Gender in Gothic Literature
Gothic literature uses gender to discuss social norms and explore stereotypes while commenting on whether gender stereotypes should be upheld or disrupted in society. In this essay, I will compare two female characters and two male characters in Gothic texts to establish how gender stereotypes are upheld and disrupted in Gothic literature. I will analyze the characters of Count Dracula and Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Laura from Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, and Aylmer from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” as examples of how gender impacts Gothic literature. I will also compare how these characters interact with people of the same gender and people of the opposite gender. There is a link between gender and submission versus subversion, which I will explore further using these characters (Gbogi). I will argue that while Gothic literature uses characters that disrupt gender stereotypes, the texts primarily promote gender stereotypes as morally better and aim to normalize and enforce them in readers.
At the time that all of these texts were written social norms determined that a woman’s place was in the home, meaning that women were expected to be housewives and mothers (Prescott and Giorgio). The literature of that time and leading up to it promoted the stereotypical female character to normalize and enforce these stereotypes in readers, men and women alike (Gbogi 506). Laura Mulvey (Wagner xxxii) argues that cinema focuses on men that actively look for a passive woman and in turn women become passive as it is deemed more attractive. Although Mulvey discusses gender portrayal in terms of cinema, her argument can be applied to gender portrayal in literature as well. Passive female characters in Gothic texts tend to be perceived better by the male characters in the text; they are pure and behave as good Victorian ladies ought to behave (Prescott and Giorgio 487). Female characters are rewarded for their femininity and punished for showing masculine traits such as intelligence or unrepressed sexual desires (Mendoza). Likewise, masculine characters are heralded as strong and powerful if they are highly masculine, whereas any deviation from this is viewed as weak and unnatural (Kuzmanovic).
The character of Laura in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” lets her curiosity get the better of her and becomes consumed with the desire to eat fruit from the Goblin men. Laura is unable to pay the Goblin men for their fruit, but instead gives them a “gold” (Rossetti 261) lock of her hair. However, her weakness is not attributed to her character but rather the “evil gifts” (Rossetti 261) of the Goblin men, in other words, their masculine seduction is too powerful for a female to resist and hence, is not the fault of the stereotypically simple-minded woman. Many critics believe that Laura’s desire for the Goblin men’s fruit is really a desire for sexual pleasure (Mendoza). Rossetti’s poem also warns women about newfound sexual awareness and the consequences of giving into sexual desires being difficult to come back from. Laura’s misfortunes because of her curiosity become a cautionary tale to women about letting desire control them and is an endorsement for women to remain in the home.
Dracula’s (Stoker) Mina Harker is another female character that does not fit into the typical female stereotype. Mina Harker is a New Woman, yet for all her ideals she settles herself into the role of the passive female whose primary duty lies with her husband (Prescott and Giorgio 488). She is a complex character who cannot be classified as an “ideal Victorian woman” (Prescott and Giorgio 487), nor can she be cast purely as a New Woman. As a New Woman, Mina rejects the traditional gender stereotypes and is progressive by working as an assistant schoolmistress. She is reluctantly accepted into a band of men who praise her for her masculine intelligence while admiring her femininity. Yet when Mina narrates her seduction by Count Dracula she seems to forget her role as a New Woman and becomes the submissive female stereotype when she says, “strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him” (Stoker 251). At the end of Dracula Mina becomes the devoted wife and mother she aspires to be and relinquishes her New Woman title in favor of the socially acceptable female.
Masculinity is just as much stereotyped as femininity and like female characters, a male character who goes against the norm is reproachable. However, unlike these female characters, who are often portrayed as victims of male temptation or femininity (Mendoza), male characters who transgress social standards are portrayed as villainous (Zurutuza). Count Dracula in Stoker’s Dracula represents classical notions of masculinity through his physical and political strength, wealth, power to control others particularly females, and his title of conqueror of blood (Zurutuza 542). Even Dracula’s physical appearance exudes masculinity with “strong” (Stoker 23) facial features and an “aquiline” (Stoker 23) nose. The comparison between Dracula and an eagle in his initial meeting with Jonathon Harker hints at his intelligence, which is associated with masculinity rather than femininity. However, Dracula’s indiscriminate seductive advances towards people of all genders call into question his masculinity (Kuzmanovic 412). Dracula’s consumption of blood by piercing flesh with his “peculiarly sharp white teeth” (Stoker 23) that “protruded over the lips” (Stoker 23) is the vampire’s version of sexual penetration. Dracula is a figure of unrepressed sexual desire. Kuzmanovic (413) discusses Dracula’s seduction as being to tempt those with repressed sexual desires and causes identity confusion for those characters, particularly Jonathon Harker who unintentionally partakes in a homoerotic encounter with Count Dracula (41-4). The sexual confusion and desire Dracula causes along with the questions of masculinity he brings ends with his death, which is the result of honest masculinity from the other male characters combined with Mina Harker’s masculine intelligence.
Aylmer from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” is not interested in seduction as Dracula is, but rather control. He uses his masculine authority to persuade his wife to let him remove the birthmark that “destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance even hideous” (Hawthorne 233). Aylmer becomes obsessed with its destruction and measures his own successfulness as a man by his ability to rid his wife of the mark. He perceives the birthmark “as a threat to his masculine dominance” (Howard 133). The birthmark is not really Aylmer’s issue, it is merely a symptom. Aylmer’s true problem lies with his wife’s obedience to him. Initially, she was hesitant to remove the birthmark, but is persuaded by Aylmer’s insistence. When Aylmer does succeed at removing the birthmark he rejoices in his masculinity. However, the removal of the birthmark causes his wife to die. Aylmer’s attempt to prove his masculinity ends by “ultimately destroying the mark, his wife, and his own almighty self-perception in the process” (Howard 135).
Both Laura in “Goblin Market” (Rossetti) and Count Dracula in Dracula (Stoker) are imbued with sexual desire, but their gender determines how their sexual desires are interpreted. Laura’s femininity renders her sexual desire as a symptom of being a victim to her femininity and thus, weak to the seductions of men. Dracula’s sexual desires transgress from the norm of masculinity making them unseemly, abhorrent, and villainous. Mina Harker on the other hand appears to be the epitome of a Victorian lady and is praised by the male characters for it. It is also revealed that she possesses a masculine intelligence for which the men also praise her, though reluctantly. However, she is neither completely feminine nor completely masculine and thus, is put in an in between category where she is not wholly accepted by either side. It is only when she fully embraces the female gender stereotype that she is accepted. While Mina Harker is criticized for being a mixture of both feminine and masculine, Aylmer is reproached for being excessively masculine and dominating his wife to the point of her death. These texts demonstrate that there is a fine line between being a socially acceptable gender character and being admonished for gender portrayal.
