Throughout Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we are given many detailed descriptions of characters, whether they are important to the story or not. I find Stoker’s descriptions both interesting and confusing. He himself being a foreigner, writes foreigners in a seemingly unfavorable light. One particularly thought-provoking moment is when Dracula shares with Harker his desires to master the English language. Harker recounts the conversation:
“Well, I know that, did I move and speak in your London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me. Here I am noble. I am a Boyar. The common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care not for… I have been so long master that I would be master still, or at least that none other should be master of me” (27).
Words that are repeated more than once include: know, stranger, and master. Dracula cannot live without having power over others. He sees himself as more important and deserving of honor than other people; in fact, he feels entitled to it. He distinguishes himself from humans, conveying how void of humanity he really is. His sole use of masculine pronouns when describing the “common people” suggests that he is only concerned about the opinions of men. He finds manipulating women easier and need not worry about their reactions.
I think Dracula’s attitude here somewhat reflects the mindset many immigrants (including Stoker) had during that time period. Not much dealing with needing absolute control over others, but to fit in with the general public would make their lives immensely more tolerable. They might have felt entitled to the same treatment native English people received, but unlike Dracula, had no means to change their situation.
The passage gives the sense that Dracula believes English culture is superior to his own, and himself superior to all others. Perhaps this could help explain Stoker’s true thoughts on foreigners, but it is still very much unclear. Dracula is supposed to be viewed as undeniably pure evil, and his corrupting influence on others could reflect fears of foreign culture replacing English culture. Then again, Van Helsing is also a foreigner, but a force of good. The fact that some foreign cultures are seen as more acceptable than others adds an interesting layer to the novel.