Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Power vs. Limitations of Vampires

Dracula by Bram Stoker seems to be about the manipulative powers vampires have due to their superficial human appearance, but is really about the limitations vampires have.

Count Dracula appears to be invincible because of his many supernatural forms, such as the “thin white mist” (Stoker, 246), “I saw a bat rise” (Stoker, 245), and “stood a tall, thin man, all in black” (Stoker, 246). He can appear and vanish into any three of these forms: mist, a bat or man. Since Dracula can transform into these varied forms he has a greater chance of taking blood from humans by being able to fit into different spaces and situations.

However, there are more limitations to Dracula’s powers. While he can look young and full of life, which increases his chances of luring in women, he can only look this way and have strength with the blood from humans. Dracula, or vampires in general rely on their looks to live. For example, after Lucy had been bitten by Dracula and was considered dead, she looked “more radiantly beautiful than ever” (Stoker, 171) which Arthur began to “loathe” (Stoker, 172). Beauty plays with the human mind and manipulates one.

Also while Dracula could live forever, and has for centuries he has to hide, constantly change location, “the Count may have many houses” (Stoker, 250) and fake his death. In order for him to live he has to constantly mold to societies fashion in each new era. Vampires are also limited to man’s powers from sunrise to sunset, “to-day this Vampire is limited to the powers of man, and till sunset he may not change” (Stoker, 261). While vampires have a superficial human appearance and use it to their advantage, they also are limited by it. Their powers become leveled to actual humans during certain times of the day. It’s interesting because while Dracula has lived for centuries and had the time to gain all the knowledge possible through experimentation, he was still not ahead of human knowledge, “for had he dared, at the first, to attempt certain things he would long ago have been beyond our power” (Stoker, 260).

What I am trying to say here is that while vampires seem invincible, they are not, they have many limitations. Viewers can even emphasize with them because their souls are trapped, and cannot be set free until they are dashed with a stake through their heart.

(Page numbers may vary- Dover Thrift Editions of Bram Stoker Dracula)

3 Comments

  1. I agree, it is quite interesting that Dracula is a villain that is as fragile as he is. Granted, he is still far more powerful than any single human, but he has weaknesses that can be exploited by someone knowledgable enough. At the heart of it, Dracula is a familiar story of the triumph of man over beast – the idea that human intelligence and perseverance will always win over pure power. But it still does a good job of making us think the beast will win, up until the end.

  2. You make a good point about the limitations of vampires. At the beginning of the novel, Dracula appears invincible in part because he is in his own castle, and can control wherever Jonathan Harker goes. Because Count Dracula has complete control over Jonathan, the reader is instilled with the idea that no mortal force can overcome the power of Dracula. From the minute Dracula steps foot in England, he is in a position of weakness. Even during the graveyard scene in which he bites Lucy, when Mina arrives, he runs away to hide. This suggests that Dracula (a foreigner) had no power in Great Britain, which may be an allusion to the lack of power that non-British subjects had in Victorian England (i.e. Irish).

  3. Your argument about the invincibility of vampires is very interesting. While they seem to be omnipotent and to have the strength and mind-power of thousands, their weaknesses appear at the same time of the day. This Acheilles’ Heel styled weakness makes a vampire’s vulnerability predictable. It’s also interesting that Dracula’s beauty only works on certain women. I find the differences between Lucy and Mina’s encounters with Dracula very interesting. Lucy, a promiscuous and flirtatious lady, falls victim to Dracula’s allure and contracts his vampirism. Mina, a well-reserved and morally virtuous woman, does not fall into Dracula’s lure and while she consumes his blood and her blood is in a way “stained,” impure, and “unclean,” her full purity is once again restored following Dracula’s death. According to this difference, it seems Stoker has set up a situation in which a woman’s sexual purity can protect her from Dracula’s allure.

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