In “Goblin Market” Laura attempts to subvert the female role by allowing her curiosity to control her and in doing so becomes ill. She becomes well again after she submits to the female role. However, Laura is not portrayed as a villain, but rather falls victim to the Goblin men’s temptations (Gbogi 8). The Goblin men are deviants who trick women into buying their fruit tempting the women’s sexual desires (Mendoza 914). Similarly, Mina Harker also attempts to become an atypical female within the guise of the ideal woman (Prescott and Giorgio 488). Where Laura is punished for going against the norm, Mina is welcomed, however reluctantly, into male dominated territory. Laura and Mina have one major thing in common, they both become compliant with social standards and take on the persona of the stereotypical female character, which as Gbogi (506) argues, encourages readers to maintain the stereotype. However, there is also compelling evidence for Kuzmanovic argument that while female stereotypes are reinforced in Dracula it also encourages an open-minded approach to working with people of different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender.
While these Gothic texts feature female characters who attempt to subvert social standards, it is the male characters who eventually force them into submission using their masculinity as a weapon of strength over the weakness of femininity. Dracula uses his transgressive masculinity to seduce men and women alike and coerce them into submitting to his will. His seduction of Mina Harker oppresses her New Woman principles and draws out the compliant Victorian lady (Prescott and Giorgio 487). However, Dracula’s monstrous masculinity is represented as being villainous and is used to contrast the gentlemanly masculinity of other male characters to enforce socially acceptable norms for men. Aylmer’s dominance and forced submission of his wife that results in her death is a warning from Hawthorne about the destructive consequences of men forcing women into submission. While these texts encourage female liberation somewhat, they identify a condition on said liberation. Feminine progression is only allowable if females remain submissive to the will of their male counterparts, if so, then they are free to subvert from norms within the boundaries set my men. This does not allow female characters much room for freedom, but instead reinforces a male dominant hierarchy while heavily suggesting enforcement of stereotypes (Gbogi 506).
Male and female gender stereotypes are evident in Gothic literature. Where some texts attempt to disrupt these stereotypes, such as Mina Harker in Dracula (Stoker), others maintain the stereotype, such as Aylmer in “The Birthmark” (Hawthorne). There is a disparity in how gender affects the interpretation of characters that transgress stereotypes. Where women are regarded as victims of their femininity, men are reproached for not being masculine. The stereotypical male characters aim to force the female characters into submission while the female characters attempt to subvert social norms. Gothic literature promotes the socially acceptable gender stereotypes by portraying characters that disrupt the norm who are then revealed to be morally incompetent for male characters and forced into submission for female characters.
Gbogi, Michael Tosin. “Refiguring the subversive in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”” Neohelicon, vol. 41, 2014, pp. 503-16. EBSCO, doi:10.1007/s11059-014-0233-1.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” Gothic Evolutions: Poetry Tales, Context, Theory, edited by Corinna Wagner. Broadview Press, 2014, pp. 232-42.
Howard, Jeffrey. “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birth-Mark.” The Explicator, vol. 70, no. 2, 2012, pp. 133-6. EBSCO, doi:10.1080/00144940.2012.678414.
Kuzmanovic, Dejan. “Vampiric Seduction and Vicissitudes of Masculine Identity in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 37, 2009, pp. 411-42. Cambridge University Press, doi:10.1017/S1060150309090263.
Mendoza, Victor Roman. ““Come Buy”: The Crossing of Sexual and Consumer Desire in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”” The Johns Hopkins University Press, vol. 73, no. 4, 2006, pp. 913-47. JSTOR.
Prescott, Charles E., and Grace A. Giorgio. “Vampiric Affinities: Mina Harker and the Paradox of Femininity in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 33, no. 2, 2005, pp. 487-515. JSTOR, doi: 1060-1503/05.
Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market.” Gothic Evolutions: Poetry Tales, Context, Theory, edited by Corinna Wagner. Broadview Press, 2014, pp. 260-8.
Stoker, Bram. “Dracula.” Dracula, edited by Nina Auerbach & David J. Skal. W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, pp. 1-327.
Wagner, Corinna. “Introduction.” Gothic Evolutions: Poetry Tales, Context, Theory, edited by Corinna Wagner. Broadview Press, 2014, pp. xxiii-xlii.
Zurutuza, Krisian Perez. “The Vampire as the Gender and Racial Construction of Western Capitalism’s White Masculinity in English and American Gothic Literature.” International Journal of Arts & Sciences, vol. 8, no. 8, 2015, pp. 541-9. EBSCO.
Dracula Character: Numerous Binaries Throughout the Novel
Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula relies strongly on the construction and deconstruction of binaries. Arguably the most prevalent and important of the various binaries are good vs. evil and dark vs. light. At the beginning of the novel, Stoker establishes a clean cut line between good and evil. Basically, Dracula is evil—everyone hunting him is good. However, as the novel progresses, the clean-cut line between good and evil begins to blur. As the novel progresses, one can certainly question what actually constitutes a monster? Is Dracula a monster? Herein, Stoker allows readers to develop sympathy for his evildoing character.
Though Dracula is bloodthirsty, revenge driven, seeking immortality, spreading his territory, and reproducing spawn, Stoker includes a romantic side to his monster. Dracula is displayed as a lonely man. When Jonathan arrives at his castle, Dracula welcomes him as a being to communicate with, not just a bag of blood. Instead of immediately killing Jonathan upon his arrival, Dracula showed Jonathan the utmost hospitality, keeping him well fed and comfortable, yet still imprisoned. Exhibited as a dapper creature, Dracula possesses a charismatic presence. When spotted by Jonathan and Mina out and about, Dracula tries to blend in with society, and not annex himself as a monster. But at the same time, Dracula posing himself as dapper allows him to appear as both the bait and the trap. Dracula is misunderstood, he rebels against morality and society and that constitutes him as a monster and at the same time, an anti-hero. For the majority of the novel no one felt sympathy for Dracula, he was seen only as pure evil. However, near the end of the novel Mina discloses that she pities Dracula. She deems him a “poor soul,” and she is convinced that though he has wreaked havoc on her friends, Dracula is “the saddest case of all” (Stoker 269). Though Mina reveals her true feelings for Dracula, one has to question if it is because she sincerely feels pity for the creature, or if she holds compassion for him because she is slowly turning into a monster like him, and realizes that she may have to meet the same fate.
