Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a literary classic, which has stood the test of time. Dracula, written in 1897, makes reference to mythical creatures, which in the 20th century have substantial scientific merit. In the increasingly publicized culture of modern society, the reader, who desires to live vicariously through vampires, can experience an emotional release in the study of Dracula. This same modern day reader finds a sense of comfort in the rigid definition of gender roles in the novel, because of the disintegration of sexual barriers in modern civilization.
Dracula is a novel, which is more relevant and appealing to modern readers then it ever was to readers of the past, who could not fully appreciate it because of the way in which society has evolved. At the time of Dracula’s conception, the notion of vampires and werewolves was based purely on superstition and speculation. Through the character of Abraham Van Helsing the reader is informed of the characteristics of the vampire. The vampire live on, and cannot die by mere passing of time; he can flourish when that he can fatten on the blood of the living.
Even more, we have seen amongst us that he can even grow younger; that his vital faculties grow s tenuous, and seem as though they refresh themselves when his special pabulum is plenty. (pg. 252) This type of creature in the 19th century was thought of by many scientific minds as ludicrous. Van Helsing struggles when he tries to convince the other men of the existence of vampires.
“A year ago which of us would have received such a possibility, in the midst of our scientific, skeptical, matter-of-fact nineteenth century? pg252) It was not until late in the 20th century that the conditions of Porhyria and Haemotomania were proven. Both diseases inflict a lust for blood in those affected. Since doctors knew very little about the internal systems of the human body they would have assumed that a creature like this was superstitious paranoia. Another condition that also was unheard of, is that of Lycanthropy, a condition that is characterized by the belief that one is half man, half wolf.
He has the strength of many in his hand-witness again Jonathon when he shut the door against the wolfs, and when he help him from the diligence too. He can transform himself to wolf, as we gather from the ship arrival in Whitby, when he tear open the dog. (pg. 253) Although intended to be fictional, the novel comprises facts, which a reader in the 20th century finds appealing. The reader is challenged by the realization that although the novel is connected with horrific monsters, scientific evidence gives credence to their existence.
This frightening realization makes the novel even more powerful. Stoker’s probable intention for the inclusion of such creatures, is to fulfill the wish of 19th century society to express the darker, more destructive side of their humanity. Readers of Dracula experience an emotional release as they allow the vampires to fulfill their need for dark cravings and thoughts, especially in a modern society increasingly unable to obtain privacy. Once Lucy transforms into a vampire she represents all that is considered forbidden and unclean by both 19th and 20th century societies.
With a careless motion, she flung to the ground, callous as a devil, the child that up to now she had clutched strenuously to her breast, growling over it as a dog growls over a bone. The child gave a sharp cry, and lay there moaning. There was a cold-bloodedness in the act which wrung a groan from Arthur; when she advanced to him with outstretched arms and a wanton smile he fell back and hid his face in his hands. She still advanced, however, and with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said:- “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! (pg. 39) Lucy’s behavior is indicative of an individual who is true to human nature. She is violent and her own survival precedes that of others. Most people will never allow themselves to undergo the type of violent and sexual experiences that vampires like Lucy and Mina encounter. Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw we all recognized the Count-in every way, even to the scar on his forehead.
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 breast 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. (pg. 298) This very erotic image represents what many want, especially the Victorians, but which few will allow themselves to achieve.
It is because of society’s influence on the lives of its members, that people learn to suppress their true desires. People are conditioned, by society, to believe that many desires are immoral. By reading a novel like Dracula each reader is able, if only for a short time, to allow the emergence of a darker side of their humanity. In the 20th century, due primarily to the electronic age, everything a person does has the potential to become known. There is a general belief in modern society that all knowledge is of public domain.
Reading Dracula is a private and safe way to experience a very profound sense of release. The reader, in the comfort established by the simplicity of the gender roles in the novel also achieves this feeling of release. Stoker has a very strict formula for the appropriate roles of male and female characters in his novel, which is comforting to a reader, living in a modern civilization defined by the search for gender equality. Van Helsing represents a very masculine character, who momentarily crosses the gender line after Lucy’s death.
He laughed till he cried, and I had to draw down the blinds lest anyone should see us and misjudge; and then he cried, till he laughed again; and laughed and cried together just as a woman does. I tried to be stern with him, as one is to a woman under the circumstances; but it had no effect. Men and women are so different in manifestations of nervous strength or weakness! (pg. 183) Stoker very plainly implies in this scene that for a man to display emotion, is to show femininity and to betray his own masculinity. He recognizes that men and women are unequivocally different.
