strongly individualistic touch. For example, Lucy Westenra, Dracula's first victim, is a charming, if slightly idealized, picture of Victorian femininity: witty, intelligent, romantic. On the other hand, Mina Murray, Lucy's confidante and former schoolmate, is practical and ambitious. Lacking Lucy's inherited wealth, she has trained herself as an expert stenographer and dreams of aiding her fiancé, Jonathan Harker, when he returns to assume his duties as a solicitor.

The male characters are sketched with equally broad but convincing strokes. Lord Godalming, generous and dependable, displays the better qualities of the British upper class. John Seward, a psychiatrist, is cool, resourceful, scientific. Even Quincy Morris, the plucky, faintly comic American who joins the group, is, within the context of the novel's action, convincing enough. Although Morris speaks a rather absurd, and often criticized, variety of American slang, Stoker drops hints suggesting that this is an ironic pose intended to amuse his English friends. Obviously, these characters are not intended by Stoker as fully developed characterizations but rather as sharply etched representatives of the rational structure surrounding the occult, or the nonrational, elements of the narrative.

The scene of action during most of the long middle section of the novel is the area around London and the nearby town of Purfleet, where John Seward owns and operates a sanitarium for the mentally ill. Through something more than coincidence, the grounds of the asylum adjoin Carfax Manor, the ancient, decaying estate Dracula has purchased and to which his coffins are transported. In choosing this setting Stoker again provides a highly effective ideogram for the numinous, since an asylum, or madhouse, suggests the scientific and the rational, on the one hand, and the alien and the nonrational, on the other.

It is, in fact, a simple step for Stoker to transpose the events at the asylum into the realm of the supernatural. This is readily seen in the character of Renfield, one of the patients at the sanitarium, who is secretly in league with Dracula. Not only does the character Renfield serve to introduce a note of ghastly humor into the story, he links the events at the sanitarium with Dracula as well.17

When introduced, Renfield suffers from an obscure form of mania that causes him to collect flies, spiders, and sparrows, about which he keeps a meticulous record in a notebook. The secret of his delusion is his lust for blood, which Dracula has promised to satisfy in return for his services. The quasi-religious nature of his delusion is evident when Dracula draws near the asylum and Renfield's manic delight in insects suddenly disappears.

“What?” Seward asks. “You don't mean to tell me you don't care about spiders?”

To which Renfield replies in biblical language:

“The bride-maidens rejoice the eyes that wait the coming of the bride; but when the bride draweth nigh, then the maidens shine not to the eyes that are filled.”18

Renfield's curious lapses from maniacal strength to passivity, and his abrupt changes from the wildest insanity to the most lucid self-possession exemplify the rational-nonrational paradigm that infuses the story.

At this point, Stoker introduces the final ideogramic element in his tale, in the person of the Belgian physician, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing's aid is requested when Seward and Lucy's other friends realize that in their struggle against Dracula they are out of their depth. Their efforts, especially those of Seward, are based on science and other rational means; but these prove ineffective. Paradoxically, it is Seward the scientist who grasps the idea that science alone is not sufficient. As a consequence, he calls on his old mentor, Van Helsing. “He is a seemingly arbitrary man,” Seward explains; “but this is because he knows what he is talking about better than anyone else. He is a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day.” Van Helsing now assumes the role of Dracula's chief adversary. Moreover, he takes on the character of an ideogramic figure in the novel. He is best understood as the Jungian archetypes “the wise old man” and “the cosmic man.”

That there is a connection between the Jungian archetypes and Otto's conception of the numinous is clear from statements made by Jung, who was well acquainted with Otto's writings. In Psychology and Religion, Jung concedes:

Religion, as the Latin word denotes, is a careful and scrupulous observation of what Rudolf Otto aptly termed the “numinosum,” that is, a dynamic existence or effect, not caused by an arbitrary act of the will. … The numinosum is either a quality of a visible object or the influence of a visible or an invisible presence causing a peculiar alteration of consciousness.19

The relationship between the Jungian archetypes and the numinous is set forth by Jung: “when an archetype appears in a dream, in a fantasy, or in life, it always brings with it a certain influence or power by virtue of which it either exercises a numinous or fascinating effect or impels to action.”20

Of the archetypes Jung collected in his various studies of human consciousness, two seem closely related to Stoker's novel: “the wise old man” (cosmic man) and “the demon.” The demon is an aspect of what Jung called the “shadow” archetype, the dark, hidden portion of the personality. Curiously, it is related to that of “the wise old man,” a benevolent, sagacious type suggesting the complete development Jung called “individuation”:

One of the archetypes that is almost invariably met with in the projection of unconscious collective contents is the “magic demon” with mysterious powers. … The image of this demon forms one of the lowest and most ancient states in the conception of God. It is the type of primitive tribal sorcerer or medicine-man, a peculiarly gifted personality endowed with magical powers. This figure often appears as dark-skinned and of mongoloid type, and then it represents a negative and possibly dangerous aspect. Sometimes it can hardly be distinguished, if at all, from the shadow; but the more the thematical note predominates, the easier it is to make the distinction, and this is not without relevance insofar as the demon can also have a very positive aspect as “the wise old man.”21

In Dracula these related but distinct ideograms are personified in the vampire and his implacable antagonist Van Helsing. Dracula—“dark-skinned and of mongoloid type … negative … possibly dangerous”—represents the demon, an aspect of the cosmic man that embodies the profane, or negative, aspect of the numinous. Van Helsing, Dracula's equal in power, determination, and occult knowledge, evinces the benign (or sacred) elements of the numinous. Stoker, in fact, has drawn what would seem to be a series of conscious parallels between the two; both come from foreign countries and speak with distinctly awkward accents, and both, in turn, can be imperious, arbitrary, and crafty.

There are differences, however. With his plain, Belgian respectability and bourgeois cast of mind, Van Helsing typifies an orderly, rational pattern that even at times contains humor. His Belgian accent, which one critic22 calls “delicatessen Dutch,” is used deliberately to suggest the faintly risible overtones of his character, as in the well-known speech concerning King Laugh. Although he is a celebrated scientist, his view of life is strongly conservative, or traditional, and while he is on occasion stern and arbitrary, he is by nature kindly, even avuncular.

Dracula manifests many of the same characteristics but perverts them into a malign parody of the sacred. He possesses no humor yet is capable of a queer irony. His smile is described as “cruel,” and he often sneers. His accent, as clumsy as that of Van Helsing, carries no comic overtones but rather hints at a kind of alien poetry. When the wolves howl about his castle, he tells Harker: “Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make! … you dwellers in the city cannot enter into the feelings of the hunter.”23

The physical appearances of the two contrast strikingly. Dracula's face is

strong—very strong—aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. … His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose. … The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy mustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking with peculiarly white teeth that protruded over the lips.

He has “pointed ears,” and the entire face gives an impression of pallor. He is tall, cadaverous, and dresses in black.24

Van Helsing, on the other hand, is of medium height, strongly built, and deep-chested. His head is “noble, well-sized, broad and large behind the ears.” He is clean-shaven, and his face is large and square with “a mobile mouth, good-sized nose … and big bushy brows.” His hair is red, and his blue eyes are “widely set apart and are quick and tender or stern with the man's moods.”25

The impression in each case is one of power but power arising from opposite sources. Although Van Helsing is a notable scientist, he realizes that science is powerless against Dracula and for help turns to his deeply held Catholic faith and to white magic. Dracula, by contrast, employs black magic.

The struggle between these two “cosmic men” forms the central portion of the story.26 This conflict is deepened by Stoker's artistic incorporation of the many legends and beliefs concerning vampires. Stoker's strategy in employing this material coincides with the “rational versus nonrational” pattern we saw above. By structuring the story on a firmly realistic basis and introducing as his protagonist a man of impeccable scientific background, Stoker conjures the reader into accepting the marvelous. This strategy is clearly pointed up in an interesting speech by Van Helsing:

To believe in things that you cannot. Let me illustrate. I once heard of an American who so defined faith, “that which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue.” For one, I follow that man. He meant that we shall have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of a big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him; but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe.27

Despite its humorous overtones, the epistemological basis of the speech is clear enough. It continues as Van Helsing expounds the history of vampirism:

All we have to go upon are traditions and superstitions. These do not at the first appear much, when the matter is one of life and death—nay, of more than either life or death. Yet we must be satisfied. … Take it, then, that the vampire and the belief in his limitations and his cure, rest for the moment on the same base. For let me tell you he is known everywhere that men have been. In old Greece, in old Rome; he flourish in Germany all over, in France, in India, even in the Chersonese; and in China. … He have follow the wake of the berserker, Icelander, the devil-begotten Hun, the Slav, the Saxon, the Magyar.28

The recitation of racial and geographical names, reminiscent of earlier speeches by Dracula, serves to infuse the story with a sense of cosmic action. As the struggle between these two cosmic men continues, it is lifted above the rational elements of the tale into a region of dread and wonder. Historical traditions, legends, and occult lore give the book a quality that must be considered epic.

In the concluding section of the novel, Stoker faced the somewhat difficult task of sustaining this intense level of numinous feeling. Having been irrevocably defeated in England, Dracula now attempts to return to his castle in the Carpathians. Because he retains a degree of occult influence over Mina Harker, however, he must be pursued and extirpated by Van Helsing and his group.29 They follow Dracula back to his native Transylvania, which, as we have seen, is the focal point of the novel's nonrational forces. The cyclical pattern is now complete, with the rational forces of the West in pursuit of the nonrational East.30 But a new element has been added. In the opening section of the novel, Jonathan Harker, as representative of the bourgeois West, comes equipped with the ineffective powers of civilization. Now, under the tutelage of Van Helsing, the group understands the preternatural elements they face. They have been initiated into the cosmic pattern of the sacred and are able to deal with the counterforces of the profane. Thus, “When we find the habitation of this man-that-was,” Van Helsing explains,

we can confine him to the coffin and destroy him. We obey what we know. But he is clever. I have asked my friend Arminius, of Buda-Pesth University, to make his record; and from all the means that are, he tells me of what he has been. He must, indeed, have been that Voivoide Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. … In the records are such words as “stregoica”—witch, “ordog” and “pokol”—Satan and hell; and in one manuscript this very Dracula is spoke of as a “vampyr.” … There have been from the loins of this very one great men and good women, and their graves make sacred the earth where alone this foulness can dwell. For it is not the least of its terrors that this evil thing is rooted deep in all good; in soil barren of holy memories it cannot rest.31

In the chase sequences that bring the novel to its exciting conclusion, Stoker retains control over the fugitive emotions he deals with by grounding the action in a firmly realistic context. As Van Helsing and his group return to the East, they encounter the same small difficulties and obstacles that Harker faced in the novel's opening passages. Details of luggage, train schedules, lodging, and conflicts with local officials keep the narrative firmly in place against a background increasingly mysterious. When at last the travelers reach Transylvania and the vicinity of Dracula's castle, the effect is one of a great cloud slowly being lifted. The exotic geography of the region—its mountains, stately rivers, half-civilized people, wolves, gypsies, and the great castle itself32—come into weird, faintly disturbing focus, as though one were remembering a dream. The writing takes on a fifth-dimensional quality, as seen in the following passage from Mina Harker's diary:

When we had gone about a mile, I was tired with the heavy walking and sat down to rest. Then we looked back and saw where the clear line of Dracula's castle cut the sky; for we were so deep under the hill whereon it was set that the angle of perspective of the Carpathian Mountains was far below it. We saw it in all its grandeur perched a thousand feet on the summit of a sheer precipice, and with seemingly a great gap between it and the steep of the adjacent mountain on any side. There was something wild and uncanny about the place. We could hear the distant howling of wolves.33

This exciting coda, culminating in the savage ritual of Dracula's extinction, has a theatrical quality about it that is reminiscent of Poe:

The sun was almost down on the mountain tops, and the shadows of the whole group fell upon the snow. I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth, some of which the rude falling from the cart had scattered over him. He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew too well.

As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph.

But on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat; whilst at the same moment, Mr. Morris's bowie knife plunged into the heart. …

The Castle of Dracula now stood out against the red sky, and every stone of its broken battlements was articulated against the light of the setting sun.34

The firm prose of the final scenes adds the note of credibility the reader needs in order to accept the lurid events. As is true of all masters of prose narrative, Stoker's sense of proportion and balance never deserts him. He retains the feeling of realism—uppermost in writing of this kind—until the final words, structuring the numinous emotion in a context of versimilitude. The reader puts the book down and returns to the real world with the distinct feeling of having glimpsed a deeper reality underlying the various marvels encountered in Dracula.


  1. See Elizabeth MacAndrew, The Gothic Tradition in Fiction (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979); Judith Wilt, Ghosts of the Gothic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980); Glen St. John Barclay, Anatomy of Horror: The Masters of Occult Fiction (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978); David Punter, The Literature of Terror (London: Longman, 1980); and Leonard Wolf, ed., The Annotated Dracula (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975).

  2. Royce MacGillivray lists the strengths of the book as vividness, concision, pictorial quality of the background, and poetic language. See his “‘Dracula’: Bram Stoker's Spoiled Masterpiece,” Queen's Quarterly, Winter 1972, pp. 518-27.

  3. Barclay, Anatomy of Horror; this and the next two quotations are found on pp. 44, 45, and 49, respectively.

  4. Punter, Literature of Terror, pp. 256, 261.

  5. Wolf, Annotated Dracula, p. 255.

  6. Throughout, I use the Modern Library edition of Dracula, which carries the copyright date 1897 but no publication date of its own.

  7. Stoker, Dracula, p. 2.

  8. Ibid., p. 6.

  9. The quotations in this paragraph are from ibid., pp. 9, 12.

  10. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, trans. John W. Harvey (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 106-107.

  11. Stoker, Dracula, p. 26.

  12. The quotations in this paragraph are from ibid., pp. 22, 23.

  13. Ibid., p. 32. Richard Wasson points out instances of this racial motif, as well as the contrast between East and West, in “The Politics of Dracula,” English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 9.1 (1966), pp. 24-25.

  14. Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, In Search of Dracula (New York: Warner, 1972), p. 42.

  15. Quoted in Otto, Idea of the Holy, pp. 150-51.

  16. Ibid., p. 152.

  17. Royce MacGillivray, who is generally critical of Stoker's characterizations, admits that Renfield is an exception. “‘Dracula,’” p. 525.

  18. Stoker, Dracula, p. 111.

  19. Jung, Psychology and Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1938), p. 4.

  20. Jung, “Personal and Collective Unconscious,” in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1956), p. 80.

  21. Ibid., pp. 106-107.

  22. Barclay, Anatomy of Horror, p. 45.

  23. Stoker, Dracula, p. 20.

  24. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

  25. Ibid., pp. 199-200.

  26. Mark M. Kennelly, Jr., sees the struggle as between “rival epistemologies in quest of a gnosis which will rehabilitate the Victorian Wasteland.” “Dracula: The Gnostic Quest and the Victorian Wasteland,” English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 20.1 (1977), pp. 13-25.

  27. Stoker, Dracula, p. 211.

  28. Ibid., pp. 262-63.

  29. Carol L. Fry, in an otherwise perceptive article, suggests as the reason for the novel's success the “repressed sexuality” seen in the relationship of Dracula, Mina, and Lucy. “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula,Victorian Newsletter, Fall 1972, pp. 20-22.

  30. This pattern is noted, but is given a different interpretation, by Mark Kennelly in his “Dracula: The Gnostic Quest,” p. 17.

  31. Stoker, Dracula, pp. 264-65.

  32. Judith Wilt comments: “The ‘haunted castle’ is the [entire] planet, and the beat of special and dangerous mysteries in one continent calls forth its answer from another.” Ghosts of the Gothic, pp. 93-94.

  33. Stoker, Dracula, p. 411.

  34. Ibid., p. 416.

Ken Gelder (essay date 1994)

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SOURCE: Gelder, Ken. “Reading Dracula.” In Reading the Vampire, pp. 65-85. London: Routledge, 1994.

[In the following essay, Gelder elucidates various critical interpretations of Dracula.]

Few other novels have been read so industriously as Bram Stoker's Dracula. Indeed, a veritable ‘academic industry’ has built itself around this novel, growing exponentially in recent years and, in effect, canonising a popular novel which might otherwise have been dismissed as merely ‘sensationalist’. To enable its canonisation (a process to which this chapter contributes), Dracula has become a highly productive piece of writing: or rather, it has become productive through its consumption. To read this novel is to consume the object itself, Dracula, and, at the same time, to produce new knowledges, interpretations, different Draculas. Paul O'Flinn has noted, in his article on Mary Shelley's famous Gothic story, ‘There is no such thing as Frankenstein, there are only Frankensteins, as the text is ceaselessly rewritten, reproduced, refined and redesigned’ (O'Flinn, 1986, 197)—and it is tempting to go along with this view as far as critical readings of Dracula are concerned.

What we have with the many articles and books on Stoker's novel, then, is not one Dracula, but many Draculas, which compete with each other for attention in the academic/student marketplace. Of course, it may be that Dracula—the ‘original’ novel—also in part enables these many readerly productions to come into being. It is, after all, a textually dense narrative, written from a number of perspectives or ‘points of view’, which brings together a multiplicity of discursive fields—ethnography, imperialist ideologies, medicine, criminality, discourses of degeneration (and, conversely, evolution), physiognomy (facial features are described in detail in this novel), early modes of feminism, more entrenched modes of ‘masculinism’, occultism and so on. The productive nature of this novel may lie in the uneasy cohabitation of these various discursive fields and in the variability of their coding—it may undercode at times and overcode at others. At any rate, it seems that there is always more to be said about Dracula, always room for further interpretation and elaboration: this is a novel which seems (these days, especially) to generate readings, rather than close them down.

Some academic interpretations have already been noted—for example, Franco Moretti's reading of the vampire in Dracula as a figure for monopoly capital. But the keenest critical interest in the novel has centred around the topic of sexuality, and this will be the primary focus of this chapter. It is hardly a topic reserved for academic discussion alone, of course—the highly-charged sexual aura of the vampire (and, usually, his or her victims) has been the focus of numerous vampire films and of contemporary vampire fiction, too. Nevertheless, the academic investment in this topic is worth pursuing here in some detail. We shall also see that the readings produced here are post-imperialist; that is, for the most part, they work towards a problematisation of the conventional self/other or good/evil polarities in the novel—and more to the point, far from reproducing the ‘fear’ ascribed to Moretti's passive readers (a readerly position which must, to work, be thoroughly entrenched in imperialist ideology), they draw out the vampire's positive effects. The vampire is seen, in the readings that follow, as more of a symptom than a cause. That is, the vampire is to be redeemed—the problem lies, instead, with the upstanding heroes.


[Psychoanalysis] has been an important tool in recent critical accounts of vampire fiction and the topic of sexuality. Dracula itself draws liberally on psychoanalytic concepts, trading on their growing prominence in the popular mind. The novel was in fact published two years after Freud and Breuer's Studies in Hysteria (1895) and one year after the term ‘psychoanalysis’ was actually introduced. The doctors in this novel are themselves psychoanalysts of a kind, doctors of the brain or the mind. Dr Seward is investigating madness in the novel, recording his thoughts about the lunatic Renfield onto a phonograph—although Seward is on the whole psychoanalytically naive. More relevantly, Van Helsing practises hypnosis and admires ‘the great Charcot’ (Stoker, 1988, 191), whose death he laments. Van Helsing's interest in psychoanalysis is consistent with his tendency to believe in the unbelievable, to maintain an ‘open mind’: his claim that hypnosis ‘would have been deemed unholy’ (191) by less up-to-date scientists provides an interesting auto-critique of his own view of the ‘unholy’ vampire (is Van Helsing, then, not up-to-date with Dracula?).

I shall return briefly to the novel's treatment of hypnosis towards the end of the chapter. What is important to note here, however, is that the psychoanalytic concepts and allusions at work in the novel are actually never put to use as a means of analysing a character's sexuality—or, indeed, the sexuality of the vampire. That is, the extensive commentary on events by doctors or analysts like Van Helsing, which runs through the novel, nevertheless has nothing to say—in spite of its Freudian context—about anyone's sexual motivations. Since events in the narrative are so obviously driven by sexual motivations, this silence on behalf of the ‘paternal figures’ is surprising—although we need not put it down to ‘repression’, as some critics have done. In other words, Dracula overcodes sexuality at the level of performance, but undercodes it at the level of utterance. Critical analysis intervenes at this point, enabling these deafening silences to ‘speak’. This is one reason why the novel has been so productive as far as readings are concerned: there is so much to say about sexual motivation in Dracula precisely because the novel's own analysts have nothing to say about it whatsoever.

An early and influential psychoanalytic reading of the vampire's sexuality can be found in Ernest Jones's On The Nightmare (1929). Jones provides a Freudian reading which sees this particular monster as an indicator of ‘most kinds of sexual perversions’ (Jones, 1991, 398). The belief in vampires is, for Jones, a fantasy that returns to infantile sexual anxieties—this is where the more perverse forms of sexuality manifest themselves. In particular, an Oedipal blend of love and hate directed towards the parents—which leads to guilt—occurs in infancy, whereby one loves the mother, incestuously, and hates the father. The vampire may return as the father, evoking fear, or as the mother, in which case desire is evoked—or, indeed, both emotional attitudes may be projected simultaneously onto the vampire who then represents father and mother together. ‘Carmilla’ could certainly be read in terms of an incestuous desire for the mother, although for Jones the Oedipal relationship between vampire and victim is always heterosexually grounded, so that where there is a female vampire the victim must be male:

The explanation of these phantasies is surely not hard. A nightly visit from a beautiful or frightful being, who first exhausts the sleeper with passionate embraces and then withdraws from him a vital fluid: all this can point only to a natural and common process, namely to nocturnal emissions accompanied with dreams of a more or less erotic nature. In the unconscious mind blood is commonly an equivalent for semen, and it is not necessary to have recourse to the possibility of ‘wounds inflicted on oneself by scratching during a voluptuous dream’.


The vampire's ‘exhausting love embrace’ (411) is complicated by forms of sexual perversity which return to the primitive world of infantilism. The chief form is ‘oral sadism’—where sucking (love) turns into biting (hate).

Jones's reading is an attempt to demystify the vampire ‘superstition’, channelling it through the anxieties produced in familial relationships. He is aware of the contemporary tendency to ‘rationalise all superstitions’ (416) by explaining their ‘essentials’ away. His project, however, is to place familial anxieties at a deeper level than the superstition itself—so that, by demystifying the latter, he uncovers something even more mysterious in the realm of everyday life. We have seen the same kind of reading at work in the previous chapter with the Slovenian Lacanians, for whom vampirism exists not on its own terms, but as a means of evoking a horror much closer to home—and all the more unspeakable for that.


Several critics—including Franco Moretti—have taken up the taboo of incest in relation to Dracula. Moretti's chapter ‘Dialeectic of Fear’ is divided into two parts which in fact bear little clear relation to each other, a materialist reading, discussed in Chapter 1, and a psychosexual reading. In this second part, he draws on Marie Bonaparte to allegorise vampirism as an expression of the ‘ambivalent impulse of the child towards its mother’ (Moretti, 1988, 104). This ambivalence comes about because of the prohibition of incestuous desires. For Moretti, this prohibition is activated by turning the vampire into a man, as if it is somehow always essentially and originally female. This is where his ‘dialectic’ resides: horror narratives initialise tabooed desires and then repress them by shifting their significance elsewhere or hiding them out of sight. This reading is underwritten by Moretti's modernist disdain for mass culture: ‘The vampire’, he claims, ‘is transformed into a man by mass culture, which has to promote spontaneous certainties and cannot let itself plumb the unconscious too deeply’ (104). How this transformation is effected in the novel is never explained; more fundamentally, the novel's own complex association with ‘mass culture’, which I shall take up towards the end of this chapter, remains unaccounted for. And what about those vampire narratives in which the vampire is a woman—like ‘Carmilla’? It must be said that Moretti has it both ways in his (conventionally heterosexual) reading of the vampire's sexuality: for the allegory of incest to be acceptable, the vampire must always be essentially female—but when the victim is female, like Lucy, the incest paradigm is dropped for a heterosexual account of the liberated Victorian libido as it operates outside the family circle.

Certainly this tendency to maintain the incest paradigm in the face of the vampire's maleness causes all kinds of interpretive problems. James Twitchell's ‘The Vampire Myth’ (1980) provides one kind of resolution, maintaining the incest paradigm but foregrounding the father instead. He draws on Freud's Totem and Taboo (1912-13) to read the novel as enacting a version of the Girardian triangle discussed in the previous chapter, with Dracula as the ‘evil father’ who does battle with his sons over the body of the mother (Twitchell, 1988, 111). Richard Astle (1980) and Rosemary Jackson (1981) give similar readings—for Jackson, indeed, ‘any vampire myth’ is a ‘re-enactment of that killing of the primal father who has kept all the women to himself’ (Jackson, 1981, 119). The sons both identify with the father and fear him because they, too, desire the mother but know that such a desire is prohibited. For Twitchell, the sexual aspects of this arrangement are emphasised in vampire narratives (he seems mainly to have vampire films in mind) because—it is assumed—the audience are male adolescents. They experience ‘a masturbatory delight’ (113) in seeing the female seduced by the vampire—as if witnessing ‘the primal scene’ between parents (112). Twitchell, however, has some difficulty in explaining why female adolescents might also derive pleasure from the seduction scenes in vampire narratives. His account finally settles on a familiar gender distinction, where boys are active and sadistic, and girls are passive victims:

When the male audience interprets the action, the female represents his own displaced mother, virginal to him, who is being violated by his father, an ironic projection of his own self in the guise of the vampire. But when the adolescent female views the myth, she is the victim, virginal again, but now being swept through her ‘initiation’ by her gentle father—a father who must then disappear into the darkness, leaving her to other men and strange disappointments.


Phyllis A. Roth, in her article ‘Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula’ (1977), also sees the novel as enacting ‘the Oedipal rivalry among sons and between the son and the father for the affections of the mother’ (Roth, 1988, 60). However, for Roth a much more powerful and disturbing subtext cuts across this structure: the hatred of the mother. The novel allows the reader to identify with the aggressors and thus to accept their victimisation of women: matricidal desires motivate events more than patricidal desires. This reading is bolstered by collapsing Lucy and Mina together, as ‘essentially the same figure: the mother’ (62)—whereas, as we shall see shortly, other critics emphasise their differences. Nevertheless, Roth's argument is important for its refusal to accept the Freudian Oedipal paradigm outright, and for turning instead to a more appropriately feminist reading of gender relations in the novel. Her account of the novel's evocation of ‘the desire to destroy the threatening mother, she who threatens by being desirable’ (65) will be taken up by other feminist critics, discussed below.


Maurice Richardson, in his essay ‘The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories’ (1959)—part of which discusses Dracula—returns to Freud and notes an indebtedness to Ernest Jones's early work. The vampire, he says, takes us into ‘the unconscious world of infantile sexuality with what Freud called its polymorph perverse tendencies’ (Richardson, 1991, 418). Stoker's novel is ‘inclusive’ in this respect: it engages in ‘a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic, all-in wrestling match’ (418), whereby a sequence of perversions come into play and fold into each other—hence, the novel's ‘force’ (419) and its ability to produce a variety of interpretations. Richardson's analysis is on the whole fairly crude, however; it merely reinforces a view of Gothic popular fiction as sensationalist and out of control (so that Richardson doubts whether Stoker—for all the novel's many perversions—‘had any inkling of the erotic content of the vampire superstition’, 420). Nevertheless, it opens up a topic which other critics have since developed: the vampire's ‘polymorphous’ sexuality. It is here—rather than through incestuous structures—that taboos are broken. David Punter, in The Literature of Terror (1980), has emphasised the Gothic's involvement with taboo generally speaking. Although Punter identifies Gothic fiction as ‘a middle-class form’ (Punter, 1980, 421), he nevertheless sees it operating ‘on the fringe of the acceptable’ (410). For Punter, Dracula is ‘hard to summarise’ (262) for a number of reasons, some of which will be elaborated below. But the novel's power ‘derives from its dealings with taboo’ (262), since the vampire's function is to cross back and forth over boundaries that should otherwise be secure—the boundaries between humans and animals, humans and God, and, as an expression of its ‘polymorphous’ sexuality, man and woman.

Christopher Bentley's ‘The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker's Dracula’ (1972) also draws on Ernest Jones's study and notes that, by disguising the vampire's ‘perversions’ through the use of ‘symbolism’, the novel ensured its popularity—since an overt treatment of sexuality was prohibited. Bentley concentrates on the three scenes in the novel in which perverse or ‘polymorphous’ sexualities seem most manifest: the scene in Dracula's castle where Jonathan Harker is approached by three vampire women, the scene in which Arthur Holmwood drives a stake through Lucy's heart and the scene in which the Crew of Light break into Mina's bedroom and find her kneeling on the bed before Dracula and sucking blood from an open wound in his chest. Bentley goes along with Jones's connection between blood and semen, which helps to demystify the first scene. The second scene—and we have already encountered Slavoj Žižek's psychoanalytic account of it—is read conventionally as a means of bringing Lucy to orgasm through ‘phallic symbolism’ (Bentley, 1988, 30). The third scene is interpreted as ‘a symbolic act of enforced fellatio’ (29). However, this reading is complicated by the presence of a ‘thin open wound’ on Dracula's chest and Mina's blood-soaked nightdress. The latter—and Mina's cry that she is now ‘Unclean’—would suggest ‘ancient primitive fears of menstruation’ (29). The ‘thin open wound’ on Dracula's chest suggests ‘a cut or slit similar to the vaginal orifice’ (29)—a means, perhaps, of bringing Mina into contact with her own sexual cycle.

