As several characters note in the novel, a person’s physical life is of secondary importance to the person’s eternal life, which can be jeopardized if the person is made evil by a vampire like Dracula. Professor Van Helsing says, when he is explaining why they must kill the vampire Lucy, “But of the most blessed of all, when this now Un-Dead be made to rest as true dead, then the soul of the poor lady whom we love shall again be free. ” Even characters that are of questionable goodness, such as the mental patient, R. M. Renfield, realize that, although they can find immortality by being a vampire, they cannot find salvation.
Renfield says, when he is begging Dr. Seward to let him go, not explaining that he is afraid of his master, Dracula: “Don’t you know that I am sane and earnest now; that I am no lunatic in a mad fit, but a sane man fighting for his soul? ” When Mina is distraught after realizing that Dracula has started to turn her into a vampire, Van Helsing warns her to stay alive if she wants to achieve her salvation. “Until the other, who has fouled your sweet life, is true dead you must not die; for if he is still with the quick Undead, your death would make you even as he is. Roles of Men and Women The novel underscores the expected roles of men and women in Victorian times. Women were expected to be gentle and ladylike and, most of all, subservient to men. For example, in one of her letters, Lucy notes, “My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them? “
Lucy is frustrated that she has to choose between her three suitors and does not wish to hurt any one of them by saying no. Lucy says, “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it. Women are expected to live for their husbands, so much so that Mina practices her shorthand while Jonathan is away so that she can assist him when he gets back. Mina says, “When we are married I shall be able to be useful to Jonathan. ” Even more important than a woman’s devotion to her husband was the idea that women, at least gentlewomen, should be pure.
As part of this, men were expected to respect a woman’s privacy and never burst in on her when they might catch her in an undressed state. Quincey notes this when Professor Van Helsing says they eed to break down the door to Mina’s room. Quincey states, “It is unusual to break into a lady’s room! ” However, as Van Helsing notes, in situations where the woman might be in mortal danger, this rule should be broken. Van Helsing is worried, rightly so, that Dracula might be attacking Mina. So he replies to Quincey, “You are always right; but this is life and death. ” Reason and Madness The novel also explores the ideas of reason and madness. In the beginning, Jonathan believes that he is going mad when he sees the three women vampires appear out of thin air.
Later, he thinks that all of his experiences were the result of hallucinations brought on by madness. Seward works at an insane asylum, so he is exposed to madness every day. As a result, Seward tends to always follow his scientific reasoning, a fact that Van Helsing notes, “You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear. ” Because of this, Seward does not believe in the vampire Lucy, even after seeing her the first time.
His mind is unable to reconcile the supernatural things that he has seen, and so it simply blocks them out, at least temporarily. He is the type of man who would rather base his life on hard facts and hard science and who likes to use the newest technologies like the phonograph. His mentor, Van Helsing, is also an accomplished scientist, but he realizes that sometimes it is necessary to forget what one has been taught and believe in something else, even if it seems mad or heretical. Van Helsing says “it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. Style Gothic Novel Dracula is a Gothic novel, which is also sometimes known as a Gothic romance.
Many scholars consider Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764) to be the first Gothic novel. Like Dracula, Walpole’s novel was wildly popular. Gothic novels generally focus on mystery and horror, and they usually have some supernatural elements. In Dracula, the supernatural elements are many, starting with the use of a vampire as the title character. In addition, the specific attributes given to the vampire underscore his inhumanity.
Jonathan says, after witnessing Dracula scale the castle wall like a lizard, “What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man? ” Jonathan’s plight in the beginning, when he is trapped in Dracula’s castle, is also typical of Gothic novels, which often place their heroes in seemingly inescapable situations. Finally, the various settings—including Dracula’s imposing castle, the ghostly landscape of Transylvania, and the graveyard and Lucy’s tomb in London—are all settings that are found in Gothic fiction.
Epistolary Novel In addition to being a Gothic novel, Dracula is also an epistolary novel, meaning that it is told through a series of letters instead of a single, connected narrative. Actually, although letters like these compose some of the plot, particularly the exchanges between Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra, the book also relies on journal entries and news articles to tell the tale. In fact, the book begins with an entry in Jonathan Harker’s journal: “Left Munich at 8:35 p. m. n 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning. ” Some of these entries, like the one referenced above, contain mundane details about Harker’s journey. These specific details about Harker’s journey give the book a feel of realism, which is consistent with the naturalistic movement that became popular at the turn of the nineteenth century. It also helps to counterbalance the supernatural aspects of the novel by making it seem as if the book is true. In epistolary novels like this one, the narration is all in the first person.
