, Research Paper
Possibly the most terrifying aspect of Bram Stoker’s, Dracula, is The Count’s mocking of Christianity. Indeed, Dracula seems to be a total opposite of Christ and Christian values, driven purely by desire and lust, showing his demonic soul through the fire that burns in his eyes. Despite these opposites, Stoker repeatedly uses biblical imagery and references to compare Dracula to Christ, creating deliberate parallels throughout the novel. By making these parallels, what is Stoker attempting to say ideologically? Stoker sets up his story to clearly show the conflict between established Victorian society and the changes that were beginning to occur during his time. By using the vampire hunters to embody Victorian sensibilities and Dracula to symbolize a challenge to those ideals, Stoker creates a battle between good and evil, ending with the defeat of Dracula and a return to the norm. While appearing to be a typical repressive story to enforce the ideals of Stoker’s society, it is the opposite that he cleverly implies. Through his use of twisted biblical passages and allusions, Stoker transforms a repressive story of Victorian “good” conquering over “evil”, into an ideologically liberating criticism of the status quo.
To begin to understand Stoker’s ideological implications, one must first understand the roles of each side of the overall conflict. The vampire hunters represent the status quo of the Victorian Era. They are the Catholic force that is determined to banish this evil through their strength in each other and in God. Dracula represents a challenge to the traditions and ideals of Victorian Society. He is cast as a foreign invader that has come to London to change the status quo and to create a new way of living: that of Vampirism. This conflict is set up to be a simple battle of good versus evil, God versus the Devil, the hunters versus Dracula, to allow the reader to easily relate to and accept the story in its face value. In Noel Carroll’s, “Horror and Ideology,” the progression of a horror story is setup up as a three part series: “1) from normality ? 2) to its disruption ? 3) to the final confrontation and defeat of the abnormal, disruptive being” (200). It seems that since Dracula follows this series, the reader should agree with Carroll’s idea this type of horror story is a “reinstatement of the status quo” (202). Yet, in looking at many of comparisons that Stoker makes between Dracula and Christianity, the line between what is good and evil becomes increasingly ambiguous, and the line between Victorian beliefs and Stoker own begins to become more evident. Even though the status quo is restored at the end of the novel, the reader is left questioning the society that surrounds him or her and the social and religious ideals that her or she has grown to accept. Stoker brilliantly turns what should be an ideologically repressive work into a story that provokes a desire for liberation from the stringent religious and social restraints on Victorian society.
During the course of Dracula, a multitude of religious references are made in describing not only the vampire hunters, but primarily Dracula himself. While captive, Jonathan is seduced by three vampires and is forced to write three letters home. Soon after Jonathan’s narrative, the reader learns that Lucy, who is to be Dracula’s first victim, has received three separate wedding proposals. Further into the novel, the reader learns that the Count has purchased three homes in London. This repetition of the number three has close ties to Christian beliefs, including the holy trinity, the three angles in the Book of Revelations, and the even the three wise men that visit Christ when he is born. As the novel progresses, Stoker continues his mocking comparisons with Dracula’s voyage to England. Just as Jesus quieted the storm while he was a sea with his disciples (Luke 8.25), Dracula controls the weather and creates a massive storm to aid his arrival at the harbor. The supernatural characteristics that link the storms appearance to Dracula’s arrival are described in a newspaper clipping from the Dailygraph. “Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which, at the time seemed incredible, and even afterwards impossible to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed” (Stoker 76). Many readers might see these first similarities as purely coincidence, yet after analyzing the numerous other similarities found throughout Dracula, these “coincidences” take on a much different role. Stoker appears to uses these somewhat hidden similarities to set the reader’s subconscious in motion as to the religious ties that will be made during the course of the story.