This point would appear to erase the former reading of ‘enforced fellatio’ and the equation between blood and semen; it draws attention instead to Mina as a menstruating girl—this is the taboo that is violated in this scene. Mina's bloodstained nightdress, and the ‘thin open wound’, might also signify her own defloration by Dracula. After all, the scene takes place in her bedroom, and Dracula's potency is contrasted with Jonathan Harker, who—in Dr Seward's first account of what happened—is lying beside her ‘breathing heavily as though in a stupor’ (Stoker, 1988, 281) and who had earlier complained of feeling ‘impotent’ (188). But Mina's account of the scene, given shortly afterwards, returns us to the ‘enforced fellatio’ reading:

he [Dracula] pulled open his shirt, and with his long sharp nails opened a vein in his breast. When the blood began to spurt out, he took my hands in one of his, holding them tight, and with the other seized my neck and pressed my mouth to the wound, so that I must either suffocate or swallow some of the—Oh, my God, my God! what have I done?


At the point of swallowing, Mina is unable to say the word ‘blood’—or rather, she allows the fluid at this moment to be appropriately unrepresented, making the space for its reading as semen.

[This] scene is—in Copjec's words—a ‘horrifyingly obscene moment’ in the novel. It is also particularly difficult to read. The problem lies primarily in the ways in which this scene is reported. There is no single authorial voice in the novel; rather, a number of characters (Harker, Mina, Dr Seward, Lucy) give their versions of what is happening using their own voices. The ‘polyphonic’ aspects of Dracula are one reason why it is—as Punter had noted—so difficult to summarise. One must account not only for what is being said, but who is saying it—and to whom. Moreover, a single event may be reported by different characters in different ways. As far as the scene with Mina and Dracula is concerned, it is reported three times: twice by Dr Seward and once by Mina. Van Helsing also offers a commentary on certain aspects of the scene. And, together, these various reports are in themselves enough to make what is happening at the very least ambiguous.

In her article ‘Women and Vampires: Dracula as a Victorian Novel’ (1977), Judith Weissman wonders who exactly had caused Harker's ‘stupor’ in the bedroom—Dracula, or Mina? Van Helsing's remark, that ‘Jonathan is in a stupor such as we know the Vampire can produce’ (Stoker, 1988, 283), is difficult to interpret because ‘he does not say which vampire produced this stupor’ (Weissman, 1988, 75). Mina is becoming a vampire at this point, and she, rather than Dracula, may be responsible for it: ‘Flushed and tired, Jonathan seems to have just had intercourse’ (75). Weissman doesn't explore the more obvious possibility of hypnosis—Harker is soon awoken by Van Helsing, leaping up ‘at the need for instant exertion’ (Stoker, 1988, 283). Nevertheless, her reading, which turns on Dracula's ability to make the women in the novel sexually insatiable (so that Mina simply exhausts Jonathan), has a certain appeal. In the light of it, it is difficult to agree with Anne Cranny-Francis's somewhat dismissive view of Mina, that her sexuality ‘has no expression; it is completely muted, neutered’ (Cranny-Francis, 1988, 71)!

A fuller reading of the ambiguities of the scene, however, is given in Philip Martin's essay, ‘The Vampire in the Looking-Glass: Reflection and Projection in Bram Stoker's Dracula’ (1988). Martin also sees Dracula as the ‘catalyst which awakens women's desire’ (Martin, 1988, 87); the novel sees ‘dangerous vampiric tendenc[ies]’ (87) lurking in all its female characters. For Martin, the scene involving Mina and Dracula is more of a seduction than a rape, and the evidence he gives for this centres on a crucial difference between Dr Seward's first and second account of what happened. In the first account, Seward positions Dracula and Mina in the following way: ‘With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker's hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom’ (Stoker, 1988, 282). In his second account—told to Van Helsing almost directly afterwards—Seward gives a very different account of Dracula's hands: ‘It interested me, even at that moment, to see that whilst the face of white set passion worked convulsively over the bowed head, the hands tenderly and lovingly stroked the ruffled hair’ (284). The first account sees Dracula as ‘sadistic’, while the second account sees him as ‘affectionate’. So why are they so different?

Martin returns to Freud and the family romance for an answer, reading Seward as a child who blunders into his parents' bedroom and discovers them in the act of intercourse. The ‘primal scene’ is read as a contradiction—he is hurting her/he is loving her—which the child cannot reconcile. Moreover, Dracula has mutilated himself in the process, opening a vein in his chest: it is even more difficult to reconcile affection with sado-masochistic sexual behaviour. It first seems as if Dracula is dominating Mina, as men conventionally dominate women; looking a second time, however, we see affection, not domination—and it is Dracula who is in pain, not Mina. The vampire crosses gender relations here, being simultaneously patriarchal (dominating, sadistic) and yet—producing the ‘thin open wound’—expressing ‘the sexuality that denies phallocentric power in its mutilation, taking on thereby the role of the women as conceived by the narrators’ (Martin, 1988, 90, my italics). The narrators see this perverse contradiction, but cannot give it interpretation: as I have noted above, they offer no analysis of the sexual behaviour they nonetheless bear witness to. It should be added, however, that this does not amount to the usual cliché of Victorian repression, as Moretti would have it. The narrators in Dracula do not obstruct investigation simply by remaining silent about such contradictions. Quite the opposite, in fact: for Martin, although the narrators cannot accurately read what they see (consequently ‘undercoding’ it), they nevertheless tentatively gesture towards a realisation of the ‘massive complexity of the libido’ (91).


The second perverse scene in Dracula—where Harker meets the three vampire women—has also led to a critical discussion of the complexity of the libido. It is the most sustained piece of erotic writing in the novel. Harker describes in great detail the approach of the women, their appearance, the way one of them leans over him ‘fairly gloating’, and—although his eyes are lowered—the way he looks voyeuristically up at her from ‘under the lashes’ (Stoker, 1988, 38). There are at least two moments in this scene which are textually undercoded. The first involves one of the vampire women, who Harker seems to recognise. She is the first to approach Harker: the others remark cryptically, ‘yours is the right to begin’ (38). More strikingly, while the other two women are dark-haired, she is ‘fair’: ‘The other was fair, as fair can be, with great, wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where’ (37).

Clive Leatherdale has offered some clues to this particular ‘puzzle’ in the novel. He rightly dismisses the possibility (entertained by Showalter, 1990, 180) that Harker may be thinking of ‘the arch-temptress Lucy’—Lucy is dark-haired—or that he may be projecting an erotic image of Mina (Leatherdale, 1985, 148). However, his own explanation is equally unlikely—namely, that Harker is recalling events described in Stoker's short story ‘Dracula's Guest’ (1914), where he sees a beautiful woman ‘with rounded cheeks and red lips’—Countess Dolingen of Gratz—sleeping on a bier (Stoker, 1990, 16). The connection here is too imprecise; moreover, it is doubtful that ‘Dracula's Guest’ was ever intended as part of Dracula itself.1 Leatherdale goes on to note that, because the two dark-haired vampire women are said to resemble Dracula, they are ‘probably his daughters’—and the fair-haired woman, who goes first, is ‘presumably their mother’ (Leatherdale, 1985, 149).

This interesting (although somewhat arbitrary) suggestion nevertheless does not account for Harker's recognition of her. Two other interpretations can briefly be noted here. The first, drawing on Freud's ‘The “Uncanny”’ once again, would return us to the Oedipal paradigm: Harker has in fact seen his own mother (who is otherwise absent from the novel). The combination of Harker's ‘dreamy fear’ and ‘delightful anticipation’ (Stoker, 1988, 38) would thus recall the incest taboo, evoking the child's love for his mother—and the prohibition of that love. Indeed, Harker's descriptions of the fair-haired vampire woman are always contradictory in this sense: for example, her breath is both ‘honey-sweet’ and tinged with ‘a bitter offensiveness, as one smells in blood’ (38). Of course, we have seen something similar to this arrangement in Le Fanu's ‘Carmilla’—where, interestingly enough, Carmilla also has ‘golden hair and blue eyes’ (Le Fanu, 1988, 86). Harker's recognition of her may even be a kind of in-house vampiric allusion (Stoker knew Le Fanu's story well).2 The point is, however, that in both stories the fair-haired vampire women signal the (sexual) return of the mother. By intervening, Dracula—the ‘evil father’?—thus serves a moral purpose similar to Laura's father and the ‘paternal figures’ in Le Fanu's story: he prevents the incest taboo from being violated.

A second—and not unrelated—interpretation would draw on Harker's diary entries just before the scene takes place. Harker has gone to a room in Dracula's castle which ‘was evidently … occupied in bygone days’ (35). It has—for the otherwise anxious Harker—‘an air of comfort’ (35). As he sits down at a table and begins to write in his diary, he imagines who might have written there before him: ‘in old times possibly some fair lady sat to pen, with much thought and many blushes, her ill-spelt love-letter’ (36). Harker is led both to contrast and to connect his own modern shorthand diary entries with this earlier moment of writing: ‘It is nineteenth century up-to-date with a vengeance. And yet, unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have powers of their own which mere “modernity” cannot kill’ (36). Writing in this context helps to restore Harker's sanity: he notes, in a sentence which has interesting sexual overtones, ‘The habit of entering accurately must help to soothe me’ (36). Finally, he decides to sleep in the room, ‘where of old ladies had sat and sung and lived sweet lives whilst their gentle breasts were sad for their menfolk away in the midst of remorseless wars’ (37). Harker's image of the ‘fair lady’ certainly reproduces conventional male views of the woman writer—confined, submissive, emotional, defining themselves through the absence of men—and poor spellers! A maternal influence seems to be operating on Harker; he is comforted by the room, soothed by these ‘old’ thoughts, and so on. But he also identifies with the image he projects, imprisoned as he is inside Dracula's castle with only his diary for company—and through that identification, he, too, is feminised.

That is, Harker becomes the ‘fair lady’ he imagines to have inhabited the room before him. In this context, his recognition of the fair-haired vampire woman—‘in connection with some dreamy fear’—amounts to self-recognition. Certainly, at one level, the experience with the vampire amounts to a masturbatory fantasy stimulated by the image of the blushing lady and her love-letters—something akin to Jones's description of ‘nocturnal emissions’. At another level, however, it involves an ‘uncanny’ structure where a familiar image (of the self, of the mother; of woman) becomes, suddenly, unfamiliar: the submissive ‘fair lady’ of Harker's reverie now becomes an aggressive fair-haired vampire. Or rather, the two are simultaneously figured through Harker himself—who, as the fair-haired vampire woman leans over him, maintains a submissive, feminised position beneath her.


The second undercoded moment in this complicated scene occurs after Dracula intervenes—with the exclamation, ‘This man belongs to me!’ (39). The fair-haired vampire turns to Dracula with the accusation, ‘You yourself never loved; you never love!’—and Dracula, after looking ‘attentively’ at Harker's face, replies in ‘a soft whisper’, ‘Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past’ (39). The scene closes with Dracula giving the vampire women a bag containing ‘a half-smothered child’ (39)—upon which they presumably feed (although this, too, is undercoded). Shortly afterwards, Harker sees the child's mother calling for her child (she mistakes Harker for Dracula); but when she is torn to pieces by Dracula's wolves, he considers that, given what has happened to her child, she is ‘better dead’ (45).

Several critics have turned their attention to these latter events, looking at the connection between sexually aggressive women and ‘bad mothers’. For Anne Cranny-Francis—because of the association of blood-sucking and intercourse—the vampire women subject the child to sexual as well as physical violence: they are not only ‘homicidal maniacs’, but ‘child molesters’ (Cranny-Francis, 1988, 66). The point is confirmed later on in the novel when Lucy becomes a vampire. As the ‘bloofer lady’, she reputedly lures children away from Hampstead Heath and bites their necks—although at least one child enjoys the experience. Later, the Crew of Light see her clutching a sleeping (and possibly dreaming) ‘fair-haired child’ (Stoker, 1988, 210), which—when she sees Arthur—she throws to the ground. We should note, however, that the vampire women's behaviour is always represented to us by men. It is Harker who suggests that—after her child has been taken—the mother is ‘better dead’. And Dr Seward judges Lucy as ‘cold-blooded’ in her treatment of the sleeping child. The point is taken up by Thomas B. Byers, in his article ‘Good Men and Monsters: The Defenses of Dracula’ (1981). Byers claims that the men in the novel not only fear aggressively sexual women; by constructing them as ‘bad mothers’, they also project onto them their own dependencies upon children—and upon themselves. That is, the men in the novel invent sexually aggressive women as ‘bad mothers’ as a way of disguising their own ‘male dependency needs’ (Byers, 1988, 150).

Byers is one of several critics who sees the Crew of Light—Van Helsing, Dr Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris—as unstable and vulnerable, held together homosocially by ‘needs’ they cannot properly identify except through the anxiety-ridden ‘supernaturalising’ of the vampire. Perhaps only Dracula gives this topic expression, in his remark to the vampire women, ‘This man belongs to me!’ The fair-haired vampire woman's accusation—‘You yourself never loved; you never love!’—would seem bitterly to evoke Dracula's own inadmissible ‘male dependency needs’: he does not need them. But Dracula has in fact just admitted that he needs Harker. This admission—and, of course, the vampire woman's accusation—would suggest that Dracula is homosexual. The vampire women burst into ‘mirthless, hard, soulless laughter’ (39) when the accusation is made. Dracula, on the other hand, speaks softly, staring ‘attentively’ at Harker. His reply to the women does not reconcile his sexuality in any way—it certainly does not suggest that he was once their lover, only that they ‘can tell’ that he is (or has been) capable of loving in one way or another.

The sexualities evoked in this scene are discussed in Christopher Craft's essay, ‘“Kiss Me with Those Red Lips”: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula’ (1990). Craft notes Harker's ‘feminine’ passivity here as he ‘awaits a delicious penetration from a woman whose demonism is figured as the power to penetrate’ (Craft, 1989, 218). Dracula intervenes at precisely this point, claiming Harker for himself just as penetration begins. For Craft, the novel never again represents so directly ‘a man's desire to be penetrated’ (220); nonetheless, it ‘does not dismiss homoerotic desire and threat; rather it simply continues to diffuse and displace it’ (220). Craft returns to a version of the ‘erotic triangle’, as discussed in the previous chapter—where men can touch each other only through the woman. Lucy's suitors—Dr Seward, Quincey and Arthur—bond together by transfusing their blood into her body. The Crew of Light stabilises itself by expelling Mina—for a while, at least. In order to stabilise the group homosocially, however, homoerotic desire cannot be represented directly. It is ‘there’, all the same, inhabiting ‘normal’ behaviour, ‘inverting’ it. That is, the novel channels homoerotic desire through heterosexual relations—and because of this, those relations are always figured as excessive or ‘monstrous’. A tension arises between the pull towards homoeroticism and the need to stabilise heterosexual relations between men and women—where the imagining of ‘mobile desire as monstrous’ leads always to ‘a violent correction of that desire’ (224) and the restoration of conventional (heterosexual) gender differences.

It is doubtful whether the two perverse scenes discussed so far work in this way: they seem, to me at least, too undercoded, and (since both scenes are interrupted) incomplete—necessarily so, to preserve the undercoding. The ‘mobile desires’ at work in these scenes are never violently ‘corrected’, only curtailed. The scene Craft has in mind, however, certainly does support his case. It is the third perverse scene in our sequence, a scene which is not interrupted—it is described right through to the end—and which is, by contrast, overcoded: its meaning is too obvious. That scene is the killing of the vampire Lucy.


I have already presented this scene in the previous chapter, along with Slavoj Žižek's commentary on it. Žižek is not interested in gender relations; for Craft, however, the description of Arthur Holmwood hammering the stake into Lucy's body is the novel's ‘most … misogynist moment’ (230). Anne Cranny-Francis agrees: ‘[t]he scene in which Lucy is killed is one of the most brutal and repulsive in the book’ (Cranny-Francis, 1988, 68). Carol A. Senf suggests that the scene ‘resembles nothing so much as the combined group rape and murder of an unconscious woman’ (Senf, 1988, 100). For Elaine Showalter, ‘[t]he sexual implications of this scene are embarrassingly clear’: like Senf, she reads the killing, where the Crew of Light use such an ‘impressive phallic instrument’, as ‘gang rape’ (Showalter, 1990, 181).3 This is where the feminist backlash against Dracula coheres: following Phyllis A. Roth's argument, outlined above, these and other critics (for example, Dijkstra, 1986) see the novel as acting out a hatred towards sexually independent women typical of misogynist fin-de-siècle culture. For Stoker—according to this account—women, rather than Dracula, are the central horror in the novel: the vampire is simply the means by which that horror can be realised.

Feminist critics have thus analysed the ways in which women are both unleashed and contained, or constrained, in Dracula. Before she is visited by Dracula, for example, Lucy reveals through her letters to Mina that she already has a sexual ‘appetite’—as if her transformation into a vampire later on simply makes manifest what was privately admitted between friends. In an often-quoted passage, written after she turns down Dr Seward and Quincey's proposals of marriage in favour of Holmwood, Lucy remarks: ‘Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it’ (Stoker, 1988, 59). For Gail B. Griffin, Lucy is a ‘carnal woman’ who must be—and is—punished (Griffin, 1988, 144). Before her punishment takes place, however, Lucy's ‘heresy’ is acted out in a highly-charged sequence of scenes, when Dr Seward, Arthur Holmwood, Quincey and Van Helsing each transfuse their blood into Lucy's ailing body. Van Helsing makes the connection between the blood transfusions and marriage (and intercourse) clear, remarking on Holmwood's observation that—with his blood inside Lucy's body—she was ‘truly his bride’ (Stoker, 1988, 176). Van Helsing's subsequent comments, made with the kind of hollow laughter we had seen from the vampire women, are particularly revealing:

If so that, then what about the others? Ho, ho! Then this so sweet maid is a polyandrist, and me, with my poor wife dead to me, but alive by Church's law, though no wits, all gone—even I, who am faithful husband to this now no-wife, am bigamist.


The passage makes the sexual nature of the transfusions explicit: the men each become Lucy's lovers and husbands, pouring their bodily fluids into her. Critics have not commented on Van Helsing's account of his own wife, however. Is she mad? Perhaps like Rochester's wife Bertha in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), who, incidentally, is inscribed at one point as a vampire, a ‘foul German spectre’ (Brontë, 1984, 311). More to the point, has Van Helsing driven her mad? The only other character with ‘no wits’ in the novel is Renfield, who is metonymically connected to Dracula. The passage is one of a small number which gives an insight to life after marriage in the novel: while the husband goes off to kill vampires, the wife remains at home like one of the undead, ‘dead to me, but alive …’.

Mina also confesses to an excess of sexual desire, writing in her journal that she and Lucy, together, ‘would have shocked the “New Woman” with our appetites’ (Stoker, 1988, 88). The ‘New Woman’ was a designation for the late-Victorian feminist—unmarried, sexually independent, career-minded. Thomas Hardy had dealt with this figure through Sue Bridehead in Jude the Obscure (1895), published two years before Dracula. Elaine Showalter (1990) provides a good account of representations of the ‘New Woman’ in the 1880s and 1890s, noting in particular the misogyny directed towards this figure—categorised as ‘nervous’, anarchic, disruptive. In her journal, Mina shows her familiarity with ‘New Woman’ writers—the literary representation was, by this time, generic—when she thinks, significantly enough, about how attractive Lucy is when she is sleeping:

Some of the ‘New Woman’ writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the New Woman won't condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself. And a nice job she will make of it, too! There's some consolation in that.

(Stoker, 1988, 89)

Anne Cranny-Francis argues that Mina always accepts ‘patriarchal ideology’ and remains ‘sexually passive, submissive, receptive’ (Cranny-Francis, 1988, 72). Unlike Roth, who sees both Lucy and Mina as essentially mothers, Cranny-Francis polarises the two heroines through their sexuality: Lucy is ‘sexually aggressive’, while Mina accepts conventional notions of sexual normality. The above passage, however, would seem to complicate matters: Mina can even outdo the ‘New Woman’ in her evocation of female sexual independence. The problem with Cranny-Francis's reading of events in Dracula is that, like Moretti, she relies on a somewhat conventional notion of repression as the fundamental driving force behind events—and this, in turn, relies upon the assumption that ‘patriarchal ideology’ in the novel (which does the repressing) is always coherent. David Glover has shown, however, that ‘patriarchal ideology’ in Dracula is in fact incoherent enough even to be fissured by moments of ‘feminisation’, through Harker's breathless passivity in the scene with the vampire women, or—to give another example—through Van Helsing's unpredictable ‘male hysteria’ (Glover, 1992, 995).

A number of critics have suggested that, at any rate, Stoker enables us to see ‘patriarchal ideology’ acting itself out in Dracula—and by seeing it, we are allowed to critique it, determine its limits, comprehend its ‘lack of moral vision’ (Senf, 1988, 96), its vulnerability (Byers, 1988, 150), and so on. Cranny-Francis also allows for this kind of recognition; her claim, however, is that ‘the socially/psychologically/politically repressive apparatus of late-nineteenth-century British bourgeois ideology’ is powerful enough to ‘resolve’ or ‘neutralise’ whatever contradictions have been raised along the way (Cranny-Francis, 1988, 78). My own view is that although the novel does resolve itself to some degree at the end, there are crucial spaces in the text—such as the perverse scenes discussed above—in which irresolution and ambiguity (or, indeed, ‘queerness’) prevail. Mina herself may be one of these unresolved or ambiguous ‘spaces’: she can be maternal (as Roth has it), passive and submissive (as Cranny-Francis reads her) and yet also sexually independent and ‘in touch’ with feminist thinking. Furthermore, as noted above, she shares the most intimate moment with Dracula himself—a moment she repudiates soon afterwards in front of Van Helsing and the others, certainly, but which also allows her to feel (as no other character does) ‘pity’ for the vampire whose blood she has tasted and who she is now helping to destroy.


William Veeder begins his excellent Foreword to Margaret L. Carter's collection of essays, Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics (1988), by wondering where academic criticism of the novel will go next—in the 1990s. He locates three possible areas of study for Dracula critics: the political context, including the novel's connections to imperialism and racism and its representations of class differences; psychoanalytic and feminist approaches, … and close studies of the novel's form, paying particular attention to textual ‘details’. This third area of study would be particularly important to the on-going history of this novel's canonisation. Veeder himself takes it up by turning our attention to a number of minor characters in Dracula, usually ignored by critics—looking at how they problematise reader's assumptions about relationships. … Veeder draws attention to Mrs Canon and Mrs Westenra, two more ‘bad mothers’ in the novel, wondering why it is, for example, that Mrs Westenra (whose health declines, with Lucy's, at the arrival of Dracula) removes the garlic from Lucy's room (Stoker, 1988, 133)—and why, when she sees the head of a wolf at Lucy's window, does she accidentally-on-purpose strip the wreath of flowers away from her daughter's neck (143)? Lucy is quite literally oppressed by her mother in this latter scene; so much so, that Veeder is led to consider whether Mrs Westenra is ‘unconsciously in league with Dracula’ (Veeder, 1988, xiv).

Veeder points to another aspect of family life in Dracula which is also worth noting: all the fathers or father-figures—Mr Hawkins, Lord Godalming, Mr Westenra, Mr Swales—die relatively early in the novel. In the light of this, it is difficult to talk about ‘patriarchy’; indeed, the vulnerability of the Crew of Light is heightened precisely because there are no fathers urging them on, as there was in ‘Carmilla’. Harker, for example, ‘begins to doubt himself’ after Mr Hawkins's death (Stoker, 1988, 157)—and not for the first time. Of course, in some of the readings outlined above, Dracula himself is a father-figure—the ‘evil father’ or ‘primal father’—in which case, the novel acts out a battle against ‘patriarchy’ by a group of men we might, as the novel goes on, better designate as ‘paternal’: less threatening, more able to negotiate with women, even to draw on their skills. It may be that the Crew of Light are ‘patriarchal’ with Lucy and ‘paternal’ with Mina. Certainly, some profound changes take place in male-female relations as the novel shifts its focus from one woman to the other.

Several critics have—directly or indirectly—responded to Veeder's challenge, drawing all three specified areas of study together to provide sophisticated readings of events in the novel. These readings generally centre on Mina who, far from being dismissed as ‘passive’ or ‘maternal’, is retrieved as—among other things—a figure for modernity, the most modern character in the novel. In her article ‘Writing and Biting in Dracula’ (1990), Rebecca A. Pope4 turns away from Cranny-Francis's ‘repressive hypothesis’—which had seen ‘patriarchy’ in the novel as coherent, and had accordingly read events through its supposedly dominant voice—to account for the novel instead in Bakhtinian terms, as a patchwork of voices and textualities which play off against one another. In short, the novel is ‘polyphonic’: there is, as I have already noted, not one dominant voice running through it, but many voices. Pope turns to the word ‘vamp’, which has two meanings in the OED: an alluring woman who exploits men, and—interestingly enough—a ‘patched-up article’ or improvised (usually musical) piece. The latter meaning might well describe the novel itself, with its ‘spectacular array of speakers and genres’ and ‘flaunted textuality’, bringing together ‘so many languages, literal and metaphorical—“languages” of gender, class, and ethnicity’ (Pope, 1990, 199, 200).

Pope focusses on what Lucy and Mina have to say in the novel—in particular, what they have to say to each other. Lucy's letters to Mina, imparting intimate ‘secrets’ (Stoker, 1988, 55), are an example of writing by women for women. They evoke ‘wish-formations’ which transgress male prohibitions (such as the desire to marry three men). Her letters also connect her to previously ‘misread’ women in literature, such as Desdemona—it is interesting in this context that she compares her American suitor, Quincey Morris, to Othello (57). Pope also comments on the scene where Harker—in the ‘comforting’ room in Dracula's castle—imagines how, long ago, blushing women would write love-letters to their men-folk. For Pope, Harker thinks his own modern mode of writing has displaced ‘female passion’—but it returns with a vengeance soon afterwards, with the vampire women. The scene is important in the context of Pope's reading of the novel, since she claims that Dracula calls up a ‘tradition’ of women writers (Mina's ‘New Woman’ writers, for example) which constantly destabilises ‘patriarchy’. Mina is particularly important here, a textual ‘knitter and weaver’ in the tradition of Arachne and—when she is silenced, excluded from the Crew of Light—Philomela. Nevertheless, her ‘vamping’—where, with her typewriter and copying facilities, she records everything and arranges it ‘in chronological order’ (Stoker, 1988, 255)—enables disparate documents (for example, Dr Seward's phonograph) to ‘speak’, and even to say more than they might otherwise have meant to (but still, perhaps, not enough). At the same time, however, her own writings are overseen by Van Helsing: women are under surveillance in this novel, ‘marked’ by them (although the men may ‘misread’ what they see). But the relationship is, as I have suggested, always unstable; at the very least, the dialogue between women's writing and men's writing enables Stoker to display—rather than to conceal—‘the strategies patriarchy uses to sustain itself’ (Pope, 1990, 210). Men do have the final word in the novel, cohering as a group through ‘little Quincey’ and through Mina's closing domestication. But the ‘Bakhtinian framework’ in Dracula should by now have made us ‘suspicious of master discourses and “final words”’ (214): the end of the novel is particularly fragile in this respect, not least because it is—as I have suggested in Chapter 1 with regard to Harker's closing disclaimer about the ‘authenticity’ of the documents—by no means secure about its status as writing.

The reading of Dracula which sees it as a ‘patchwork’ of voices, or ‘discourses’, is extended in two fascinating articles, Jennifer Wicke's ‘Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media’ (1992) and Friedrich Kittler's ‘Dracula's Legacy’ (1989). The latter article has already been mentioned in Chapter 1. The key issue for these critics is precisely the kind of anxiety Harker expresses over ‘authenticity’, an anxiety (not entirely unrelated to Copjec's use of the term) which is seen as appropriately modern. Wicke's title comes out of her interest in Mina's professionalisation as a typist and stenographer, skills which modernise Mina, who already has a career as an assistant schoolmistress (Stoker, 1988, 55). In fact, Mina is embedded in modern technological forms. She is, among other things, a ‘train fiend’, memorising railway schedules. Later, she expresses her gratitude to ‘the man who invented the “Traveller's” typewriter’ (350), which she uses to record all that happens as the Crew of Light pursue Dracula back to Transylvania. Mina also learns how to use Dr Seward's phonograph, producing typewritten transcriptions by listening to the phonographic cylinders—and thus enabling Seward and the others to access information efficiently. With her Remington typewriter's ‘Manifold’ function, she can make up to three copies, a fact that is crucial to the Crew of Light's cause when Dracula burns the phonographic cylinders and what he assumes is the only copy of Mina's manuscript. She is certainly very different to Harker's archaic fantasy of blushing women writing ‘ill-spelt’ love-letters to their husbands! This may in fact explain why Mina never actually becomes a vampire—she has, as it were, an alternative profession. Kittler puts her modernity into context, noting that Remington brought the first mass-produced typewriter onto the market in 1871 (Kittler, 1989, 155). By the early 1880s, a ‘bureaucratic revolution’ had taken place which tied transcription and copying skills to the professionalisation—even, the ‘emancipation’—of women (155-6). Van Helsing praises Mina at one point for her ‘man's brain’ (Stoker, 1988, 234), as if, through her various modern skills, she crosses gender boundaries (her ‘heart’, however, remains for Van Helsing resolutely female). Kittler makes a similar point—elaborating on Pope's view of Mina as both a ‘weaver’ of texts and as textually ‘marked’ by the men around her—by noting that women's entry into the age of mechanical reproduction did away with conventional male/female divisions:

machines remove from the two sexes the symbols which distinguish them. In earlier times, needles created woven materials in the hands of women, and quills in the hands of authors created another form of weaving called text. Women who gladly became the paper for these scriptorial quills, were called mothers. Women who preferred to speak themselves were called overly sensitive or hysterical. But after the symbol of male productivity was replaced by a machine, and this machine was taken over by a woman, the production of texts had to forfeit its wonderful heterosexuality.

