Carol A Senf’s article, “Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror,” asserts that Count Dracula may not be the real villain of Dracula, and therefore challenges the usual reading of Bram Stoker’s novel. Senf states that most people consider Dracula a myth about “the opposition of Good and Evil” (421). It is this general assumption that allows Count Dracula to be labeled as the evil character who contrasts and challenges the virtuous intentions of Jonathan Harker and his acquaintances. Senf picks up on similarities, however, that show the likeness of Dracula’s and Jonathan’s group’s actions. To this extent, Senf tries to argue that readers must question whether the “evil” characters are Dracula or Jonathan’s group.
To start, Senf challenges the narrative structure of Dracula. She states that the narration is a “jigsaw puzzle of isolated and frequently trivial facts; and it is only when the novel is more than half over that the central characters…band together to destroy [Dracula]” (Senf 422). By comparing the narrative formation to a “jigsaw puzzle” Senf arouses ideas of a confusing layout that has to be put together piece by piece until it fits into place in the mind of the puzzle maker (or in this case Mina Harker). Mina, Jonathan, Van Helsing and Seward’s perspectives are only subjective. Senf continues, “Dracula is never seen objectively and never permitted to speak for himself while his actions are recorded by people who have determined to destroy him” (424). Jonathan and his friends have observations about Dracula, through which they assume Dracula is evil, but their assumption of his lack of goodness challenges the reader to consider how Dracula would see himself or how he would label Jonathan.
Furthermore, the fact that it takes Jonathan’s group more than halfway through the novel to realize that Dracula is dangerous and needs to be killed challenges their credibility. If he had been truly evil, they should have known that from the beginning and been willing to stand up to him then. However, they did not feel threatened at first by him, and many of the characters (including Jonathan, Lucy, Mina and Van Helsing) each experience a moment of enticement by Dracula or the other vampire characters. Their mixed sentiments of interest, confusion and fear places doubt in the readers minds over whether or not they correctly chose to label him as dangerous. Additionally, any group that “bands together to destroy” a character or establishment engages in group-think, which prevents them from critically analyzing Dracula’s actions. Jonathan and his friends’ group-think perspectives are blind to any of Dracula’s good qualities and makes them robotic people who have been convinced to kill Dracula even though they only have limited evidence.
On another note, the narrative of Dracula justifies the actions of Van Helsing and the other men even though, from a different perspective, their actions could be just as bad. For instance, they “break into [Lucy’s] tomb and desecrate her body, break into Dracula’s houses, frequently resort to bribery and coercion… and openly admit that they are responsible for the deaths of five alleged vampires” (Senf 425). Taken together, the actions of the protagonists are also bad, but their first-person narration justifies and protects them from being labeled as the villains.
At the end of the novel, Mina makes Dracula look liberated after being murdered by Jonathan and Quincey. Mina narrates that as soon as they had killed him, she thought she would “be glad as long as [she] live[s] that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face a look of peace” (Stoker 401). From Mina’s perspective, Dracula settles into a “look of peace” because he has been freed from his never-ending evil obligation to desecrate souls. However, if, as Senf argues should be, the audience were to hear Dracula’s perspective in this scene, there would be an opportunity to confront Mina’s subjective analysis with Dracula’s description of his real feelings. Although the audience cannot know for sure if Dracula’s murder was peaceful for him or not, only analyzing it from Mina and her friends’ perspectives does not allow an objective opinion to be made and leaves out key elements of the plot that only Dracula could articulate.