However, in Dracula, which bounces around from character to character, readers receive several first-person accounts. This disjointed approach helps to disorient the reader, who must try to figure out what is going on based on several separate accounts. Suspense The use of multiple first-person narrators helps to increase the suspense in the book, since Stoker jumps around from character to character, building tension in a certain situation and then moving on to the next one. In this way, the reader is left to wonder what is going to happen in a specific situation or to a specific character.
The best example of this is the anticipated fate of Jonathan Harker. In the first four chapters, Stoker builds suspense, starting on Harker’s journey. After hearing enough warnings from the local residents, Harker starts to be concerned for his safety and notes, “I am not feeling nearly as easy in my mind as usual. If this book should ever reach Mina before I do, let it bring my goodbye. ” Although Jonathan later thinks he was overreacting, at least when he first meets the count, the seed of doubt and suspense is planted in the reader’s mind.
This seed continues to grow as Jonathan notices certain things about Dracula: “The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. ” As he stays at the castle, Jonathan gives readers even more information about Dracula’s vampiric qualities, which help to heighten the suspense. However, at the end of the fourth chapter, Stoker adds the most suspense of all, when he has Jonathan announce his intention to try to leave the castle, “I shall try to scale the castle wall farther than I have yet attempted….
And then away forhome! away to the quickest and nearest train! ” While readers root for Jonathan, they must wait several chapters to find out whether or not he is successful in his attempt, since the novel switches gears and starts to talk about the experiences of Mina and Lucy. The novel continues to build suspense, which culminates in the massive chase to kill Dracula and save Mina. Historical Context Organized Religion in the Victorian Age The Victorian Age witnessed both a rising and falling in the popularity of organized religion. When religious activity was at its peak, it was pervasive.
Morality and religion—especially the Christian religion—infused all aspects of life. Stoker’s use of Christian elements such as a cross and a eucharist wafer as weapons against the evil Dracula underscores this idea. However, by the end ofPage 32 | Top of Article the century, when Stoker wrote Dracula, the moral compass was not as clear, and many people experienced a crisis in their religious faith. This was due in large part to the publication of several scientific works that challenged conventional notions of religion. One of the most famous of these was Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). Sexuality in the Victorian Age
In many ways, the Victorian Age was paradoxical. On the outside, men and women strove to appear pure and conservative. They observed proper courtship rituals, adopted an uninterested attitude towards sex, and at all times tried to act with decorum—at least in public. In private, however, it was a different story. The same time period that saw all of these restrictive rules also witnessed a booming prostitution industry. While this was generally accepted, there was one form of sex that was considered deviant and criminal: homosexuality. Through part of the Victorian Age, homosexuality was a capital offense.
However, by the 1890s, the sentence had been reduced to prison time, which was the fate of noted author Oscar Wilde. During the Victorian Age, pornography found a huge audience. In 1890, an anonymous author published My Secret Life, a massive autobiography that detailed the author’s sexual experiences and gave an accurate portrayal of the darker side of Victorian society. While some people wrote about sex in an academic sense, studying the sociological and psychological aspects of human sexuality, some people found it hard to make a distinction between these scholarly studies and pornography that was meant only to arouse.
One of people’s fears about pornography was that it might lead to sexually criminal behavior, such as rape. Jack the Ripper In the late 1880s, when Stoker was getting ready to write his novel, London’s East End was terrorized by an anonymous serial murderer known simply as Jack the Ripper. Although these crimes did not include sexually deviant acts like rape, most of the Ripper’s victims were prostitutes, which has led some to believe that the murderer’s motivation may have been sexual in nature, perhaps a consequence of sexual repression. Health and Medicine in the Victorian Age
Victorians were extremely worried about their health, especially in London, where crowded and unsanitary city conditions often led to widespread disease. Medicine in the nineteenth century was largely undeveloped, and medical education was not yet regulated. As a result, many doctors were inexperienced and did their patients more harm than good. In the novel, the characters’ health is referred to often. Lucy requires many blood transfusions in an attempt to keep her alive; other characters fall ill throughout the novel; when Jonathan escapes from Dracula’s castle, he makes it to a hospital and eventually gets nursed back to health by Mina.
However, even after he is healthy, Mina is very careful to keep an eye on Jonathan, concerned that he might have a relapse. Both Lucy’s mother and Arthur Holmwood’s father suffer from illnesses during the novel. In addition, after giving Lucy their transfusions, the male characters have to rest up to save their strength and avoid getting sick.
“Dracula. ” Novels for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 22-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.