(Kittler, 1989, 161-2)

It is Mina's work, of course, which gives rise to Harker's closing anxiety: ‘there is hardly one authentic document! nothing but a mass of typewriting’ (Stoker, 1988, 378). In the context of Kittler's argument, Harker may be expressing an anxiety about the loss of his (‘authentic’) masculinity in a ‘new age’ of mechanised textual (re)production. Nevertheless, it is difficult to agree that, through her role as a secretary to the Crew of Light, Mina somehow transcends her inscribed femininity. I would say that gender roles are destabilised here, but not done away with altogether. Kittler's conclusion, that Dracula is essentially ‘the written account of our bureaucratisation’ (164), simply ignores the relentless gendering that feminist critics have rightly drawn attention to. This can have banal consequences in an otherwise exhilarating sequence of arguments—for example, he reads the scene where Mina sucks the blood from Dracula's bosom as indicating ‘nothing more than the flow of information’ (167). Although they are both influenced by Lacan, Kittler's reading of this scene is about as far away from Joan Copjec's—discussed in the previous chapter—as it is possible to be! On the whole, he sees Mina as petty-bourgeois, utilising modern ‘weapons’ to reduce the threat of the Other through ‘the gathering of information’ (162). But this account effaces the perverse forces of desire at work in the novel; it simply replaces one ‘repressive hypothesis’ (the conventionally feminist view that ‘patriarchal ideology’ wins the day) with another.

Wicke, however, maintains the connection in Dracula between modern forms of mass production and female desire. Like Kittler, she notes that—by incorporating such things as stenography and typewriting and copying—the novel thematises ‘the bureaucratisation of writing’ (Wicke, 1992, 471). But other forms of mass production, or mass circulation, are brought into play. The novel includes a number of newspaper reports, often collected by Mina and included in her journal. It becomes clear that the novel's action actually depends upon such examples of ‘mass-produced testimony’ (474), which Wicke sees as just as authentic and authoritative as any other ‘voice’ in the text.5 The Westminster Gazette's account of the ‘bloofer lady’, for example, alerts the Crew of Light to Lucy's afterlife: her ‘tabloidisation’ (474) is necessary for events to go forward. The various newspaper reports help to realise the ‘narrative patchwork’ effect which Pope had earlier described (Wicke also uses this term); the democratisation of ‘voices’ in Dracula comes about precisely because of the various mass medias the novel pulls together.

But because it is a novel, Dracula represents those mass medias ‘hysterically’, and it does this primarily by associating them with women. Wicke's train of association here recalls Andreas Huyssen's argument in his essay ‘Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism's Other’, mentioned briefly in Chapter 2. Rather than looking at mass (re)production, as Kittler had, Wicke's account of mass cultural forms focusses on consumption. The consumer of mass culture is, as Huyssen had noted, feminised—represented from the masculine, ‘modernist’ perspective as passive or submissive, vulnerable to mass culture, and yet shown also to possess an ‘appetite’ that can never be satiated. Consumption in the novel is an obsession which leads to madness, as illustrated in the novel through the lunatic Renfield. Or rather, it leads to vampirism: the ‘icon’ for consumerism here is, of course, Dracula himself. He ‘comprises the techniques of consumption’ (Wicke, 1992, 475), working through the most receptive characters—Lucy, in particular—who, like Renfield, become obsessive, deranged, uncontrollable (both Lucy and Renfield are ritualistically killed, in not dissimilar ways). An ‘ancient’ monster is thus used to signify the dangers of the modern world; Stoker's novel is really coming to grips with the latter, rather than the former. Wicke charts Dracula's metaphorical connection to the various mass cultural forms present in the novel (mechanised forms of reproduction—Dracula also replicates, producing copies of himself; the photographic image—Harker uses a Kodak; the telegraph; consumable mass medias and so on), drawing out their shared ‘protean’ features and highlighting their ability to ‘circulate’ freely. Indeed, she echoes Marx's equally ‘hysterical’ characterisation of mass media, noted in Chapter 1, as driven by ‘irresistible forces’ to spread relentlessly across the globe. But this internationalisation hides the true destination of mass cultural forms: the home. In this kind of representation, vampiric mass medias enter the domestic scene, and women invariably let them in, surrendering to their overwhelming powers of seduction: ‘The vampire yokes himself to the feminine because the mass cultural creeps in on little female feet, invades the home and turns it inside out …’ (479).

Wicke emphasises the different treatment given to Lucy and Mina in the novel. When Mina is ‘vamped’, the ‘textual investment shifts’ (484). Whereas Lucy's ‘appetite’ was her main feature—making her a passive consumer, acted on rather than acting—Mina's mode of consumption is, paradoxically, more productive. The perverse scene with Dracula perhaps testifies to this: more than Lucy, she is engaged in vampirism, consciously reciprocating (whereas Lucy is always taken in her sleep). She becomes, as the novel goes on, ‘more and more the author of the text’ (485), collating texts, coordinating events, giving out information. Perhaps her hypnosis by Van Helsing towards the end of the novel would seem to argue against this reading. After all, hypnosis usually involves the female patient's subjection to the male doctor, where he literally places her under his control. Freud and Breuer had seen hypnosis as the means by which the hysterical woman relays information—which she does not ‘know’—to someone who is able to transform it into knowledge. That is, it reproduces the polarisation of passive female and active, knowing male, which would see the latter as authorial, rather than the former.6

Yet, in the hypnosis scene in Dracula, Mina is by no means under Van Helsing's control—quite the opposite. She is in possession of events, speaking of what she sees to Van Helsing—who is otherwise ignorant of Dracula's whereabouts. For Kittler, Mina's hypnosis is another metaphorical representation of a modern technology: relaying back images of Dracula's ship, she works like a ‘sensor or radio transmitter’ (Kittler, 1989, 169), turning noise (since she cannot see anything) into information. Wicke's point, however, has more to do with Mina's active role in the novel: the hypnosis scene shows her to be ‘productive in her consumptive possession’ (Wicke, 1992, 486), responsible, ultimately, for guiding the others to Dracula. That is, Mina is ‘the consumed woman whose consumption is a mode of knowledge’ (486). This is not to say, in opposition to a critic like Cranny-Francis, that Mina is therefore subversive to ‘patriarchal domination’—not least because, for Wicke, ‘there is no definable patriarchy available’ in the novel (487). Rather, it is to show that—through Mina—the novel traces a more complicated relationship between consumption and production than had hitherto been noted.

Wicke had taken Mina as, increasingly, a figure for the author in the novel; the novel, we might note, describes Dracula himself as ‘the author of all this’ (Stoker, 1988, 217). Wicke's claim, however, presents problems for her argument about the democratisation of ‘voices’ in Dracula—where, as an indication of its modernness, no single author-figure is privileged over any other, and where authority and authenticity are dispersed rather than concentrated. I would rather see Mina as a figure for the reader, or rather, as a hybrid figure who comes to confuse the two together. This chapter began by noting that readers, while consuming this novel, have nevertheless also produced it in various ways. In this ‘new age’, consumption is never just consumption; it always entails the production of new knowledges, new interpretations, new texts. The ‘investment’ here is mutual. To use Harker's words, an ‘ever-widening circle’ (Stoker, 1988, 51) of consumed and consuming texts is produced, and—as far as Dracula itself is concerned—there is still no sign that it is coming to an end. Indeed, it is difficult not to invoke the novel's own metaphor of vampirism in this respect; Wicke herself does this by noting that Dracula's evocation of mass culture's seductive ‘embrace’ has ensured its own entry into the vampirish domain of mass cultural forms—where production and consumption have become inseparable. The novel is ‘like’ a vampire in that it folds the productive author and the consuming reader into each other; the ‘perversity’ of Dracula lies precisely in the mingling of their fluids.


  1. Christopher Frayling argues persuasively that ‘Dracula's Guest’ is a ‘freestanding story’, rather than a discarded earlier chapter from the novel. Certainly there is little connection between events in the story and events in the novel. See Frayling (1991, 351-3), for an account of ‘Dracula's Guest’, which was not published until 1914.

  2. See Leatherdale (1985, 59, 88), for an account of the influence of Le Fanu's ‘Carmilla’ on Stoker—who had originally set Dracula in Styria.

  3. Van Helsing may have ejaculated prematurely, in Jennifer Wicke's reading of an earlier scene (Wicke, 1992, 483). The novel describes him leaning over Lucy's coffin, holding his candle ‘so … that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal’ (Stoker, 1988, 197). The reference is to sperm whale oil—but the sexual aspects of the description cannot go unnoticed.

  4. I am grateful to Ken Ruthven for drawing my attention to this article.

  5. Jim Collins gives a different reading, arguing that ‘the act of writing and compiling a manuscript’ is privileged in Dracula over and above any other kind of testimony: see Collins (1989, 87-9). For Collins, those other testimonies each ‘fall miserably short’ of the truth; writing, by contrast, not only accounts for the strange events, but enables the authors to survive them. The novel thus legitimates itself as a novel, while other modes of reportage are discredited. Collins's argument, however, does not notice the problem of authenticity in the novel—which is bound up with the very means by which writing in the ‘new age’ is produced. The point is that ‘writing’ is no longer what it was; even when the novel closes, there is still the remaining anxiety that nothing in the text can be verified.

  6. For a good account of hypnosis and Freudian psychoanalysis, see Borch-Jacobsen (1989, 92-110).

Stephan Schaffrath (essay date spring 2002)

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SOURCE: Schaffrath, Stephan. “Order-versus-Chaos Dichotomy in Bram Stoker's Dracula.Extrapolation 43, no. 1 (spring 2002): 98-112.

[In the following essay, Schaffrath analyzes Stoker's use of the order-versus-chaos dichotomy in Dracula.]

This paper pursues two goals. The first goal is to present evidence that shows that much of the critical readings that have been done on Dracula can be summarized under the concept of an order-versus-chaos dichotomy, a bipolar mental construct that permeates the entire novel. The second goal is to show that this order-versus-chaos dichotomy in Dracula does not function simply in the same ways that a good-versus-bad dichotomy would make a clean split into favorable and unfavorable characters and elements in a text. The order-versus-chaos dichotomy as it is used in Dracula makes apparent the interdependence and complementation of order and chaos. Then, in a sense, this order-versus-chaos dichotomy is not really a dichotomy but rather a relationship between order and chaos that rests on mutual dependence. Even though the text draws much energy from a fierce struggle between order and chaos in the surface narrative, a closer analysis of the text shows that the boundaries between order and chaos are indeed not only blurred but drawn subjectively by the author's highly perceptive understanding of his society and the human condition in general. With Dracula, Stoker did not only create a classic piece of literature that is highly entertaining, but also a very shrewd analysis of humanity.

The analysis of an order-versus-chaos dichotomy in Dracula is significant to critical research about this novel because the struggle between order and chaos does not only provide a basis for the suspense in the text, but it also reveals the thinking model or paradigm on which Dracula is based. This thinking model of an order-versus-chaos struggle is symptomatic for much of Western literature, I would argue. To give an example from more recent times, one might even say that the current postmodern movement is mostly a struggle against the order of the modern movement by use of evidence that shows the relativity (perhaps a euphemism for chaos) of everything in contrast to an absolutist thinking that presupposes the existence of an intrinsic and absolute order (something more symptomatic of the “Modern Movement”). Still, even postmodern thinkers cannot exist without a certain order in their lives and must therefore compromise their philosophical allegiance to relativity and chaos with the tolerance of some artificial, structured, planned, and constructed ideas in their lives. Likewise do those who believe in an intrinsically ordered universe have to make do with the occurrences of unexplainable or unordered phenomena. One example would be the anguish some people derive from the existence of millions of years old fossilized plants and animals, when their world is supposedly only six thousand years old.

This point leads back to Dracula. In this novel, there are exactly those that believe in an ordered, safe, and explainable world, namely the English. Once the Englishman Jonathan Harker embarks on a journey to a world in which very little seems to happen in an ordered fashion, where no one is safe, and where things just happen without clear explanations, the story's plot is afoot. The novel would be nothing like it is, if Dracula were a mere mortal who just happened to be cruel to people because he couldn't deal with the trauma of never having been breast-fed as a baby. The very fact that Dracula is a supernatural being of the kind that most of us have never made acquaintance of in real life, makes this novel special in the way that it illustrates a struggle between the coziness of a static, ordered world and the uncertainties of a dynamic world in chaotic flux. I argue that this struggle that is embedded in an order-versus-chaos dichotomy is a significant element of the lives of everyone who tries to make sense of this, our, real world, tries to make sense out of chaos, or breaks out of an established order by means of chaos.

Bram Stoker's Dracula has been noted to bear symbolism for various kinds of phobias of “otherness.” These phobias include anti-Semitism, general xenophobia, homophobia, gynophobia, and a fear of primeval nature. Cyndy Hendershot sees in Dracula and other fin-de-siècle works a representation of a gender identity crisis that is a reflection of an actual crisis in Victorian society about the role and identity of genders:

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) introduces a problematic body in the form of the vampire … Although written in a climate in which the two-sex anatomical model was firmly established and in which anatomy was used obsessively to explain sexual, racial, and class behavior, it was also written in an atmosphere of great confusion concerning gender stability. Fin-de-siècle anxieties included a fear of the destabilization of rigid gender roles: both the New Woman and the aesthete threatened gender “normality” through their redefinitions of sexual and gender codes.


She finds that Dracula, as a vampire, symbolizes a threat to Victorian society, because he is described as a “body in flux—a ghost of the one-sex model—which is at odds with modern concepts of two biological sexes” (374). Dracula is thus not distinctly male, and not even exactly androgynous, either. He retains the appearance of a man, as long as he doesn't turn into a vapor or an animal, but he doesn't reproduce like a man would, even though he does reproduce. His “lovers,” or “loved” ones, in fact turn themselves into his offspring, as they become one of his kind. According to Hendershot, the vampiric count cannot be neatly categorized within Victorian concepts of gender roles: “Although vampires are, socially, both men and women, they all, as it were, possess the same body. The vampire haunts the two-sex anatomical model with a ghostly reminder of an earlier epistemological system, one which threatens a two-sex world beset by gender in flux” (379). If fixed gender roles represent order and gender roles in flux stand for chaos (a lack of order), then one might argue that Dracula, the vampire, represents chaos and threatens English values of gender order.

Kathleen L. Spencer puts Dracula in perspective with Victorian sexual morals. She argues that both Lucy and Count Dracula are portrayed as being sexually degenerate according to moral sentiments of Stoker's day. Spencer writes about Lucy: “She is a woman whose sexuality is under imperfect control” (209), and:

While she does officially choose one of her three suitors, her choice is insufficiently absolute to control the competition among the three for her possession. Stoker downplays the competition by making the three men such good friends and such decent, self-controlled characters that the threat of disorder is concealed, but nonetheless that competition remains as a source of potential violence.


Spencer's use of the word “disorder” is not coincidental here. Just as gender roles and identity can be seen as elements of order or lack thereof, this analogy can be made as well with sexual propriety, as it is defined within the cultural background of the novel. Another way in which Spencer explains Dracula as a threat to the Victorian mind leads back to what Hendershot pointed out. Besides the concepts of gender propriety and sexual propriety there is also an element of physical propriety. Spencer, similar to Hendershot's treatise on outward gender based roles, finds that “Dracula is a perfect example of the ‘formless’ attacking form (he is, after all, a shape-changer); but at the same time, our cultural experience of the novel suggests that, in creating his vampire count, Stoker has given to formlessness itself a form of continuing potency” (220-221). Dracula has not one particular, inherent shape. From a physical point of view, he is quite uncategorizable, even incomprehensible. This lack of solid form, and the unpredictability of appearance make him part of the realm of chaos. He is not subject to the same rules as human beings are. The rules that he is subject to are never scientifically explained and are only recorded in texts dealing with superstition.

The manifold sexual implications and complications that Dracula has been diagnosed to contain are maybe the most prominent aspects that appear in critical readings of the text. One way, for example, in which the novel can be read is as an attempt of the author to deal with his own alleged homosexuality. Talia Schaffer writes: “Dracula explores Stoker's fear and anxiety as a closeted homosexual man during Oscar Wilde's trial” (381). The fact that Oscar Wilde was punished by a court of law for his homosexual lifestyle and sentenced to two years in prison shows how suspicious and unacceptable alternative sexual lifestyles were in Stoker's society. Schaffer shows that indeed there is evidence in Stoker's novel as well as in his correspondence with Oscar Wilde for at least a homosexual tendency (382). This presents a twofold problem for a critical reader of the novel. On the one hand, homosexuality can be seen as another threat to Victorian order and thus as a chaotic force. On the other hand, if Stoker himself was a homosexual and possibly not unfavorable to the subculture that developed around homosexuality in his days, then Stoker's view of order and chaos is not simply a partisan perspective. It appears then that Stoker would have had an ambiguous view of those things that threatened the established order of his society. Schaffer explains how this tension between heterosexual society and homosexual writer is dealt with in the novel:

Dracula seems to be structured by the anguishing choice between repressed helplessness and dangerous action, and it is the unconsciousness of the whole problem that gives the novel its mythic status. The crisis of the closet in 1895 makes Dracula a horror novel; but Dracula's happy ending only shows that the closet is no longer a crisis but a state of complex, lived social relations whose inescapability—therefore, in a sense, whose normality—constitutes Jonathan Harker's hope of happiness. By the novel's last page, Harker has learned to love the memory of his internment in Castle Dracula, and has organized both a homosocial bond of ‘brothers’ and a bourgeois family to revolve endlessly around the nucleus.


What Schaffer seems to say is that the novel resolves, if not reconciles, the conflict between the forces of order and chaos, represented by heterosexuality and homosexuality respectively. Dracula, the dangerous homoerotic acquaintance of the past has now become a fond memory to Jonathan Harker. Jonathan now finds normalcy in the homosocial bond with his fellow vampire slayers. However, the threat of homoeroticism and/or homosexuality in the form of the count have been soundly defeated, rather than reconciled. Even Dracula himself, just before he disintegrates into ashes produces an expression of peace (Stoker, 377). So, the question remains to what degree the novel mirrors off the actual sexual attitude of its author. I would argue that Stoker implemented this conflict between homosexuality and heterosexuality in his novel as an underlying social criticism. He is careful not to let this social criticism come to the surface, even if it is just to not arouse any suspicion on his own person's sexuality. Dracula can be seen as an attempt to question the morality of a strict order system. I will come back to this discussion in more detail later on.

Another threat to order is symbolized by the concept of “reverse colonization.” Stephen D. Arata explains Dracula as a representation of Victorian fears about the decline of the British Empire. “Dracula enacts the period's most important and pervasive narrative of decline, a narrative of reverse colonization. … The fear is that what has been represented as the ‘civilized’ world is on the point of being colonized by ‘primitive’ forces” (623). Dracula comes to England to supplant the English nation with a race of vampires. The imperial nation of the English is placed in a situation in which they have to fight the savage not only on distant continents but also now on their very own island state whose political integrity has been spared from invasion since William the Conqueror. Arata interprets Dracula's monstrosity in two ways, as a threat from the outside and as a guilt-ridden reflection of Britain's own “imperial practices” (623). Here again the discussion of order versus chaos has two sides to it. If invasion represents a threat to a culture's integrity, and thus serves as a tool of chaos then we must consider both Count Dracula and the British culture of Victorian England as elements of chaos. What is order to oneself could be interpreted as chaos to one's enemies. That illustrates the subjectivity of an order-versus-chaos dichotomy. Stoker seems to play with this subjectivity.

Arata also points out the multicultural and politically unstable characteristics of Transylvania, which stand in contrast to a unified and stable Great Britain:

Victorian readers knew the Carpathians largely for its endemic cultural upheaval and its fostering of a dizzying succession of empires. By moving Castle Dracula there, Stoker gives distinctly political overtones to his Gothic narrative. In Stoker's version of the myth, vampires are intimately linked to military conquest and to rise and fall of empires.


Interestingly enough, the British Empire was held together by blood sacrifices in the form of colonial wars, in particular throughout Irish history. And, Arata addresses this question when he notes that Stoker was born in Ireland himself and therefore must have been aware of the ever-explosive situation in such close proximity to England proper (633). So, here again there is a possible interpretation for ambiguity. Are the English really the bringers of chaos to other parts of the world? Or are they bringers of order that is established by the use of chaos/war? Is then Dracula not also a bringer of a new order by means of his destruction of British order, as it exists? All these questions could probably be answered affirmatively. Conquerors always bear the insignia of chaos and order simultaneously. The implementation of a new order requires the use of the forces of chaos.

Arata points out the ethnic diversity of Transylvania (627). Transylvania is peopled by a hodge-podge of different ethnic groups. There are the Slavic Slovaks, the Romance-language-speaking Wallachians, the Ugric Hungarians, the obscure Gypsies, and the Germanic Saxons. There isn't really one group of people that is referred to as Transylvanians. In other words, all the people in Transylvania have come from somewhere else than Transylvania and happened to settle in this place and are strangers among strangers, in a manner of speaking. There is an element of chaos in Transylvania's ethnic make-up. However, at the same time, Transylvania could also be seen as the ethnic (or at least linguistic) navel of Europe since all four of Europe's major language groups are represented here. England, being geographically situated on the fringes of Europe, really could be seen as an outsider, rather than Transylvania. The idea of Britain's ethnic unity is also a highly constructed one, when in fact the English are a mix of Low Germans and Scandinavians, not to mention the Celtic Welsh and Irish and the hodge-podge mixtures of Highland and Lowland Scots. The unity of Britain that is presented by the narrators of Dracula is really just a subjective unity that has been sustained by centuries of brutal force that emanated from the power center of London. The illusion of an organized and civilized Britain must be in a reader's mind, especially a conservative Victorian reader's mind. Nevertheless this is just an illusion and not really founded by historical facts, in particular when seen from the perspective of Stoker's Catholic compatriots,1 considering the political tensions in turn-of-the-century Ireland (633-634).

Besides just being an Eastern European with no precise, ethnic origin, as Arata tells us, Dracula has also been identified as someone resembling the contemporary, stereotypical characteristics of a Jew. Judith Halberstam shows in her book Skin Shows that:

Dracula, then, resembles the Jew of anti-Semitic discourse in several ways: his appearance, his relation to money/gold, his parasitism, his degeneracy, his impermanence or lack of allegiance to a fatherland, and his femininity. Dracula's physical aspect, his physiognomy, is a particularly clear cipher for the specificity of his ethnic monstrosity.


Anti-Semitism was widespread in Stoker's day. Over the centuries, Jews have been made responsible for the plague, the sufferings of Jesus Christ, venereal diseases and strange rituals that include letting blood (the kosher slaughter ritual of animals includes the removal of the animal's blood). It is therefore not very surprising that Dracula would be made to look like a cliché Jew in order to emphasize not only the count's otherness but also to illustrate him as a threat to a Western Civilization that had a long history of marginalizing and persecuting Jews. Especially with the rise of the modern nation state, Jews would appear to be highly suspicious individual, since they had more than others resisted religious and ethnic assimilation into any mainstream cultures. In the minds of the English, Jews presented a threat to order simply because most of them resisted to accept the English order of things, politically as well as religiously. Therefore, if Dracula is represented as a Jew, then Dracula symbolizes resistance to order, in this case a national order. I would argue that it is also not a coincidence that Stoker has Gypsies play the role of Dracula's only human allies. Not unlike Jews, Gypsies have been uprooted (or never really settled down in the first place). They do not consider themselves nationals of the countries they live in, and they have been traditionally accused of being thieves and other kinds of criminals. It is no coincidence then that at the peak of Western xenophobia (the Nazi German holocaust) Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals were simultaneously classified as dangerous and degenerate, and were systematically murdered. I would argue that the suspense in Dracula is built on that same very powerful European xenophobia, as was the political success of the National-Socialistic Workers' Party of Germany in the 1930's and the early 1940's.

Another approach to Dracula is by viewing it as a struggle between patriarchal and matriarchal elements. Anne Williams shows that “The vampire hunter's tools are ‘signs of the fathers,’ symbols of patriarchal culture and its founding, forgotten terror—fear of Mother Nature, red in tooth and claw” (446). And here we see the connection between the forces of nature and, literarily, the forces of Man. Womanhood is likened to nature, and Man tries to overcome nature, control it. Nature is seen here as an element of chaos, that which “needs” to be controlled by male reason. Womanhood stands for untamed nature, and therefore chaos, and Manhood stands for control over nature, and thus represents order.

Evidence that Dracula represents the female principle masked and hidden by a Terrible Father is manifest in “his” effect on other characters. Proximity to the vampire exaggerates the character's “female” characteristics. Male characters revert to “feminine” helplessness while female ones become predatory—a subversion of those “natural” sex roles on which patriarchal society is founded. Renfield is intermittently afflicted with hysterical madness, that “female malady,” while Jonathan in Castle Dracula is ironically placed in the feminine role of gothic heroine (which includes his conventional journal-keeping behavior).


This ties back in with what Cyndy Hendershot says about gender role crises of the Victorian age. Only in this case there is an involuntary gender role reversal that Jonathan Harker and Renfield temporarily undergo. Jonathan Harker gets very close to being “raped” by the three vampire ladies in Dracula's castle (Stoker, 38). This is not just a confusion of what the cliché for the Gothic novel would prescribe; it is indeed a total gender reversal. This “degradation” to the subjected status of a weak woman obviously fuels the “patriarchs” in the novel to bring the gender status quo back into order: “As Lucy's fate suggests, these men are fighting not to rescue the particular woman so much as to impose their ideal of what a woman should be—‘virtuous,’ that is, submissive to a higher ‘male’ principle. (As the etymology of the word declares, and the plot of Dracula implies, a ‘virtuous’ woman is one who is much like a man as possible)” (Williams, 450-451). In other words, Williams suggests that the vampire slayers' goal is not only the destruction of the vampire, but first and foremost the prevention of a gender reversal, in which men would become subjected to sexual assaults by the feminized vampire count or the rapacious vampire ladies, be they the ones that live in Castle Dracula or the morally questionable Lucy turned vampire. Even though I don't see this to be a main theme of the novel, Williams does make her case, and shows that this is one of the many elements that contribute to the order-versus-chaos dichotomy throughout the text. The gender reversals that she points out prove only further my point of an order-versus-chaos dichotomy that exists on the surface but breaks down at closer analysis. The very complexity of mixed and confused gender traits make any clear categorizations into a clear dichotomous system futile.

A good number of different phobias are said to be responsible for what creates Dracula's horror. I would argue that the fears that critics see in Dracula are all focusing on marginal groups within society. Those fears center on the topics of gender identity, gender roles, sexual morality, homosexuality, reverse colonization, Jewishness, and womanhood/nature. The critics noted so far have all proven their cases that the groups of people at the center of these fears have all been marginalized by Victorian society. These people at the center of these fears are indeed always the “other ones” in popular Victorian view, with heterosexual, protestant men being the only proper persons to Victorian society, proper in both ways that they are representative and morally intact (Halberstam, 6-8). The novel Dracula works on these generalizations that certain segments of society are more likely than others to fall prey to the snares of chaos, or to become themselves envoys of chaos, servants to the forces that threaten to destroy Victorian order.

Next, I will show that Count Dracula and the vampire hunters are identifiable with certain figures in Victorian society. Jani Scandura likens the figure of Count Dracula to the Victorian undertaker/embalmer:

The years roughly between 1880 and 1910 marked a seminal period in the history of undertaking, a period when undertakers rose to economic prominence and began a beleaguered grasp for social power. … More than Baudelaire could have anticipated, the late-Victorian undertaker became the uncomfortable product and symbol of a civil order of turmoil. For the very social values that had brought the learned bourgeoisie to power in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries now threatened to topple their authority. This is an essay, then, about undertakers and Dracula, about undertaking as vampirism, and vampirism as social aspiration.


Despite the financial merit and the potential ascension on the social ladder, the profession of “undertaking always was a controversial occupation” (2). The techniques for corpse preservation were perfected in such a way that dead people would be kept in the appearance of life for months on time. The method of exchanging blood with a preserving chemical eerily resembles Dracula's method of corpse preservation: “the neck wound inflicted by Dracula, ‘just over the external jugular vein,’ can be seen as the incision of the undertaker made in preparation for embalming. Like the embalmer, Dracula does not simply suck out body fluids—he replaces them with toxins.” Scandura also makes connections between Dracula's physiognomy, as he is described by Jonathan Harker, and finds many resemblances to “popular representations of undertakers” (9). There is an element of competition between the Victorian undertaker and the profession of doctors. In Dracula, this parallel can be drawn between Van Helsing and the count:

“For what Dracula, as undertaker, desires is precisely what the doctors will not allow, recognition of the similarity between the two occupations” (19). Both, doctor and vampire, try to preserve the human body, the former for the realm of the living and the latter for the shadowy world of the undead. Here again, we can draw analogies to the order-versus-chaos dichotomy, when we analyze the differences between the preserver of life as we know it and the “preparer” for a life strange to us. The life-preserving doctor symbolizes the static qualities of order, whereas the “preparing” vampire represent dynamic elements, elements that challenge the status quo, threaten society, as it exists. The vampire, through the tools of chaos, namely his sharp teeth and toxins, tries to establish a new order, a new society of vampires. Here again, one can see chaos as a catalyst for change.