Defying the odds and breaking the binary of good vs. evil is Reinfeld, Dr. Seward’s off the wall mental patient straddles the line between good and evil. Reinfeld is without any doubt a sociopath, and can be classified as a monster. He enjoys carnage and playing God, and essentially becomes Dracula’s puppet, yet at the same time Reinfeld is a tragic character. Different from the other humans in the novel, temptation, sexual desire, or his own manhood does not drive Reinfeld, yet he is not driven by the same carnal motives as Dracula. A special case in the novel, Reinfeld experiences extreme moments of clarity and extreme moments of insanity, leading the audience to believe that he doesn’t have control over what he is doing. Contrasting his own monstrosity, Reinfeld latches on to Mina and shows true compassion for the woman, rendering himself not evil—but at the same time not good.
Dark vs. light and good vs. evil collide when thinking about Lucy Westerna. At the beginning of the novel, Lucy is depicted as the perfect, blonde, virginal Victorian woman. The innocence Lucy displayed attracted the dark and evil Dracula to consume this innocence and leave only evil. However, the innocence Lucy portrays on the surface is not necessarily true. Stoker portrays Lucy as a young and attractive woman who plays with men’s emotions and uses them as she pleases. In a letter to Mina, Lucy boasts about the three men who have proposed to her that day alone, and feels “sorry, really and truly sorry, for two of the poor fellows,” (57) whose proposal she does not accept. Continuing her bragging, Lucy says to Mina, “some girls are so vain. You and I, Mina dear, who are engaged and are going to settle down soon soberly into old married women, can despise vanity,” (58) except for the fact that Mina’s betrothed is essentially missing and all Lucy has is her vanity. Lucy the “perfect” embodiment of light still has her flaws. After dying and being turned into a vampire, the virginal Lucy is now tainted, she transitions from light to dark, from good to evil—her pure blonde hair is no more, she is now a sinful brunette. Van Helsing and Seward go to vanquish Lucy, and the creature that was once their beloved now “seemed like a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth—which made one shudder to see—the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy’s sweet purity.” (190). What was once considered light in Lucy was taken by Dracula, but in all reality Lucy was never a perfect embodiment of light anyway, adding to Stoker’s deconstruction of binaries.
Throughout Dracula, Stoker proves that the line between good and evil and dark and light is not always clear. Romantic and misanthropic Dracula, the mad yet caring Reinfeld, and the virginal and pure Lucy illustrate that all is not what it seems. By constructing and deconstructing binaries Stoker creates multifaceted characters that brand Dracula as a classic.
Two Women, New Woman in Bram Stoker’s Novel
Bram Stoker uses the characters of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker in his novel Dracula to explore the essential attributes of a “New Woman” in Victorian England. Written during the late nineteenth century, this novel emerged out of a time where the long held traditions of men being perceived as superior and acting with authority over their submissive female counterparts was changing. Forces such as the suffragette movement drove these changes, and from this arose the concept of the “New Woman” which was based upon two major shifts in female values: an increase in intellectual pursuit and more sexual autonomy. The fates of Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra after their encounters with Dracula differ due to the different characteristics of the “New Woman” they embrace.
Mina Harker is the representation of an “ideal” woman in this novel. Firstly, she is instinctively maternal and nurturing, as evidenced by the scene in which she comforts Quincey Morris and writes, “We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked; I felt this big, sorrowing man’s head resting on me, as though it were that of the baby that someday may lie on my bosom, and I stroked his hair as though he were my own child” (230).Through acknowledging the presence of an inherent “mother-spirit” within her, Mina suggests that part of her female identity lies in being a mother. The presence of someone in distress automatically evokes a maternal response within her, and when this response occurs, the act of being a mother overpowers all other urges. Secondly, Mina maintains a belief throughout the novel that men are superior, even exclaiming at one point, “Oh, thank God for good brave men!” (311). Mina’s understanding of her social position as inferior to the men in her life ensures that she does not threaten their power. During Victorian times, the only aspect of life in which a woman was believed to be superior to a man was in her ability to raise children. Through Mina’s maternal instincts, she demonstrates having the capability of becoming a wonderful mother, and combined with her non-threatening attitude towards men, Mina proves to be the ideal Victorian woman. However, she also embraces aspects of the New Woman. Mina is familiar with advanced technologies of the time, such as typewriters and writing in shorthand. She also educates herself, even memorizing train schedules “so that [she] may assist Jonathan in case he is in a hurry” (186). Mina’s intellect reflects “New Woman” characteristics, but she approaches her knowledge in such a way that preserves traditional Victorian values as well. Instead of using intellect to increase her independence, Mina educates herself in order to keep up with her husband, and to assist him whenever possible. In doing so, she further ensures that she does not challenge the superiority of the men in her life, but rather works to complement their power.
On the other hand, Lucy embraces the aspect of the New Woman that calls for more sexual autonomy, and Stoker suggests that this is ultimately the reason for her inability to survive. She is described as ‘voluptuous’ throughout the novel, and makes inappropriate comments, such as, “why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (59). This suggestion of wanting to marry three different men would be considered extremely controversial in Victorian times. Lucy’s sexuality threatens men’s power, as evidenced by her description of Quincey Morris proposing to her, and how he “began pouring out a perfect torrent of love-making, laying his very heart and soul at [her] feet” (58). Quincey is vulnerable in this position because Lucy has all the power, and his vulnerability is strengthened when she denies his proposal, a dynamic that occurs again when she rejects John Seward. The fact that three men proposed to Lucy in one day suggests that she had been in contact with all three at the same time, which demonstrates her openly flirtatious personality. Furthermore, Lucy doesn’t show a maternal instinct at all throughout the novel. In fact, once turned into a vampire, she hunts children, and throws a baby on to the ground, revealing that she not only fails to exhibit her maternal instinct, but that she doesn’t have one at all. This makes Lucy incompetent in the one aspect of womanhood in which she is supposed to excel, suggesting that promiscuity and maternity can not exist together. Likewise, Lucy’s involvement with three men at the same time and her longing to marry all three demonstrates the negative consequences of a woman with a more open sexuality, as it threatens the superiority of men over women that Stoker believed was crucial in maintaining social order.
