Sigmund Freud claims in his piece “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming” that “the adult…is ashamed of his phantasies and hides them from other people” (422). The infamous Count Dracula falls victim to this more than anyone else in Bram Stoker’s gothic tale. Superficially, Dracula is a terrifying character. But he is also one of the most lost characters in the book. He doesn’t fit into any socially formed category, thus stripping him of any humanizing characteristic. What does one do when society denies you of your humanity?
Dracula and his fellow vampires are characterized throughout the book as the “Un-Dead.” At night, Dracula walks around and talks to people as if he were alive. But as the sun rises he falls asleep in a coffin, not a bed. He exists in a limbo space of neither dead nor alive. This space between two categories is uncomfortable for society, and thus effectively characterizes Dracula as an “Other.” Dracula reacts, as anyone would, by hiding from his true desires and hating himself for it, thus completely aligning with Freudian theory.
This pattern is evident again through Dracula’s sexuality. When stopping the three female vampires from biting, and thus successfully seducing Jonathan, Dracula shouts, “How dare you touch him, any of you” (46) and forbids vampire women from “cast[ing] eyes on him” (46). He yells “this man belongs to me” (46)! One might assume Dracula means that he has reserved Jonathan for himself to bite. However, the vampire women begin to ridicule Dracula, yelling: “you yourself have never loved; you never love!” To which Dracula turns to Jonathan and reassures him that he “too can love” (46). The fact that Dracula turns to Jonathan to offer this reassurance suggests Dracula desires Jonathan in a romantic manner. Not only does Dracula want to have sex with Jonathan in this moment, but he wants to love him. The repetition of the phrase “you have never loved” is jarring. It signals that Dracula has never had anyone in his life who he has felt he could love. Alternatively, this suggests that there has never been anyone in Dracula’s life who has offered to love him. It is sad to watch Dracula offer his love here, even if the situation is twisted, when it is so obvious that he will never get it in return.
Dracula then compensates for this undesirable sexuality by mistreating women. The gruesome scene in which Dracula turns Mina into a vampire is evidence of this. Dracula grabs Mina with a “mocking smile” while he “bared [her] throat with” his hand and “placed his reeking lips upon [her] throat” (306). Dracula’s “mocking smile” has nothing to do with Mina and everything to do with his sexuality. He is replacing his fear of his sexuality (and his hurt from Jonathan’s rejection) by making fun of the one person most important to Jonathan: his wife. He further violates Mina by exposing one of the most fragile and intimate parts of her body (her neck), and places his lips to it. The sharing of bodily fluids (the blood) is a metaphor for sex. Dracula looks to Mina after and says, “you…are now to me, flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin” (306). Dracula, left with no other choice, forces Mina to become the only family member of his he has ever had and will ever have. Suddenly, Dracula has someone there for him no matter what.
That being said, Dracula then reacts to this in the most peculiar way. He tears his shirt open and with “his long sharp nails opened a vein in his breast” (307), forcing Mina to drink the blood pouring from his chest. Dracula hates himself for forcing Mina to become his family he turns to self-harm, and uses his own body part to hurt himself. He takes this even one step further by forcing Mina to take something (blood) from him, even though he has just violated her in the most awful way possible. This solidifies the idea that Dracula needs someone to feel as though they can depend on him, in the hopes that he can reciprocate this dependence.
This behavior makes sense according to Freud. Dracula had never perfectly fit into any societally-constructed box his entire life. He is an aristocrat living in a castle, but lacks a servant. He has homoerotic desires but rapes women. He has animalistic features but behaves mostly as a human. He is “Un-Dead.” When one exists in this in-between space, what happens? According to Stoker, chaos happens. And violence. And death. And self-hatred. All of which are characterized through Dracula. It is clear that social constructs do more harm than good. It is no wonder that Dracula felt at peace when he faced his ultimate death. If I were him, I would have too.
Note: I am not at all trying to undermine what is clearly a rape scene and all of the violence Mina faces because of that. It’s horrible. I just wanted to attempt to find some humanity in Dracula, as I think society did horrible things to him as well.