Another reading of Dracula that concerns itself with the question of profession is Nicholas Daly's article “Incorporated Bodies: Dracula and the Rise of Professionalism.” Daly focuses not on the monster, Count Dracula, but on “the monster's nemeses, the closely knit team of men whose principal weapons are knowledge and ‘power of combination’” (181). His argument is that it is due to the heroes' middle-class professional attitude and their willingness to work together that they emerge victorious over the aristocratic and self-sufficient count.

The late Victorian romance constructs a certain male, professional, homosocial order. … In Dracula the figure of the vampire is remodeled by Stoker to bring the putative resistance to modernity closer to home: his team of men are as comfortable policing the houses of London as they are tracking the vampire across Europe.


In a similar way, Jennifer Wicke describes the vampire slayers as professionals in a modern sense: “With relentless logic, the keen use of maps, geometrical calculations and brilliant speculation, she provides them all with a plan of attack, deciding which river Dracula will need to use to get home and how he can best be countered” (486). The vampire slayers are prepared to use whatever means necessary to achieve success. They draw their strength from what they do, whereas the count appears to rely first and foremost on what he is, an aristocrat and supernatural being with more than three hundred years of experience. This brings us back to Anne Williams's notion that the count represents the forces of Mother Nature. Dracula depends mostly on his nature, his natural, inherent identity, his aristocratic blood and inheritance through the noble family he was born into, and then his gain of supernatural powers with his rebirth as a vampire. The vampire slayers however assert themselves against nature. Two of them are medical doctors2 who fight natural diseases and help people to prolong their lives beyond their natural expectancy. And one thing to which Dracula's threat can be likened to is that of a disease that spreads and makes people into sick, malicious people. The group is also not shy to use whatever human invention is at their disposal to achieve their goal, be it typewriters, phonographs, railroad trains, or telegraphy. Dracula, in contrast, uses as little modern technology as possible. He has himself transported to England by a sailing ship, a craft of ancient technology.

Another way in which the vampire hunters distinguish themselves from their nemesis, the count, is that they are not alone. Paul Gutjahr even argues that the real victory in the end of the novel is the fact that new unions were made:

One might think that Godalming, Seward, and the others could look back without despair because they were successful in overcoming Dracula. Not so. Instead, rejoicing takes place because both Godalming and Seward are now married. It is marriage, and more important, its inherent notion of union, that stand at the center of Dracula.


Through union and cooperation the vampire slayers achieve their goal and the fruit they reap takes the shape of further union in their life. They have to make sense of the bits and pieces of information that their various journal entries offer them by combining them, by creating a unified voice that speaks for them. Dracula in contrast can be described as “isolation personified, a villain who is separated from the grace of God, from the ability to love his three vampiric companions, and even from death itself” (Gutjahr, 38). The ability to unify that which is separated bears an element of order in it, at least an element of the creation of new order. The vampire slayers' union is a creative act; they create a new community that has its own order. Dracula, who mostly represents chaos, doesn't have that ability; he only disrupts and even destroys unions, the orderly institutions of courting and marriage in particular, when he seduces Lucy and Mina.3 Besides the degeneracy that lies in courting other men's fiancées or wives, Dracula doesn't play with open cards. He comes at night, like a thief, to the bedchambers of these women, subjects them to a hypnotic trance and then has his will with them. Those are not the rules by which any self-respecting Victorian suitor would play. Dracula does not only break the rule of courtship, but subverts them into his own ideas of “romance,” which by modern legal definition would be equal to rape, as long as a sexual motive can be proven in Dracula's act.

Besides the importance of union as a weapon against the vampire, Troy Boone shows the significance of science and parascience as tools engaged by Van Helsing's troop. Boone argues that it is exactly the supernatural that the vampire hunters must embrace in order to effectively fight Dracula (78). “Although Seward and the others initially resist the ‘thesis’ that vampires exist, accepting it enables them to discern and connect the rest of their clues” (Jann, 282).

Thus the men must create a new science; they harness reason to the supernatural, absorb feminine spirituality, and thus (unwittingly) revise both what masculinity and what nineteenth-century English civilization's “progress” should be. Harker represents rational English masculinity; he is both “a good specimen of manhood” and a “quiet, business-like gentleman” who protects the values represented by Mina.

(Boone, 78)

Mere natural science doesn't suffice to harness the powers of chaos. The group must explore the world of the supernatural, that which is not explainable, unbound by natural laws, and that which doesn't seem to be controlled by any kind of order. The elements of chaos must be defeated by their own weaponry. Rosemary Jann sums up this notion quite nicely:

Armed with crucifix, host, and demon cures spurned by “modern” medicine, Van Helsing more closely resembles an exorcist confronting an enemy from a prescientific world. Faced with phenomena incredible to the rational mind, the vampire hunters are counseled by Van Helsing to submit themselves to the guidance of tradition and superstition, the instructors of a prescientific age.


I believe that it is no coincidence that Van Helsing is not English himself. If England represents order and Transylvania symbolizes chaos, then The Netherlands, which is geographically somewhat closer to Transylvania than England is, would be slightly more chaotic than England, if one were to follow through with the logic of geographic symbolism. Van Helsing (who utters German expressions of disbelief and frustration, with Germany still being closer to Transylvania, and Transylvania itself being settled by a German minority and under Austrian, German speaking rule by the time of Stoker's drafting of Dracula) then is naturally more prone to know about chaos than the sheltered English would be, who are also protected by water from any invasions from the continent. And we learn that vampires cannot transport themselves across flowing bodies of water, such as the gulf stream-roused English Channel, except at high or low tide (Stoker, 240).

To stay within the realm of the non-scientific and the traditional, one might quote Beth E. McDonald's findings at this point. She identifies close resemblances between Dracula and the figure of the “trickster” as it appears in the myths of cultures from all around the globe. In keeping with the theme of my own thesis, McDonald describes the archetypal trickster as a representative of chaos, but points out that Dracula, as a trickster, doesn't fail to make use of the tools of order in order to succeed in the realm of order, very similar to the vampire hunters' use of tools from the world of chaos.

As stated before, Dracula, as a trickster, is the spirit of disorder. However, his plan to move to England is highly ordered. He has read as much as he can about the country, learned the language, acquired lawyers and real estate, and arranged for the movement of his fifty boxes of earth and himself to his destination. These are not the actions of a man whose only attribute is disorder.


Thus it is plain to see that both the forces of order and the forces of chaos still need to make use of each other's arsenal of tools and weaponry in order to survive in a world that is subject to both order and chaos. McDonald shows that there is even a certain co-dependency between chaos and order. They cannot exist singly, one without the other: “Disorder is part of the civilizing process. Dracula, as trickster, helps the civilizing process by bringing order out of disorder. Through the experience of Dracula, we journey into the world of natural, sensual, and psychic confrontations” (141).

At this point we could refer back to Cyndy Hendershot's article that investigates Dracula's one-sex body in a two-sex world. She comes to a similar conclusion in that she questions a paradigm based on an absolute: “Perhaps most of all, vampire and replicant reveal the illusory nature of the human body as a stable foundation upon which ideological reality might safely rest” (393). Another critic, Veronica Hollinger, sees in this dichotomy of two opposing powers a political motive: “In Stoker's text, the sinister Count is the enemy in one version of the eternal battle between Good and Evil. This opposition, which is central to romance narratives, is always constructed upon specific ideological foundations” (148). I find myself in only partial agreement with Hollinger. She doesn't give Dracula sufficient credit if she considers it a purely dichotomous work that presents the forces of Good and Evil (which are somewhat analogous to Order and Chaos) in a simplistic way without showing them in their relative position to one another and to other influences. I do agree though that Stoker's text resonates strongly with political overtones from a Victorian sentiment, as has been shown by various critics that I have quoted earlier.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Dracula is its textuality. The novel is really a collection of journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters, that were ultimately put together by God-knows-who, even though we are made to believe that Mina at least did the primary compilation, editing, and transcription work. The nature of the text itself is a significant element of the story as we learn that the various accounts were brought together and were organized as chronologically as possible to form a sensible whole. And, ultimately the text, as it becomes organized and put into an order, turns into the most powerful weapon that the vampire slayers have. Robin S. Appleby acknowledges that fact and points out: “What occurs after this meeting of minds is the result of the textual study; Dracula can be defeated only through the group's accumulation of knowledge, a fact which the vampire himself acknowledges in his attempt to destroy the entire manuscript” (22-23). The order-versus-chaos dichotomy ties in here as well, since the recorded accounts of the vampire slayers acquire an ordered, static, and human made character and the vampire tries to destroy the medium that would take an important role in his defeat.

This collection of journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings is maybe the first feature that strikes a reader as particular about this novel. At a first glance, there doesn't appear to be a lot of organization in this format. Most novels are written in a somewhat linear format and are told by one narrator, even if there are sub-narrators within the main frame of the story. In Dracula, we read the personal accounts of each of the narrators' experiences, independently from the other narrators, and only gradually we learn that Mina is the one who transcribed the journal entries from voice recordings, shorthand, and handwriting into generally accessible typescript. Mina is the one who creates order from a relative chaos of voices. In other words, Mina creates the appearance of order out of something that was originally unorganized, and rather chaotic.4 There is an analogy between the textuality and the narrativeness of the novel. Looking at the text, it appears that the text gradually wins uniformity with the vampire slayers' gradual, mutual acquaintance and collaboration. The journal entries read more and more like one coherent text rather than independent journal entries, the deeper into the text a reader ventures. There is an increase in regularity, uniformity, and, of course, order. This, of course, is a created order. And the narrative itself consists of a created order as well. In other words, the occurrences that are narrated in Dracula are artificially ordered as well. On the surface, there is a strict order-versus-chaos dichotomy that organizes the collections of narratives in such a way that it becomes very plain to see who in the novel represents a threat to whom. The count is the monster, because he represents a threat to an established order that the reader should easily be able to identify with. However, one might argue that the English really are the monsters, especially because they succeed ultimately in destroying every member of the vampire culture. However, the narratives are dominated by the only three middle class, English people of the six vampire slayers, namely Mina, Jonathan Harker, and Dr. Seward. These three characters do not only have more in common with the average reader than Dracula would, they also tell the reader their stories from their perspective(s). Once a reader becomes aware of this constructed English, middle-class perspective, she or he can see that there are indeed multiple interpretations about the nature of monstrosity in Dracula.

Judith Halberstam picks up on that idea when she describes the “making of monsters.” She writes: “The reading subject (but also the characters and seemingly the writer) of the Gothic is constructed out of a kind of paranoia about boundaries: Do I read or am I written? Am I monster or monster maker? Am I monster hunter or the hunted? Am I human or other?” (36). Although she relates here to Frankenstein, in particular, and to the Gothic genre, in general, I believe that this quote also holds true to the reader-novel relationship in regard to Dracula. The reader must indeed interpret the monstrosity of the monster in the text for herself or himself. As mentioned before, there are many interpretations to the question of whom the figure of Dracula represents to a reader. The many allusions to Dracula's otherness (a term that Halberstam uses frequently) create a mental construct that is supported by fear. This fear of the “other” destroying the “own” is based on the order-versus-chaos dichotomy, which is at the heart of human mentality, I argue. I have tried to show that Dracula does not only depend on an order-versus-chaos dichotomy, but also that this dichotomy is a mental construct that simplifies the novel's moral mechanics and is nothing more than just that, a mental construct, something that falls to pieces once one takes a closer look at how this construct simplistically and subjectively organizes concepts of the natural/real world into an artificial dichotomy.

I explain this phenomenon of the order-versus-chaos dichotomy, be it in this novel or any other place where it might be applied, as a necessary defense mechanism against insanity, a mental tool (or “technology,” as some would call it) that human beings have learned to use and sophisticate ever since their existence as sentient beings. I would argue that it is essential to human success to think in mental constructs that simplify the infinitely complex reality that surrounds us as human beings. This habit of simplification, however, can also lead to negative outcomes. Any dichotomous models are somewhat dangerous in that they can be easily abused for the purpose of oppression of individuality, in any kind of form, be it ethnically, racially, politically, ideologically, and what have you. I have mentioned the Nazi-holocaust earlier, as an example of splitting people into dichotomous categories, such as Jew-versus-Non-Jew, homosexual-versus-non-homosexual, and Gypsy-versus-non-Gypsy.


  1. Stoker was Anglo-Irish, meaning of English descent and Protestant upbringing, but born in predominantly Catholic Ireland.

  2. The very word “physician” relates very closely to the physical world, or better, the world as it is seen through the eyes of those who believe in a universe that is ordered and controlled by physical laws. Medical doctors by trade are adherents to natural science, even though Van Helsing is portrayed as somewhat of a crossover to a world of the fantastic.

  3. Lucy is engaged and Mina is married. Marriage, of course, can also be interpreted as a device for order and control, in particular in Stoker's days when women had very little authority over their own lives within the “bonds” of matrimony.

  4. One might even argue that the journals in their original states had something of a natural, if not organic, character. Mina, then, changed them into something artificial and even sterile. A comparison with Plato's theory on mimetic could be made here as well.

Works Cited

Appleby, Robin S. “Dracula and Dora: The Diagnosis and Treatment of Alternative Narratives.” Literature and Psychology 39 (1993): 16-38.

Arata, Stephen D. “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and The Anxiety of Reverse Colonization.” Victorian Studies 33 (1990): 621-46.

Boone, Troy. “‘He Is English and Therefore Adventurous:’ Politics, Decadence, and Dracula.” Studies in The Novel 25 (1993): 76-92.

Daly, Nicholas. “Incorporated Bodies: Dracula and The Rise of Professionalism.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 92 (1997): 181-204.

Gutjahr, Paul. “Stoker's Dracula.The Explicator 52 (1993): 36-38.

Halberstam, Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and The Technology of Monsters. London: Duke University Press, 1995.

Hendershot, Cyndy. “Vampire and Replicant: The One-Sex Body in A Two-Sex World.” Science-Fiction Studies 22 (1995): 373-99.

Hollinger, Veronica. “The Vampire and The Alien: Variations on The Outsider.” Science-Fiction Studies 16 (1989): 145-51.

Jann, Rosemary. “Saved by Science? The Mixed Messages of Stoker's Dracula.Studies in Literature and Language 31 (1989): 273-88.

McDonald, Beth E. “The Vampire as Trickster Figure in Bram Stoker's Dracula.Extrapolation 33 (1992): 128-45.

Scandura, Jani. “Deadly Professions: Dracula, Undertakers, and The Embalmed Corpse.” Victorian Studies 40 (1996): 1-31.

Schaffer, Talia. “‘A Wilde Desire Took Me:’ The Homoerotic History of Dracula.ELH 61 (1994): 381-426.

Spencer, Kathleen L. “Purity and Danger: Dracula, The Urban Gothic, And The Late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis.” ELH 59 (1992): 197-226.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Wicke, Jennifer. “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula And Its Media.” ELH 59 (1992): 467-94.

Williams, Anne. “Dracula: Si(g)ns of The Father.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 33 (1991): 445-64.

Christopher Herbert (essay date summer 2002)

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SOURCE: Herbert, Christopher. “Vampire Religion.” Representations 79 (summer 2002): 100-21.

[In the following essay, Herbert offers a religious interpretation of Dracula.]

Here chiefly, Lord, we feed on Thee, And drink Thy precious Blood.

—Charles Wesley1


Once consigned to the limbo of the subliterary, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) has attained canonical status by gaining recognition as a pioneering exploration of forbidden zones of sex.2 The strong religious thrust of this novel has correspondingly been ignored, not to say suppressed, in recent criticism: acknowledging the primacy of a broad vein of late-Victorian religious sentiment in Stoker's sensationalistic Gothic tale has evidently seemed to its interpreters hard to square with claiming it as a significant literary object—or even, indeed, as “the first great modern novel in British literature.”3 Restoring its religious motivation to view is bound to complicate its standing as an icon of radical fin de siècle modernity but may help us trace the logic of certain late-Victorian cultural disorders that it seems to allegorize. It is a move that irresistibly leads back to Gothicism and to sex, after all.

At first glance, Dracula seems so afflicted with split identity that nothing could make it whole. At least as open as the original Gothic fiction of the 1790s was to William Wordsworth's scorn of the genre as a pandering to modern readers' “degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation,”4 it presents itself nonetheless as a solemn parable of what John Henry Newman called “the warfare between the city of God and the powers of darkness”5 and as an endlessly ventriloquized religious testimonial. Its characters pray constantly for the intercession of “Almighty God” (D [Dracula], 261) in their struggles with the demonic; they cross themselves, brandish crucifixes, and invoke the protective powers of communion wafers. Scriptural quotation is worked deeply into the stylistic texture of the novel, both in the frequent echoing of biblical verses and in dramaturgical effects such as the pietà that ends the story, the dying hero Quincey Morris bleeding from his Christological wound in the side as his friends kneel around him in prayer and fervently intone “Amen” (D, 418). Most significant of all, a series of passages instructs readers to interpret the tale not just in accordance with a broadly ecumenical religious spirit but in particular theological terms. A vampire, declares the pious Van Helsing, nominally an advanced medical scientist but more a lay priest (and necromancer) and the book's main religious authority, is “an arrow in the side of Him who died for man” (D, 276): the battle against the plague of vampirism is a battle specifically on behalf of Jesus Christ. “Thus are we ministers of God's own wish,” he elsewhere says to his band of vampire hunters: “that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him. He have allowed us to redeem one soul already [Lucy Westenra's, redeemed by her being put to death with a stake driven through her body], and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more”; they struggle, he declares, “for the good of mankind, and for the honour and glory of God” (D, 360, 361).

This strain of militant homiletic rhetoric, which sharply distinguishes Stoker's book from precursor texts such as John William Polidori's The Vampyre (1819)6 and Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872),7 risks inducing in sensation-fiction readers (not to mention non-Christian ones) something like the “horrible feeling of nausea” (D, 48) that the Count's malodorous lairs or his foul breath induce in those who encounter them within the novel. Admittedly, this pietistic ambience serves to some extent as a kind of magnifying medium designed as much to heighten the shock value of Stoker's sensationalism as to impart religious edification; even so, critical study of Dracula needs to begin by recognizing it as very likely the most religiously saturated popular novel of its time. Whether Stoker's Christian vocation is one with which pious readers ought to feel comfortable is another question, however.

It might initially seem that the novel is meant to stand as a manifesto of religious conviction amid a secularized rationalistic-scientific late-century world of which the distinctive presences are networks of the festishized information technology that Stoker prophetically highlights: telephones and telegraphs, dictaphones, Kodak cameras.8 At times, Van Helsing describes his mission as vampire exorcist in just such terms. “I want you to believe” and to have “faith,” he says to the skeptical psychiatrist Dr. Seward, who here represents the mentality of the modern scientific outlook (D, 230).9 But the religious didacticism of the novel in fact is directed not against the unbelief of secular scientism but—surprisingly in the context of the 1890s—against its very opposite, the alarming upsurge of superstition and black magic that is symbolized by the vampire invasion of England. The evil Count is above all an emanation of the world of superstition and an image of a terrible menace posed by the superstitious mentality to decent Christian existence. “Every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians,” Jonathan Harker informs us, reporting later that the gypsies there are “without religion, save superstition” (D, 32, 73). In effect, Dracula, the dreaded master of this territory, is superstition itself, come fantastically to life. Stoker defines superstition anthropologically, as the thought-system of primitive society; Harker's journey to Transylvania at the beginning of the story is accordingly not so much an eastward movement in space as it is a time-journey into a stratum of the European mind prior to the supposed conquering of pagan magical thinking by Christianity. The world with which he is acquainted, he writes in his diary, precisely articulating Stoker's theme, “is nineteenth-century up-to-date with a vengeance. And yet, unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere ‘modernity’ cannot kill” (D, 67). Initially complacent in his idea of Transylvanian superstition as harmless folklore, he quickly learns in his stay at Castle Dracula to regard superstitious conceptions like vampirism as still-vital malignant powers able in effect to rise from the grave of the past (hence the special aptness of the vampire myth for Stoker's purposes) to pose a lethal menace to English society on the threshold of the twentieth century. The menace is that England could become in its turn, if the vampire invasion succeeds, a land “without religion, save superstition.”

Christian religion, then, is equated in this novel with modernity in its struggle against atavistic prereligious influences. (In a more typical text of the day such as Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure [1895], Christianity and modernity are of course taken to be adversarial.) Which atavistic social forces might in the 1890s have seemed to Stoker sufficiently menacing to arouse the “panic of superstitious fear” (D, 117) that is the keynote of the novel and that catalyzes its appeal to the saving influence of religion? There may be no definite answer to this question, crucial though it undoubtedly is to giving Dracula an anchorage in late-century contemporaneity; nor, above all, need we assume that this book, hybrid as it is of Gothic horror-mongering and religious earnestness, will prove to be fully coherent in its thinking. One would rather expect such a book to resist an author's will to impose unity on it and to exhibit potentially irresolvable contradictions. We may begin resituating Dracula in its decade, however, by noting that this was not the only text of the day devoted to policing what was felt to be the hazardous boundary between the verities of religion and the deformities of superstition—or, rather, to insisting that this supposed boundary is real to begin with, that “superstition” is dangerous because of its insidious resemblance to that higher thing, “religion,” and that piety therefore has no more urgent task than, turning inward, that of purifying itself of superstitious credulity and, turning outward, that of waging prophylactic war on superstition wherever it appears. The emergence of this cardinal theme in the late nineteenth century bears witness to the predicament of religion in this period, when its difficult fate, as Newman and other ecclesiastical conservatives saw with much distress, was to be forced to shore up its waning cultural legitimacy by a display of antagonism toward, and of anxious vigilance against, infiltration by irrational or antimodern elements. The category of “superstition” becomes recognizable to this extent as a strategic manufacture of the modernist moment: not a given or a self-evident thing, but a function of particular cultural needs.

On one practical level, this conflicted nexus of thinking expressed itself in the great national mission of suppressing idolatrous superstitions among indigenous populations in the territories of the British Empire.10 It expressed itself closer to home in the emergence of a rationalistic and naturalistic broad-church Anglicanism committed to purging the church of superstitions like belief in the literal infallibility of Scripture. And it expressed itself notably in the critique of superstition carried out in evolutionary anthropology (that quintessential late-Victorian intellectual enterprise) at just the extended period (1890-97) during which Stoker was drafting his novel.11 One particularly revealing cognate text for Dracula, for instance, would be William Robertson Smith's The Religion of the Semites, published in 1889, the year before Stoker began work on his vampire story.12 In totemic aboriginal society, Robertson Smith says, “[the savage's] superstitious hopes and fears and observances” focus on the worship of sacred animals epitomizing “the usual savage idea about things that are taboo”: that “they are charged … with a certain supernatural energy” rendering them mortally dangerous to touch or eat (RS, 126, 160). The holiness, the deadly energy, that they contain “is conceived as infectious, propagating itself by physical contact”; it “is contagious, just as uncleanness is,” and inspires reactions of disgusted aversion (RS, 161, 450). Thus “in the primitive taboo, … sanctity and uncleanness meet and are indistinguishable,” says Robertson Smith (RS, 370): this to him represents the essential formula of superstition.

Only at the much later stage of Hebrew thought do superstitions based on taboo give way to a genuinely religious conception of a deity who possesses ethical consciousness and whom religion exists to propitiate with adoration. But the process is a gradual and incomplete one: hence the “remains of … primitive superstition” (RS, 446) that Robertson Smith traces in various Old Testament texts that give evidence of the worship and the ritual eating of mice, swine, and “the abomination,” or small quadruped vermin. (He does not mention bats, though they are specifically cited in Leviticus [11:13, 19] as belonging to the class of species that a religious person “shall have in abomination.”) “All such creatures were unclean in an intense degree, and had the power to communicate uncleanness to whatever they touched,” yet in such a text as Ezekiel 8:10, they figure, he says, illustrating his theme of the original identity of the unclean and the sacred, “as objects of superstitious adoration” (RS, 293). He concludes that these Old Testament materials, grotesquely incongruous as they are with higher Hebrew religion, bear witness to “the re-emergence into the light of day of a cult of the most primitive totem type, which had been banished for centuries from public religion, but must have been kept alive in obscure circles of private or local superstition” (RS, 357).

The following year, Stoker, as though transposing directly into fiction the speculations and the implicit cultural anxieties of The Religion of the Semites, begins to elaborate his tale of the terrifying reemergence of primitive vampire worship from its remote stronghold in the Carpathians into the light of day of modern Christian England.13 Like Robertson Smith, he conceives his book as an extended meditation on the relations of modern ethical religion to superstitious notions of uncleanness. In Dracula, however, for all its putative devotion to the cause of true religion, the two supposedly antithetical categories of religion and superstition reveal an uncontrollable tendency to collapse into one another.

On the one hand, Dracula embraces wholeheartedly the idea that immorality, particularly in the all-important sexual realm, signifies uncleanness. This idea is anathema to any modern analysis of moral phenomena—any analysis, that is, that stresses choices, motives, consequences, relativities of circumstance. The code of uncleanness, by contrast, expresses the archaic principle of taboo, the principle of quasi-physical, indwelling contamination. The latter doctrine is supreme in Dracula, where emotively laden metaphors of sanitation everywhere function as moral and religious statement. Hence, for example, all the stress given by Stoker to the repugnant filthiness associated with the Count: to “sanctify” his lair to render it uninhabitable by him is to “sterilize” it (D, 396, 331). Lucy Westenra's “voluptuous wantonness” under the influence of vampirism is similarly designated “unclean”; she is said to become a “foul thing” (D, 249, 252). In causing this language to pervade the novel, Stoker gives a note of peculiar urgency to what amounts to the axiomatic structure of Victorian moral ideology: this is the conventional language, if raised to a nearly hysterical new pitch, of the popular fiction of the day.14 But Stoker goes further, bringing plainly into view (as Robertson Smith does by other means, and possibly with another intent) the supposedly defunct superstitious substructure that continues in fact to bear the weight of this ideology: this he does by taking as the donnée and main plot device of his novel the premise that moral perversion, being as it is a form of “uncleanness,” can be caught by physical contact.Dracula imagines moral “uncleanness” not to be a figure of speech, in other words, but to be in some occult sense a literal reality. This outlandish idea—this idea that ought to be outlandish—crops up shockingly here in Victorian popular literature like a “survival” of the totemic protoreligion hypothesized by Robertson Smith. Stoker calculates that it will not seem all that alien or implausible to his readers, after all. The most significant primitive cult that reemerges into the light of day in this text, that is to say, is not the one that comes over from Transylvania, but the one that has inhabited Victorian thinking all along.

Dracula belongs to the imaginary regime of superstition rather than to that of religion and ethical consciousness, to repeat, because the transmission of the moral pollution of vampirism in Stoker's fable is purely a mechanical process, as the transmission of what Robertson Smith memorably calls “the sacred infection” (RS, 450) is in the system of taboo. A vampire becomes “hard, and cruel, and sensual” (D, 209) in the same way that one contracts rabies or AIDS: as the result of nothing but an exchange of infectiously contaminated bodily fluids by which the victim is “tainted” (D, 406), and in turn is rendered mortally dangerous as a carrier of perversion to all other people. “He have infect you,” Van Helsing explains to Mina after her violation by Dracula (D, 360). Considered as a politics insidiously transmitted by its own occult (literary) mode of infectious contact, this nineteenth-century version of taboo thinking, in which moral depravity is figured as diseaselike transmissible contamination, might well make a reader uneasy, for what it signifies in a latter-day context is one or another panicky ideology based on shunning the unclean, on policies of segregation or of social cleansing, and on the worship of purity of blood. To frame the issue in these terms is to suggest that the theme of “the reemergence into the light of day” of long-banished pre-ethical superstitions may not at all be a dead letter for modern history, and that popular fables of science (here personified in Van Helsing) embracing superstition in the guise of religion may not be wholly innocuous. If only for this reason of its possible importance as a signifier and infectious agent of modern ideologies of pollution, Dracula would be worthy of close critical attention.

Suggestions of the noninnocuous character of renascent superstition run close to the surface of another pertinent text of the day, James Frazer's Golden Bough, the two-volume first edition of which was published—with a dedication to Robertson Smith—in 1890, a year after The Religion of the Semites and the same year in which Stoker began his prolonged gestation of Dracula.15 “[The] radical conflict of principle between magic and religion sufficiently explains the relentless hostility with which in history the priest has often pursued the magician,” Frazer declares (GB, 60)—a proposition that Dracula seems to transcribe in the fable of Van Helsing's obsessive campaign to liquidate the Count, whom he sees not just as a dangerous criminal but as an ideological (and at some level an evolutionary) rival as well. But Frazer's argument concerning “the distinction between religion and superstition” (GB1, 1:32) is crucially more ambivalent than the one set forth by Robertson Smith. The evolutionary transcending of superstition by religion, however absolute “the radical conflict of principle” between the two may be in theory, seems ever more illusory to Frazer. His grand theme, in fact, turns out to be the “confusion of magic and religion” (GB, 60), the permeation of religious ideas and practices by archaic, supposedly obsolete magical elements handed down from the earliest stages of human culture. For Robertson Smith, the emergence of religion out of the materialistic world of superstition signifies an unqualified cultural achievement; for Frazer, religion serves as a medium through which undying primitive cruelty and superstition are transmitted in potentially virulent forms to the modern world.

