Christian Sectarianism in Dracula

Beyond being the primary work in vampire mythology, Bram Stoker’s Dracula serves as a more nuanced text on Christian beliefs and piety. This should be hardly surprising as Stoker is a product of his culture, and Christian piety, as well as anxiety, is a center pillar of Victorian culture. What makes Stoker remarkable is his apology to Catholicism. Stoker was a Protestant Irishman living through the initial debate of Irish Home Rule and was himself a supporter. In this light, Stoker’s inclusion of Catholic symbols in Dracula and their literal importance in the salvation of Jonathan Harker is an olive branch extended between two Christian communities often found at political odds with each other.

Going right to the text, Harker encounters peasants along his way to Castle Dracula. They try to give him devotional objects, clearly knowing something Harker doesn’t, to ward off evil. Harker is dismissive of them, “I therefore tried to raise her up, and said, as gravely as I could, that I thanked her, but my duty was imperative” (Stoker, 11). Furthermore, “as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as… idolatrous” (Stoker, 11). Harker, through Stoker’s narrative, has revealed his prejudices against the non-reformed church and their associated impetus on public ritual. Theologically, Harker is representative of English Protestants, yet these objects hold the key to his survival.

In a later chapter, Harker is subject to Count Dracula’s impulsive rage upon accidentally cutting himself with a razor. Dracula lunges at him but it parried by the rosary the peasant give him (Stoker, 33). Following this episode, Harker reflects on the comfort the rosary has given him, “it is odd that a thing I have been taught to regard with disfavor and idolatrous should in a time of loneliness and trouble be of such help” (Stoker, 35). As his fortune has changed towards the perilous, Harker has found a new appreciation for the “idolatrous” symbols of the non-reformed church.

In relation to the wider world, this text is important as a Protestant apology of Catholicism. In a modern world with greater evils, Stoker expresses a need to overcome sectarian divides in the Christianity. Dracula, a greater evil of anti-Christian origin, is held at bay by a Protestant wielding Catholic devotional objects and finding new strength in them. In a text about reverse-colonization, sectarian divides diminish as a new challenge from the East presents itself. In relation to Stoker personally, these passages can be expounded as conveying a hope that Protestants and Catholics could reconcile differences in Home-Rule Ireland.