Red, White, and… Black?

Visual juxtaposition is a wonderful medium, both in literature and visual arts, through which a creator can express different themes or messages. Dracula has an abundance of light-dark contrast, only it often adds a third color: red. Stoker uses this trio of colors to communicate the fear of foreignness being allowed to infiltrate Victorian life.

Why do I say “allowed”? Lucy. In chapter 10, as Dr. Seward and Van Helsing are finishing Lucy’s (first) blood transfusion, they finally notice the two red puncture marks on her neck, conveniently hidden by–wait for it–a black ribbon. (Stoker 133-4) It is fairly clear to readers that the marks are from Dracula, who has been feeding on Lucy for quite a while now. To put it a different way, a foreign man who feeds on an innocent, unknowing, upper-class English girl has gone undetected long enough for her to nearly die several times. In the Age of Empire, with foreigners streaming steadily in and out of England, Victorians feared for the purity of their homeland. Between their “responsibility” to “civilize” the rest of the world and the pseudoscience of social Darwinism, a situation like Lucy’s is a nightmare. The two punctures on Lucy’s neck are reminiscent of Dracula’s red eyes when Mina finds him hovering over Lucy on the cliff (Stoker 101). Even if he’s not in the room with Lucy and the doctors, his presence is still felt. However, Lucy has taken active steps to hide the evidence. In the same way that Dracula hides in darkness, she hides his bite with a black tie. To add insult to injury, it takes someone from a similar region to Dracula to discover what is ailing her and save her life. Van Helsing is the most foreign character in the book so far, and he is 100%, genuine human (so far). Additionally, Van Helsing is incredibly secretive about what he thinks is causing Lucy’s illness. It takes a secretive foreigner to root out another well-hidden foreigner, despite the efforts of several well-educated Englishmen. Stoker is taking this fear of foreign subterfuge and turning into a plot device. But hey, who knows, maybe our intelligent, strong Englishmen will be able to save the day without any further help from Van Helsing.

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