In their “Introduction: Reading the ‘Fin de Siècle,’” Ledger and Luckhurst assert that “[p]opular culture of the time was fascinated by exotic, imperial terrors,” which is directly seen through the composition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (xvi). Characterized as a bestial ‘other’ from old money, Count Dracula embodies the role of a predatory upper-class individual that profits off of the suffering of the helpless lower class.
Jonathan Harker describes Count Dracula as having “peculiarly sharp white teeth,” “ears [that are] pale and at the tops extremely pointed,” “broad… squat fingers” with “hairs in the centre of the palm,” and “nails [that are] long and fine, and cut to a sharp point” (24-25). In noting features that are “sharp,” “extremely pointed,” and “cut to a sharp point,” Stoker emphasizes the innate danger that Dracula’s image holds. His ability to incite fear in Harker, in the forms of a “shudder” that cannot be “repress[ed]” and a “horrible feeling of nausea,” with only physical proximity demonstrates his predatory aura and appearance (25). Not only does the Count have a dangerous aura, he also embodies the mystery and danger associated with foreign individuals during the fin de siècle. Ledger and Luckhurst note that the alluring “exotic, imperial terrors” of the time included “fantasies of reverse invasion by the French or Germans” (xvi). In Dracula, the Count fulfills this fantasy because of his Transylvanian heritage and his transfer from Transylvania to England. As an Eastern European individual, Dracula would have been considered an outsider in terms of language, culture, and race.
Count Dracula’s characterization as a predatory creature rings true through his victimization of the innocent. To appease the three female vampires who try to “kiss” Jonathan Harker, Dracula gifts them a bag which produces a “gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child” (47). Lucy, Dracula’s other notable victim, also fulfills this ideal of innocence. In the throws of fighting her fate of transforming into a vampire herself, Lucy’s “breast heaved softly, and her breath came and went like a tired child’s” (171). In describing Count Dracula’s victims as innocent children, Stoker makes him more villainous, as only a monster would prey on children.
Aside from being a dangerous predator, Count Dracula is also exceptionally wealthy. He is a count, owns a castle, is buying another property in England, and has literal old money in his room. Harker describes in his diary that
“[t]he only thing [he] found was a great heap of gold in one corner – gold of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian, and Greek and Turkish money, covered with a film of dust, as though it had lain long in the ground. None of it that [he] had noticed was less than three hundred years old. There were also chains and ornaments, some jeweled, but all of them old and stained” (55).
This extreme amount of gold and his nobility ranks Count Dracula above all of the other characters in class and wealth.
Ledger and Luckhurst provide a framework to map Dracula’s relationships with the other characters in Stoker’s novel. The “often unsympathetic accounts of working-class city dwellers” Ledger and Luckhurst write about is mimicked by Dracula’s predation of the innocent individuals that are of lower classes than him. As a wealthy, upper-class individual, Dracula’s infiltration of England and of Lucy’s life, as the catalyst of her change, marks him as a controlling figure who profits off of the suffering of others.