In Dracula he refrains from encouraging the confusion of gender roles, for indeed this type of confusion can only harm both sexes, particularly women. Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has a man’s brain-a brain that a man should have were he much gifted-and a woman’s heart. The good God fashioned her for a purpose, believe me when He made that so good combination. Friend John, up to now fortune has made that woman to help us; after to-night she must not have to do with this so terrible affair.
It is not good that she run a risk so great. We men are determined-nay, are we not pledged? o destroy this monster; but it is no part for a woman. Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer-both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams. (pg248) Mina is a character whom Dr. Seward believes is unlike most other women because of her intelligence. For a woman to have the intelligence of a man implies that she must serve some incredible purpose. However, even her vast intelligence does not compensate for the fact that she is still a woman, and a woman has no place around violence or demons.
Seward expresses Stoker’s belief that the chief organ of men is the brain and of women the heart. In the 20th century there are few tasks which are not attended to by both men and women. There is no longer a clear gap between the sexes, and for modern society this presents confusion. Solace is found in a story where men are masculine and women are feminine and equity is unheard of. Gender equity has cured many social ills but the novel Dracula represents a time in which the issue was much simpler, and perhaps there is a yearning, on behalf of 20th century society for this simplicity.
Over a century has passed since Dracula was first published and in this time its relevance and appeal to its readers has been heightened. The mythological creatures which Stoker originally wrote about, have over time become a scientific fact, making them more frightening then ever intended. It is through studying Dracula that modern readers experience emotional liberation as they live vicariously through the vampires in the novel. This same reader finds relief in the conciseness of which Stoker defines the sexes because of the gender role confusion in the 20th century.
Dracula represents an escape from a conflicted and complicated modern society to a world where many issues were much simpler; it is not often that a novel becomes more appealing to readers as it ages. The evolution of society in many ways has had positive effects on the quality of life of that society, however this quality has been achieved with an obvious cost, and the novel Dracula provides relief from this stress. Works Cited Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Bantam Books. New York. 1981 http://www. columbia. edu/acis/bartleby/bartlett/bart102. html. Bartlett’s Quotations
Sex. Power. Mystery. Darkness. Beauty. Elegance. Evil. The vampire encompasses all of these aspects and more. No other monster enjoys the same status as the vampire. Dracula, the most popular of the species, is a cultural icon. From movies to toys to breakfast cereals, he occupies a place in our imaginations. Scattered in almost every major city, exist movements of those who either wish to be vampires, or even believe themselves to be such. How is it that the vampire has risen to dominance over other, far older monsters such as Polyphemus or Medusa?
There is no one answer to this question. Is it his role as a sexual figure? After all, the vampire decidedly goes against society’s sexual mores. He sneaks into a young, beautiful woman’s room in the dead of night, and without her knowledge or consent maneuvers close enough to her to bite her neck. He seduces his victims to the point where once bitten, they return and return again until their doom descends upon them. Is it his role as an incarnation of gentleman death’, a dark figure in the night who slays without remorse? “Death kills indescriminantly, and so shall we.
Is it due to the inversion of the standard Self / Other dialectic found in most Western literature? Is it the nature of vampirism itself? The appeal of the vampire is ambiguous, as is the nature of its teratology. He is a mass of contradictions, a multifaceted monster whose abnormality lies within his own normality. One outstanding aspect of the vampire is his physiognomy. Rather than exterior deformity as a device to depict the evil that lurks within, the vampire physically resembles an attractive human. With vampires, the Other and the Self are combined into one frightening apparition.
The monster is both a gentleman and a killer, a combination not likely to be found. He is a monster not always recognizable as such. Physically he is virtually indistinguishable from us, and worse, he may even be what we fear most: ourselves. The vampire represents a sort of shadow-self: that dark and unfamiliar Other within our psyches which exists, but we refuse to acknowledge. Typically, the vampires of western literature come in three forms: the aristocratic white male (i. e. Dracula and Louis), the beautiful vampiress / temptress (i. e.
Lucy), or the adorable’ child-vampire (i. e. Claudia). In Stoker’s Dracula, the Count is described physically with features which are stereotypical of the Eastern European boyars, or noblemen. Consider this exert: His face was a strong – a very strong – aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily around the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. Stoker describes him as a handsome, strong-featured man.
