Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Dracula in the Age of Doubt

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in an Age of Doubt, in which industrialization challenged the religious beliefs and traditions of society. In the novel, there are many references to the Catholic faith, such as the instances of people crossing themselves (Stoker 10), the use of the crucifix, and the representation of the antichrist. Catholic symbolism represents an attempt to reconnect with faith in a society that has seen rapid industrial growth and, in turn, less emphasis on the relationship with the church.

The crucifix is a holy symbol that appears throughout the beginning of the novel, as it serves as a means of comfort and protection for Jonathan Harker during his stay at Dracula’s castle. For example, when Dracula notices the blood on Jonathan’s chin, his eyes “blazed with a sort of demonic fury, and he suddenly made a grab at (his) throat” (Stoker 33). The “demonic fury” represents the attributes of satan, the evil in the world that many Victorians feared if they lost touch with their religion. Furthermore, Jonathan states, “I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there” (Stoker 33). The crucifix is what protects Jonathan while he faces Dracula. This represents the significance of embracing the Catholic faith, for the crucifix is a representation of the religion, itself, and it is this symbol that protects Jonathan from Dracula, the antichrist in the novel. Therefore, this further implies that religion has great power and, possibly, necessity in a society that is losing touch with its religious background. The crucifix acts as a shield against Dracula in the same way that religion is meant to protect its worshippers from evil. In fact, Jonathan begins to realize the power of the crucifix, for he states, “Bless that good, good woman who hung the crucifix round my neck! For it is a comfort and a strength to me whenever I touch it” (Stoker 35). Jonathan, a protestant with less religious values, does not begin to appreciate the crucifix until he is exposed to Dracula’s evil. This suggests that faith should be embraced once again in the Victorian society, or otherwise the evil, represented through Dracula, could potentially harm a country that has lost connection with its religious background.Dra

 

4 Comments

  1. The demonic characteristics of Dracula shows the fears that Victorian society has since many are shifting away from religion. The transformation of Lucy, a once innocent woman, showed how not even good people are saved from the devil’s rage. Additionally, when Lucy begins to feed of off children it makes Victorian society fear that who they believe to be the most vulnerable are at most risk when they fall far from religion. To follow gender rules, we then see a man, Van Helsing, be the hero leading society into safety with his religious devotion, such as a priest.

  2. Religion is a constant theme in many of the works that we have studied. Many of the problems are against people and creatures who are often described using a hellish description, like the beast in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Each work seems to be trying to convince readers to turn away from evil and find God. Stoker could be focusing on religion this much to convince his English audience to convert to Catholicism because it seems to be protecting Jonathan and other characters. Stoker could be taking advantage of the doubt and confusion many Victorians feel.

  3. First of all, I think this is a great post. It touches on some key things that all of literature in the Victorian Era is trying to touch on. The Age of Doubt raised so many questions in the public and authors really just ate it up. I think that you are totally right when you talk about Catholicism and how it is used in this novel. Stoker is in fact an Irish-Catholic, so it makes sense for him to bring a part of himself into the story, especially when the faith is being questioned during this age. To play a little bit of devil’s advocate, what if Dracula is a metaphor for Victorian people questioning Catholicism? The bane of Dracula’s existence seems to be the crucifix, so I think that could be a symbol for people questioning the teachings of the church. Just a little something to think about. I think you could use Dracula as lots of different metaphors, and thats what makes this novel so interesting.

  4. I found it interesting when you said that Jonathan’s crucifix was representative of embracing catholic faith because Jonathan did not want to take the crucifix in the first place, but did so because he felt obligated. While I understand why you would believe this is symbolizing the embrace of the catholic faith, I think it may be more representative of society questioning religion with Jonathan symbolizing society. This may be a way of Stoker displaying the importance of the catholic faith by showing its powers against evil through the crucifix.

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