The 1890 edition of The Golden Bough does not make explicit the ultimate motives of Frazer's great inquiry into the logical structures of superstition. In later editions, he premises his work on the startling claim that Christian Europe at the threshold of the new century is menaced by a possibly volcanic upsurge of a latent superstitious mentality that has never, despite all efforts, been successfully extirpated from the modern world. “A solid layer of savagery” remains, he says, “beneath the surface of society” and poses “a standing menace to civilisation.” “We seem to move on a thin crust which may at any moment be rent by the subterranean forces slumbering below.” As evidence for this prophecy, so evocative imagistically of the story told in Dracula, he cites from newspapers of the day instances of gruesome crimes associated with various forms of black magic; an account of a woman “slowly roasted to death as a witch in Ireland,” for example (GB, 64-65). It seems to Frazer as though “the re-emergence into the light of day of a cult of the most primitive totem type” is a realistic possibility and even a pressing danger in civilized fin de siècle Europe. I have suggested elsewhere that Frazer's dread of a catastrophic modern outbreak of superstition may have referred to the huge wave of anti-Jewish persecution that spread from one European country to another like a contagious mania in the 1880s and 1890s.16 Read against this contemporary backdrop, the fable in Dracula of the infiltration of England by a repulsively filthy bloodsucking parasite from the East, one of whose prominent physical features, much belabored in the text, is “a 'ook nose” (D, 174; see also 48, 209), who is like an arrow in the side of Christ and must be chased out of the country and finally “utterly stamp[ed] … out” (D, 342) with all his kind by a warrior band of Christians, seems to resonate all too powerfully with the anti-Semitic propaganda that echoed across Europe (though it never was publicly acceptable in England as it was on the Continent) in the decade during which Stoker worked on his novel. Is vampirism in this novel at some level a metaphor for the blood libel (the lunatic claim that Jews murder Christians to draw their blood)? Of what modernity, exactly, is this “the first great … novel”?17

Dracula, in any case, amounts to a fictionalized treatise on—or an object lesson of—that “confusion of magic and religion” that filled Frazer with alarm for the future of European civilization. Having proclaimed itself an allegory of the confounding of superstition by the forces of Christian piety, the novel adopts in fact an acutely ambivalent stance toward the superstitious. Its fundamental doctrine, after all, is that the “witch[es] and demon[s]” (D, 313) of superstition are not, as Frazer the scholarly Cassandra thought it essential to insist, hallucinatory symptoms of modern cultural pathologies, but real. “There are such beings as vampires,” Van Helsing, the arbiter of wisdom in this novel, earnestly admonishes his late-Victorian readership (D, 276). In its concerted assault on the Frazerian doctrine that belief in witches, demons, and vampires is not just intellectually atavistic but unfailingly in league with ideologies of scapegoating and sadistic persecution, this novel sets itself squarely against the Enlightenment spirit on behalf of which Frazer proselytizes.

It enacts at the same time a nearly total engulfing of the religious spirit by superstition that a religiously devout modern reader could scarcely fail (one supposes) to find shocking and even sacrilegious. Renfield, the “zoophagous” inmate of Dr. Seward's insane asylum, is given his major role in Dracula (he is by far its most fascinating personality) precisely to theorize the collapse of religion into the spiritual vacancy of superstition—and to introduce in so doing a potentially severe complication into the theological argument of the novel. Afflicted as he is with “homicidal and religious mania” (D, 135), he worships Dracula, to whom he prays as a divinity and whose advent in England he senses telepathically, proclaiming it with the fervor of a demented John the Baptist. “The Master is at hand,” he announces (D, 135). He later likens himself to Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24), who “walked with God”: “he believes he is in a Real Presence,” observes his scornful keeper, Seward, who regards him merely as deranged (D, 308, 137). Readers are not allowed to dismiss Renfield or by extension his vampire worship quite so complacently. Stoker presents him as a sympathetic and intelligent figure whose veneration of Dracula poses a striking riddle: according to what system of thinking could the loathsome vampire actually become an object of religious devotion? The question is central to Stoker's cautionary political allegory of the advent of a charismatic and nihilistic dictator—one who boasts of his descent from Attila the Hun (D, 60)—whose power resides in his gift for communicating a lust for blood in the form of “homicidal and religious mania” to his followers. Of all the intuitions of twentieth-century modernity in this novel, this is the most clairvoyant, and the point at which it comes closest to Frazer's bad dreams of a volcanic tide of superstition and savagery getting ready to burst upon modern Europe. But it is an intuition marked profoundly by ambivalence, as the sympathetic portrayal of the Count's disciple Renfield immediately tells us, and as Stoker's sotto voce expression of a dark and cruel strain of anti-Semitic paranoia tells us in another way.

Dracula's claim of sanctity is just the one theorized by Robertson Smith, in which gods are not the source of ethical values but are imagined, rather, as beings “unclean in an intense degree” and possessing above all a virulent contagiousness, “the power to communicate uncleanness to whatever they [touch].” Rejecting evolutionist theory in favor of a revivalist one, Renfield proclaims not so much a false religion, that is, as the restoration of the religious mentality in what Victorian anthropology claimed to be its authentic primordial form. He is perfectly aware that his “superstitious adoration” of Dracula is void of spiritual content save one thing, the instinct to worship blindly an all-powerful, irresistibly charismatic god: apart from this, his religious sensibility expresses itself solely in a mad vampirish craving for blood. A religion devoid of spirituality and devoted to the worship of uncleanness can only seem a monstrous delusion from a modern point of view. The forces of Christian piety in the novel hasten therefore to brand Renfield a maniac and to lock him up as the best way of silencing his sacrilegious evangelism—but not before he has injected into the book the dangerous idea that the holy and the infectiously dirty may finally, as the anthropologists argued, be one and the same. Is the totem figure Dracula the true god, and the spiritualized Christian deity so often invoked by Stoker's morally virtuous characters in some sense an impostor?

As far as its explicit rhetoric goes, Stoker's text constitutes an impassioned defense of religious orthodoxy against any such idea—and yet its most provocative effect is that it allows Renfield to preach the abominable idea so distinctly to begin with and that so much narrative and polemical machinery is needed to suppress it, as though it possessed more plausibility than could be openly admitted. Why this would be is suggested in Stoker's explicit embrace of the aboriginal metaphysics of “uncleanness” that the Victorian middle classes, as we have said, were all too prone to regard as the basis of morals, particularly in conjunction with sexual innuendoes of the kinds that are almost identical to vampirism in this novel. “Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh!” Mina cries out in despair once the virus of vampirism has entered her bloodstream (D, 336). We know that she is polluted not in any spiritual or moral sense, but only, again, in the sense in which a spiritually immaculate AIDS sufferer might be if she had been attacked in the subway by a maniac with an infection-laden needle. Yet this novel commands its readers to regard her even so as a contaminated and perverted being. Stoker's Christian God apparently subscribes to the code of indelible uncleanness and to the whole ancient system of taboo thinking, driven as it is by superstitious ideas of contamination, exclusion, and phobic dread. Van Helsing confirms the pitiless divine judgment on Mina, “knowing that so far as symbols went, she with all her goodness and purity and faith, was outcast from God” (D, 349). The very meaninglessness of “so far as symbols went,” tacked on to Van Helsing's decree as a vague palliative, underlines the vindictive superstition that passes muster as Christian faith in Dracula and that Stoker expects his readership to find not only comprehensible but acceptable. In this startling sentence, he expressly enacts the displacement of ethical and humanistic religion by a fantastic theory of contagious uncleanness. The text shows no sign of theological alarm or resistance as the spiritualized Christian deity, who cares only about the motives in people's hearts, is overruled here by a wrathful superstitious one—the perverted one known to Renfield as Dracula. The logic by which the worship of a god of uncleanness and the horrified revulsion from unclean objects turn out to be identical is spelled out fully only by the anthropologists, but the “confusion of magic and religion” that motivates this sector of Stoker's novel is unmistakable.

It is expressed vividly, also, in the decisive role that Dracula gives to sacred devices like the crucifixes and communion wafers that Van Helsing relies on in the struggle against vampirism. Stoker exhorts his readers to regard these things as precious adjuncts of Christian piety. In fact, piety has little to do with the sanctity that chiefly manifests itself in Dracula, just as in the primitive thought-worlds analyzed by Robertson Smith and Frazer, in a potent physical force, “a certain supernatural energy,” that inhabits sacred objects. Frazer's dominant metaphor for this force is that of electric current. Divinity in primitive thought is “as it were, electrically charged with a powerful magical or spiritual force which may discharge itself with fatal effect on whatever comes in contact with it” (GB, 235; see also 549, 688-89). This is just the force that discharges itself in the confrontation with the Count in his safe house in Piccadilly, when Seward holds up a crucifix and “[feels] a mighty power fly along [his] arm” (D, 347). Stoker does not fail to recognize how alien the electrical interpretation of the power of the crucifix may seem to be to any modern, nonsuperstitious form of Christian devotion, and lest we disregard this motif of his novel as merely a Gothic effect, he devotes several passages of earnest theological discussion to it. “It is odd,” observes the good Protestant Harker, “that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous should in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help. Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a medium … in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort?” (D, 59). Van Helsing unequivocally settles the question in favor of the essentialist, which is to say the magical, superstitious, materialistic doctrine of crucifixes. “Whilst this is close to you no foul thing can approach,” he says to Mina, lending her his little golden crucifix (D, 324). It evidently radiates an uncanny force field that vampires—undeterred or even magnetized as they are by an intended victim's religious purity—find intolerable.

Still more extravagantly superstitious is Stoker's idolization of “the Sacred Wafer.” Even when unceremoniously ground up and mixed with putty, its blessed substance acts as an impervious barrier to vampire evil. Again, Stoker strongly asserts its religious virtue. “The most sceptical of us” were deeply impressed by Van Helsing's faith in the protective agency of holy wafers, says Seward. “We felt individually that in the presence of such earnest purpose as the Professor's, a purpose which could thus use the to him most sacred of things, it was impossible to distrust” (D, 248). But this tolerant and morally affirmative formula is subjected to drastic revision in the scene where Van Helsing, bringing the novel's discourse on communion wafers to its shocking but rigorously consistent climax, seeks in the wake of Mina's violation by the Count to preserve her against a repeat attack by what he regards as the surest means. With his usual solemnity, Van Helsing invokes the aid of a merciful divinity: “On your forehead I touch this piece of Sacred Wafer in the name of the Father, the Son, and—” But his intervention goes horribly awry. Mina screams in agony. “As he had placed the Wafer on Mina's forehead, it had seared it—had burned into the flesh as though it had been a piece of white-hot metal” (D, 336). Holy instruments like wafers and crucifixes, we learn at this moment, are charged with precisely that dangerous sacred electricity that Victorian anthropology identifies as the essence of the system of taboo and that has nothing whatever in common with “the powers that come from, and are symbolic of, good” (D, 360). “There is something magnetic or electric in some of these combinations of occult forces,” explains Van Helsing, as though quoting Frazer (D, 360). Sanctity in Dracula is conceived not as a medium of moral inspiration, in other words, but as a scary uncontrollable force that, if it is dangerous to vampires, is equally so even to a “sweet, sweet, good, good, woman” (D, 349) such as Mina in her hour of peril.

Nor is it just the superstition of electrified taboo objects that is revived and seemingly endorsed as a Christian value in the scene of Mina's scourging. What is revived at the same time, and shown to be its natural correlative, is the cruel primitive code that a sexually violated woman becomes indelibly “unclean” and is to be regarded as a pariah or even viciously persecuted by the respectable. (This is the code that Hardy, who saw its modern currency as a prime index of the moral derangement of his society, disavowed two years earlier in Tess of the d'Urbervilles.) Van Helsing and his friends are appalled by the harshness of the divine punishment inflicted on Mina, and the reader is of course urged to be full of love and forgiveness toward her. But Mina herself, as we saw, reads off the correct lesson: “the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh!” she cries (D, 336). “Alas! I am unclean to His eyes” (D, 403). “God is merciful and just,” says Van Helsing to Harker shortly after the incident (D, 344), but these words are belied by the fact that the Almighty, acting through His sacred instrument the wafer, has inflicted ferocious, disfiguring punishment on the blameless Mina. Either that or the Almighty Himself is handcuffed just as vampires are by the laws of superstition and helpless to provide protection against the magical high-voltage electricity, cruel and impersonal, that courses through taboo objects.

The rhetoric of the novel surrounding these issues—which are its central ones, raised not inadvertently but with concerted emphasis—is thus irresolvably contradictory. Dracula ardently professes to champion the cause of morality and Christian “reverence,” but all the while indoctrinating its readership in a system of nihilistic superstition rife with sinister ideological overtones. None of this escapes Stoker's attention, though it may defeat his understanding of his own self-divided religious thinking. “There is nothing base in the book,” he wrote defensively to William Gladstone in offering him a presentation copy, “and though superstition is fought in it with the weakness of superstition I hope it is not irreverent.”18 At one very notable late point in the novel, Van Helsing attempts more forcefully to redeem his campaign of religious activism from the possible charge that it collapses the supposedly all-important cordon sanitaire between religious piety and superstition. Laying a wild rose on the box where the Count is hiding will prevent him from emerging. “So at least says the superstition,” Van Helsing observes. “And to superstition must we trust at the first; it was man's faith in the early, and it have its root in faith still” (D, 368). Superstition, the breeding ground of vampire cults and other evils such as burning women to death as witches, is vindicated at last by its archaic, never uprooted kinship with its nominal adversary, Christian faith! This frank glorification of “the weakness of superstition” (or rather, this declaration that religion and superstition are not to be regarded as antagonistic after all) would have seemed to Frazer, if his researches had left him time to read works like Dracula, a profoundly regressive lesson and a confirmation of all his fears about the persistence of dangerous atavistic intellectual forces in the late-Victorian world.


The foregoing analysis reads Stoker's book against the grain in some respects, but it does take the religiosity of Dracula at face value in starting from the proposition that the main theme of the novel is the conflict, however problematic and ambivalent it proves to be, and however shrouded in a kind of false consciousness or willful self-delusion, between religion and vampiric superstition. Noteworthy nineteenth-century literary evidence can be adduced to point the reading of Stoker's novel in another and a more subversive direction. This evidence tells us that the image of the vampire is not that of the depraved or primitive other of religion after all, but of religion itself, and that all the organized labor of eradication dramatized in Dracula may best be construed as an effort to mystify the essential bond between vampirism and Christian faith.

Stoker honeycombs his text, in fact, with hints of perversely reflexive relations between vampirism and Christianity. Renfield imagines his evil deity the Count preaching a message of salvation and of what amounts to eternal life: “All these lives I will give you, ay, and many more and greater, through countless ages, if you will fall down and worship me!”—almost too explicit an echoing of Christ's proclamation, “I came that [Christians] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). A similar hint of an overlapping of Christianity and vampirism underlies Mina's recurring vision of the Count at Whitby, in which his glaring red eyes seem to stare out at her uncannily from the reflection of the setting sun on the stained-glass windows of St. Mary's Church (D, 129; see also 298, 327). In Mina's mind's eye, Dracula is inseparably associated with the church: contemplating Christian imagery from just the right angle of light, she glimpses there a phantasmagoric apparition of vampire evil. The same refractive effect takes a more violently sacrilegious form at the moment of the Count's sadistic assault on her, when he forces her to drink the blood that spurts from the wound—not in his side, as a strict Christology would call for, but in his breast (D, 328). Lest a reader miss the theological aspect of this brutal scene, Van Helsing characterizes the experience undergone by Mina as “the Vampire's baptism of blood,” a phrase that is pointedly repeated twice more in the remainder of the novel (D, 362, 384, 406). Christians undergo the same baptismal experience, of course: they are washed in the blood of the Lamb and they drink His miraculous blood, the elixir of immortality, in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The crux of the theological argument of Dracula lies in this persistent suggestion that vampirism is not so much an alien invasion after all as it is a dark mutation of Christian forms. At this point the discourse of the novel becomes harder to decipher with confidence. An interpretation determined to salvage Dracula for the cause of respectable religion would construe the Count's Messianic aura as the clearest sign of the parasitism and spiritual perversion of one who has chosen to play the role of the diabolical negative of Christ. But it is hard to avoid the more scandalous idea that would follow from Freud's definition of the uncanny: that vampirism in Dracula acts out the phantasmatic return of the frightening repressed aspect of Christian faith itself, the aspect of itself that faith denies. The novel voices no such explicit argument, of course; rather, it invests vast sums of rhetorical capital in repudiating its own hints that vampirism and Christianity may coincide—in scripting itself, that is, as a parable of godliness in conflict with an alien “monster.” At a couple of striking moments, however, the latent counterfable of Dracula is allowed to express itself fairly plainly. There is the matter of the vampire's needing consecrated earth from his castle crypt in which to take refuge while abroad. The graves of “great men and good women … make sacred the earth where alone this foulness can dwell,” explains Van Helsing. “For it is not the least of its terrors that this evil thing is rooted deep in all good; in soil barren of holy memories it cannot rest” (D, 280). In some fashion, the ghastly vampire is “rooted” in holiness just as superstition, as we saw, “[has] its root in faith”—formulas that significantly revise the anthropological narrative, defining superstition not as the evolutionary predecessor of religion, but, rather, as an outgrowth of it. Van Helsing's cryptic statement receives no direct elucidation, however. We do not learn from the text exactly why the sacred should be the native soil of this terrifying force of evil or how such a notion could possibly be incorporated within the avowed moral system of the novel. Seward, alarmed at the symptoms of vampirism beginning to show themselves in Mina, later makes the head-spinning comment, “there may be a poison that distils itself out of good things” (D, 363). His phrase suggests that the perverted craving for blood that stands for moral evil in this novel is somehow a distillate of piety itself, piety in its pure form.

Stoker has no intention of throwing his novel into theological turmoil by openly pursuing this line of thought, but he does at such moments seem to link his text to a constellation of others where the subliminal logic of Dracula is fully expounded. Stoker's immediate contemporary Frazer again serves as a key point of reference, particularly in his stress on the overwhelming role played by the mystique of blood in the history of religions. In the 1890 edition (the year, I will mention again, when Stoker began cogitating his vampire book), Frazer's very first ethnographic excursus on “the notion of … a god incarnate in human form” (GB1, 1:32) is devoted to the theme of priestly figures who gain inspiration “by sucking the fresh blood of a sacrificed victim,” whether an animal or, as Frazer assumes to have been the original form of such rituals, a human being (GB1, 1:34). The devil-dancer of southern India thus “drinks the blood of the sacrifice, putting the throat of the decapitated goat to his mouth” (a scene grotesquely evocative of Mina's assault by the Count) and then becomes utterly possessed by the demon, in which condition he is “worshipped as a … deity” (GB1, 1:34). Another of Frazer's central chapters, developed in later editions of The Golden Bough, recounts at length the rites of the death and resurrection of the Phrygian vegetation god, Attis. The principal event of these gruesome mysteries was what Frazer calls, in the same phrase that echoes repeatedly in Dracula, “a baptism of blood.” The devotee of Attis descended into a pit beneath a grating on which a bull (or originally, Frazer conjectures, a human being) was sacrificed. “Its hot reeking blood poured in torrents through the apertures, and was received with devout eagerness by the worshipper … till he emerged from the pit, drenched, dripping, and scarlet from head to foot, to receive the … adoration of his fellows as one who had been born again to eternal life and had washed away his sins in the blood of the bull” (GB, 408). The obvious parallelism between Christian ideas and practices and primitive models such as these sanguinary rites “struck the Christian doctors themselves,” Frazer says, “and was explained by them as a work of the devil, who sought to seduce the souls of men from the true faith by a false and insidious imitation of it” (GB, 415). Turning this formula inside out, Frazerian anthropology claims to reveal the deeply embedded traces of heathen blood rites, and by implication the ancestral blood lust, lying at the core of respectable modern religion. The “true character” of religion, Frazer declares, is “often disguised under a decent veil of allegorical or philosophical interpretation”: to twitch aside this veil is to disclose underlying motifs “which otherwise must have filled [worshipers] with horror and disgust”—to disclose in effect a devil-dancer figure eerily latent in the image of Jesus Christ, peering out from Christian devotions as Dracula does from the church window at Whitby (GB, 414).

For all his preoccupation with religious pathologies of blood, Frazer seems never to mention possible affinities of vampirism itself and Christianity; other writers do, however, prefigure this cardinal if only obscurely indicated theme of Stoker's novel. For example, C. R. Maturin's Gothic masterpiece Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) presents an array of foreshadowings of Dracula that seem to make visible its subliminal argument.19 Like the Count, Melmoth traverses Europe “seeking whom he might devour”; he uncannily materializes in madhouses and prisons, his eyes blazing with a “preternatural glare” that clearly signals his family relation to Stoker's Count, to tempt despairing inmates to share his own “insane and morbid existence” (MW, 381, 176, 229). The central irony of Maturin's novel is that the vampirelike monster's unappeasable cruelty and greediness for souls is only a reflex of the “religious malignity” of the church establishment he defies: the Christian moral ideal, the novel declares, is at bottom a sadomasochistic syndrome based on “the theology of utter hostility to all beings whose sufferings may mitigate mine” (MW, 167, 174). In Dracula, whatever suggestion there may be of the vampirish quality of Christian piety—the suggestion that the perverted Count is not the antithesis of the religious spirit but an uncanny manifestation of it—is only indirectly expressed and is contradicted by the religious apologetics that run throughout the text. Melmoth helps us to see the loquacious religiosity of its descendant Dracula as to some degree a compensatory rhetoric designed to preserve the good name and assuage the bad conscience of a text that (apart from being guilty of a markedly unchristian propensity for pornographic indecencies) seems to contain its own underlying structure of “religious malignity.”

Another work in the illicit lineage of Dracula would be Ludwig Feuerbach's 1841 Essence of Christianity, translated into English by George Eliot in 1854 and thereafter a key ancestor text for relativistic British freethought.20 Having “always the image of the Crucified one in his mind,” says Feuerbach, tracing the same pattern of religious psychology that Maturin does, the Christian believer inevitably contracts a morbid desire “to crucify either himself or another” (EC, 62). “In faith there lies a malignant principle,” he says (EC, 252), italicizing his essential doctrine. In the grip of this principle and obsessed with the necessity of enforcing religious orthodoxy, Christianity can only imagine a god who is “a selfish, egoistical being, who in all things seeks only himself, his own honour, his own ends” (EC, 27). In order to mask the malignant Draculalike nature of this divine being that it glorifies and worships, theology teaches that “God is love,” but this very formula, in its refusal to exalt love into an essential spiritual substance, inevitably does homage, says Feuerbach, to “the God—the evil being—of religious fanaticism” (EC, 53). In Christian faith and theology, therefore, “there lurks in the background of love … an unloving monster, a diabolical being, whose personality, separable and actually separated from love, delights in the blood of heretics and unbelievers,—the phantom of religious fanaticism” (EC, 52-53).

To think of Bram Stoker's phantasmal monster in Maturinesque or Feuerbachian terms as the uncanny return of the ferocious essence of faith—as precisely that aspect of Christian love that “delights in the blood of heretics and unbelievers”—gives the official binaries of Dracula what may seem like a vertiginous spin. Yet the vindictive ferocity of faith is plainly on display wherever one turns in this novel. The brutal auto-da-fé inflicted by Van Helsing's team upon Lucy Westenra for her crime of becoming infected with the “voluptuous wantonness” of vampirism—a scene of Christian purification imagined as a sadopornographic spectacle of gang rape and murder (D, 254)—offers an almost hallucinatory instance of the malignant crucifying principle that Feuerbach diagnoses as the core of Christian devotion. The scene of the branding of Mina's forehead by the Sacred Wafer offers another similarly shocking set of images of female mutilation in the name of religious piety, as we saw. No less than in the fictionalized Inquisition of Melmoth the Wanderer or in The Essence of Christianity, Christianity in Dracula is imagined above all as an agency for the pitiless eradication of deviancy. Stoker's contribution to the Maturin-Feuerbach strain of vampire literature is the overpowering erotic and misogynistic impulse that he uncovers in the psychology of religious vindictiveness. His book stands in the archive of English fiction as a supreme illustrative text of the principle that the vocation of purifying the world of perversion is itself inescapably perverted.

That Stoker was personally prone to moral panic and to religious vindictiveness like Van Helsing's is strongly suggested by his 1908 essay “The Censorship of Fiction,” a diatribe against a supposed infestation of England by a rash of pornography in modern novels that obviously functions at some level as an objective correlative of the allegory of vampire invasion in Dracula.21 Male pornographers, Stoker says here, are very bad—they have in fact “crucified Christ afresh”—but he singles out women as “the worst offenders in this breach of moral law” and asks rhetorically with regard to them, as though referring retrospectively to the staking of the criminally lewd Lucy Westenra, “what punishment could be too great?” (“Censorship,” 485). Extraliterary evidence like this notwithstanding, Dracula is notable for the provocative ambiguity that reigns over it. Can it be said to perform a knowing critique of religious vampirism, or is it itself a vampire text that “delights in the blood of heretics and unbelievers”? Are we meant to find spiritually uplifting, as the authoritative-seeming Van Helsing insists we should, the Talibanesque law that dictates the cleansing of the body politic by driving wooden stakes into the bodies of impure women and decapitating them afterward? Stoker's cryptic novel refuses to let us decipher this, its essential secret—though a text that to any degree eludes legibility on such matters can only be regarded with profound suspicion.

We can conclude in any event by deciphering at least partially the element of vampire lore on which the novel hinges: the unslakeable craving for blood that it treats as the vampire's defining pathological symptom. One might assume this theme to be a given of the genre, but it has nothing like the same prominence in previous English-language vampire literature that it takes on in Dracula. True, when the vampire countess is exhumed in the conclusion of Carmilla (315), she is found to be immersed in a preservative bath of blood; but Le Fanu's story up to this point has scarcely mentioned the blood motif, and has portrayed Carmilla's hungry fixation on the heroine, Laura, as purely a matter of unhallowed sexual desire (one that this compelling text dangerously presents as almost natural). For all the aura of deviant sexual compulsion that surrounds vampirism in Dracula, however, Stoker gives a new twist to the vampire genre by wholly identifying the condition of the Nosferatu with the ravenous drinking of blood. To some extent, this emphasis reflects the novel's broad displacement of the spiritual and moral vocabulary of normal Victorian fiction in the direction of mechanics (hence all the stress in Dracula on the physics of vampirism: on the vampire's inability to cross running water, the insulating properties of wafer-impregnated putty, the complex laws of telepathic communication between vampire transmitters, and so forth). The strong emphasis given to the theme of blood in Dracula carries at the same time a reference—a particularly scandalous one—to a distinctive element of nineteenth-century religious psychology.

If the central determinant of the Victorian mentality was that strain of puritanical Protestantism that Matthew Arnold, identifying it as “the ruling force” of his time, called Victorian “Hebraism”22 and that G. M. Young called “the imponderable pressure of the Evangelical discipline,”23 the fountainhead of Victorian Evan gelical culture was in turn the Methodist revival, “the great rekindling of the religious consciousness of the people”24 presided over in the late eighteenth century by John and Charles Wesley and the Calvinistic George Whitefield. No phase of religious feeling in England for at least the next century could escape their influence, which “radiated through the older denominations,” as Young says, “and was not without effect on the Church itself” (65).25 Heirs as they inescapably were to this transformative movement, nineteenth-century Britons needed not be Methodists or even Christian believers to be impregnated with Wesleyan sensibility. It may come as a surprise to discover through the lens of Dracula that a fundamental element of this sensibility was the Wesleyans' near-obsessive fixation on the Eucharist, on the sacramental eating of sacred flesh and, in particular, the sacramental drinking of sacred blood. The distinguished Methodist scholar J. Ernest Rattenbury, citing contemporary records of the tremendous passion for the communion ritual that was aroused by “the flaming message of the love of God” proclaimed by the Methodist preachers, amazingly concludes that “there can be no doubt that Holy Communion was the central devotion of the Evangelical Revival.”26 A cultural historian is bound to wonder how the prevalence of this complex of religious symbolism might have affected the British national psyche in the course of the age of Evangelical dominance. Dracula gives us some clues.

Hundreds of hymns composed by the Wesleys document the overwhelming emphasis placed on the mystique of blood, and particularly on the avid drinking of the blood of Christ, in the Methodist imagination. In its fixation of religious rapture upon cannibalistic impulses that ordinarily would fall under one of the most stringent taboos and would arouse nothing but “horror and disgust,” Methodist revivalism forms an exceptionally vivid instance of the principle, formulated by the late-Victorian anthropologists (and undoubtedly first discovered by them in their own culture), of the ultimate identity of the obscene and the divine.

Now, Lord, on us Thy flesh bestow
                    And let us drink Thy blood,
Till all our souls are filled below
                    With all the life of God.

(Hymns, no. 30)

From Thy blest wounds our life we draw;
                    Thy all-atoning blood
Daily we drink with trembling awe
                    Thy flesh our daily food.

(no. 85)

Often in these hymns the mere drinking of blood, enacted ritually in the decorous form of Eucharistic wine-sipping, hardly seems sufficient to slake the sanguinary longings of Wesleyan piety. It is the essential dynamic of this mode of spirituality that the craving for union with God always outstrips the possibility of satisfaction and drives piety to ever more extravagant forms. Sometimes this craving transposes itself into an unmistakably sexualized register marked by the strongest possible insistence on the fantasy of gulping warm blood directly from Christ's wound—or of actually entering that wound.

We thirst to drink Thy precious blood,
                    We languish in Thy wounds to rest,
And hunger for immortal food
          And long on all Thy love to feast.

(no. 112)

“Even now we mournfully enjoy / Communion with our Lord,” as though we “felt His gushing blood,” says the weirdly amorous hymn no. 4, in which, among other striking synesthetic effects, vaginal and ejaculatory imagery fuses dizzily together. The intensely eroticized blood-drinking of Dracula may seem pathological, and is of course treated as such in the novel, but we can see that it only replicates—in comparatively rather mild terms—key thematics of Victorian religious imagination. Other Methodist hymns record visions not just of drinking blood but of bathing and wallowing in it that recall Frazer's account of the rites of Attis (or rather, that his account was itself designed to recall). “The altar streams with sacred blood, / And all the temple flames with God!” declares one ecstatic hymn (no. 89).