The different reasons behind why Dracula attacks each character also works as a reflection of their New Woman traits. Lucy, who is Dracula’s first victim, is attacked due to her vulnerability. Her less restricted sexuality leaves her more exposed to men, and the ease in which Dracula is able to visit her in the night demonstrates that. The night after Lucy is bitten by Dracula in the graveyard, Mina recounts that “twice during the night [she] was awakened by Lucy trying to get out. She seemed, in her sleep, to be a little impatient at finding the door shut” (93). Lucy’s unconscious attempts to meet with Dracula shows that she is easily turned to compliancy, and that she is not fighting against his visits. Mina, on the other hand, is deeply opposed to Dracula’s attacks. Upon first finding out she has been bitten, she exclaims, “Unclean! Unclean! I must touch him or kiss him no more” (284). Her immediate disgust and reluctance is an opposite reaction to Lucy’s. Unlike Lucy, Mina resolves to fight against what is happening instead of succumbing to Dracula’s desires, and this is ultimately the reason why their fates are different.
Mina survives the attacks due to her socially correct behavior, whereas Lucy dies because of her lack of them. Through her organization, intellect, and resourcefulness, Mina is able to assist the men in their hunt for Dracula. She is the one who compiles all the documents and evidence which helps get the narrative of the hunt organized into a collective body. She also uses her psychic connection with Dracula to the men’s advantage, thus turning her misfortune into a important resource. Lucy, on the other hand, is completely helpless. She relies entirely on the men to keep her safe, and is unable to assist in any way. She quickly turns evil, and it is described that her “sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness” (211). This passage clearly illustrates that Lucy was unable to fend herself from the effects of vampirism, and that she descended into that evil herself. Through Lucy’s inability to fight against Dracula’s influence, Stoker suggests that when a female embraces her sexuality, her morals are weakened. Whereas Lucy succumbs to a descent into monstrosity, Mina is able to fight it. Her strong morals allow her to prevent Dracula’s visits and keep her soul pure, despite being bitten by him. John Seward describes Mina as a “sweet, sweet, good, good woman in all the radiant beauty of her youth and animation, with the red scar on her forehead of which she was conscious” (309). The repetition of the words “sweet” and “good” emphasize the persistence of Mina’s pure characteristics despite her condition. This shows that Mina is still good at heart, so that when Dracula’s body is destroyed, Mina’s body is able to regain its natural purity. This directly opposes Lucy, who loses all her purity due to her inability to fight against the evil within her.
Lucy and Mina’s outcomes after being bitten by Dracula are determined through the traits of the New Woman they embrace. Mina pursues to expand her intellect and knowledge which allows her to fight against Dracula. However, she still holds on to important Victorian values of possessing a strong maternal instinct and does not attempt to threaten the authority of men. On the other hand, Lucy adopts more sexual openness and promiscuity, which results in a weakening of her morals and an inability to prevent a descent into evil. This symbolizes Stoker’s perception of female sexuality as negative or undesirable. Because of Mina’s strong will, she is able to play a vital role in Dracula’s defeat, whereas Lucy’s helplessness and ‘voluptuousness’ results in her death. Through these differing fates, Stoker suggests that some characteristics of the New Woman will allow women to thrive, whereas others will make them weaker and ultimately result in their inability to survive in society.
The Summary of Dracula
Men make the journey to Carfax, and have objects for protection. Dracula is not in the chapel, but it smells very bad. Rats begin to fill the chapel, they use a whistle to summon dogs that will chase away the rats. Van Helsing is happy that twenty one boxes are missing out of the fifty. Van Helsing asks to see Renfield again when he reaches the Asylum. Van Helsing wants an interview of him but Renfield curses him and fails to cooperate. Mina records her anxieties in her diary. She wakes up to her strange sounds from Renfield’s room and finds out that her window is open. Mina stares out the window at a thin streak of white mist the slowly creeps across the yard. There is a “pillar of cloud” in her room and sees a “livid white face” bending over to her and assumes that this is part of her dream.
Harker investigates, reveals twelve of the remaining boxes of Earth were deposited in two houses in London. He finds the other nine boxes in Piccadilly, in a London suburb. Seward finds rapid changes in Renfield’s behavior. He shows that he has given up interest in Zoophagy. The following evening Renfield is lying in his cell covered in blood. Dying. Renfield admits to the other men that Dracula often visited him, by promising to give him flies, spiders and other animals which helps him gain strength for his obedience. Later Mina visited him, Renfield noted that she is pale and realized that Dracula had been “taking the life out of her.” Dracula went into his room and Renfield tried to seize him but Dracula’s vampire eyes burned him, and was flung across the room as Dracula slipped away. Four men rush upstairs to Harker’s room. Finding it locked, they break down the door while Johnathan lies unconscious, Mina kneels on the edge of the bed, and the count stands over her as she drinks from the wound from her breast. Dracula’s eyes flame on the men and Van Helsing holds up a sacred Communion wafer and the count retreats. The men light up a gas lamp and there is a faint vapour escaping under the door. Morris chases the bat flying away from Carfax. Mina says that she awoke that night to find Johnathan unconscious beside her. The count threatened to kill her husband if she made a sound. He sliced his own chest open, and he made her drink the blood from his chest.
