Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Dracula and Madness

Ideas of sanity and insanity are both clear cut and obscure throughout Dracula. We have blatant forms of insanity – such as the clearly crazed Renfield – yet we also have other characters who exhibit more obscure signs of madness, such as Lucy and Jonathan. Lucy is put under constant surveillance, as she often sleepwalks throughout the night. Moreso, even when awake she can be found in a trance, as if enchanted by Dracula’s influence. When Lucy spots Dracula on her walk with Mina, she notes “‘his red eyes again! They are just the same’” (126). Mina reflects that Lucy went into a “half-dreamy state, with an odd look on her face” (126). Merely seeing Dracula is enough to cast Lucy into a daze. Somehow he manages to disturb the inner workings of the brain, perhaps in order to get his victims to do his biddings for him. Lucy, for example, is so entranced by Dracula that she leaves her bedroom in the freezing cold to meet him outside, where he consequently sucks her blood.

Similarly, Jonathan goes insane following his time spent with Dracula. While it may be fair to attribute his hospitalization to the disturbed, terror inducing torture he endured in Dracula’s abode, his severe reaction seems to suggest something more than that. After escaping Dracula’s castle, he is hospitalized for brain fever. It seems that Dracula inspires madness in his victims. The mere sight of him is enough to catapult an entire crew of men off of their own ship. Upon seeing Dracula, one of the last men aboard the Demeter emerges from the hold “a raging madman, with his eyes rolling and his face convulsed with fear” (113). After a few moments, “his horror turned to despair and… he sprang on the bulwark and deliberately threw himself into the sea” (113). A single interaction with Dracula is enough to send each man overboard, as each man opts for suicide over enduring the rest of the trip with Dracula. In general, it seems that Dracula’s presence sends characters into a state of self-destructive madness.

4 Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your ideas in this blog post. I think another important thing to connect these statements to is the trope of science and rationality versus imagination versus the supernatural. For example, Dr. Seward always clings to his rational beliefs, and attributes them to “sanity”, almost like believing in vampires is “insane”. Sanity and rationality is almost used as a “safety blanket” for some people, because they are so unwilling to use their imagination since it is, to them, linked to insanity.

  2. This is so well written and I agree with everything you wrote! Dracula is a character who has the ability to scare anyone he pleases by giving them one glance. He also has a way of hypnotizing people to get what he wants. Something I noticed is that Dracula is able to get whatever he wants whenever he wants and his power has no limits. But is their someone or something that can weaken Dracula? That is theory that I have wondered about. The theme I noticed in your post is how you emphasized Dracula using the human brain to get the biddings he wants and in Jonathan’s case he is hospitalized for brain fever and madness. Dracula is a character that is extremely powerful in this novel yet, I am interested in finding out if he does have some type of weakness that affects his abilities.

  3. I agree with your claim. It does seem that the characters in the book, specifically Jonathan and Lucy are brought out to be “self-destructive” after the mere exposure to Dracula. However, I feel there is more reason behind the specific characters Dracula pointed out/lured in and damaged. I do not believe that the broad term of “characters” become self-destructive, but rather specific characters that are explicitly attractive, extroverted or show a sense of vulnerability.

    While Jonathan voluntarily went to live with Dracula, not knowing that he was a vampire, showed a sense of fear and curiosity that drew Dracula’s attention to him. While Lucy stood out with her beautiful looks, and extroverted behavior that called out Dracula’s attention. Are Dracula’s victims who he sucks blood from on purpose, or are these characters just in closer proximity to him? What are Dracula’s motives (other than getting blood to live) for killing these specific characters?

  4. I agree with your claim in that Dracula certainly does have an interesting ability to instill fear in those around him. This could obviously be because he is a monster, but maybe it is also because he is different from the others and does in some ways embody the idea of a foreigner. Particularly when he is on the boat and based on the other’s reaction of him I wonder whether Dracula is truly monstrous or if he is monstrous as viewed by others because of being an outsider.

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