Still the wounds are open wide,
                    The blood doth freely flow
As when first His sacred side
                    Received the deadly blow:
Still, O God, the blood is warm,
                    Cover'd with the blood we are.

(no. 122)

For one standing outside this orbit of religious experience, such texts can hardly fail to be repellent: their very repellency is the catalyst of the religious intoxication they strive to produce. It is no wonder, on the one hand, that the sensation of disgust (painful and delicious at the same time) should hold the paramount place that it does in Victorian moral psychology or, on the other, that a writer like E. P. Thompson should recoil from Methodist piety as psychotic.27 Even Rattenbury finds the pure stream of the Wesleys' religious inspiration to be tainted with something aberrant. “This dwelling on the blood of Christ, plunging in it, and so forth, are not expressions which seem to have any justification in the New Testament,” he cautiously observes. Indeed, he says more plainly, “there are repulsive elements not genuinely Christian in some of Wesley's metaphorical uses of blood symbolism” (Hymns, 89, 90). Frazer sought to develop a mode of analysis for getting to the bottom of precisely this deranged and, as he believed, deeply sinister symbolic and psychic structure, though of course without invoking any such dubious category as the “genuinely Christian” and without limiting his field of contemporary reference to Methodism in particular. What Feuerbach conceived psychologistically as the “phantom” and ever present Doppelgänger of decent Christianity, “the evil being … of religious fanaticism” that inhabits faith and “delights in the blood of heretics and unbelievers,” Frazer interprets in evolutionary terms as the indelible trace of the cannibalistic origins of religion (GB1, 2:88-89). Dracula takes its place in this lineage as another concentrated investigation, cast this time in the Gothic mode, of the same matrix of fundamental cultural themes.

The immediate referent of Stoker's novel, then, can only have been the streak of ghoulish appetite that so powerfully energized Victorian religious feeling, even though this implication is “disguised under a decent veil” in Dracula by the portrayal of vampirism as an infestation from a remote, superstitious foreign land. All of Stoker's necromantic imagery of tombs and cemeteries and of undead corpses rising from the grave is resonant with echoings of the Wesleyan hymnbook. “We too with Him are dead, / And shall with Him arise,” declares one hymn (no. 4).

The yawning graves give up their dead;
The bodies of the saints arise,
Reviving as their Saviour dies.

(no. 26)

Mainly, though, Stoker translates into the grotesque terms of vampirism the gluttony for blood that forms the central devotional motif of Wesleyan Christianity. This point is too clear by now to require further illustration, but I will cite one more striking hymn, in which the faithful are urged, as Van Helsing urges his own Christian paramilitaries, to be “fill'd with holy violence” in defense of the faith. The theme, for once, is not the anomic boundlessness of the craving for divine blood but the attainment of religious satiety.

Communion closer far I feel
          And deeper drink th' atoning blood;
The joy is more unspeakable,
                    And yields us larger draughts of God,
Till nature faints beneath the power,
And faith fill'd up can hold no more.

(no. 54)

In Stoker's Gothic refraction of this imagery, Jonathan Harker discovers the magically rejuvenated Count, fresh from what the Wesleyan hymnal would call a “mystic banquet” (no. 99) of blood, asleep in his box of earth in the chapel of Castle Dracula.

There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran down over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.

(D, 83)

The effect is that of a suddenly naturalistic, and of course savagely ironic, vision of the sated Wesleyan communicant, so “fill'd up” with divine blood that he “can hold no more.” At such a moment, vampirism seems to come into focus in Stoker's text as a metaphor for the way in which the religious past of the nation, shot through as it is with “repulsive elements” and with “religious malignity,” seems to prey pervertingly on its modern-day soul.

It may be objected that this reading of Dracula hinges on an essential confusion or irrationality, since in the Eucharist, as in the primitive cults analyzed by Frazer, worshipers drink the blood of the deity to gain supernatural powers or everlasting life, whereas in vampirism, it is the other way around: it is the deity who, in celebrating “the Vampire's baptism of blood,” drinks from the veins of initiates to impose on them what Van Helsing calls “the curse of immortality” (D, 252) and to preserve his own everlasting life. But in complexes of supremely charged cultural imagery like the one surrounding the cult of blood-drinking in Western spirituality, logical consistency has not much of a role to play, and to insist on it would disable inquiry into these phantasmatic subjects from the start. Emotional valences and symbolic functions are bound in such systems of thinking to be reversible, as sadism and masochism are in psychoanalysis and as filth and purity, the obscene and the divine, are in the regime of taboo or in the Wesleys' hymns, where to become “stain'd” (no. 17) and to be rendered immaculate are equivalent forms of expression. Stoker enacts precisely this kind of logical reversibility in the scene of the Count's attack on Mina, where he first drinks her blood and she then, as if to dramatize the relation of interchangeability that obtains between the vampire myth and Eucharistic worship, drinks his.

By the same token, to portray Dracula as a reactionary trafficking in necromancy under the name of religion, as I did in the first section of this essay, and to portray it alternatively as a Feuerbachian-Frazerian allegory of the macabre and perverse dimension of Victorian Christianity, as I have in the second section, is perhaps only to do the same reading in different voices, or to hold up the same object of study to slightly different angles of interpretive light. Criticism is conditioned to seek definite statements of textual motivation, but in a case like the present one, such statements may need to be left in abeyance, or rather, contradictory-seeming ones may need to be entertained together if we wish to avoid performing a vampirish act of interpretive violence on the text itself. We must suspend certain judgments of literary value for similar reasons. Is Dracula to be judged, to quote Rattenbury on the Reformers' view of the medieval Mass, as “a most unscrupulous commercialization of the superstitions of the people” (Hymns, 66), or can it justifiably be treated as a serious work of literature, even conceivably “the first great modern novel”? These alternatives may not necessarily be incompatible within an uncompromisingly modern-style critical frame. All that one can say for certain is that a reading that dogmatically excludes either term of this binary will leave us with only a truncated version of Stoker's book. It is likely to be impossible for scholarship to prove that the Count's Christological aspect, an effect that seems to turn all the ostensible piety of this novel inside out, is a deliberate “intention” of the author. Significant modern texts tend to be uncontrollably volatile and indeterminate, and to make it impossible to know just how full a knowledge they possess of their own designs. To say that Dracula eludes full analysis in this way may be only to say that it is authentically “modern” after all, its antiquated Gothicism notwithstanding, and to make the strongest case for its value that can be made.


  1. Hymn no. 42 in J. Ernest Rattenbury, The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley (Akron, Oh., 1996). Throughout this essay, the Wesleys' hymns are cited according to their numbering in Rattenbury's edition.

  2. Bram Stoker, Dracula, ed. Glennis Byron (1897; reprint, Peterborough, Ontario, 1998). Hereafter cited parenthetically as D.

  3. Jennifer Wicke, “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media,” ELH 59 (1992): 467. A couple of noteworthy recognitions of religious themes in Dracula are the pages devoted to the novel in Victor Sage's Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition (New York, 1988) and especially the brief but excellent article by Jules Zanger, “A Sympathetic Vibration: Dracula and the Jews,” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 34 (1991): 33-44.

  4. William Wordsworth, “Preface to the Second Edition of … ‘Lyrical Ballads,’” in The Poetical Works of Wordsworth, ed. Thomas Hutchinson and Ernest de Selincourt (London, 1950), 735.

  5. John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, ed. A. Dwight Culler (1864; reprint, Boston, 1956), 7.

  6. John William Polidori, The Vampyre: A Tale (1819; reprint, Tring, U. K., 1974).

  7. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla, in In a Glass Darkly, ed. Robert Tracy (1872; reprint, Oxford, 1993), 243-319.

  8. On these themes, see Jennifer Wicke's fascinating essay “Vampiric Typewriting.”

  9. Victor Sage argues along exactly these lines that Dracula makes “an elaborate attack on facile scepticism, purblind belief in ‘progress’ and scientific materialism.” The characters of the novel “have to learn that empirical science … can't explain everything and it is necessary finally to fall back on true faith,” true faith defined as “that final, true irrational yielding of scepticism before the immaterial truths of existence”; Victor Sage, Horror Fiction, 54. This account seems strangely ready to extend credence and respect to a text that would identify “true faith” and “the immaterial truths of existence” with superstitious mumbo jumbo about vampires. If this is indeed the message of Stoker's book, it would seem to disqualify itself for serious consideration by sophisticated readers.

  10. The long campaign waged in British India to eradicate Thuggee, the secret society of stranglers devoted to the worship of Kali, for example, furnishes an instance that resonates especially strongly with the story told in Dracula.

  11. Advanced late-Victorian natural science often described itself in similar terms, as a purifying campaign against intellectual “superstitions” such as absolute space and time.

  12. W. Robertson Smith, The Religion of the Semites: The Fundamental Institutions (1889; reprint, New York, 1972). Hereafter cited parenthetically as RS.

  13. In The Moonstone (1868; reprint ed. J. I. M. Stewart, Baltimore, 1966), Wilkie Collins tells a variant of this fable in his tale of the three sinister Indians, emissaries of a wild province “fanatically devoted to the old Hindoo religion” (524), who invade England to recover the sacred diamond of their sect.

  14. David Copperfield, for example, is rich in instances of such language. Annie Strong's supposed sexual immorality is “like a stain” upon her surroundings; Steerforth is guilty of the “pollution of an honest home” by seducing little Emily; the prostitute Martha Endell is “defiled and miserable”; David says to his wife Dora “there is contagion in us”; and so forth. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849-50; reprint, Boston, 1958), 220, 350, 520, 529.

  15. James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: The Roots of Religion and Folklore, 2 vols. (1890; reprint, New York, 1981), hereafter cited parenthetically as GB1. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to later editions of this work in the form of the one-volume abridged edition of 1922: The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, abridged edition (1922; reprint, New York, 1963), hereafter cited parenthetically as GB.

  16. Christopher Herbert, Victorian Relativity: Radical Thought and Scientific Discovery (Chicago, 2001), 206-8.

  17. For an excellent treatment of Dracula as a Svengalilike image of sinister Jewishness, see Zanger, “A Sympathetic Vibration.” “Stoker very quickly establishes the conflict between ordinary humans and the Un-Dead as one between Christians and Un-Christians,” Zanger shrewdly observes (38).

  18. Quoted in William Hughes, Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker's Fiction and Its Cultural Context (New York, 2000), 15.

  19. Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820; reprint, Lincoln, Nebr., 1961). Hereafter cited parenthetically as MW.

  20. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, trans. George Eliot (1841, 1854; reprint, New York, 1957). Hereafter cited parenthetically as EC.

  21. Bram Stoker, “The Censorship of Fiction,” The Nineteenth Century 64 (1908): 479-87.

  22. Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, ed. J. Dover Wilson (1869; reprint, Cambridge, 1966), 149.

  23. G. M. Young, Victorian England: Portrait of an Age, 2d ed. (London, 1960), l. See also G. Kitson Clark, The Making of Victorian England (New York, 1976), 20-21.

  24. Mark Pattison, “Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750,” in Essays and Reviews: The 1860 Text and Its Reading, ed. Victor Shea and William Whitla (Charlottesville, 2000), 388.

  25. “Underlying the sectarian differences between Arnold, Newman, and the Evangelicals, there is a fundamental community of aim which springs from their common indebtedness to John Wesley and the religious movement he initiated in the eighteenth century”; Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 (New Haven, 1957), 228.

  26. Rattenbury, Hymns, 3, 4. As Rattenbury notes (70), this element of Methodism attracted considerable attention in the nineteenth century, notably by Anglo-Catholics stressing what they felt to be John Wesley's unrecognized affinity with them. See, for example, W. E. Dutton, ed., The Eucharistic Manuals of John and Charles Wesley (London, 1871).

  27. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1966), 371-72.

Dennis Foster (essay date 2002)

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SOURCE: Foster, Dennis. “‘The Little Children Can Be Bitten’: A Hunger for Dracula.” In Bram Stoker, Dracula: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by John Paul Riquelme, pp. 483-99. Boston: Bedford, 2002.

[In the following essay, Foster applies a psychoanalytic interpretation to Dracula.]

We are all familiar with that moment of dreamlike suspension in movies when the monster, the killer, or some swarming, vital mass of birds, worms, or spiders waits somewhere just out of sight. The protagonist, who should know better, moves steadily, stupidly toward an encounter everyone else can see coming. “Don't, don't open that door,” we scream, and yet how disappointed we would be if the victim turned away, leaving the nightmare behind the door. After all, for the audience, that encounter with the horrid thing is the life of the party, the difference between a good scare and another yawner: we want to experience the agonizing thrill of knowing the worst, even though our better selves would warn the victim. But oddly, the characters do not see what they are walking into. And their refusing to know what would spare them, keep them from the consuming horror, only stimulates our hunger for the event.

The ambivalent experience of desiring something that will terrify us can be understood psychoanalytically. At the heart of psychoanalysis is the claim that we are fundamentally divided on a psychic level. We become who we are—we take on our subjective identities—by denying, refusing, or negating the other person we might have been: the male or female we are not, the sibling we envy, the bad child who has all the fun. We become ourselves, good instead of bad. And considering the dangers of being bad, one could say we decide to live rather than die, although living comes at a great cost. Psychoanalysis then goes on to say something more troubling: the other person, the Not-me, does not die off, but lives on within our psyches, beyond the reach of the rational, reflective, articulate mind. We abandon that other child, who becomes the wild, perverse, desiring, violent creature of our nightmares. It remains what cannot be spoken, but its reemergence constantly threatens our peace in the form, for example, of dreams, slips of the tongue, fantasies, and depression.

Sigmund Freud emerged on the Western scene at about the same moment as Bram Stoker's novel of the seductive, hungry force of darkness. On a trip to America, Freud made a claim that oddly evokes Dracula: “They don't realize we're bringing them the plague” (qtd. in Ecrits Lacan, 116). The story Freud tells, with its themes of violence, sexuality, and death, in which women and children figure shockingly as both heroes and victims, horrified many of his contemporaries even as it began to turn them into Freudians. He seems to threaten that after hearing his story, his audience will no longer live in a simple sunny world, a world like the one Lucy Westenra inhabited prior to her encounter with Dracula. Like Dracula, he sails out of the east bearing a cargo that will infect a population, arousing that unconscious other. The Enlightenment, the movement that replaced faith and obedience with reason and individual liberty, a movement to which Freud is indebted, may have opened a window to let in the sunshine of free rational enquiry, but it also produced a shadow. We knowers, as Friedrich Nietzsche called us, remain unknown to ourselves (149). We remain ignorant because the fruit of self-knowledge would be, as Nietzsche put it, “unpalatable”: we prefer to think ourselves good and refuse evidence to the contrary. Freud provided us with the language to see ourselves as possessed by an other, uncanny self who stands behind us but casts no reflection in the mirror of consciousness. And yet, he knew that once he had taught us to look with his eyes, we would not be able to turn away from the missing image: we would forever want to know and not to know. We would hunger for that unpalatable fruit.

At the heart of Dracula is hunger, that blindly mechanical oral impulse that each of us discovers in the first days after birth.1 In maturing, we go beyond that impulse into the more complex desires of civilized life, but we never transcend the simple, sometimes shameful enjoyments of mouthing, ingesting, incorporating, and destroying that are satisfied by the oral impulse. Think of how scrupulously parents police the oral habits of their children, repeatedly taking from them the parts of the world that they would inappropriately consume. The monster Dracula, I will argue, embodies the reemergence of this most primitive of our vital drives in an unaging form. The book Dracula, so deliberately presented as a moral tale where good defeats evil, allows us to revile the self-serving perversion of the vampire's hunger. Sustained by this stance of moral superiority, we repudiate the impulses we share with the monster and are allowed the guilt-free enjoyment of condemning and destroying the evil one. These are pleasures readers share with most of the characters.

To condemn, however, does not imply that the oral impulses various characters face will be overcome. Dracula's enemies, in fact, are surprisingly ineffective at stopping either Dracula or themselves from satisfying their appetites. No one reading Dracula can miss, for example, the obvious signs that Lucy Westenra receives nightly visits from the Count. A modern reader, knowing in the ways of vampires, immediately sees the symptoms: Lucy's pallor, her exhaustion, and those two fang-sized wounds on her neck. Her protectors see them as well, and they are all alarmed, particularly Van Helsing, who is full of vampire lore. Van Helsing even makes arrangements to protect Lucy from vampires, although without informing the others of the nature of her danger. He tells Dr. Seward, “You keep watch all night; see that she is well fed, and that nothing disturbs her” (p. 140 in this volume). Rather than telling him to keep vampires out of the room, he mentions only that she might be disturbed by hunger, which turns out, oddly, to be the problem. Of course, Dracula's appetite directly threatens her (which Van Helsing might have mentioned), but since her encounter with the vampire, she is infected by his hunger: she has “an appetite like a cormorant” (p. 124). The sleepwalking that had afflicted her since childhood turns her steps toward her meetings with Dracula. Van Helsing cryptically warns Seward, “If you leave her, and harm befall, you shall not sleep easy hereafter” (p. 140), which also alludes to the real, unspoken problem: in the hereafter, vampires do not rest but walk the nights, and if Dr. Seward is careless, he will become one of them, driven as they are by a hunger he can't yet name. Although Van Helsing may know what is going on, he seems unable to say it, as if he is trapped in metaphor and indirection, characteristic strategies of the unconscious.

Notice that on nights following Van Helsing's warning, Dr. Seward does leave Lucy alone, and Dracula comes to her repeatedly. In their inexperience, Dr. Seward and his friends might be excused for failing to deal properly with their first vampire attack. Even suspecting that Lucy is in danger, they don't move her to a safer place, but lay her out on her bed, asleep and vulnerable, as if laying a table. In their carelessness, the men become accomplices to Lucy's vampiric conversion. Subsequently, they make the same mistake with Mina. They leave her alone in Dr. Seward's house even after Renfield's terrified pleas not to be left in the house overnight might have alerted them to the house's danger, and the presence of great bats at the windows might have reminded them of Lucy's experience. The next day they notice Mina's pallor, yet fail to link it to Lucy's identical symptoms, even though they are thinking of nothing but vampires. Van Helsing and his band of men, these upright, honorable, defenders of womanhood and other virtues, regularly, blindly submit their women to Dracula's kiss: we should ask, what do these men want?

We might begin by looking at what they do not want. As much as they all long to be married to Lucy or Mina, they manage to arrange things so that none of them actually risks having sex. Three of the men propose to Lucy (Quincey Morris, Dr. Seward, and Arthur Holmwood, soon to be Lord Godalming), and the two whom she rejects, Morris and Seward, seem thereafter to resign themselves to celibacy. Holmwood wins the lady, but despite the fact that Lucy is eager to be married, he is slow to wed and Dracula takes her first. The fourth lover, Jonathan Harker, seems to be deeply in love with Mina, but he is so incapacitated by his visit to Dracula's castle that, when he does marry her, simply staying alive takes all his energy. And soon thereafter, Mina becomes vampiric and too dangerous even to kiss. Unless you want to conclude that these men all suffer from bad timing, you might think that they do not want sex with these women. Or if they do, some other desire or fear stands in the way of their acting effectively.

The first several chapters of the book do, however, give us an indication of what interests Mina's fiancé, Jonathan Harker. As he makes his way to Dracula's castle, he writes an account of his travels, including with surprising detail the meals he eats. In the first two pages of the book, he writes two memoranda to himself to get the recipe for a tasty dish. He tells us that “there are many odd things” to write about, but among the exotic curiosities of Transylvania, he makes room to “put down my dinner exactly,” a horrible meal with meat suitable only for cats and with a wine merely “not disagreeable” (p. 31). And when he eats well at Dracula's castle, he writes that he had an “excellent roast chicken. This, with some cheese and a salad and a bottle of old Tokay” (p. 42). The wine was improving: his food is important to him. Harker continues to discuss eating arrangements in some detail while he stays in the castle, though his eating is marked by its contrast to Dracula's apparent abstinence. Once the action returns to England, meals are less prominent in the characters' accounts of their own activities (although nothing is ever done without breakfast, a meal that is mentioned twenty-eight times in the book), but Dr. Seward's journal returns frequently to the eating habits of Renfield. Rather than eating roast chickens, Renfield consumes flies and spiders intending, he says, to “absorb as many lives as he can” (p. 92); this disgusting habit appears to Dr. Seward unrelated to his own consumption of fish, flesh, and fowl. Eating is on everyone's mind, but of course eating is the central activity of the book: Dracula intends to feed on the oblivious population of London. Whatever other desires the vampire hunters have, then, they share with Dracula a preference for eating when it comes to carnal pleasures, for the oral over the genital.

Oral pleasures are among our first, combining the vital necessity of eating with the pleasing activity of sucking. Freud, commenting on this pleasure, writes: “No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction in later life” (Three Essays, 182). The infant's intermittent happiness in being a consumer of a mother's breast (or so it must seem to the child who has never actually seen milk) must be left behind as one grows, as must most of the behaviors of childhood. Psychoanalysis describes in varying ways the processes by which infancy's most intense and reliable sources of satisfaction are displaced to other objects, people, practices: we take up toys, jobs, and lovers throughout life, hoping for happiness. But bliss does not come, not in toys, in work, nor in the sadly fickle satisfactions of sex. In large part because sex does not put an end to desire, the energy behind sexual desire becomes the engine for work, art, conquest, in short, for civilization.2 Still, we imagine that once upon a time we were really happy, and that someday we will be really happy again. Although we have lost the paradise of childhood (a childhood more fantasy than reality), we accept loss as the price we pay to become productive (and reproductive) members of society. Psychoanalysis argues, however, that the dream of such early pleasures continues to haunt us, fixating some of us on a real or imagined loss of something from childhood. Vampires may express that haunting.

Consider the case of Lucy following her first death. Having moved from sleepwalking fiancé to night-walking undead, Lucy goes out for nightly feedings and preys exclusively on young children whose common speech deficiency identifies her as the “bloofer” lady. Whether beautiful or bloody, the bloofer lady does not frighten the children. Rather, they follow her willingly when she calls. One child bitten by Lucy tells the nurse that he wants to leave her care “to play with the ‘bloofer lady’” (p. 204). The newspaper reports that a “favourite game of the little ones at present is luring each other away by wiles” (p. 188), with all of them eager to play the part of Lucy. She has something they aspire to: “even Ellen Terry could not be so winningly attractive as some of these grubby-faced little children pretend—and even imagine themselves—to be” (p. 188). The children, like the men before them, are drawn to this motherly, erotically charged woman, giving themselves to her while they also identify with her. Reciprocally, she, like the children, needs herself to be fed, but in this respect she is like all mothers: they are fed by their children, deriving comfort, meaning, companionship, and pleasure from them, even as they feed them. She is the source of both joy and horror to her child, since she is the one who can both give and take life. Lucy's vampiric relations with the children expose the link between the oral and the erotic in the era of childhood and the mutual haunting of mother and child.

The vampire's capacity for evoking these lost pleasures is displayed even more dramatically in Dracula, who, oddly, is the only male vampire in the book. Despite the representation of the Count as a masculine figure with a history of leadership and violence, he also appears in the ambiguous position of both mother and child. He is the master, the father of vampires, but as the one who brings new vampires into the world, he exhibits some distinctly motherly qualities. In one of the most explicitly sexualized scenes in Dracula, the Count is depicted holding Mina's mouth to his breast where she is compelled to drink from an open wound (p. 283). As in all of Dracula's encounters with his victims, Mina falls into a dreamy state in which she is unable to resist Dracula's advances. If this were an openly sexual advance, it would be clear what is happening: unable to take an active interest in sexual pleasure, horrified by sexual desire (his or hers) the women of nineteenth-century fiction finding themselves on the verge of a sexual encounter had the option of fainting and thereby escaping the guilt of active participation and pleasure.3 Nevertheless, Mina's swoon should alert us to her experience of some fearful desire. In this scene, Mina is both the child drinking at her mother's breast and, in an inversion of the expected vampiric embrace, a vampire: in drinking Dracula's blood, she enjoys the pleasure normally reserved for the vampire. We see in this image that the suckling child, though helpless to control her own limbs, is not passive in her pleasure. Rather, she actively seeks to consume the mother she depends on. And Dracula as mother, rather than simply destroying his victims, teaches the women he assaults to be as vigorous in their pursuit of enjoyment as men usually are. (Recall Lucy reaching out to Arthur: “My arms are hungry for you” [p. 219].) Mina, then, gets a literal taste of what it is like not only to be a vampire but to desire. It is no wonder she grows faint before the act and wipes her lips afterwards in telling the story “as though to cleanse them from pollution” (p. 288)—or is it the memory of a good meal?

As odd as it is to see Dracula in the position of a mother, it is even more curious to see Van Helsing comparing Dracula—the ancient, sophisticated warrior—to a child who is unable to grasp the more mature calculations of the men. Just as the men are despairing about the possibility of catching up with Dracula once he flees London, Van Helsing points out that “In some faculties of mind he has been, and is, only a child” (p. 300). Although Van Helsing's point is that Dracula's intellectual and moral immaturity gives the men an advantage over him, Van Helsing is also acknowledging a quality in Dracula that has contributed to the enduring appeal of this figure to readers. Insofar as he is a child, Dracula embodies something of the drives and compulsions that we adults have tamed and diminished. Dracula knows what he wants (unlike the men who can't quite figure out what to do with their women) and moves relentlessly toward it, incarnating some fundamental drive to enjoyment. Compare him, for example, to the child, the human animal at the breast, driven by organic bodily forces to possess the one thing it wants. In order to mature, that child must learn to substitute other objects for that fantastic breast in an increasing, flowering complexity that allows him to desire, say, a good grade on an essay or a hot stock for his portfolio.

Culture depends on this capacity for substitution, which Freud calls “sublimation.” Dracula, however, appears to be arrested at an early (oral?) stage, unable, unwilling, or simply not needing to move ahead like an ordinary mortal into the tangled world of adult sexuality with its compromises and restrictions. Generally (for there are always exceptions), we each must choose either males or females to be our sexual partners, foregoing the other; we exclude from our desiring glance those parents, siblings, and children we otherwise love passionately; one lover is never quite enough, and yet many is too many; flesh in its weakness never matches the aspirations of spirit. In Dracula's case, however, things are otherwise. He still lives out enjoyments that Van Helsing and his crew no longer have such direct access to: he is the Peter Pan of the undead, one of the lost boys.4 And as in Peter Pan, there is an ambivalence about the lost boys' condition: as fine as it may be to never have to grow up, never grow old, Wendy finds that they miss their mothers. Because they don't mature, they cannot find comfort in an age-appropriate woman's arms; neither do they ever have to shift their affection from a mother to what Freud, with his odd gift for phrasing, refers to as “strange and unloved women” (i.e. those not in their own families). In a similar moment of sympathetic understanding, Van Helsing pities Dracula for having fallen from noble maturity into his pathetic vampire state and would bring him back from “Never Never Land,” even if it means putting a stake through his heart. But since Dracula never complains about being a vampire, living forever, and feeding on a fresh woman every night, we might see in Van Helsing's pity (as well as in Wendy's) the spice of envy and resentment.

If we look again at Harker's account of his trip to Castle Dracula in the first four chapters of the book, we might ask to what extent he is also reluctant to leave the pleasures of childhood. On the verge of wedded bliss, he leaves Mina and the sexual obligations that would follow from marriage for his Transylvanian adventure: “to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner” (p. 40), a job even he finds suspiciously trivial. He has just passed his exams and should be a “full-blown solicitor,” someone in a mature, responsible position, but in Dracula's castle he is reduced to a passive guest or prisoner whose only duty seems to be to chatter (yet another oral task) while Dracula waits on him. Like a parent speaking to a child, Dracula warns Harker not to venture out of his room at night, and when he disobeys, he encounters the three female vampires, at whose approach he, like Lucy and Mina, falls into a stupor of “languorous ecstacy” (p. 62) and sexual irresponsibility. As those “thrilling and repulsive” women lean over him, he is filled with a “wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips” (p. 62), but can only “[wait] with beating heart.” Although his desires are fierce, he is passive before them, as helpless as an infant dandled by a gigantic mother to pursue or resist satisfaction. Dracula's victims throughout the rest of the book are mostly women, but here at the beginning is the anxiety, for male readers, at least that any man can find himself infantilized.

We have many fantasies about childhood, the main one being that it is a stage of innocence, without knowledge of the fierce demands of sexuality that we attribute to the adult body. Clearly, the drives for pleasure are present in children, announced with screams when they are frustrated and pursued with a concentrated focus when the means for satisfaction are available. What children do lack is a knowledge of death, not just that a mouse or kitten or grandparent can die, but that they themselves inevitably must die: there is something in the way we are made that does not suit us for immortality. Freud argues that earth's original protozoan creatures that reproduce through division are effectively immortal, the offspring indistinguishable from the parent organisms. But once life depends on sexual reproduction, “an unlimited duration of individual life would become a quite pointless luxury … death became possible and expedient” (Beyond 46). Death is implied in our sexual being. The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan argues that sexual desire is ultimately a desire for that missing thing that would make us immortal.5 Leaving childhood implies our discovering that we lack something in our being: we are divided into male and female, and so we will never be whole.6 Our most intense pleasures, of which the orgasmic climax of intercourse is only the most obvious, are in some fashion a more or less momentary overcoming of that sense of being divided, separated. Sexuality is what we have instead of being complete, immortal, but for that reason our sexuality leads us inevitably to a confrontation with our mortality. Because we lack that immortal thing, we die. Because we lack, we desire—but not happily. Part of the appeal of children, I suspect, is that they are still immortal (the reason we are born “trailing clouds of glory” as William Wordsworth says in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”) and remind us of what we have lost in maturing, in eating of the tree of knowledge. We know the children will age and die, but since they don't know this, they can simply want what they want. Why shouldn't we envy them? They are like the explorers Nick Carraway at the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby imagines first seeing America as the “fresh, green breast of the new world” and thinking they would be able to drink their fill forever.