His “aquiline” face and “lofty” (hence, arrogant) forehead is characteristic of nobility presented in literature. The “high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils” suggests this arrogance as well, alluding to the idea of having one’s nose in the air. ‘ The description of his hair, that it “seemed to curl in its own profusion,” presents quite a powerful, almost sexual image of his vigor. Count Dracula possesses elegance, an aristocratic mien worthy of the proud family history which he later relates in detail to Jonathan Harker.
Dracula’s first words of greeting are “Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring. ” This entrance contrasts starkly with the Creature’s first few moments as a character. Dracula, at least initially is seen as pleasant. As illustrated through Harker’s discovery of the library, he is cultured and refined as well. Instead of a social outcast and Other such as the Monster, Dracula embodies the pinnacle of the Self – the nobility. Even the words used to describe him are euphonic.
Compare that to a description of Frankenstein’s monster: No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived. The Creature’s initial description on the other hand presents us with much different imagery. Frankenstien’s monster is archetypal of how the image of the abnormal monster is depicted.
Dreadfully ugly and deformed, he immediately invokes feelings of fear and loathing in our minds, biasing our first judgment of his character. The harshness of the words used to describe his countenance, “hideous,” “ugly,” “horror,” convey the extremity of his physiognomy. In addition to his purely physical attributes, we are also presented with his graceless motions, since once he is “rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived. ” Within the first few paragraphs of the creature’s existence he is already viewed as worse than a villain from the bowels of Hell.
Even though we later discover that the creature, at least at the dawn of his creation, was essentially good, by this description our only option is to view him as an evil menace. Whereas Frankenstein (or Caliban) is conceived as a monster precisely because of his abnormal physiognomy, Dracula is monstrous for his normality. He is the monstrified Self, which is why he is particularly frightening. Since teratology studies the abnormal and horrific in order to define the normal, Dracula represents a paradox of how western culture typically defines monstrosity.
The circumstances of the two settings regarding the two monsters’ introductions contrast greatly as well. The Creature awakes into consciousness in a setting unfamiliar and hostile to it, with no initial control over his own fate at the moment – the Other lost in the world of the Self. Victor Frankenstein immediately greets his creation with horror, a feeling which lasts the remainder of the story. Conversely, Count Dracula is at home in his own environment, Castle Dracula: an extension of its master’s consciousness. It embodies both the worlds of the Self, an ancient and noble aristocracy, and the Other, an evil and fearful realm of terror.
Here as well the Master-Slave dialectic is reversed from normal literary tradition, with the Count, the monster, in almost total control of Harker, the hero. Dracula metaphorically enslaves Harker, who must serve the Count in all respects while a prisoner in the castle. The vampire is unique among other monsters in its method of killing. Whereas most monsters trample and take, leaving behind a wide swath of destruction, and acting as nothing but an embodiment of the Freudian Id, the vampire alone treads the more subtle paths; the vampire alone seduces his victims.
The vampire Louis, in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, comments on the habits of his companions: Claudia and Lestat might hunt and seduce, stay long in the company of the doomed victim, enjoying the splendid humor in his unwitting friendship with death. In this manner, the vampire once again inverts the norms of the Self – Other dialectic, acting in what appears to be a normal and benign manner before the kill. This aspect is especially unnerving since the victims have no idea, until it is too late, that the agent of their death has been watching and interacting with them in their ignorance.
In one scene from this book Lestat brings two hired prostitutes back to the vampires’ town house in New Orleans. After drinking and a slight amorous interlude, he silently and swiftly drains one of the girls of blood. With the newfound body warmth from the fresh intake of blood, he easily allays the other prostitute’s suspicions derived from his coldness. Lestat toys with his victim for some time before he finally kills her as well. The horror of this stems from the sick irony of the victims’ situation.
With monsters such as Polyphemus, the victims, already terrified by his appearance, realize the death in store for them. In a situation such as this however, due to the physical attractiveness of the vampire, combined with a suave and seductive demeanor the victim maintains a state of false security until it is too late for any chance of survival. She assumes that Lestat is a part of her world, not the shadow-world of the Other. Another interesting inversion of the standard Self / Other dialectic is the child-vampire Claudia from Interview With the Vampire.