Thoughts on Bram Stoker's Dracula

In Dracula, Bram Stoker, amid the rising demand for women's equality, tried to portray Mina as the new breed of woman who has "come of age." She is an assistant schoolmistress and therefore might not have to depend on a man. She could use the typewriter and therefore sought to better herself. But in the end, she subordinates herself to Harker and only seeks to support him with her skills. Her mentality confines her to be a "proper" lady in Victorian England. So, she remains the ideal for the nineteenth century man, who seeks a wife to support him in his enterprises. Furthermore, Stoker portrayed all the other female characters, Lucy and the "Brides of Dracula," as objects of sensuality. So, the spirits of the times confined Stoker's vision of women even as he sought to be more enlightened and through his novel, he reflected much of that period's cultural norms.

Vlad the Impaler

Stoker's portrayal of Dracula reflects the fear of "enlightened" Western Europe toward the "unenlightened" world. During the period just before W.W.I., Europeans were worshipping reason and science as the golden fruits of Enlightenment and they believed in the unlimited potentials of mankind. They had not experienced trench warfare, the depression, the holocaust or the atomic bomb. But the unenlightened world was mysterious and threatened to destroy European achievements. The Balkans was seething with disasters and indeed history shows it to be the spark that ignited the World War. Of course, not only the Balkans. Africa and India and China, wherever the British and the Europeans had their presence, these lands were also mysterious, their customs threatening. Western Europe must enlighten these cultures and overcome their superstitions and darkness. Dracula, the foreigner from a strange land, epitomizes the evil that lurks around enlightened Western Europe. And in killing Dracula, Dr. Van Helsing and his band was destroying the darkness that threatened centuries of Western European enlightenment.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

In reading Dracula, we begin to understand more about Bram Stoker's values and perceptions, which he might not have been aware of, and also more about the fears and anxieties in late nineteenth century Great Britain, and other Western European countries. That understanding will allow us to reflect on our fears and anxieties and access how much we have progressed a century later.

Bram Stoker

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