Perhaps this is the vampire, then, the projection of the childlike immortality onto an adult body: vampires experience the rage for pleasure that we see in the child, but they suffer from neither the child's incapacity nor the adult's sentence of death. And in their capacity for sexless reproduction that does not carry the inevitability of replacement, they are outside the binary of life and death. They are undead, the negation of death, and though Van Helsing may pity them for being trapped on earth and hence deprived of eternal life beyond death, the undead do not lament their condition; rather, they fight fiercely to preserve themselves.

Our human prejudice, like Van Helsing's, favors life, but our actions frequently express a contrary longing. One of Freud's most enigmatic and profound insights is that we all ultimately strive to “return” to an earlier, inorganic state of being (Beyond 36). We humans suffer from “unlust,” unpleasure, the tension between what we need and our ability to find satisfaction; we suffer from desire. Some desires are simple: when we are hungry we want food, when we are cold we want warmth. But our human desires are also more complex, condemning us to impossible desires for lost things—call it Eden, the Golden Age, or Mother—that we will never have again, and that we never really had. In striving to fulfill our desires, we are literally moving toward a place before desire, before loss, before life. This is the “death drive,” not a drive to be dead (as Freud points out, none of us has been dead, and so the term has no meaning for the individual unconscious), but to be freed from the painful separation that is life. Stoker's term, “Un-Dead,” suggests that desire to be freed from the limits of human satisfaction, yet not to be dead.

Humans live in the midst of death. Of course, we know we will die. But in addition we live surrounded by our dead, both in the architectural monuments and cemeteries that house them in our cities, and in the culture that we live within and pass on to the next generation. It can be unsettling to realize that our ideas, our language, and our history are not our own but are transmitted through us unconsciously, largely independent of that conscious self which we esteem so highly. Even more unsettling at times is the realization that not even our bodies are our own. We are shaped by our DNA: it is the undead thing that constructs our bodies, and our minds and culture exist for the sole purpose (in evolutionary terms) of allowing DNA to replicate itself. Compared to our immortal DNA, we humans are ephemeral creatures, mere hosts for this unconscious molecule. But we don't often have to think about our servitude to the molecule: some fundamental repression conceals from us the drives and motives of our undead selves.

There is something fundamentally “inhuman” to our being: however “noble in reason” humans are, however “like an angel in apprehension” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, II.ii. 305), at our core we are linked to that ancient, inorganic state, never born, and hence not dead: undead.7 We see an expression of this insight into our construction in the tales of zombies (recall again Lucy's sleepwalking), where people are reduced to automatons, laboring with machinelike persistence to fulfill the will of some master. On a genetic level, we could call the master “evolution”—in all of our daily busyness, in all of the complexity of our civilization, we work like zombies to produce the next set of human genes, even when we know rationally that such replication serves the world and humanity ill, destroying our water, land, and air. On the level of the individual psyche, we see the master at work in the wealth of incomprehensible, contradictory, compulsive, irrational behaviors that constitute our lives.8 Most of us, no matter how old, have had the uncanny and unpleasant experience of feeling once more like the child we thought we had outgrown, just as we recognize in a facial or vocal expression, in a gesture or attitude the parent we couldn't imagine becoming. We don't have to look to the supernatural to see the persistence within us of something that is not us.

Dracula speaks to some unconscious, undead drive in Lucy and Mina when he goes to them. Consider his encounter with Mina. When Dracula comes to her, Mina is at home and in her bed because the men deemed her too weak to join them in the final pursuit of the monster. They think this despite the fact that Harker had recently noticed that Mina's labors had left her more “absolutely strong and well” (p. 251) than he had ever seen her before. She has been independent, resourceful, and tireless, but now she withdraws in obedience to her “husband's great love and from the good, good wishes of those other strong men” (p. 260). The first night Dracula visits her, she goes to bed “simply because they told me to” (p. 260) and is reduced to a weeping, anxious, mindless creature of the men's will, one incapable of action or pleasure. But once she has drunk from Dracula's breast, she begins to share his thoughts, warning her men that when Dracula calls, she will have no choice but to do his bidding. Mina, the chaste, faithful, courageous Mina, may become yet another of those vampire tramps who came so near to ravishing Harker. (Naturally, the men promise to kill her first, before she goes too far.) The worst danger posed by Dracula, then, is not death, but the possibility that the women whom he touches will begin to act in ways that escape the wishes of the good, good men. This brings us then closer to the psychoanalytic problem at the heart of Dracula: the real fear is not that some unslakable thirst will produce monsters, but that some master could command any one of us to fulfill some horrible drive that had been repressed with the greatest diligence.

We must, however, recall reality: there are no vampires. Perhaps we should see this fear as being, in fact, a wish: no one would fear a seducer if one did not think he might be seduced, wish he would be seduced. Talia Schaffer's argument that Dracula is about the fear of homosexual seduction following the trial of Oscar Wilde points to a similar “fear” surrounding Wilde: there would be no danger of seduction (“recruitment” in today's militarized language) if there were no temptation. For Stoker's characters, temptation waits behind every dark door. Or they wish it did. The fact is that temptations can come to seem wildly satisfying only if the Law, the Father, has said “No”: in placing something beyond reach, the No produces the fantasy that it is what the child wants. And if he only waits long enough (until he grows up, until the Father dies), he'll get it. But that fantasy is in serious trouble for the characters in Dracula: the fathers in this book are all dead (Mina's and Lucy's fathers) or dying (Lord Godalming and Mr. Hawkins), taking the promise of future enjoyment with them when they take away the prohibition. Lucy is available and willing to provide some healthy sex, but none of the men seems eager to test his capacity for bliss in an encounter with her. It is as if they know that there is no real object that will satisfy them, and all they can do is delay the realization of that knowledge.

Dracula, however, like the suckling child, knows what delights him. Blood is the sure thing, the endlessly repeatable object that fulfills his only need, for he has only the one need. Like the pervert who knows that his particular fetish will always arouse him, Dracula knows what he wants. Few of us, the normal neurotics, desire so simply: satisfy a craving with this food, this lover, this car, and soon the craving will return for some different meat/neighbor/sports utility vehicle. After all, those are not the things we lost and hope to find again. Those lost objects belong to what Lacan calls the Real, that category of things that cannot be named or represented, and hence cannot be asked for.9 Every attempt to grasp something in the Real results in a missed encounter that leads to repetition, to one more attempt at satisfaction (Lacan, Four, ch. 5). But for Dracula, blood is the Real Thing. Consequently, Dracula seems to restore to the English the promise that had been the payoff for obeying the fathers, for agreeing to wait, which is the response to the anxiety of loss termed “castration.”10 As Van Helsing puts it, if Dracula succeeds, he will become “the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road must lead through Death, not Life” (p. 300). But unlike the Fathers who said No, Dracula demonstrates that there is something Real that will enable them to have full enjoyment. And the horrifying command Dracula brings is this: enjoy!11

Unlike the pleasures most of us pursue, which are tied to the endless permutations of fashion, advertising, television, and celebrity, there is something mechanical about Dracula's demands, despite the elaborate trappings of civilization he exhibits. It is as if his culture, his mastery of languages and manners, is simply a set of devices to enable the mechanical drive to function. We see something of this machine at work after Dracula passes the vampiric infection to Lucy: she returns sleep-walking to the East Cliff where she met him, and she would go again were her door not locked. At first this appearance of an irrational, unconscious (but unsleeping?) mechanism in her suggests her total servitude to the master, but it also brings an increasingly robust appearance, as if the loss of an autonomous self led to a vibrant physical presence. And once she is “dead,” she appears “more radiantly beautiful than ever. … The lips were red, nay redder than before; and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom” (p. 209). But the more striking change in Lucy is that she is no longer the frustrated maiden in white waiting for some man to release her from her situation of constrained femininity, a release that would bring the inevitable physical and psychological burdens of children. Rather, she becomes literally a woman of the night who takes what she wants. Van Helsing notes her sharp teeth: with these, “‘little children can be bitten’” (p. 209). A mother's fierce love of children (“You're so cute I could just eat you up”) reveals itself in Lucy's perverse feeding on the bodies of children who, had she by chance conceived them, would have fed on her. So she bites, enjoying the pleasure of children without the suffering of motherhood. Under the influence of the vampiric master, she feels no human ambivalence but enjoys, rather, a relentless drive to consume.

When Lucy encounters her fiancé on one of her nightly walks, she drops the child she has been sucking and invites her man into her arms: “Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!” (p. 219). This creature, the men think, only looks like Lucy: “The sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness” (p. 218). Hard, heartless, wanton: this Lucy has been condensed into a pure manifestation of drive. “May I cut off the head of the dead Miss Lucy?” (p. 214) asks Van Helsing, as if to save her true self by separating it from her monstrous body (“the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance” [p. 221]). We might, however, invert the terms and wish for Lucy's sake that her body had been released from the repressive head. She disgusts the men because as the undead, she is undeadened, unrestrained. The men look for the “unequalled sweetness and purity” they identified with Lucy, but they can find it in her face only following her second, final death. They see “her truth” in the “traces of care and pain and waste” left on her face, not in traces of pleasure or happiness. The Lucy they loved was always the deadened woman they imagined her to be.

It is not just the women, however, who fall under the reign of a master. If there is a figurative Father in the book, it is Van Helsing. And yet this trustworthy father figure, the man who embodies the Law all others should serve, pushes the other men toward an enjoyment more horrific than that offered by Dracula. When he asks to cut off Lucy's head, Holmwood replies “in a storm of passion”: “Heavens and earth, no!” (p. 214). The intensity of Holmwood's response suggests that he recognizes a disturbing and improper desire in Van Helsing's doubtlessly pragmatic request. But Van Helsing is the leader of these servants of the Law and will save them from their own improper desires: when Lucy invites Holmwood to “rest together” with her, for example, Holmwood “opened wide his arms” (p. 219) and would have succumbed to her if Van Helsing had not intervened. He obeys Van Helsing's “No,” turning away from this display of female sexuality and toward his duty. But Holmwood's adherence to duty also leads him to his most intense enjoyment in the book: he places a huge stake on Lucy's bare breast (“I could see its dint in the white flesh”) and hammers it through her body while she “quivered and twisted in wild contortions” (p. 223). Just like those indentured to Dracula, he acts robotically, “never [faltering]. He looked like a figure of Thor as his trembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake.” This pile-driving man could behave this way, we are told, only because he was “forced to his task by more than human considerations” (p. 223): only in duty, that is, in doing good, can he justify such violence and such perverse satisfaction.

But as is often the case, the more than human is also less than human, as the brightest angel becomes the darkest devil. In all passionate commitment to duty, we should hear the command “Enjoy!,” the directive to take pleasure precisely in renouncing conventional pleasure in the name of the higher law. The odd overlap between Dracula and Van Helsing, then, arises from the function of the Father in both restraining and giving access to pleasure. Behind the good Father of the Law is the horror of what Freud in Totem and Taboo calls the “primal father”12 and Slavoj Zizek calls the “anal father” (see n.11, p. 495). The anal father, the monster who has no restraint and whose excessive enjoyment threatens everyone, is the still living, undead residue of the murdered primal father's awful freedom. Nina Schwartz argues that our “ambivalence … toward the anal father derives from [his] simultaneously calling forth both the possibility for enjoyment and the revulsion we have learned to feel toward such pleasure” (14). The only possibility of overcoming that ambivalence is to mask the anal father with the face of the good Father of the Law. Van Helsing, then, represents the Law, saving the men from their revolting desires, but paradoxically freeing them to act on the lingering demand of the anal father. That is, Van Helsing tells the good men he leads that their enjoyment will come through renunciation, not indulgence; but in service to that renunciation, no extremity will be denied.

Our interest in Dracula and vampires is not, I think, that many would want to join his crew. Dracula, that is, does not directly invite us to take that “road … through Death” (p. 300). Jeffrey Dahlmer and Hannibal Lecter13 not withstanding, we cannot return to that infant state of oral gratification: we take it on faith, willingly suspending disbelief, that in fictive settings eating children and driving stakes through young women can impart a certain wild enjoyment, and Bram Stoker has given us a fantasy of such enjoyment cloaked in a morality tale. But it is the morality tale itself that ultimately grants us access to something like the hunger of Dracula. The moral voice in Dracula points to the monster and to the voluptuous wantonness of Lucy and tells us that it is true, some people do attain pure enjoyment, but that our duty is to destroy them, the evil ones. Lacking real vampires to condemn in our daily lives, the Van Helsings and other masters find the monsters of enjoyment elsewhere, in sullen teens, in the pungent foods and irritating music of ethnic populations, in the sordid sexuality of almost any identifiable group who, in their otherness, seem to enjoy too much. Just as Dracula's huge appetite threatened that band of men with the loss of all pleasure, these various others in their apparent enjoyment (no matter how miserable their real economic circumstances) can be seen as the thieves of the good, good people's happiness, as creatures worthy of the stake. Here, finally, is the real horror of Dracula: that there are always spiritual and political leaders, like Van Helsing, ready to stage a blood feast founded on the call of duty, and that our neighbors, who only yesterday were our friends, will join them, a band of soldiers beneath a moral banner ready to serve the latest master.


  1. This oral dimension has been often noted. For example, Maggie Kilgore comments on the prevalence of the oral phase in Dracula and other gothic tales. And Alan Dundes notes that the vampire's victim “regresses to an oral sadistic infantile level” (169).

  2. Freud writes at length about the combination of accomplishment and unhappiness that characterizes civilization in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930).

  3. Heinrich von Kleist's The Marquise of O—(1809) provides a classic example of stunned unknowing. The Marquise, daughter of a painter and mother of two well-bred children, manages, following the fall of her castle, not to know with whom she had sex or even that she had sex at all.

  4. The film titled The Lost Boys (1987) also makes this connection between vampirism and Peter Pan. The leader of the vampire boys wants to find a mother for them so that they can become a complete vampire family.

  5. Writing of the relation of sex to mortality, Lacan says: “It is the libido, qua pure life instinct, that is to say, immortal life, or irrepressible life, life that has need of no organ, simplified, indestructible life. It is precisely what is subtracted from the living being by virtue of the fact that it is subject to the cycle of sexed reproduction.” (Four 198)

  6. Freud, who is always willing to acknowledge the wisdom of poets, invokes Plato's myth of sexual division and a similar account in the Upanishads, in both of which an originally whole human is split into separate, desiring male and female parts (Beyond 57-58).

  7. I derive my understanding of the inhuman from Lyotard's book The Inhuman, an idea I discuss in chapter 2 of Sublime Enjoyment. You will also find a discussion of DNA and vampirism in my chapter on W. S. Burroughs in chapter 7 of that book.

  8. Freud collected everyday, nonneurotic examples of such behavior in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901). Here you will find the examples of dreams, denials, and “Freudian slips” that make us all Freudians despite ourselves.

  9. In Lacan's terms, this means that the Real belongs neither to the Symbolic (the realm of symbolization and representation) nor the Imaginary (the realm of the image, the visible). Consequently, the Real is evoked by the sense that something is left out, missing but necessary to the wholeness of the world.

  10. Lacan defines castration to mean “that jouissance [enjoyment] must be refused, so that it can be reached on the inverted ladder … of the Law of desire” (Ecrits 324). Enjoyment, this implies, cannot be attained directly, but only through a detour that obeys the father's No: do not pass this way.

  11. Zizek describes this idea of the father: “What emerges under the guise of the phantom-like ‘living-dead’—of the specter which hinders ‘normal’ sexual relationship—is, however, the reverse of the Name of the Father, namely the ‘anal father’ who definitely does enjoy” (125). Although the normal “No” of the Father may lead to an attenuated, dissatisfying sexual relationship, the “anal father's” yes leads to a compelling, yet terrible enjoyment. This undead father instructs you to pursue the Real Thing, even though it takes you away from Life. Such a turn occurs in David Lynch's film Blue Velvet (1986) when the hero, returning home to Lumberton to visit his ailing father, finds himself dissatisfied with the affection of a sweetly perfect girlfriend and becomes etangled in the sadomasochistic affair of the horrific anal father (played by Dennis Hopper at his scariest) and his mistress. Lumberton never looks the same again.

  12. Freud speculates that society began with the killing of that father: “One day the brothers who had been driven out came together, killed and devoured their father and so made an end of the patriarchal horde. United, they had the courage to do and succeeded in doing what would have been impossible for them individually” (Totem, 141). In order to remain united in society, the brothers must both constantly evoke that father, more mythic than real, lest any one of them rise up to become him. But that evocation is also a reminder of what was lost, not just the primal father, but the enjoyment available to him.

  13. Two famous anthropophagites of the 1990s, one real, the other invented by the writer Thomas Harris.

Works Cited

Dundes, Alan. “The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A Psychoanalytic Post Mortem.” The Vampire: A Casebook. By Dundes. Madison: U Wisconsin P, 1998. 159-75.

Foster, Dennis. Sublime Enjoyment: On the Perverse Motive in American Literature. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997.

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. 1920. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Ed. and trans. James Strachey. Vol. 18. London: Hogarth, 1953. 24 vols.

———. Civilization and Its Discontents. 1930. Vol. 21.

———. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. 1905. Vol. 7.

———. Totem and Taboo. 1913. Vol. 13.

Kilgore, Maggie. The Rise of the Gothic Novel. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1977.

———. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. 1973. Trams. Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1978.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. 1887. Trans. Francis Golffing. Garden City: Doubleday, 1956.

Schaffer, Talia. “‘A Wilde Desire Took Me’: The Homoerotic History of Dracula.ELH 61.2 (1994): 381-425.

Schwartz, Nina. “The Absent One in ‘Apartment Zero’.” Camera Obscura. 37 (1996): 7-30.

Zizek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Gregory Castle (essay date 2002)

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SOURCE: Castle, Gregory. “Ambivalence and Ascendancy in Bram Stoker's Dracula.” In Bram Stoker, Dracula: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by John Paul Riquelme, pp. 518-37. Boston: Bedford, 2002.

[In the following essay, Castle utilizes a historical approach to Dracula, focusing on Anglo-Irish relations in the late nineteenth century.]


Historical approaches to literature have become increasingly appealing to many readers in the past two decades, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Irish studies, where revisionist writing about history and a literary criticism informed by new thinking about postcolonial situations have altered our way of looking at Irish culture and politics. It is within this context that we have seen a reconsideration of the relationship between the Anglo-Irish ruling class (the Irish Protestant Ascendancy) and the Catholic-Irish “natives.” In Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1995), Terry Eagleton maps the failure of the Ascendancy elite to achieve political and cultural hegemony. The perspective he provides enables us to see in Dracula the effect of social dislocation and loss of power, which Stoker would have experienced as an Anglo-Irishman.

Though the Anglo-Irish considered themselves a client of the British state, their ineffectual rule of Ireland—marked by absentee landlordism that drained Ireland of its capital and many of its goods, “rack-rent” policies that often bordered on extortion, and social and political ineptitude—ultimately guaranteed that they would never achieve the kind of political and social dominance required by any ruling class. “Hegemony is not just a psychological matter,” writes Eagleton. “[I]t is also a question of economic incentives and social techniques, religious practices and electoral routines” (28). In his description of the economic and social basis of the Ascendancy, the Irish historian J. C. Beckett hits upon one reason for its failure to achieve hegemony: its social insularity. “To entertain their neighbors, and be entertained by them, at drinking and field-sports was almost the sum-total of their activities, and probably formed a fair index of their notions of social responsibility and public duty” (182). Still, like R. F. Foster and other Irish historians, Beckett concedes that the Ascendancy did contain individuals who overcame selfishness and improvidence in order to champion the efforts of their more reform-minded peers. This attitude toward the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy indicates that even those who wish to see it in the best possible light cannot avoid noting its utter failure to achieve dominance, despite its advantageous connections to the British empire. Its “half-hearted” attempts at social reform only underscored this failure and, ultimately, helped create the social and political conditions for a Catholic nationalist middle class to rise and express their own political and social power.

“Taken as a whole,” writes Eagleton, “the Ascendancy represented a backward, unmannerly sector of the British governing class; and their ability to win the loyalty of their tenants was seriously disabled by the ethnic, religious and cultural abyss which yawned between them” (59). He goes on to claim that, at its worst, the Ascendancy was a “parasitic social formation” (66).1 Some historians, like R. F. Foster, play down the parasitical or vampiric side of the Ascendancy. Citing Michael Davitt, the nineteenth-century Irish Land Leaguer who called the Ascendancy “cormorant vampires,” Foster writes that this “picture … has long been disproved; if the post-Famine Irish landlords were vampires, they were not very good at it” (Modern Ireland 375). Anyone expecting a Manichaean dualism,2 in which the Ascendancy sits squarely on the side of the British Empire against a common Catholic Irish foe, is frustrated by the ambivalent social position of the Irish Protestant, marked as both colonizer and colonized, “caught on the hop between conflicting cultural norms, whose whole existence is a barely tolerable in-betweenness” (Eagleton 160). For Eagleton, the failure of the Anglo-Irish political elite to achieve control over the political and social life of Ireland and to maintain close allegiances with the British state corresponds to a development in literature in which realism, the dominant mode of literary expression in nineteenth-century Britain, becomes unstable and ambiguous in the work of Irish writers. For a number of reasons having to do with Ireland's colonial status—especially the absence of a strong middle class and a “native” language—Irish fiction develops in a direction that “lends itself more obviously to modernism” (Eagleton 148). By this Eagleton means that Irish fiction anticipates the modernist critique of a form of realism that concealed its aesthetic operations. In this way, realism creates an impression of transparency, of a neutral, disinterested mode of depicting social life ideally suited to the development of a bourgeois class seeking to legitimize and naturalize its ideological commitments. It claims to permit us to see the otherwise unseen causes of social events and to understand the “stealthy effect” (Eagleton 201) of social conditions on character.

The Irish Protestant novelistic tradition lays claim to no such transparency. Realism fails to take hold, in part because the Ascendancy intelligentsia had occluded or mythologized their own involvement in the causes of social events. Moreover, the causal relationship between social conditions and the individual in realistic literature, which might be said to reflect a bourgeois social compact, does not obtain under conditions of colonial domination. As Eagleton suggests, the pressures of the “real” in colonial societies produces social consequences that are not always explicable in terms of cause and effect and drive colonized writers to create unrealistic (that is to say, fantastic) representations of unbearable social conditions. We see this throughout the nineteenth century in the tendency of Irish Protestant Gothic novelists such as Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker to create macabre or ghostly allegories of their feelings of social displacement and disempowerment. Eagleton's brief characterization of Dracula as a ghoulish type of the absentee Ascendancy landlord (215) suggests a direction for analysis that has been largely ignored in recent historical criticism of Dracula. Much of this criticism is concerned with Stoker's ambivalent sexuality and his response to the threat of absorption by a rising Catholic middle class. In this criticism, Dracula represents the “return of the repressed,” and this return is especially threatening when it appears to reverse the power dynamic of colonialism or to foretell the absorption, both socially and politically, of the Ascendancy by the Catholic Irish. Though the fears of absorption were quite real, the fear of “reverse colonization” emerges more obviously from English anxieties than from Anglo-Irish concerns. The Ascendancy had perhaps more to fear from the English than they did from the Catholic Irish.3

Many of the social issues alluded to in Dracula—social decadence, racial degeneration, poverty, disease (especially syphilis), the fear of immigration from the colonies4—were very much English concerns. Critics who analyze the significance of these issues in Dracula take their cue from Mina Harker, who identifies Dracula as “a criminal and of criminal type. Nordau and Lombroso would so classify him”(p. 336 in this volume). Max Nordau's Degeneration, published in German in 1892 and in English in 1895, constituted the leading edge of criticism leveled against the excesses of “civilized” culture at the fin de siècle. In overheated rhetoric, Nordau excoriates the decay of a sick culture:

[T]he fin-de-siècle mood … is the impotent despair of a sick man, who feels himself dying by inches in the midst of an eternally living nature blooming insolently for ever. It is the envy of a rich, hoary voluptuary, who sees a pair of young lovers making for a sequestered forest nook; it is the mortification of the exhausted and impotent refugee from a Florentine plague, seeking in an enchanted garden the experiences of a Decamerone, but striving in vain to snatch one more pleasure of sense from the uncertain hour.


Nordau's rhetoric is not far from that of English social reformers in the 1890s, such as Charles and William Booth. Charles Booth's census of London's East End created new categories of the urban poor. In addition to creating the Salvation Army, his brother William published an influential book in 1890, Darkest England and the Way Out, which set forth a plan for the segregation and, ultimately, forced emigration of the most degenerate members of the urban population.5 Against this English background, argues Daniel Pick, Stoker's Dracula presents “a vision of the bio-medical degeneration of the race” that “at once sensationalized the horrors of degeneration and charted reassuringly the process of their confinement and containment” (75, 83). In this view, the threat is to the English race, and Stoker's narrative structure, which allocates narrative authority to exclusively English characters who produce their own version of events, reinforces this national emphasis.

But it is clear, given the destiny of the Ascendancy in the nineteenth century, that Anglo-Irish anxieties were not the same as English ones and that the threat represented by Dracula could be read as emanating not only from a foreign source, a primitive Catholic Other, but from the English themselves who, for all intents and purposes, abandoned their Anglo-Irish clients. This double threat—and double fear—marks a congenital instability in terms of political and cultural identity, an instability that places the Anglo-Irish as a class on both sides of the colonial divide. In Dracula, this double placement results in anomalous, hybrid figures: a primitive, atavistic Dracula is nonetheless civilized while the civilized, rational English are dependent on primitive superstition. If we read Dracula as “a kind of allegory, which properly interpreted lays bare the historical forces at its heart” (Eagleton 183), these forces—which blur the line between civilized and primitive, national and transnational—need to be recognized and explained. By staging this allegory in London, the heart of the empire, Stoker invites us to consider the threat of Dracula within the binary structure of imperialism (which makes an absolute distinction between the primitive or premodern colonized and the civilized or modern colonizer), a structure in which Dracula represents the return of the repressed colonial subject. But when we read Dracula with an awareness of Stoker's ambivalent Anglo-Irishness, the emphasis shifts from a binary structure in which a Protestant England is invaded by Catholic vampires to an ambivalent structure in which Anglo-Irish Protestants must negotiate between the Catholic peasantry they mistreated and the English politicians who hold their future in their hands. Though it is set in London and Transylvania and features no Irish characters, it is possible, even inevitable, to read Stoker's novel as an expression of the Protestant Ascendancy's most deeply rooted fears.

Dracula responds to these fears and the cultural displacement of the Ascendancy class. By projecting an ambivalent Anglo-Irish subjectivity onto two highly ambivalent fictional characters, Abraham Van Helsing and Count Dracula, it expresses the social “reality” of an elite ruling class that has lost its legitimacy and become “homeless.” Stoker's text is thus a reflection of a particular historical process in which the Ascendancy descended from its stable position as a ruling class to “a form of cultural displacement” (Eagleton 63). As many critics have noted, this shift became apparent to the Ascendancy in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, when Land League agitation in Ireland and land legislation in England resulted in the virtual disestablisment of the Anglo-Irish land-owning class.6 By the time Stoker published Dracula in 1897, the threat of absorption by a politically powerful Catholic middle class was palpable, despite the success of the Catholic church in its campaign in 1890 to topple Charles Stewart Parnell, an Anglo-Irish politician whose affair with a married woman, Mrs. Kitty O'Shea, cost him the leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The Ascendancy had cause for alarm, especially given the rhetoric of Irish-Ireland nationalists like D. P. Moran, who could write, in 1905, at the peak of the Literary Revival, “the Gael must be the element that absorbs” (37).7 The “clerical-national alliance” continued unabated after Parnell's fall, with some Irish political allegiances shifting to Gladstone's Liberal party, which drafted the 1886 and 1893 Home Rule Bills.8 By the late 1890s, increasingly virulent protestations from what Foster calls “irreconcilable elements left out of the Parnellite equation,” together with a dwindling of Anglo-Irish support for Home Rule, created a climate of paranoia and deracination (Modern Ireland 427). The prospect of absorption by a growing Catholic middle class led the Ascendancy into an “obsessive, hierarchical subculture” (Foster, Modern Ireland 427) in which self-perceptions were colored by the double threat of Catholic political power and English indifference.

For many readers of Dracula, the Irish historical context may not seem relevant to their understanding of a man who had become an important player in the English theater community and whose sensibilities, judging from characters like Jonathan Harker, John Seward, and Arthur Holmwood, are British and imperialist. But it is worth noting that before he went to work for Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre, Stoker was the quintessential Irish Protestant: the star student of Edward Dowden, professor of English at Trinity College, Dublin (the pinnacle of Protestant education in Ireland), “the brilliant son of a professional Dublin Protestant Family, Trinity Gold Medallist, Auditor of the College Philosophical Society, Double First and civil servant” (Foster, “Protestant Magic” 259).9 Though not a land-owning member of the Ascendancy class, he nevertheless enjoyed the privileges of that class as well as the sense of ambivalence with respect to the British government, which had, for all intents and purposes, abandoned the Anglo-Irish. Like many of his class, he developed modes of “escapism motivated by the threat of a take-over by the Catholic middle classes—a threat all the more inexorable because it is being accomplished by peaceful means and with the free legal aid of British governments” (“Protestant Magic” 251). Reading Dracula with an awareness of this ambivalence and the social crisis that follows from it, we find a displaced expression of Stoker's—and the Ascendancy's—contradictory feelings of estrangement and entitlement. But the ambivalence encrypted in Dracula involves something more than a mixed feeling with regard to the British government's policy of appeasing an increasingly restive and politically potent Catholic middle class; indeed, it seems to involve an uneasy dependency on the very Catholicism, with its sacramental magic, that the Protestant Ascendancy was reputed to fear.

