Salvation and Damnation
As several characters note in the novel, a person's physical life is of secondary importance to the person's eternal life, which can be jeopardized if the person is made evil by a vampire like Dracula. Professor Van Helsing says, when he is explaining why they must kill the vampire Lucy, "But of the most blessed of all, when this now Un-Dead be made to rest as true dead, then the soul of the poor lady whom we love shall again be free." Even characters that are of questionable goodness, such as the mental patient, R. M. Renfield, realize that, although they can find immortality by being a vampire, they cannot find salvation. Renfield says, when he is begging Dr. Seward to let him go, not explaining that he is afraid of his master, Dracula: "Don't you know that I am sane and earnest now; that I am no lunatic in a mad fit, but a sane man fighting for his soul?" When Mina is distraught after realizing that Dracula has started to turn her into a vampire, Van Helsing warns her to stay alive if she wants to achieve her salvation. "Until the other, who has fouled your sweet life, is true dead you must not die; for if he is still with the quick Un-dead, your death would make you even as he is."
Roles of Men and Women
The novel underscores the expected roles of men and women in Victorian times. Women were expected to be gentle and ladylike and, most of all, subservient to men. For example, in one of her letters, Lucy notes, "My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?" Lucy is frustrated that she has to choose between her three suitors and does not wish to hurt any one of them by saying no. 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." Women are expected to live for their husbands, so much so that Mina practices her shorthand while Jonathan is away so that she can assist him when he gets back. Mina says, "When we are married I shall be able to be useful to Jonathan."
Even more important than a woman's devotion to her husband was the idea that women, at least gentlewomen, should be pure. As part of this, men were expected to respect a woman's privacy and never burst in on her when they might catch her in an undressed state. Quincey notes this when Professor Van Helsing says they need to break down the door to Mina's room. Quincey states, "It is unusual to break into a lady's room!" However, as Van Helsing notes, in situations where the woman might be in mortal danger, this rule should be broken. Van Helsing is worried, rightly so, that Dracula might be attacking Mina. So he replies to Quincey, "You are always right; but this is life and death."
In fact, the role of men as saviors of their women, which is underscored again and again in the novel, was another aspect of Victorian life. When it came to danger, especially physical danger, women were expected to act like damsels in distress. Mina fulfills this role after she is bitten and looks to Jonathan for support. Notes Mina of Jonathan's hand, "it was life to me to feel its touch—so strong, so self-reliant, so resolute."
Reason and Madness
The novel also explores the ideas of reason and madness. In the beginning, Jonathan believes that he is going mad when he sees the three women vampires appear out of thin air. Later, he thinks that all of his experiences were the result of hallucinations brought on by madness. Seward works at an insane asylum, so he is exposed to madness every day. As a result, Seward tends to always follow his scientific reasoning, a fact that Van Helsing notes, "You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear." Because of this, Seward does not believe in the vampire Lucy, even after seeing her the first time. His mind is unable to reconcile the supernatural things that he has seen, and so it simply blocks them...
(The entire section is 1,082 words.)