Bram Stoker’s status as an Irish Catholic manifests itself in Dracula through rosaries, prayers, the sign of the cross, and the power of religious material against the evils of the unrelated supernatural. If the rightness of holy Catholic imagery and objects is confirmed by their presence when opposed to Dracula, their inversion in his support must strike the reader as deeply unsettling. This occurs most notably in the presentation of the three vampiric women as an inversion of the Catholic holy trinity.
The fact that there are three women in the first place immediately throws up religious flags. The Catholic association with the number three is primarily through a belief in the holy trinity, made up of the father, son, and holy spirit. Notably, in this configuration two things are alike (the father and son, being God and Christ, personified as human) while one is not (the holy spirit, abstracted and not often depicted as humanoid). In the same way, Stoker’s three women are split up into a two-similar-one-different configuration. Two of the women “were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes…” (Stoker 44). The third stands out, physically “fair, as fair as can be, with great, wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires,” (Stoker 44) which separate her from the other two.
That the two darker figures stand separately while the fair-haired woman interacts with Jonathan furthers her role as the ‘holy spirit’ figure of the three. The generally accepted idea is that human beings don’t interact with the father or son while on Earth, but the presence of the holy spirit is felt to be physically effective even as humans live. “The fair girl advanced and bent over me…” (Stoker 45) makes her the only one of the three to physically touch Jonathan. Dracula appears and separates him from the women before the other two have contact with him. In doing so, the father and son remain distant—because Jonathan has not died at the administrations of the three women he cannot yet have contact with those two parts of this inverted holy trinity.
Stoker using the inversion of religious imagery as a horror tactic is important because it speaks to Victorian fears surrounding religion. Much in the same way that Victorians feared the misuse of machinery, the perversion of religion was a wide societal concern and the reality that religion is inherently a belief in the supernatural was at odds with the logical ideals of the day. Stoker takes an acceptable belief in the supernatural and twists it to showcase an unacceptable manifestation of the supernatural, hitting a Victorian reader in a particularly twisted way.