Harker recounts the end of Renfield’s story: before escaping the asylum, Count arrives and breaks his neck and killing him. Harker and his men go to Carfax the next day and place a Commonium wafer in each of Dracula’s boxes of Earth. Van Helsing seals Mina Murrays’s room with wafers. The men get keys to Dracula’s other houses around the city. Holmwood and Morris go to London to put the wafers in the twelve boxes and Harker and Van Helsing go to put the other nine boxes in Piccadilly. The men arrive and only find eight of the nine boxes. Mina tells them that Dracula leaves Carfax to go to Piccadilly to protect his boxes. Dracula taunts and Van Helsing thinks that the count is probably frightened, knowing that he has only one box remaining a safe resting place. Van Helsing’s band discovers that the Count has boarded a ship named The Czarina Catherine, which is bound for Varna. Van Helsing declares that it is necessary to defeat Dracula for the good of mankind. The men hunt for Dracula by intercepting him in Varna. Mina insists that she should come to help aid for their search. As the days pass, Mina grows weaker. After more than a weak of waiting in Varna, the band receives word that Dracula’s ship has bypassed Varna and arrived at the port of Galatz by accident. As they board Galatz, Van Helsing suggests that Mina’s connection to Dracula may have enabled the count to learn of their ambush. When the Communion wafer singes Mina’s forehead, the fight against Dracula’s evil takes on added meaning. The men decide that their efforts also represent a fight to restore a woman to her unpolluted. Mina never truly emerges as a complex or particularly believable character.
Count Dracula Vs. Vlad the Impaler
History is sometimes told through stories and this is a fact but sometimes, these stories are not a hundred percent loyal to what really happened in history. This relationship between “history” and “story” is going to be the base for this work because I have decided to do my essay about one of the topics given which are: “From history to story: Vlad the Impaler vs. Count Dracula”.
I chose this topic because I love history and I am very curious about historical characters such as Prince Vlad Tepes, which some critics consider it is one of the inspirations to the Dracula’s author, Bram Stoker. It is not sure if he really based his character on Vlad Tepes but I think that there are some quotes on his book that can make someone think that the character of Dracula can be similar to Prince Vlad.
Vlad III Dracula the Prince of Wallachia, also known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, was born in Transylvania (Romania). He was one of the sons of the nobleman Vlad II Dracul, the ruler of the Wallachian region and member of the Order of the Dragon. That is why Vlad the Impaler is called Dracula: because it means the son of Dracul. +These arete first similarities I have found between the historical character and the fictional one. In the book, it is said that Jonathan Harker is traveling to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula, the lord of this land.
“… made a search among the books and maps of the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a noble of that country”.
This is not a clear reference to Vlad Tepes but I think that it is not a coincidence that both, Dracula and Vlad, are from the same country and region. However, there is still that percentage that maybe Bram Stoker wanted to base his novel in a country far away from Ireland.
However, the main reason why I think the author based his book’s character (or at least took some inspiration to create it) is the name of the novel itself and the character’s name: Dracula.
Why did Stoker want to name one of the principal characters as “Dracula”? As I said before, Vlad the Impaler’s father was known as “Vlad Dracul” which is translated into English as “Vlad the dragon”. The Romanian word “draw” means “dragon” and sometimes it also means “the devil” or “Satan” and “ul” is the article. What’s more, the suffix “ulema” (the Romanian name of Vlad Tepes is Vlad III Dracula) means “the son of”. It is important to say that the reason why Vlad Tepes’ father was known as Vlad Dracul is that he was a member of the Order of the Dragon, an organization created by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire, whose main purpose was to defend the empire against the Ottoman Turkish and defeat them.
Evil Against Good – Perpetual Conflict in Dracula
In the Gothic novel Dracula, Bram Stoker largely presents good and evil in stark contrast in a very simple manner. This perhaps mirrors Victorian views of good and evil as opposed yet inextricable, a strict view of right and wrong in a religious sense. But more interesting than this construct is the character of Renfield, the man who appears to be neutral, caught between the clearly righteous good and the evidently evil. Throughout the novel, he is submerged in a metaphorical grey area. Stoker uses Renfield to provoke deeper thought about good and evil, and indeed wants the reader to fear this grey area itself.
Often, Stoker does tend to present quite easily accessible interpretations on good and evil. For example, when Mina is fed on by and equally feeds from Dracula in chapter twenty one, the literary technique isn’t hard to suss out. Descriptions such as “white-clad” and “clad in black” are used to describe Mina and Dracula: the colours are obviously opposed but Stoker has even gone as far as switching the syntax of the adjectives to emphasise the opposing ideas. You also see Mina’s “nightdress” which has been “smeared with blood” and which thus has connotations of a loss of virginity, due to the Victorian belief that the exchange of blood and reproductive fluids are synonymous. It means a loss of innocence from colour imagery, a deflowering of Mina’s character. There is also clear contrast in terms of religious lexicon from “God’s mercy” to the “devil and his children”. So, in many ways (visual and metaphorical, and in allusions to the Bible), Stoker presents good and evil to be a very clear cut-subject, something that doesn’t require an awful lot of thought.
This begs the question: what about Renfield? Where does he fit in? He’s generally an extremely ambiguous character. His initial interactions with Dracula aren’t clear in his exposition. It’s also unclear why it is that he’s so particularly sensitive to Dracula’s movements. Another ambiguity is his strange and unnatural obsession with immortality. He’s described as a “madman”. No past, no personality. So we are left to rely purely on the text, but the writing offers a very grey too. We are often left confused about Renfield’s warped personality: he displays kindness and politeness (much like the ideal Victorian bachelor) by “tidying” before Mina enters his cell and even says “let the lady come in” only after he has finished cleaning. However, this only makes it more uncomfortable to see the character displaying signs of evil. As Seward says when Mina enters the cell, “I thought that he may have had some homicidal intent”. Just like the in-between of horror and terror, the grey, Renfield is an example of the abject. He is both good and evil.
One of the displays of Renfield’s possible evil is his strange habit of eating the insects in his room. The flies and spiders sent by Dracula himself are obviously under his influence, as Harker says in the fourth chapter of the novel in reference to Castle Dracula, supposedly a place where the Devil and the “Devil’s children”. Possibly, the insects are the “devil’s children” in question, under the influence of the Count. The juxtaposition of the insects and Renfield makes him seem much more animalistic, bringing about the Victorian fear of devolution and thus transmitting the impression that he is evil.
In chapter twenty one when Renfield is on his deathbed, he mentions the “Acherontia atropos of the Sphinges” . As Van Helsing says, this translates to the “Death’s Head Moth”. The use of this symbol has a huge impact on both the Victorian and the contemporary reader. In the 1840s, the entomologist Moses Harris claimed that the moth was “the device of evil spirits” because of its skull-like pattern, and this interpretation was digested by the society of the time; people then believed that the moth was some sort of evil omen. In popular culture, surrealist Salvador Dalí also used the design for his work in relation to death, further pushing conventional beliefs surrounding the moth. Renfield however eats these insects in his cell: this is again an in-between state of evil and good because the physical eating of the insects in the correct order of the food chain is a completely natural process. However, it feels twisted, and brings back the sickly, abject, revulsed feeling at the act.
