Dracula Essay, Research Paper
In Bram Stoker’ s Dracula, vampires act as principles of mixing in many ways. Dracula comes from Transylvania, which is a land of many people, and his castle is located on the border of three states. Dracula himself describes the place as the “whirlpool of European races”, and boasts, “in [his] veins flows the blood of many brave races” (p. 28). Dracula wishes to go to London, to the crowded streets with a variety of people. He takes blood from everybody, and gives it to others (Mina, albeit for his own purposes). His body acts as a vessel of mixed blood. In his veins run blood from ancient and modern times, from England and Transylvania. Dracula seems to act as some sort of cosmopolitan principle, mixing blood without regard to age, location, nationality, blood type. Since blood is a marker of corporeal identity, unique to every individual, Dracula mixes identities when he mixes bloods. But does he destroy individuality in the process or renew it, fusing elements to create a different identity altogether?
Blood in this text seems to be a strong marker of individuality. Blood is “typed” according to nationality or race, gender, age etc. Thus Lucy has the blood of “four strong men” (151) put into her, and “a brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble” (p 149). Van Helsing’s blood is not as good as Seward’s, because he is older. Arthur’s blood is better than Seward’s or Van Helsing’s because their nerves are “not so calm, and [their] blood not so bright”, since they “toil much in the world of thought” (p 121). Although Van Helsing may have said this merely to show consideration for Arthur, as he allowed Arthur to be the one to kill Lucy, nevertheless there is a strong tendency to categorize blood according to certain intrinsic factors such as race or gender, which are described in the language of characteristics that show in the blood.
Dracula, on the other hand, does not differentiate between various kinds of blood. He wants to go to London to be in the midst of the “whirl and rush of humanity” (p. 20), suggesting that he is extracting from all these bloods, the common element of humanness. Renfield seems to extract from blood, including animal blood, the power of “life”. Dracula and Renfield seem to be taking from blood some basic element that crosses boundaries of all kinds, including the species barrier. Dracula, Mina and Renfield all seem to be able to communicate with each other, across long distances, and Dracula is able to communicate with wolves, rates, bats and other animal species. Vampires can thus be read as embodying the principle of the lowest common factor that enables communication across distances and barriers.
The process of extracting the lowest common factor is not reductive but additive, and through addition comes renewal. Renfield follows the principle of summation in his method of zoophagy. “He desires to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way” (pp. 70-71), says Seward. It seems that the cumulative method is a better method than simply eating the flies and spiders as they are caught. This perhaps implies a certain advantage to the mixing of one blood into another, and not drinking the blood “straight”. The individual identities of the various bloods are not destroyed in the process of mixing or in the process of absorbing the common factor of “life”. This is why the day after Lucy’s transfusion, she feels Arthur’s presence surrounding her (p. 116). Blood is not simply blood, but bears the signature of a person. That individuality cannot be erased by mere mixing of one blood with another; instead, it seems to produce a combined effect. Similarly, the mixing of Dracula’s blood and Mina’s enables them to communicate. Some factor in Dracula’s blood enters Mina’s, and allows this. This may be because in the text’s categorization of blood, vampiric blood is stronger than “normal” blood. However, it may also be a statement about how vampirism works as a renewing agent to produce a combined effect of two bloods. Dracula points to this when he catalogues his geneology and says “in our veins flows the blood of many brave races” (p 28), and that he has inherited the fighting spirit of Thor and Odin as well as the Huns. This speech seems to imply that brave blood is also additive, and as one descended from many lines long renowned for bravery, he is the bravest of all.
However, the contradictory evidence to this idea is considerable. Dracula is also obviously aiming to fulfill his own agenda and people the world with one kind of creatures only – vampires. He wishes to destroy humanity and create a new race of vampires. This does not hold with the diversity that I have suggested he embodies. Further, every person who turns into a vampire has the same characteristics – hard, voluptuous, with sharp nails and teeth and red lips. There seem to be no kind vampires or good vampires, though these people may have been good or kind in their own lifetimes. Dracula seems to make the dead over in his own image when he creates the undead. And he wants to populate the whole earth with them, to the exclusion of other creatures except those that obey his will. Dracula’s powerful narcissism point to a feature of vampirism that needs to make everything “other” part of the self, to make the “other” absorb and assimilate, so that all one sees is the self. From the Freudian view, Dracula literally is a “baby”, as he is described so often in the text. When he sees “normal” human beings, he sees them only as wine-presses for himself, as he says to Mina. He looks at the present human occupations and sees cities filled with future vampires. Perhaps Renfield’s obsession with absorbing lives is also a manifestation of this. He wants to take in other lives and make them a part of himself. Renfield does not want “souls” or individualities, he wants only lives, things that he can eat or drink, that are useful to him.
Dracula’s agenda of making everybody around him like himself may be a reflection of fears that mixing self and “other” would cause absorption of the self into the “other”. The text may be demonizing Dracula in reaction to these fears. Here Dracula is the other, and “normal” human being is the self, which can perhaps be read correspondingly as foreigners and Englishmen. To differentiate, to set up boundaries, is an effort to ensure separation. However, Dracula does not want separation. That he sees no differences in blood may be an ominous sign. I believe, however, that Dracula is actually an agent for the positive intermixing of cultures and people. Significantly, Dracula has the power of hypnotizing and mesmerizing his victims. He seems to be tapping into the unconscious wishes of his patients, and bringing them to the forefront. It seems that his victims want to be engulfed by him, they desire his bite, and willingly have their blood sucked. Renfield is the extreme case of a man who wants to be a vampire even before he comes into contact with one. It seems that Dracula speaks to some need in the people to merge with the “other”. Perhaps this is because the “other” is the uncanny, the familiar in a different form, that it speaks to the people. That discussion, however, is beyond the scope of this paper. In this novel, people seem to be astonishingly ready to open their veins and give their blood to another. Dracula, by his very appearance in England, promotes the mixing of blood, that is a reflection of the blood-mixing that he carries out. Blood carries the characteristics of nationality, gender, age etc. Thus Dracula embodies a principle of cultural contact and mixture, and not one of separation.