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.
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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 […]