When Renfield is very close to death, it is made clear to the reader that he simply should already be dead due to the injuries he’s sustained. These include his “pool of blood” he’s laying in, his “back broken”: he’s “paralysed”, and has a “mark on his head”. This is the connection Renfield holds to the dark side, evil, even when he’s close physically to death. Yet he’s strangely alive, with “uncertain breaths”, and he is “quickly revived” when Seward wets his lips with brandy. He’s also undergoing “agonised confusion” and the men are in a state of “nervous suspense”. So he’s on his deathbed but very strangely vital and sane (which is unusual for him): this is just another example of how he is completely a middle man between good and evil. This boundary between the two holds forth Victorian fears of the liminal, threatening Stoker’s readers with illogicality and ambiguity.
As David Rogers says, Victorian times had an “apocalyptic nature”: this was an era of uncertainty and change. Often, Stoker accentuates this fear by using Renfield as a middle man to make this uncertainty and unease about the forces of good and evil more accessible to his readers.
The issue of Meta-Textuality Within Dracula
Bram Stoker’s revolutionary novel Dracula gave way to the splendor of modernism. Displaying many ground breaking modernist techniques, Dracula is especially reliant on the use of a meta-textual narrative. Stoker introduces his novel with a paragraph stating that how “these papers have been placed in sequence will be made manifest in the reading of them. All needless matters have been eliminated, so that a history almost at variance with the possibilities of later-day belief may stand forth as simple fact.
There is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary, given from the standpoints and within the range of knowledge of those who made them.” (Stoker 5). Right away, Stoker draws to the reader’s attention that he is using a meta-textual narrative to tell the story of Dracula. The book is commenting on what it is going to be doing, specifically drawing the reader’s attention to the process of its own creation. Throughout the novel, Stoker creatively stitches together different forms of media, which ultimately creates the overarching narrative and a general understanding of the power structure between the characters. Stoker’s creative and wide variety of media includes things such as: diaries, shipping receipts, letters, telegrams, medical notes, journals, ships logs, typewriter entries, etc. Each artifact allows the readers to see how the story is being framed and compiled. Many of the artifacts such as the unopened letters and what are supposed to be confidential medical records illustrate how important the concept of knowledge and secrets is between the characters in the novel.
Stoker begins his story of Dracula with Jonathan Harker’s personal diary entries, herein the readers first learn of the monster that is Count Dracula—in addition to personal information about Jonathan and Mina, and even his negative views on non-English culture. As the plot thickens when Jonathan realizes Dracula is holding him prisoner in Transylvania, the narrative shifts to the diaries of characters that are in London, ultimately moving the story to London. By changing between artifacts, Stoker creates and builds the suspense of secrets and the unknown that will persist throughout the rest of the novel. By using a meta-textual narrative, Stoker leaves the readers to walk a fine line between what is reality and what is fiction. For the most part, the novel consists predominantly of journal entries and diaries. The purpose of the journal entries and diaries is to form different views of the overall narrative. However, the readers must remember that first hand accounts in documents such as those are not always accurate. The documents are all written after the events have occurred, and it is safe to assume that all of the characters have a different take on how events have taken place. Stoker plays on the inaccuracies of the documents to instill a form of doubt between the readers and the events happening in the novel.
The idea that knowledge is power is a consistent theme throughout that is brought to light through the meta-textual narrative. Literally the whole plot of the novel is based around secrets, who is keeping them—and from whom, the meta-textual narrative is the perfect tool to instill this theme. As the novel traces its way back to England, huge messes of secrets begin to emerge. This massive web of secrets begins to be woven as Lucy Westerna becomes mysteriously ill. Dr. Seward is unaware of the true cause of Lucy’s frightening and seemingly incurable ailment, however, Mina has seen Lucy sleep walking in a graveyard— in addition to some odd neck wounds, this initial secret sparks a fire. As Mina goes off to take care of Jonathan, Professor Van Helsing arrives per Seward’s request, to try and help cure Lucy. Readers begin to see through Van Helsing’s and Seward’s separate diaries that there is one massive secret being kept, Lucy is being turned into a vampire, Van Helsing kept this information from Seward until after Lucy’s death and her rebirth. As Count Dracula is feeding on Lucy, Jonathan mysteriously surfaces out west, with a bundle of secrets. Jonathan asks his beloved Mina to not read his personal diary, which they sealed up for their own safety. However this diary quickly becomes public knowledge and everyone begins to know of the monster that is Count Dracula. Within the novel, the readers know all of the secrets and are seeing the story formed before their eyes, contrasting with the characters that are all encompassed by secrets.
After Lucy’s death, Mina is put in charge of compiling all of the artifacts, so essentially compiling the meta-textual narrative. Throughout, the men in the novel try and protect Mina, their dear model Victorian woman. However, Mina is aspiring to be a “new woman,” she does not desire to be coddled by the men, but rather solve the mystery as an equal with the men. Due to her shorthand and typewriter skills, Mina is put in charge of compiling the documents and forms of media the gang possesses in relation to Count Dracula. So in all reality, Mina knows more about what is going on than the men—she knows the full story. Yet, in their personal diaries the men comment on how Mina is changing as Count Dracula is consuming her, yet they cannot decide if they should or shouldn’t include Mina in this general knowledge; the irony displayed by Stoker herein is comical.
Overall, the story of Dracula would not have the same effect without Stoker’s groundbreaking use of meta-textual narrative. Use of a wide and clever variety of media and the theme of secrets and knowledge make Dracula a truly brilliant and classic novel.
What is Dracula
Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, written in 1897 during the Victorian era depicts and delves through the historical context of what society was like in the past. His extraordinary piece places a strong emphasis on sexuality by contrasting it with the conventional and stereotypical views towards sexuality that was once embellished during his life time. By painting an elaborate picture of the conservative society Stoker once grew up in, I contend that through his main female characters, he pursues to epitomize and challenge the Victorian notion of sexuality by incorporating female characters with strong sexual desires.