The next set of religious references take a more direct approach, using scriptural wording to grab the readers attention and arise suspicion. The first of these passages comes not as a description of Dracula, but instead of his insane servant Renfield. The reference appears in a description of Renfield, after his recent escape and flight to Dracula’s home. Dr. Seward recounts, ” [Renfield] ‘Now that You are near, I await Your commands, and You will not pass me by, will You, dear Master, in Your distribution of good things?’ [Seward] He is a selfish old beggar anyhow. He thinks of the loaves and fishes even when he believes he is in a Real Presence” (Stoker 98). This passage comes before Dr. Seward or the reader realizes that the house Renfield has fled to is actually Dracula’s new home. While Seward appears to be making a casual reference to Renfield’s insanity and his ideas of this “Master”, he is unknowingly making a direct comparison of Dracula to Christ, in the parable where Jesus feeds thousands with a few loafs of bread and a couple fish (Matthew 15:38). Further into the novel, Renfield makes another comparison between Dracula and Christ “repeating over and over again: ‘the blood is the life! The blood is the life!’” (Stoker 130) In this instance, Renfield is comparing Dracula’s thirst for blood to the last supper scene in which Jesus says, “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life” (John 6.54). Again, these comparisons between Christ and Dracula are not yet directly stated by Stoker in the text, but are cleverly implied through the use of certain scriptural passages.
After the death of Lucy, Stoker has the reader now believing that Vampires are inherently evil and that the group of vampire hunters that have resolved to kill Dracula are therefore righteous and good. While the religious imagery so far has teased the possibility of Dracula as a Christ-like figure, the overwhelming evil of his character forces the reader to restrain any of those ideas, as they would immediately be considered blasphemous. It is at this point when Stoker introduces his next set of religious images that directly compare the character of Count Dracula to that of Jesus Christ. The first of these comparisons comes after the hunters have traveled off to explore Dracula’s house and have left Mina alone and unguarded. Mina records in her journal the appearance of Dracula as, “a sort of pillar of cloud in the room, through the top of which I could see the light of the gas shinning like a red eye.” She continues by asking, “Was it indeed some spiritual guidance that was coming to me in my sleep?” (Stoker 227) Both of these strange statements immediately arouse confusion from the reader, as to why Dracula is described this way. The appearance of Dracula as “pillar of cloud” is a direct reference to a biblical description of the Lord stating, “the LORD went before them by day as a pillar of cloud, to lead the way; and by night in a pillar of fire” (Exodus 13.21). This direct comparison of Dracula to the Lord is the first big step to blurring the lines between good and evil. The reader cannot help but wonder why Stoker would make such a parallel and what the point would be. Stoker’s next and most critical comparison comes with the drinking of Dracula’s blood by Mina. In what Professor Van Helsing describes as a “terrible baptism of blood” (Stoker 297), the vampire hunters witness Mina being forced to drink Dracula’s blood in a scene that is smothered in Christian imagery. In Mina’s recollection of the scene to the vampire hunters, she quotes Dracula’s words to her saying, “And you, their best beloved one, are now to me, flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin” (Stoker 252). This scene makes reference to the biblical creation of the woman in which Adam says, “this is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2.23). Using this comparison, Stoker suggests that in turning Mina into a vampire, Dracula is symbolical recreating her in his own image. The reader cannot ignore this final mockery of Christianity and is forced to see Dracula as a challenge to the established ways of Victorian society and religion.
As the story reaches its conclusion, the righteous vampire hunters have seemingly destroyed Dracula. The mark of impurity that was placed on Mina’s forehead disappears and despite the ambiguity surrounding Dracula’s death, the status quo has been restored to Victorian society. According to Carroll, this restoration of the status quo should categorize Dracula as a repressive novel, as it fits her pattern of normal/abnormal/normal, but this is not Stokers intention. Had he intended to write an ideologically repressive novel, Stoker would have written Dracula with ideas and passages that supported Victorian sensibilities, which he clearly does not. By choosing to mock established religious and social values, Stoker presents the reader with a challenge to the Victorian way of thinking; therefore creating a feeling of ideological liberation that shows through the mask of social repression.