Monsters and Madness

As in many other texts of gothic literature, Bram Stoker’s Dracula contains the elements and monsters of the supernatural that would freeze any man where he stands were he to encounter it in person. However, as it is evident through even the beginning of his novel, Stoker decided to leave this supernatural element unexplained, writing passages filled with evidence that Count Dracula is in fact an actual vampire. Jonathan Harker, eventually realizing he is imprisoned by this beastly creature, begins to question his own sanity, wondering if he has gone mad and yearns for the feeling of safety away from the Count and his castle. In Jonathan’s journal he writes, “Safety and the assurance of safety are things of the past. Whilst I live on here there is but one thing to hope for: that I may not go mad, if, indeed, I be not mad already.” (43). However, the self-notion of Harker being at the precipice of madness is the least of his worries, as he then writes, “…then surely it is madness to think that of all the foul things the lurk in this hateful place the Count is the least dreadful to me…” (43). Taking a deeper look into his writings, it appears Harker is not necessarily afraid of what he can see and comprehend, but what he cannot see and comprehend. This may be a stretch, but what I think this passage, and entire text, is claiming that it is the unknown and the anticipation of what may exist in the unknown that drives individuals mad. Although the Count is a vile monster, Harker has this connection to him, an almost human connection where he can turn to the Count for safety when it appears that none exists. Without the Count, who knows what else may lurk within the castle walls, and without the familiarity of something to keep Johnathan sane, slipping into a state of madness is only a matter of time.

5 thoughts on “Monsters and Madness”

  1. You bring up a really interesting way to view this text, to see Dracula as a commentary on how the unknowns in the Victorian era was what drove people mad. This idea also relates to Lady Audleys Secret, as when Robert was searching for the truth, his mind was getting clamored with a lot of the questions and unknowns. This allowed Lady Audley the perfect opportunity to call him (and try to convince Sir Micheal) of his madness. These two texts, while written at different times during the Victorian era both demonstrate your point of people going mad from the unknown. This shows how it was a deep anxiety within the Victorian era.

  2. I agree the theme of the unknown is what drives people mad is very prevalent throughout the novel. I also find it interesting that the man that is embodying this ‘unknown’ is foreign. Bram Stoker is playing on the Victorian’s anxieties about the unknown and the foreign, so he makes this scary, vicious, mysterious man who is wreaking all this havoc foreign with a thick accent that is noted within the first pages of the novel. I think that making Dracula a foreign monster may have appealed to more readers of this time because it gave reassurance to their anxieties.

  3. In addition to what you describe, I also find it interesting that Jonathan wonders if he is dreaming or not. When the three ladies tried to seduce him, he says: “I thought at the time that I must be dreaming” (44).
    I believe that this goes hand in hand with your passage of Jonathan thinking that he has gone mad but also with Freud’s theories on dreams and the unconscious as well as Wilkie Collins’ “A Terribly Strange Bed”, in which the same question has been asked by the narrator: Am I mad or just asleep?

  4. I agree with your assessment of what Harker is afraid of, but I am not so sure about the analysis. The way I had interpreted that moment was that, although he is afraid of what he does not know, he should truly fear the false comforts that he has. The count is clearly the biggest danger in this entire book and he is incredibly cunning and deceitful. It’s not just monsters or the darkness that one should fear. Essentially it seems that these horror like novels are about keeping your eyes open when you sleep.

  5. I think this piece is really intersting as it poses the idea of fearing the evil you do not know. We may not know everything about Dracula, but we seem to get even less information on God and why religious symbols, like the crucifix, protect people from Dracula. The ambiguity and unknown of both Dracula and Christianity allow people to choose ways to take power from Dracula and protect themselves. The conventional “good” and “protection” that comes from religious symbols remove people’s fears, thus they are more empowered when encountering Dracula and his power is stripped.

Leave a Reply