Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

A Foreign Vampire Walks Into A Country….

One of the overarching themes that’s been presented so far in the novel is the idea of a conflict between the East and West. The main representation of this comes between Jonathan Harker, a British protagonist and his allies whom are also all British or American, versus Dracula, someone residing in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Europe.

“The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.” (Stoker Ch 1) This line right at the beginning of the novel shows us how distinctly Stoker wants us to acknowledge the differences in the East and West. When Harker is in Transylvania, he enters a world of unfamiliarity marked with superstition and darkness, it is there he first deals with the horror that is Dracula the vampire, and he is warned before to go back and given protection in the form of superstitious religions charms that he reluctantly accepts.

But upon returning to Britain as a setting, we are given the idea of how much purer it is. We know that modernity and civilization exist here, and we are made to think we are away from the danger — until of course, the monster himself arrives, and he brings with him death. The ship Demeter loses all its lives on its arrival, and the language used shows how Dracula brings with him the Eastern darkness from earlier: “Woke up from few minutes’ sleep by hearing a cry, seemingly outside my port. Could see nothing in fog. Rushed on deck, and ran against mate. Tells me heard cry and ran, but no sign of man on watch. One more gone. Lord, help us! Mate says we must be past Straits of Dover, as in a moment of fog lifting he saw North Foreland, just as he heard the man cry out. If so we are now off in the North Sea, and only God can guide us in the fog, which seems to move with us; and God seems to have deserted us.” (Stoker Ch 8)

And lastly, Dracula’s own heritage that he discusses with Jonathan while trying to learn about British culture.  He discusses his ethnic history and how they conquered, a plain contradiction as far as Western history is concerned, where the conquerors are the Victorians and their British Empire. The idea we are given is that Dracula is a stark spit in the face of Western culture here, and that his ways, despite being almost similar are in fact one of evil and detrimental to Western culture.

So maybe in essence, this dichotomy tell us something about the British at the time, and how at the sunset of the British Empire, British people were afraid of losing their power and being colonized themselves, and Dracula’s arrival in British territory and how he starts his rampage just leads into that idea even more.

Maybe even the Victorians were feeling a little Brexit in them since before Brexit was even a thing, who knew?

2 Comments

  1. I definitely agree with you on that “immigration” in this book is considered a fear factor to Britains during the 19th century. I think that Bram Stoker hit this hard during the beginning of the book to spark all the evil events that will follow after Dracula arrives in England. I found it interesting in that you think that Stoker is referencing the fear of the English Empire being colonized. I never though of the situation that way I though of it more as England fearing immigrants and the possibility of disease such as disease that will make you have a fever and a disease that will make you think bad thoughts as also in the book mentions many times.

  2. I agree with this post in that it appears to view Britain as a place that is pure and civilized, while other parts of the world are uncivilized and possibly dangerous. Dracula, from the East, brings chaos to England, which entails wild animals such as bats and wolves creating terror in the people within the town, women expressing their sexuality in ways that were not deemed appropriate for Victorian women at the time, and illness and death to the residents of England. Other texts have also had the idea that foreign countries could be dangerous, such as “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle, which was a short story that used India as a location that could instill fear in its readers. In this story, the antagonist had control of wild animals as well, the most notable being a fictional serpent known as a “swamp adder.” Many authors during this time period used foreign countries as a way to paint England in a positive light and other countries in a negative light, which relates to the imperialistic view held by much of the government at the time period.

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