Like Oscar Wilde before him and James Joyce after, Stoker borrows and refashions the sacramental icons, rituals, and prayers; but unlike them, he does not do so in order to advance an ethical or artistic program that stands in defiance of Church or State authority. Rather, Stoker is more interested in using sacramental elements in order to protect Church and State from a threat that is, paradoxically, marked as Catholic. His recourse to sacramentalism amounts to a preemptive tactic, one in which the Irish Catholic's sacramental desire and the rituals that express it are appropriated. His intention is to exert a symbolic domination over Catholic Ireland and thus to forestall the decline of an ineffectual Ascendancy class and to fend off the reverse colonization or absorption that events in fin de siècle Ireland seemed ominously to foreshadow. Stoker's reaction to political realities like land expropriation, Catholic democracy, and, inevitably, Home Rule—all of which, by 1897, would have been regarded as serious threats to Ascendancy privilege—was not merely to appropriate but also to Gothicize sacramental desire. Reading Dracula in the context of Irish Protestant occultism, what Foster calls “Protestant magic,” can help us understand why, in this Gothic drama of the return of the repressed, Dracula wears an Englishman's clothes and Van Helsing, the protector of English women and English values, brandishes a Roman Catholic cross.


Reading the Anglo-Irish plot of Dracula involves recognizing the tensions, ambiguities, and contradictions that marked the Ascendancy's ambivalent, compromised position. In Stoker's use of sacramental elements, we find a contradiction: the fight against the atavistic horror of vampirism, the cutting-edge technology deployed by Van Helsing and his Crew of Light,10 is useless without recourse to occult and sacramental practices. Critics typically interpret the contradictory interdependence of superstition and modernity in Dracula as a reflection of the ambivalence generated by competing ideologies of gender, race, class, and nationalism within modernity.11 Geoffrey Wall puts the matter plainly when he writes that in Dracula we find a “contradiction between the archaic stuff of its narrative and the contemporary techniques which allow that narrative to emerge” (15).12 However, Stoker's use of sacramental ritual and icons to ward off a demonized Catholic threat is less paradoxical and enigmatic if taken in the context of the Irish 1890s. During that decade, the threat of the Catholic middle class provoked Protestant intellectuals to embrace occult knowledge, to Gothicize their alienation, to engage in a ritualistic self-fashioning that, paradoxically, appropriates the sacramental in order to make up for a paucity of national and spiritual vision. What we discover is a text deeply ambivalent about the Catholicism it impugns: in order to compensate for the increasing political power of the Catholic Irish, Stoker symbolically transforms them into Transylvanian peasants and into the Count, both occupying a primitive landscape where their sacramental desire is recoded as superstition, ignorance, monstrosity, and atavism. But this displacement and disavowal of the Catholic Other does not prevent scientists like the Dutchman Van Helsing from taking up sacramental rituals in order to supply what the rationalism and materialism of modernity had repudiated: a way of seeing beyond the limits of a “normal” scientific paradigm and the “sentimental” social truths that legitimate and sustain it (Greenway 218ff).

Stoker's and his characters' ambivalent attitude toward Catholicism and sacramentalism reflects to some degree a colonialist desire to disavow the Irish Catholic; but it also reflects the desire of a marginalized elite to appropriate religious ritual in order to invigorate itself. From the Gothic romanticism of Charles Maturin and Sheridan Le Fanu to the occult esotericism of the Literary Revivalists, Irish Protestant intellectuals turned to mysticism and the occult in order to solemnize and ritualize their otherwise impoverished social condition. Foster's description of W. B. Yeats's Protestant subculture fits Stoker's: “an insecure middle-class, with a race-memory of elitism and a predisposition towards seeking refuge in the occult” (“Protestant Magic” 265-6). Stoker probably shared Yeats's “exasperation with Catholic demos, and a refusal to allow that element the monopoly of being ‘Irish’” (246). This strain of “Protestant magic” is, as Foster indicates, part of a long Ascendancy tradition of “occult preoccupations.” The interest in secretive or esoteric societies counteracted both scientific positivism and Roman Catholicism. The popularity of Freemasonry and occult orders reflects a desire for access to spiritual and irrational experiences that provided a compensatory escape from social and cultural displacement and a balm for anxieties concerning the threat of a powerful Catholic middle class. For many Ascendancy intellectuals, this kind of access offered a powerful alternative both to Catholicism and to conventional modes of historical and social analysis emanating from Britain.13

Sacramental elements manifest themselves on a number of levels in Stoker's text. On one level, we find references to an array of sacramental practices including marriage, baptism, confession, the Eucharist, extreme unction, and even, if we regard vampiric induction in this light, the taking of (un)holy orders.14 Stoker's descriptions of these practices are anthropological in so far as they correspond to the actual conditions of religious life in Transylvania. But on another level, the sacraments become an element of a Gothic fantasy in which they become vulnerable to Van Helsing's (and Dracula's) occult resignification. We can trace the change from an anthropological to a Gothic representation in Stoker's shifting treatment of sacramental elements. In the opening chapters, which detail Jonathan Harker's journey to and sojourn in Dracula's castle, the accoutrements of Catholicism are regarded with an ethnographic distance and disdain.15 Upon his arrival in Transylvania, Harker notes the frequency with which the local peasants cross themselves reverently and describes them in the style of the imperial travelogue:

Here and there we passed Cszeks and Slovaks, all in picturesque attire, but I noticed that goitre was painfully prevalent. By the roadside were many crosses, and as we swept by, my companions all crossed themselves. Here and there was a peasant man or woman kneeling before a shrine who did not even turn round as we approached, but seemed in the self-surrender of devotion to have neither eyes nor ears for the outer world.

(p. 33)

Stoker's depiction of the Transylvanian peasants draws on a source, Major E. C. Johnson's On the Track of the Crescent (1885), which compares them to Irish and Scottish peasants.16 We see reflected quite clearly in Jonathan Harker's depictions of the Transylvanian peasants the attitude of the Ascendancy toward the Irish Catholic. It is one he would have found seconded in his source material, where the “grossly superstitious” Roman Catholic Székely peasants are described as exhibiting “a curious combination of the canny Scot and the imprudent Irishman” (p. 384). Johnson's description of the Greek Orthodox Wallachians typifies the imperial travelogues of the period. The Wallachians, he notes, have

many points of resemblance to our friend Paddy. He is grossly superstitious, as the number of crosses by the roadside and on every eminence testify; and, like his prototype, he lives in abject terror of his priest, of whose powers he has the most exalted ideas. He believes that ‘his rivirence’ could turn him into a cow, or, as in Lover's famous anecdote, ‘make him meander up and down in the form of an ould gander’ for eternity, should he show any sign of having a will of his own.


In a less overt manner, Stoker performs a similar displacement by which the Eastern European Other takes on the characteristics of a latently Irish primitive. An early scene between Jonathan and a peasant woman sets an imperial English tone: “She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me. I did not know what to do, for as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind” (p. 31). Harker's attitude here is typical of the imperious Englishman; more surprising is the way in which this attitude, a kinder and gentler version of Johnson's, is transformed as the narrative moves beyond Harker's travelogue, with its generic commitments to a colonialist attitude, and begins to record the disturbing events back home in the metropolis.

The gradual approach of Dracula, with his ambiguous identity—noble and base, civilized and monstrous—appears to weaken the resistance of Englishmen and Englishwomen and to make them susceptible to the vampiric desire that is one of the secrets contained in Harker's notebook. In a section preceded by a “[s]trange and sudden change in Renfield” (p. 119), the madman who is “mixed up with the Count in an indexy kind of way” (p. 252), Mina artlessly and perhaps unconsciously borrows the sacramental language to express her devotion to and trust in her husband. She ties his notebook with ribbon and seals it with her wedding ring. She then kisses it and shows it to Jonathan: “[I] told him that I would keep it so, and then it would be an outward and visible sign for us all our lives that we trusted each other; that I would never open it unless it were for his own dear sake or for the sake of some stern duty” (p. 123). Mina's paraphrase of Catholic theology—in which the sacraments are “visible signs chosen by Christ to bring mankind the grace of His paschal mystery”17—sets the stage for a later development: the intervention of Van Helsing, who performs the work of synthesis, unthinkable to Jonathan and only imagined by Mina, of reason and superstition, of the Churchman and the idolatrous Catholic peasant. As a scientist, lawyer, and European, Van Helsing shares common ground with the English characters. But his Catholicism and his belief in occult knowledge and practices link him with the peasant Other, particularly as it was represented by Irish Protestant Revivalists, including Yeats, J. M. Synge, Lady Augusta Gregory, and Standish O'Grady, who were profoundly ambivalent toward Catholicism. Van Helsing introduces the sacramental as occult practice among his rationalist English friends, even claiming, implausibly, that he has an Indulgence. His use of the sacraments is, professedly, a sacred one, done in the name of God for the good of humanity, but his professions should not blind us to the impact his intervention has on his English friends.

Van Helsing, nevertheless, has a distinctly Anglo-Irish coloration, because he embodies the easy familiarity with the mystical and the occult of Irish Protestants who sought secret wisdom in order to overcome social deracination. But so too does Count Dracula. When we consider the relation between him and the culture of which he is seemingly an integral part, we find another displaced Anglo-Irishman, this one a monstrous parody of the rack-rent absentee landlord, parasitical and haughty. Dracula wears the “monstrous” face that the Ascendancy wore at some periods of Irish history, particularly during the famine. His decrepit castle, the lack of servants, the mingling of fear and respect accorded him by Catholic peasants who seem to stand to him in a relation of subservience—all of this suggests the social milieu of the Ascendancy Big House. He resembles the irredeemable gentry, helpless, isolated, and fallen into decay, found in the stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, one of Stoker's models as a writer.18

Van Helsing and Dracula each embodies an aspect of Stoker's split and compromised Anglo-Irish identity in a double projection that allegorizes social anxieties and offers symbolic consolation for feelings of political illegitimacy and spiritual and cultural homelessness. On the one hand, Dracula represents the monstrous “parasitic social formation,” as Eagleton describes the Ascendancy, which is brought down by rational and scientific Englishmen. The Ascendancy's political inadequacy is thus played out in Dracula's vampirism and the Crew of Light's heroic protection of English values and English women. On the other hand, we have something like the Protestant magician in Van Helsing, whose mystified science disrupts the binary opposition between the heartless, eminently rational English and the victimized, powerless Catholic Irish. Van Helsing “infects” English values and rational science when he supplements both with sacramental magic, which he authoritatively declares necessary in combating a threat that he depicts as demonically Catholic. “‘And now, my friends,’” Van Helsing says solemnly, “‘we have a duty here to do. We must sterilise this earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a far distant land for such fell use. He has chosen this earth because it has been holy. Thus we defeat him with his own weapon, for we make it more holy still’” (p. 297). But the symbolic triumph embodied in Van Helsing's exorcism of Dracula is offset by Jonathan Harker's note that concludes the novel. The ambiguity of the note, which Steven Arata calls “troubled and qualified,” suggests that Dracula's attempt to penetrate English society may have succeeded after all.19 The Harkers' son, Quincey, named after the man who died while bringing Dracula down, “links all our little band of men together” (p. 368). Jonathan refers to spiritual links, of course. But there are blood connections as well, for Mina's unholy sacramental union with Dracula suggests that her son may carry Dracula's blood in his veins. Reading the Anglo-Irish plot of Dracula reveals that even symbolic triumphs are ambivalent, since it is unclear whether Quincey represents the corruption or the revitalization of the English race.


Like many of the productions of the Irish Literary Revival, in which Irish Protestant intellectuals invented an occult peasantry, Stoker's Dracula effects an uneasy, because partly unconscious, link between Protestant and sacramental magic. We see this most vividly in Van Helsing's sacramental occultism, which brings to bear a “foreign” synthesis of science and the rituals and supernatural powers of the Catholic sacraments against a demonized Catholic foe. Van Helsing's arrival in England comes shortly after Mina's sacramental ritual of sealing Jonathan's notebook. Seward describes him to Holmwood as a man on the cutting edge of science: “He is a seemingly arbitrary man, but this is because he knows what he is talking about better than any one else. He is a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day; and he has, I believe, an absolutely open mind” (p. 129). The master/disciple relation between Seward and Van Helsing underscores the distinction between the self-assured conventionality of the former and the enigmatic authority of the latter. Van Helsing is presented from the first as enigmatic, a rationalist who presents his knowledge in parables or withholds it in portentous silences. In defending his strategy to keep Lucy Westenra's condition from Holmwood, he tells Seward: “I have sown my corn, and Nature has her work to do in making it sprout” (p. 135). He is arbitrary and imperious, consistently holding back what he knows and controlling who finally comes to know it. His skepticism with respect to conventional science comports easily with a deep knowledge of and respect for the occult. His authority comes not from Seward's conventional science, but from an occulted, priestly version of it: “There is grim purpose in all I do; and I warn you that you do not thwart me” (p. 146). Part of his power is directly attributable to his unorthodox assumption of sacramental authority (he is, after all, not a priest). The sacramental paraphernalia, particularly “a little golden crucifix” (p. 176) brought in to save Lucy after science has failed, provokes no discernible response from those gathered around her bed who have come to trust implicitly in Van Helsing's methods. The mystery that he imparts to the crucifix and the Host—which he can barely name, calling them the “other things which [the Un-Dead] shun” (p. 216)—is a hybrid one, compounded of the awesome power of the priest and the pagan superstitiousness of the peasant.20 His heterodoxy is commented on, ironically enough, by the conventional scientist, Seward, who quotes Van Helsing's justification for using the supreme sacrament: “‘The Host. I brought it from Amsterdam. I have an Indulgence.’ It was an answer that appalled the most sceptical of us, and we felt individually that in the presence of such earnest purpose as the Professor's, a purpose which could thus use the to him most sacred of things, it was impossible to distrust” (p. 217).

Seward, of course, can only grasp Van Helsing's recourse to the unscientific in strictly religious terms, citing his “earnest purpose” as sufficient justification for an illegitimate use of the sacraments. What Seward fails to see is the extent to which Van Helsing mystifies conventional science, for example, when he says: “‘You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. … But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young—like the fine ladies at the opera. … There are always mysteries in life’” (pp. 201-02). When asked if he could believe in such paranormal concepts as “corporeal transference” or “astral bodies,” Seward demurs. Only “hypnotism” is “accountable.” Van Helsing, in seeking to wean Seward from his limitations, prepares him for a much more disturbing message: “that science does not always validate social truth” (Greenway 227). Van Helsing's paradoxical conjoining of the rational and the supernatural, governed by a prophylactic use of the sacraments, brings together two conflicting imperatives. One is the rational desire for an ordered account, exemplified by Seward's clinical approach to Renfield and Mina Harker's archival foresight: “[T]he whole story is put together in such a way that every point tells.” (pp. 251-52). The other is the necessity for occult knowledge and practices that will enable the technologies of writing to represent what is unaccountable. In his role as a progressive scientist, Van Helsing champions paranormal approaches to experience; but his acceptance of superstition and folklore places him well outside the bounds of empirical science. Through his influence, the Crew of Light, conventionally pious and valiant, at bottom rational, nevertheless become caught up in the ambiguous conjunction of science and occult knowledge and fall in with his plan to “restore Lucy to [them] as a holy, and not an unholy, memory” (p. 222). To that end they say the prayer for the dead over her somnambulant body and heartily destroy her. By the time Seward confronts Dracula in his London house, he is “[i]nstinctively” brandishing a crucifix and the Host (p. 304).

When we read the sacramental elements in Dracula as reflecting anxiety over the loss of Ascendancy power, Van Helsing's priestly scientism emerges as a critique that aims not to denigrate Catholicism but rather to implicate conventional science and English rationality in an indictment of its own origins and limitations. He invigorates rational scientific inquiry with a Gothicized sacramentalism, in an act that suggests the impotence of both science and the established Church of England. His odd marriage of rationality and sacramental ritual resembles the decadent Catholicism that flourished in Dublin at the fin de siècle, which involved the potent mixture of sexuality and occult knowledge that we find in Yeats's mystical stories and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.21 When he places a “little golden crucifix” on Lucy's dead lips to protect her from the ghastly transformation into a wanton vampire that he knows will take place (p. 176), he supplements medical science with an occult protection against Lucy's vampiric sexuality. We see a similar use of sacramental elements in his resignification of the Host. When Van Helsing inspects Carfax the first time, intoning “In manus tuas, Domine” and crossing himself before entering, he warns his Crew that they “must not desecrate needless” the Sacred Wafer he has passed out to them for protection (p. 253); yet he is willing to appropriate the sanctifying powers of the Host into an ad hoc ritual on the authority of a bogus Indulgence. When they return to Carfax to “cleanse” Dracula's crates of earth, Van Helsing remarks that Dracula “has chosen this earth because it has been holy. Thus we defeat him with his own weapon, for we make it more holy still” (p. 297). Orthodox or not, the brandishing of crucifixes and sacred wafers does little more than temporarily daunt Dracula, who turns into a “great black cloud” and sails away after being caught vamping Mina Harker (p. 283). Moreover, when the Host sears its image onto Mina's forehead, she seems to bear a reminder not just of her “uncleanliness” but also of the inefficacy of the Host, which has proven powerless to protect Mina's soul even as it proves successful in warding off Dracula's diabolical advances. The “‘Vampire's baptism of blood’” (p. 318) occurs in spite of Van Helsing's trappings of sacramental authority, which plays no major role in the final, victorious struggle to destroy Dracula. The crucifix can make Dracula cringe and the Host can contaminate his earth boxes, but what defeats him in the end is hypnotism, telepathy and other “new science” procedures that Van Helsing advocates and that enable the Crew of Light to trap and execute him. There is nothing ambiguous or occult about the “great kukri knife” that Jonathan Harker uses to dispatch Dracula or his “impetuosity, and the manifest singleness of his purpose” (p. 367).

Understood as an allegory of Ascendancy deracination, Stoker's narrative evokes a déclassé ruling elite filled with resentment over a sense of lost privilege that turns to occultism and sacramentalism in order to spiritualize its social and political displacement. Dracula performs a grotesque parody of “Protestant magic” within that allegory, his vampirism mocking both the sacramental desire of the Irish Catholic and the hybridizing impulse of the Irish Protestant occultist. In Stoker's working papers, we find notes indicating that the Count “has an ambivalent attitude towards the icons of religion: he can be moved only by relics older than his own real date or century (that is, when he actually lived)—more recent relics leave him unmoved” (qtd. in Frayling 343). Frayling goes on to note, however, that “the idea that vampires could be moved only by relics older than their own real date sounds ancient and folkloric, but appears to have been invented by Stoker” (344-5). In a process of creative cultural translation, Stoker augments his research into Transylvania folklore concerning the vampire myth by inventing sacramental elements for it, much as the Anglo-Irish Revivalists translated Irish folklore, giving to it an occult significance that reflects their own desire for a magical conception of the world. Dracula becomes the embodiment of the deracinated native intellectual, caught between two national identities—the Catholic Irish and the English—neither of which appears to offer any hope for the future of the Ascendancy.

Mediating these national extremes is the Catholic “foreigner” Van Helsing, the scientist whose sacerdotal knowledge challenges the assumptions of an imperial class without himself having to abdicate from that class. Like the “Protestant magician,” who sought spiritual authority to make up for the failure of political power, Van Helsing seeks to make up for the failures of science by adopting sacramental rituals. Some critics have noted that Van Helsing's medical procedures resemble Dracula's vampirism. Arata puts it well when he writes that “Van Helsing and his tradition have polished teeth into hypodermic needles, a cultural refinement that masks violation as healing” (87). But Dracula has likewise refined his predatory vampirism into a subtle strategy of revenge and seduction, in which Englishwomen like Mina Harker are countermined, transformed into his “kin” and, incestuously, his “bountiful wine-press[es]” (p. 288). Dracula presents Anglo-Irish anxiety displaced onto opposed characters: on the one hand, Van Helsing represents the alienated Anglo-Irish intellectual dabbling in the occult; on the other hand, Dracula represents the deracinated landlord class that resents the empire for abandoning it and that holds the Catholic peasants in thrall. This double projection of a compromised identity upsets any attempt to read Dracula in a Manichaean or binary way, for though the Crew of Light emerge victorious, the worldview that made the victory possible may have been fatally undermined in the process. Like Yeats in the 1890s, Stoker envisioned a world in which binary opposites—good and evil, male and female, spirit and matter—struggle for supremacy. But Stoker anticipates Yeats's vision of a “rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem” when he depicts a struggle that is confused or multiplied by a force that threatens to undermine the very foundations of binary thinking. This peculiar binary struggle captures the position of the Anglo-Irish caught between the poles of English colonizer and Catholic colonized, never quite secure in their role as a native ruling class ambiguously supported from outside. At the end of the novel, Van Helsing is secure in the bosom of his adopted and adoptive English family and Dracula is never quite contained or defeated, for his blood courses still in the veins of Jonathan Harker's child. This conclusion drives home the point that ambivalence marks the compromised history and social position of the Irish Protestant Ascendancy.


  1. Elsewhere, Foster talks of the “‘vampirizing’ tendency of the Irish Parliamentary Party” (Modern Ireland 468), a largely Irish Protestant group. For a generally more charitable view of the Ascendancy, see 167-94.

  2. Manichaeanism refers to a binary situation, in this case one in which the colonizer and colonized are locked in a pitched battle for domination. Manichaeanism originally referred to a religious dualistic philosophy in Persia in the third century C.E.

  3. On the threat of “reverse colonization,” that is the process by which natives of the colonies make their way to the metropolitan center, see Arata; on the threat of absorption, see Schmitt.

  4. See Boone, Craft, Croley, Glover, Halberstam, McWhir, Pick, Spencer, and Warwick.

  5. On the Booths and the “rhetoric of reform,” see Croley.

  6. R. F. Foster argues that “[p]olitical upheavals and land agitation from the 1870s would destroy Ascendancy power completely” and that “the isolation, or marginalization, of the Southern Irish Protestant had been mercilessly highlighted since the 1830s” (“Protestant Magic” 246; see also 249). Foster treats this at length in Modern Ireland 373-428.

  7. Douglas Hyde made similar claims ten years earlier in his influential essay, “The Necessity for De-Anglicizing Ireland” (1894).

  8. See Foster, Modern Ireland, 424ff. On the “clerical-national alliance,” see Emmet Larkin (xvii-xxi, 32-3, and passim) and Eagleton (78).

  9. Foster goes on to note of Stoker's first book, Duties of Clerks of the Petty Sessions, that “[o]nly an Irish Protestant could have graduated so easily from that to Dracula” (“Protestant Magic” 259).

  10. The phrase “Crew of Light” (referring to Van Helsing, Seward, Holmwood, Morris, and the Harkers) is Craft's invention, though he takes his cue from Stoker: “Lucy, lux, light” (208, n. 7).

  11. See Wicke, who notes that “it is not merely the atavism of Dracula that makes his appearance in England so frightful; it is his relative modernity” (p. 598). Others—notably McWhir (31), Glover (249) and Spencer (200)—note the blurring of line between modern and premodern.

  12. See Craft (101), Gagnier (147, 153), Greenway, Jann, and Wicke.

  13. On “occult preoccupations” see Foster, “Protestant Magic” (251, 261-3), and Jann (274).

  14. On the seven principle sacraments, see “Theology of Sacraments” in The New Catholic Encyclopedia (12: 806-15, esp. 811).

  15. On the imperial travelogue, see Arata; on ethnography see Gagnier, who notes “Stoker's ethnographic obsessions, such as dialect” (150), and Foster, who writes that Stoker's working notes for Dracula reflect “seven years of Yeats-style research into folklore, myth, armchair anthropology, medieval history, and magic” (“Protestant Magic” 259).

  16. As far as I can tell, only Foster notes this aspect of Stoker's source; unfortunately, he does not pursue the point: “The Irishness of Dracula must be left aside here” (259).

  17. The New Catholic Encyclopedia (12: 806). “Sacraments are signs of faith in a twofold sense. On the one hand, they are objective expressions of the faith as it is professed and lived in the Church. … On the other hand, they express the personal faith of the recipient. ‘All sacraments are certain protestations of faith’ (Aquinas ST 3a, 72.5 ad 2)” (12: 813-14).

  18. “[T]hough ostensibly set in Derbyshire, [Le Fanu's “authentic masterpiece” Uncle Silas] was long ago spotted by Elizabeth Bowen as an Irish story in disguise, dealing with exploitation, imprisonment, fractured identity, and hauntings” (Foster, “Protestant Magic” 251).

  19. Arata goes on to note that “Harker unwittingly calls attention to the fact that the positions of vampire and victim have been reversed. Now it is Dracula whose blood is appropriated and transformed to nourish a faltering race” (643). Halberstam makes the opposite point: “In Dracula, vampires are precisely a race and a family that weakens the stock of Englishness by passing on degeneracy and the disease of blood lust” (340).

  20. See Anne McWhir: “Between the familiarity and reasonableness of prayer-book religion [i.e., Anglicanism] and the superstitious rituals and beliefs of foreign Catholicism there is Van Helsing's use of ritual magic derived from Catholicism to preserve an Anglican world” (McWhir 33).

  21. On decadent Catholicism, see Hanson, especially the chapter on Wilde, “The Temptation of St. Oscar,” (229-96).

Works Cited

Arata, Stephen D. “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization.” Victorian Studies 33 (Summer 1990): 621-45.

Beckett, J. C. The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603-1923. London: Faber, 1966.

Boone, Troy. “‘He is English and therefore adventurous’: Politics, Decadence, and Dracula.Studies in the Novel 25.1 (Spring 1993): 76-91.

Craft, Christopher. Another Kind of Love: Male Homosexual Desire in English Discourse 1850-1920. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994. 71-105.

Croley, Laura Sagolla. “The Rhetoric of Reform in Stoker's Dracula: Depravity, Decline, and the Fin-de-Siècle ‘Residuum.’” Criticism 37.1 (Winter 1995): 85-108.

Eagleton, Terry. Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture. London: Verso, 1995.

Foster, R. F. Modern Ireland 1600-1972. London: Penguin, 1989.

———. “Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History.” Proceedings of the British Academy 75 (1989): 243-66.

Frayling, Christopher. “Bram Stoker's Working Papers for Dracula.Dracula. By Bram Stoker. Ed. Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal. New York: Norton, 1997. 339-50.

Gagnier, Regenia. “Evolution and Information, or Eroticism and Everyday Life, in Dracula and Late Victorian Aestheticism.” Sex and Death in Victorian Literature. Ed. Regina Barreca. London: Macmillan, 1990. 140-57.

Glover, David. “‘Our enemy is not merely spiritual’: Degeneration and Modernity in Bram Stoker's Dracula.Victorian Literature and Culture 22 (1994): 249-65.

Greenway, John L. “Seward's Folly: Dracula as a Critique of ‘Normal Science.’” Stanford Literature Review 3 (Fall 1986): 213-30.

Halberstam, Judith. “Technologies of Monstrosity: Bram Stoker's Dracula.Victorian Studies 36 (Spring 93): 333-52.

Hanson, Ellis. Decadence and Catholicism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997.

Hyde, Douglas. “The Necessity for De-Anglicizing Ireland.” The Revival of Irish Literature: Addresses by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, K.C.M.G., Dr. George Sigerson, and Dr. Douglas Hyde. London: Fisher Unwin, 1894. 115-61.

Jann, Rosemary. “Saved by Science? The Mixed Messages of Stoker's Dracula.Texas Studies in Literature and Language 31 (Summer 1989): 273-87.

Johnson, Major E. C. “On the Track of Transylvania.” The Origins of Dracula: The Background to Bram Stoker's Gothic Masterpiece. Ed. Clive Leatherdale. London: William Kimber, 1987. 97-108.

Larkin, Emmet. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell, 1888-1891. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1979.

McWhir, Anne. “Pollution and Redemption in Dracula.Modern Language Studies 27.3 (Summer 1987): 31-40.

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Nordau, Max. Degeneration. New York: D. Appleton, 1895.

Pick, Daniel. “‘Terrors of the night’: Dracula and ‘Degeneration’ in the Late-Nineteenth Century.” Critical Quarterly 30.4 (1988): 71-87.

Schaffer, Talia. “A wilde desire took me’: The Homoerotic History of Dracula.ELH 61 (1994): 381-425.

Schmitt, Cannon. “Mother Dracula: Orientalism, Degeneration, and Anglo-Irish National Subjectivity at the Fin de Siècle.” Bucknell Review 38.1 (1994): 25-43.

Spencer, Kathleen L. “Purity and Danger: Dracula, the Urban Gothic, and the Late Victorian Degeneracy Crisis.” ELH 59 (1992): 197-225.

Warwick, Alexandra. “Vampires and the Empire: Fears and Fictions of the 1890s.” Cultural Politics at the Fin De Siècle. Eds. Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995, 202-20.

Wicke, Jennifer. “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media.” ELH 59 (1992): 467-93. Rpt. in this volume, pp. 577-99.


Critical Overview


Essays and Criticism