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Dracula: Some Interpretations



(See Dracula The Vampire and the Critics, ed. by Margaret L. Carter (London, ), to which all page references refer).

1. 'The two chief metaphorical connotations of the word [vampire] are: 1) a social or political tyrant who sucks the life from the people ... [and] 2) an irresistible lover who sucks away energy, ambition, or even life for selfish reasons.' Ernest Jones, 'On the Nightmare', 1931 (p. 151)

2. 'In common with almost all respectable Victorian novelists, Stoker avoids any overt treatment of the sexuality of his 'living' characters [who] are, both the men and the women, models of chastity. ... The sexual elements that presumably exist in their relationships are never revealed, much less discussed. However what is rejected or repressed on a conscious level appears in a covert and perverted form through the novel, the apparatus of the vampire superstition, described in almost obsess-anal detail in Dracula, providing the means for a symbolic presentation of human sexual relationships.' Christopher Bentley, 'Sexual Symbolism in Dracula', 1972 (p. 26)

3. 'On the surface the novel appears to be a mythic re-enactment of the opposition between Good and Evil because the narrators attribute their pursuit and ultimate defeat of Dracula to a high moral purpose ... Yet, in spite of the narrators' moral language, Stoker reveals that Dracula is primarily a sexual threat, a missionary of desire whose only true kingdom will be the human body. ... Neither a thief, rapist, nor an overtly political threat, Dracula is dangerous because he expresses his contempt for authority in the most individualistic of ways - through his sexuality. In fact his thirst for blood and the manner in which he satisfies his thirst can be interpreted as sexual desire which fails to observe any of society's attempts to control it - prohibitions against polygamy, promiscuity, and homosexuality.' Carol A. Senf, 'Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror', 1979 (pp. 94)

4. 'Its underlying misogyny is the real heart of Dracula. ~.. Stoker's gothic is quintessentially Victorian: the worst horror it can imagine is not Dracula at all, but the released, transforming sexuality of the Good Woman.' Gail B. Griffin, 'Dracula and the Victorian Male Sexual Imagination', 1980 (p. 148).

5. 'For both the Victorians and twentieth-century readers, much of the novel's great appeal derives from its hostility toward female sexuality. ... The female vampires are equivalent to the fallen women of eighteenth and nineteenth century fiction. .. Perhaps nowhere is the dichotomy of sensual and sexless woman more dramatic than it is in Dracula and nowhere is the suddenly sexual woman more violently and self-righteously persecuted than in Stoker's "thriller"'. 'Vampirism ... is equivalent to sexuality. Moreover, in psychoanalytic terms, the vampirism is a disguise for greatly desired and equally strongly feared [Oedipal] fantasies - ['parricide' and, chiefly for this critic, 'matricide']. ... Dracula acts out the repressed fantasies of the other characters, who wish to do what he can do.' Phyllis A. Roth, 'Suddenly Sexual Women in Dracula', 1977 (pp. 57-8, p. 61).

6. 'Count Dracula represents those forces in Eastern Europe which seek to overthrow, through violence and subversion, the more progressive democratic civilisation of the West. ... While on the surface Stoker's Gothic political romance affirms the progressive aspects of English and Western society, its final effect is to warn the twentieth century of the dangers which face it. ... Technological progress, having cut humanity off from the old superstitious, dark knowledge, makes itself increasingly vulnerable to the demonic powers like the vampire, for, having written them off as unreal, civilised man has no defence against them.' Richard Wasson, 'The Politics of Dracula, 1966 (pp. 19-23).

7. 'In the figure of Dracula, Stoker created an image of "otherness". ... Dracula is physically "other": the dark, unconscious, the sexuality that Victorian England denied. ... He is also culturally "other": a revenant from the ages of superstition ... But more significantly he is socially "other": the embodiment of all the social forces that lurked just beneath the frontiers of Victorian middle-class consciousness, everything that was socially "other" to the Victorian bourgeoisie. He represents all dark, foreign (i.e. non-English) races; all 'dark', foreign (i.e. non-bourgeois) classes; and (paradoxically) the 'dark', exotic aristocracy, which, though moribund, might suddenly revive. ... It is 'otherness' itself, all that bourgeois society has repudiated, that Dracula represents - the psychically repressed and the socially oppressed.' Burton Hatlan, 'The Return of the Repressed/Oppressed in Bram Stoker's Dracula', 1980 (pp. 120-131).

8. 'Dracula is, of course, a morality play. Forces of good and evil, clearly identified, clash until the climax and final destruction of the dread vampire. If the evil is more suave and seductive - more intelligent and attractive - than is the devil in medieval morality dramas, that may be simply an expression of modern sophistication.' Christopher Gist Raible, 'Dracula: Christian Heretic', 1979 (pp. 105

Consider these interpretations in relation to the novel as a whole and more specifically in relation to the following passages: Harker's near-seduction by the three vampiric women (Oxford, pp. 37-8, end of Chapter 3); the destruction of Lucy (pp. 210-16, Chapter 16); the Mina/Dracula 'blood-sucking' scene (pp. 281-4, Chapter 21).

Some basic questions:

What do we learn about Dracula? Who or what is he?

Who is Van Helsing? Does he represent anything?

Mina? Is she simply the archetypal English virginal heroine, the "angel by the hearth"? And what do we learn about her relationship with Harker?

Finally, what are we to make of Lucy and her suitors?

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