Stoker explicitly links vampirism and sexuality from the early chapters of the novel, when the three vampire beauties visit Harker in Dracula’s castle. Because the prejudices of his time barred him from writing frankly about intercourse, Stoker suggests graphic sexual acts through the predatory habits of his vampires. The means by which Dracula feeds, for instance, echo the mechanics of sex: he waits to be beckoned into his victim’s bedroom, then he pierces her body in a way that makes her bleed. In the mind of the typical Victorian male, this act has the same effect as a real sexual encounter—it transforms the woman from a repository of purity and innocence into an uncontrollably lascivious creature who inspires “wicked, burning desire” in men. We witness such a transformation in Lucy Westenra, who becomes a dangerous figure of sexual predation bent on destroying men with her wanton lust. Because of her immoral mission, the men realize that Lucy must be destroyed.
In this sense, Stoker’s novel betrays a deep-seated fear of women who go beyond the sexual boundaries Victorian society has proscribed for them. If women are not hopelessly innocent virgins, like Lucy before Dracula gets hold of her, or married, like Mina, they are whores who threaten to demolish men’s reason and, by extension, their power. The fact that such temptresses are destroyed without exception in Dracula testifies to the level of anxiety Victorian men felt regarding women’s sexuality.
In Dracula, Bram Stoker writes characters that come face to face with sexuality–sexual repression is at the core of this theme. Both men and women are sexually repressed, as witnessed by Jonathan Harker’s thoughts and actions during his imprisonment at Dracula’s castle. His sexual repression is best described in the following quote:
’I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply 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…I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited–waited with beating heart.’ Jonathan Harker is about to be bitten by Count Dracula’s three daughters. The vampire women are voluptuous and highly sexualized; they are free to act on their sexual desires, which is the exact opposite of men and women in Victorian society. The fact that Jonathan must close his eyes demonstrates his inability to handle open sexuality. At the same time, he feels his desire to be ravished by the female vampire bubbling up when he states that he closed his eyes and waited in a dreamy state of ecstasy. He wants the woman to take advantage of him, but he feels shame for that, as he struggles with viewing her sexual expressiveness as both desirable and repulsive.
Women are defined on a continuum in Dracula. Mina is pure and chaste throughout the novel and embodies the ideal Victorian woman. Van Helsing says, ’She is one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven…so true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist – and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish.’
Mina embodies the ideal woman in all respects. She is prudent, intelligent, caring, understands her place in society. Stoker develops Mina as ideal so he can present what is considered as unacceptable behavior for women through the character development of Dracula’s daughters, the ’weird sisters’.
The three women serve as the opposite of Mina: impure, radical and evil. They are everything a Victorian woman isn’t supposed to be in society. The women are referred to as ’monsters’ by Jonathan. The women seduce men, which the novel is clearly arguing against. A woman must be pursued by men in an appropriate manner and should not seek out a relationship independently.
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. (3.29)
Jonathan’s repressed sexual desire comes bubbling to the surface when he sees the sexy vampire ladies in Castle Dracula. He’s both attracted to them and repulsed by them, and ashamed to admit that he kind of wants them to kiss him.
[…] we recognized the features of Lucy Westenra. Lucy Westenra, but yet how changed. The sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness. (16.17) Jack Seward can’t believe how much “Lucy Westenra” has changed—he keeps repeating her full name, emphasizing that it’s now just an empty label. “Lucy Westenra” is no longer herself; this over-sexed she-demon is not the girl he fell in love with. This vampire lady might be sexy, but she’s sexy in a totally freaky way. 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 […] as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake. (16.45) Whether or not you want to read the stake as phallic symbol, this scene is pretty sexual.
“Yes, I was moved—I, Van Helsing, with all my purpose and with my motive for hate—I was moved to a yearning for delay which seemed to paralyse my faculties and to clog my very soul.” (27.30) Even the great Van Helsing felt the sexy power of the “weird sisters.” Of course, he gets over it, and stakes all three of them.
I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply 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. . . . 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. . . . I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.
Things go from bad to worse rather quickly during Harker’s stay with the count. In this passage from Chapter III, three beautiful vampires visit the Englishman and come dangerously close to draining him of his blood before Dracula halts them, claiming that Harker belongs to him. This passage establishes the vital link between vampirism and sex that pervades the novel. These undead women are unlike any of the living women in the novel. Whereas Mina and Lucy are models of virtue and purity, these “weird sisters” are voluptuous, aggressive, and insatiable. The position that the vampire assumes over Harker’s body suggests a sexual act, and this display of female sexual aggression both attracts and repulses Harker. In a Victorian society that prizes and rewards female virginity and domesticity, the sexually adventurous vixen is bound to be the subject of fantasy. But because of these same rigid strictures of acceptable social behavior, she is also bound to be considered dangerous. Here, Stoker takes the fantasy of the dangerous whore to its most extreme manifestation, suggesting that Harker stands to lose not simply his reputation, but also his life.
“Literature is like a flashlight, illuminating the dark recesses of the human mind.” The novel becomes the instrument in which the author uses to portray the ideas that they have about the existing world. The words can blatantly express the author’s position on the idea or the opinions can be imbedded in the text and represented through metaphors and imagery. The exercise of subliminally promoting one’s standpoint, although still widely used today, is something that was used in the earlier years of literature as there were more restrictions that inhibited people from expressing themselves freely. The majority of classical novels have an undertone that promotes the author’s ideals and morals, even if they may conflict with those of the general public which may result in the author being ostracized from society. This is the very technique that Bram Stoker used in his novel Dracula, to express his frustrations with his life and the ideas that conflicted with society. The novel is a portrayal and criticism of societal norms, as well as a reflection of Stoker’s own life that was woven within the fantasy genre and expressed through vampirism. The use of vampirism represented the use and addiction of drugs, the idea of sexual freedom, the criticism of humans and the complexity of the human mind that is reflected in the nature of the vampires.
