On the Count’s Presence (and the lack thereof)

What’s so funny about the book Dracula is that the titular character is largely absent for the most part of the novel.

If you think about it, he’s barely around in the book: his presence, character and eccentricity (and status as a monster) are established early on in the book, but his main atrocities are the reason we and the characters fear him. His conversion of Lucy into a vampire, the massacre of the Demeter’s crew and his attempt to convert Mina are some of the main evils he’s done, and almost all of it happens off-screen.

We are made aware of his evils through second-hand account mostly, and we are built up an image of a true plotting mastermind but he’s scarcely seen throughout the book, and his final scene doesn’t even have him truly awake and interacting with the rest of the cast. Yet despite this, Dracula is the premier horror character. Stoker ended up creating a modern myth that everyone in the world can claim some knowledge to know of, Dracula is iconic and a symbol as the vampire and a face of the horror genre itself. But why is he so venerated as a character?

Well, obvious reasons like vampires are cool and badass aside, let’s examine his cultural impact on the Victorians. We’ve talked a lot about Dracula being the stand-in for a Occidental evil that Western imperialism was being made aware of — the rising up of immigrants after the effects of colonization, especially by the British — and how this plays into a lot of Victorian fears. The Victorians were staunchly afraid of the foreigners coming into their country, and how different they were in looks and culture. They didn’t like any of that. What made Dracula so effective by being a relatively absentee monster is what made this fear possible in the first place. The idea of this hypothetical foreigner who exists, whose superstitions and beliefs were dangerous because they’re different from yours, is definitely a kind of scary one. I mean, it persists into modern day thinking as well, with people being afraid of immigrants for a similar kind of anxiety.

Dracula as a character plays into those anxieties and his perpetrated evils only make the anxieties stand out even more, and thus it’s important to Victorian readers he gets vanquished. The final battle being against Gypsies is even more so apparent, that’s a literal battle against foreigners by the Western imperialist cast.

In summary, Dracula works so well as a character not because he’s actually scary, but because his actions played well into Victorian fears of a potential foreign danger to their nation.