Dracula 3 Essay, Research Paper
Sex. Power. Mystery. Darkness. Beauty. Elegance. Evil. The vampire encompasses all of these aspects and more. No other monster enjoys the same status as the vampire. Dracula, the most popular of the species, is a cultural icon. From movies to toys to breakfast cereals, he occupies a place in our imaginations. Scattered in almost every major city, exist movements of those who either wish to be vampires, or even believe themselves to be such. How is it that the vampire has risen to dominance over other, far older monsters such as Polyphemus or Medusa? There is no one answer to this question. Is it his role as a sexual figure? After all, the vampire decidedly goes against society s sexual mor s. He sneaks into a young, beautiful woman s room in the dead of night, and without her knowledge or consent maneuvers close enough to her to bite her neck. He seduces his victims to the point where once bitten, they return and return again until their doom descends upon them. Is it his role as an incarnation of gentleman death , a dark figure in the night who slays without remorse? Death kills indescriminantly, and so shall we. Is it due to the inversion of the standard Self / Other dialectic found in most Western literature? Is it the nature of vampirism itself? The appeal of the vampire is ambiguous, as is the nature of its teratology. He is a mass of contradictions, a multifaceted monster whose abnormality lies within his own normality.
One outstanding aspect of the vampire is his physiognomy. Rather than exterior deformity as a device to depict the evil that lurks within, the vampire physically resembles an attractive human. With vampires, the Other and the Self are combined into one frightening apparition. The monster is both a gentleman and a killer, a combination not likely to be found. He is a monster not always recognizable as such. Physically he is virtually indistinguishable from us, and worse, he may even be what we fear most: ourselves. The vampire represents a sort of shadow-self: that dark and unfamiliar Other within our psyches which exists, but we refuse to acknowledge.
Typically, the vampires of western literature come in three forms: the aristocratic white male (i.e. Dracula and Louis), the beautiful vampiress / temptress (i.e. Lucy), or the adorable child-vampire (i.e. Claudia). In Stoker s Dracula, the Count is described physically with features which are stereotypical of the Eastern European boyars, or noblemen. Consider this exert:
His face was a strong – a very strong – aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and
peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily around
the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, and with bushy
hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.
Stoker describes him as a handsome, strong-featured man. His aquiline face and lofty (hence, arrogant) forehead is characteristic of nobility presented in literature. The high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils suggests this arrogance as well, alluding to the idea of having one s nose in the air. The description of his hair, that it seemed to curl in its own profusion, presents quite a powerful, almost sexual image of his vigor. Count Dracula possesses elegance, an aristocratic mien worthy of the proud family history which he later relates in detail to Jonathan Harker. Dracula s first words of greeting are Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring. This entrance contrasts starkly with the Creature s first few moments as a character. Dracula, at least initially is seen as pleasant. As illustrated through Harker s discovery of the library, he is cultured and refined as well. Instead of a social outcast and Other such as the Monster, Dracula embodies the pinnacle of the Self – the nobility. Even the words used to describe him are euphonic. Compare that to a description of Frankenstein s monster:
No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with
animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished;
he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it
became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.
The Creature s initial description on the other hand presents us with much different imagery. Frankenstien s monster is archetypal of how the image of the abnormal monster is depicted. Dreadfully ugly and deformed, he immediately invokes feelings of fear and loathing in our minds, biasing our first judgment of his character. The harshness of the words used to describe his countenance, hideous, ugly, horror, convey the extremity of his physiognomy. In addition to his purely physical attributes, we are also presented with his graceless motions, since once he is rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived. Within the first few paragraphs of the creature s existence he is already viewed as worse than a villain from the bowels of Hell. Even though we later discover that the creature, at least at the dawn of his creation, was essentially good, by this description our only option is to view him as an evil menace.
Whereas Frankenstein (or Caliban) is conceived as a monster precisely because of his abnormal physiognomy, Dracula is monstrous for his normality. He is the monstrified Self, which is why he is particularly frightening. Since teratology studies the abnormal and horrific in order to define the normal, Dracula represents a paradox of how western culture typically defines monstrosity.
The circumstances of the two settings regarding the two monsters introductions contrast greatly as well. The Creature awakes into consciousness in a setting unfamiliar and hostile to it, with no initial control over his own fate at the moment – the Other lost in the world of the Self. Victor Frankenstein immediately greets his creation with horror, a feeling which lasts the remainder of the story. Conversely, Count Dracula is at home in his own environment, Castle Dracula: an extension of its master s consciousness. It embodies both the worlds of the Self, an ancient and noble aristocracy, and the Other, an evil and fearful realm of terror. Here as well the Master-Slave dialectic is reversed from normal literary tradition, with the Count, the monster, in almost total control of Harker, the hero. Dracula metaphorically enslaves Harker, who must serve the Count in all respects while a prisoner in the castle.
The vampire is unique among other monsters in its method of killing. Whereas most monsters trample and take, leaving behind a wide swath of destruction, and acting as nothing but an embodiment of the Freudian Id, the vampire alone treads the more subtle paths; the vampire alone seduces his victims. The vampire Louis, in Anne Rice s Interview with the Vampire, comments on the habits of his companions:
Claudia and Lestat might hunt and seduce, stay long in the company of the doomed victim,
enjoying the splendid humor in his unwitting friendship with death.
In this manner, the vampire once again inverts the norms of the Self – Other dialectic, acting in what appears to be a normal and benign manner before the kill. This aspect is especially unnerving since the victims have no idea, until it is too late, that the agent of their death has been watching and interacting with them in their ignorance. In one scene from this book Lestat brings two hired prostitutes back to the vampires town house in New Orleans. After drinking and a slight amorous interlude, he silently and swiftly drains one of the girls of blood. With the newfound body warmth from the fresh intake of blood, he easily allays the other prostitute s suspicions derived from his coldness. Lestat toys with his victim for some time before he finally kills her as well. The horror of this stems from the sick irony of the victims situation. With monsters such as Polyphemus, the victims, already terrified by his appearance, realize the death in store for them. In a situation such as this however, due to the physical attractiveness of the vampire, combined with a suave and seductive demeanor the victim maintains a state of false security until it is too late for any chance of survival. She assumes that Lestat is a part of her world, not the shadow-world of the Other.
Another interesting inversion of the standard Self / Other dialectic is the child-vampire Claudia from Interview With the Vampire.