Science and Pseudoscience figure prominently in Dracula because they reflect the confusion that Victorians felt about the mysteries of the modern world. Throughout the novel, the line between science, pseudoscience, and superstition is blurred. Although living in a time of modernity, some vestiges of the older times were still part of Victorian life such as superstition, belief in the occult, and seances. Characters in Dracula attempt to use science in order to explain a world of chaos and disorder, thereby representing a distinct Victorian anxiety.
Throughout Dracula, characters continually attempt to use science in order to solve their problems with the supernatural. With the exception of Van Helsing, all of the characters need to be told that supernatural means need to be used to counteract supernatural forces. For example, despite all of the evidence to suggest that there is no scientific explanation for Lucy’s behavior, her unnatural pallor, and her lack of body decomposition after death, Dr. Seward remains apprehensive. He asks Van Helsing, “‘But why do it at all? The girl is dead. Why mutilate her poor body without need? And if there is no necessity for a post-mortem and nothing to gain by it, no good to her, to us, to science, to human knowledge, why do it? Without such it is monstrous.’” (Stoker, 236). Dr. Seward’s sensibilities as a Victorian doctor are challenged by Van Helsing. He believes that nothing can be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by driving a stake through Lucy’s heart, but he fails to acknowledge what he saw before her death; that there were bite marks on her neck, garlic that had to be put around her neck, a crucifix, and that they had to transfuse blood into her despite the fact that he never saw her bleeding. Throughout Dr. Seward’s time with Lucy, un-scientific phenomena occurred, but he rejected it and refused to believe it because he could not concede that science was not able explain what happened before his eyes. Moreover, the books that Van Helsing consults in order to treat Lucy’s vampire are all in Amsterdam, that is they are outsides of the confines of England.
Van Helsing says, “I must go back to Amsterdam tonight. . . There are books there and things that I want” (Stoker, 178) and again later in the novel, as whenever he has to do research about the supernatural, it appears that no resources in England will help him. One connotation of this is that the intellectual elite of England’s modern society is done with the supernatural superstitions of the past, while foreigners are more reluctant to part with old ways of belief. This reflects the debate in Victorian society of science, versus religion, versus superstition which is why this science and pseudoscience feature so prominently in the novel.
Overall, science is the first resort of Dracula’s main characters. This illustrates the changing times in Victorian society, showing that although science was deemed to be the best way to explain phenomena, other forms of belief such as superstition, and religion still had a place in the world.