The human brain is an organ that is constantly under study as there is no definite answer as of right now of the full potential of the mind and an explanation to the events that the brain has orchestrated. The human brain can confuse even the most intelligent and well-informed person so for someone who is untrained in the way of the human brain it may be confusing to understand and explain why in action is taken when it is illogical to the outside person observing incident. Although the thought of the brain willing someone to do something that they are unsure of may seem far-fetched, there are many cases in the criminal court where a murder is dismissed because the person who committed it pleaded insanity. The accused can deny the claims of the basis that they were not in control of themselves as something in their brain made them have the inexplicable urge to commit murder led them to do something that was irrational and would go against their natural state of being. This same process of psychological turmoil is seen in two characters in the novel. The two characters are seen as people who are of sane mind and are capable of forming intelligent thoughts, but throughout the course of the novel there are inconsistencies in their characters as they are faced with the vampires. Jonathan Harker is the character that the audience is first introduced to as he is travelling, he then becomes trapped in Dracula’s castle and goes frantic trying to escape the place in which he was being held against his will.
“The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner.” (Stoker, 27), the castle for Jonathan is impossible to escape and although he was originally portrayed as someone wold not come about irresponsible conclusions, as he slowly slips into a spiral of madness from having his freedom robbed from him he begins to entertain ideas that he would not normally think of to escape. He comes to the conclusion that scaling the wall in the same way that he had see Dracula do so was his best option, which he surprisingly succeeds and lands himself in Dracula’s room. This kind of action is something that goes against the character that the novel introduced him as, for he was a upright “English Churchman” and had a journal that was written in a shorthanded code that may be hard to decipher in modern time, this sane and secure man was able to fall. The other character that shows inconsistencies in their character is Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, he is a man that believes in the fantastical aspect of the world that most people dismiss and an old folk tale. This interest and belief in the supernatural is out of place as Helsing is said to be a man of science and medicine who is of sane mind, this interest and his character are in conflict. He is someone who should not believe in the fantastical as he is a man of science, as science goes to prove that all things in the existing world is governed by the laws of science so there should be no belief in the supernatural as it is something that is not governed by the laws of science. The other characters in the novel said that the appearance of vampires is something that is outside the realm of science and yet, Helsing believed that science was the only way to deal with the creatures. This type of thinking is something that stays true to his character but also is in conflict with is as he has to acknowledge the existence of the supernatural to deal with it scientifically. This turmoil caused Helsing to have fits of hysteria where he started sprouting mad theories, which he tried to deny but was constantly plagued by as Dr. Seward said, “He has denied me since that it was hysterics, and believed that is was only his sense of humour asserting itself under very terrible conditions.” (Stoker, 174)
The Phenomenon of American Xenophobia in Dracula
The economic instability which fueled the radical political divisions in America during the 1920s more than set the stage for Universal Studios’ rise to Hollywood powerhouse as the home of horror and monsters; it constructed that stage and defined the message that audiences would receive. Between 1920 and the release of Tod Browning’s version of Dracula in 1931 Americans had borne witness to both the most explosive growth of economic good times it had ever seen as well as the disappearance of those good times in the blink of an eye. Almost forgotten in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression already in full swing by the time Bela Lugosi’s urbane vampire hit screens across the country was that the values of America during this period was one marked by increasing fear of a Bolshevik revolution and the demonization of Eastern European foreigners deemed responsible for introducing anti-capitalist ideas into the heads of American either enjoying the good times or battling the bad times too much to notice. The monsters of the Universal Studios horror films of the 1930s—led both figuratively and literally by the character of Count Dracula—are a metaphorical representation that reflect that fear and suspicion.
David Skal terms this period in American history “The Great Abyss” and describes it as an era in which much of the population was overwhelmed by bitterness and fear coincident with a desire for relief. It was that desire for relief from such oppressive emotional weight which was fueling the search for some kind of scapegoat to take the blame (114). The 1920s had opened with a government crackdown that gave the people exactly what they wanted, even if the relief came at price. American were given the scapegoats they had wanted if the price they had to pay was ignoring that in “targeting people for deportation based on their beliefs, the Palmer Raids had violated the First Amendment” (Finan 4). The Palmer Raids had both responded to and inflamed the fears of foreign influence on American democracy and free enterprise by shipping off immigrants deemed too dangerous to the American way of life. The Raid had been preceded two years earlier by a letter from the Chairman of the government’s Joint Committee on Motion Picture Activities, David Niles, which held the threat of imposed censorship over any studios that failed to meet with his office before beginning production on any film dealing with the subject of labor or socialism (Nasaw, 1993, p. 219).
If the 1931 Universal Studios horror landmark Dracula is any kind of reflection of the period in which the film was made as well as the period in which the novel was written, it is a reflection (no pun intended) of xenophobia at its most corrosive. The scapegoat that was very real in the persons of socialists like Emma Goldman being deported for no good reason is made manifest in the fictional scapegoat of the aristocratic Count from Transylvania with the power to turn men into inhuman zombies willing to do anything at his bidding and turn innocent girls into suddenly sexualized women who exhibit a newfound independence from their men and only have eyes for the guy with the exotic accent. Lugosi’s performance is cultivated and controlled so that even though never says the words, his every nuance screams the quote from Stoker’s novel that fairly sums up the social fear his character is meant to engender: “This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me” (39).
Tod Browning, James Whale, Karl Freund and the writers responsible for the scripts they filmed all collaborated to create a thematic series of films in the early 1930s that actively if not necessarily explicitly sought to continue the demonization of foreign outsiders as something to be feared and suspected. Their stories of vampires, mad scientists, reanimated creatures and mummies all helped to bring back into the movie-going public’s mind the memories of how foreign outsiders were shipped out of America’s borders to preserve democracy and free enterprise. The Wolf Man is generally lumped in together with the first wave of Universal’s horror classics, but was actually released a decade later. Much had changed in the world during the interim, but one thing had not. Americans were still being taught to fear and distrust foreigners, but a decade later as U.S. soldiers were being prepared to ship off to those foreign countries, Hollywood was still using the monster movie as a warning. The only difference between the fear of foreigners destroying the American way of life that led to the Palmer Raids of the 1920s and the horror films of the 1930 was that by the 1940s, the monsters weren’t coming to America all spiffed up in the elegant personage of Count Dracula. Instead, the Americans—like Lawrence Talbot—were heading to foreign lands to confront the monstrous and, if possible, avoid becoming one of them.
Finan, Christopher M. From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America. Boston: Beacon, 2007.
Nasaw, David. Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements. New York: Basic, 1993.
Skal, David J. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. New York: Norton, 1993.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Maud Ellmann. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.