Dracula as a Cultural Predator

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.

3 thoughts on “Dracula as a Cultural Predator”

  1. I find it so interesting that you decided to analyze Dracula as both a predator and a foreigner. I think that Dracula being from Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, would make readers perceive him as weaker and not as capable especially in the context of Orientalism with idea of the East being inferior to the West. However, he is the central villain of the story and blatantly preys on innocent people, who are often British. I think the idea of Dracula being both a foreigner and a wealthy villain coincides with Ledger and Luckhurst’s characterization of the fin de siècle as an “ambivalence of modernity.” He is an outsider from Eastern Europe, so he should be viewed as a weak, inferior low-life. Yet at the same time, his being an outsider makes him terrifying and dangerous. What is Stoker trying to get at here, especially since Stoker himself is Irish and is considered a foreigner? Is he advocating for immigrant power, or is he painting them as stereotypical and predatory outsiders?

  2. The part of the text you cited about all the ancient treasures piled in Dracula’s castle reminded me of the myth in Gerard’s Transylvanian Superstitions about St. George’s day, where the treasures buried underground in Transylvania and protected by either “benevolent” or “evil” spirits are said to glow in order for mortals to find them. It seems like Dracula is almost represented like one of such spirits, guarding ancient treasure in Transylvania, while Harker is the mortal who stumbles across it. It seems like Stoker is using Transyvlanian superstition as another branch of pop culture to paint Dracula as both a mystical being and the quality of his treasure to denote his power in wealth over all of the other characters, with middle-class Harker as his proximal comparison.

  3. Great job highlighting the intimidation Dracula brings because he is a foreigner. I think the fear that the characters have of his foreignness could be juxtaposed with their trust of Van Helsing, who is the only other foreign character who has a different native language. At first, the men are skeptical of Van Helsing’s foreign ways, but they end up being the very things that help them kill vampires. This also connects to when the men and Mina think they are safe when Dracula leaves England but Van Helsing urges them to keep pursuing him even in other countries (more of a global than England-central approach).

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