Themes in Dracula
How it works
“Dracula, written by Bram Stoker, effectively depicts the societal values and fears during the Victorian era through the usage of vampires. One of the prominent themes in the novel is the distinction between the ideas of Old Women and New Women. Stoker develops various female characters to depict the societal gender roles during the Victorian era and consecutively hints that the ideas of New Women could threaten the Victorian ideals. Another prominent theme in the novel would be xenophobia. Through the usage of Dracula, Stoker associates vampires with foreigners, continuously displaying fear of invasion by foreigners that existed during the Victorian era.
Therefore, Stoker utilizes the vampires as a symbol to reflect the societal gender roles and the fears against non-Victorian ideals and foreigners.
Stoker utilizes the vampires to reflect the ideals of Victorian women and the fear for the ideas that goes against it through the characterization of two significantly varying type of female characters. While women who are innocent and pure are favored, women who are sexual and impure are portrayed as a corrupted version of human in Dracula. Correspondingly, while Mina serves as an ideal Victorian woman as an intelligent, chaste, and loyal wife, Dracula’s three daughters represent the exact opposite. Their ability to seduce people and exert power over men could serve as a threat against the traditional structure and hierarchy that exist within a family. For example, when Jonathan meets the three female vampires in Dracula’s castle, he states that “there was something about them that made [him] uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. [He] felt in [his] heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss [him] with those red lips” (Stoker 39). Jonathan feeling uneasy and afraid about the three female vampires’ unchaste behavior depict the societal expectations the Victorian era had for women. By demonstrating how non-Victorian ideals could corrupt people, Stoker clearly implies that the ideas of New Women could threaten the Victorian ideals. Another way Stoker utilizes vampires to depict the Victorian ideals and fears is through Lucy’s character development. Although Lucy initially represented an ideal Victorian women along with Mina, she varies from Mina significantly because of her appearance. Her beauty leads her to be presented sexual to a certain extent.
However, Lucy’s role as an ideal Victorian women distinctly disappears after she becomes a vampire. When Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Arthur, and Quincey arrive at Lucy’s grave and meet vampire Lucy, Dr. Seward states, “my own heart grew cold as ice, and I could hear the gasp of Arthur, as we recognised 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” (Stoker 222). This scene clearly shows how Stoker utilizes vampires to depict societal values and fears since even Lucy, who represented an ideal Victorian women, became sexual and unchaste by becoming a vampire. Stoker provides Lucy an exceptional role throughout the novel by making her represent both an ideal Victorian women and the New Women. She serves as an example of how an ideal Victorian Women could also become corrupted, impure, and unchaste. By implying that the ideas of New Women could not only threaten the Victorian ideals, but also corrupt people, Stoker effectively depicts the societal values and fears during the Victorian era.
Stoker not only utilizes vampires to portray the Victorian gender ideals and the fears for ideas against it, but he also utilizes Dracula in particular to portray xenophobia that existed during the Victorian era. By the Victorian era, immigrants took a substantial part of the population in Great Britain, which made a considerable amount of people to be afraid of foreigners since Great Britain had conquered and oppressed numerous countries in the past. Stoker depicts this fear of invasion by foreigners through the portrayal of Dracula. For example, Jonathan once mentions about his fear of Dracula successfully invading England and the English being helpless against the vampires. “This was the being I was helping to transfer to London, where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless” (Stoker 54). Jonathan’s concerns evidently serve as an example of how Stoker connects the invasion of vampires with the invasion of foreigners. Furthermore, Stoker’s decision to utilize specifically vampires to depict the societal fears for foreigners also has its own significance.
Since blood often represents a person’s identity and heritage, sucking one’s blood out would imply obliterating one’s heritage. Likewise, Stoker metaphorically makes use of Dracula’s fundamental instinct of consuming human blood to depict the societal fear that foreigners will attempt to get rid of English heritage. Stoker also utilizes Dracula to depict the societal fear for foreigners when Dracula has a conversation with Jonathan in his castle. He states that, “here I am noble; I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one; men know him not—and to know not is to care not for” (Stoker 21). Stoker efficaciously illustrates the society’s perspective on foreigners during the Victorian era: foreigners were expected to be inferior, untrustworthy, and uneducated. Accordingly, Dracula understands that he will easily be picked on solely because of his nationality and simply wishes to blend in. Overall, Stoker effectively makes use of vampires in order to depict xenophobia and the fear of invasion by the foreigners during the Victorian era.
In conclusion, Stoker establishes a compelling depiction of the societal values and fears during Victorian era through the usage of vampires. He develops a link between sexuality and corruption and presents the difference between Mina, who represents an ideal Victorian women, and the female vampires, who represent the New Women. In addition, he equates vampires with foreigners in order to portray xenophobia and the fears of invasion by foreigners that existed during the Victorian era. Stoker effectively associates vampires with evilness and non-Victorian ideals to portray the societal values and fears.”