Dracula as a novel seems to be about eradicating the evil influences of vampirism (and vampires’ representation of foreignness) from Victorian society. However, in questioning who is evil in our text, Bram Stoker paints Victorians themselves as monstrous, calling attention to widespread cultural guilt resulting from imperialism. The monstrous and yet contrite nature of Victorianism is perhaps best captured by Stoker’s portrayal of Dracula’s death (401).
Throughout this scene, exceptionally violent actions and tumultuous surroundings lead up to the tranquil death of Dracula’s character. Opening this scene with the “level[ing] of weapons,” “the flashing [of] knives,” and the “howling of wolves” enables Stoker to build climactic tension (401). The resolution for this tension comes with Jonathan and Mr. Morris driving their knives into Dracula, who subsequently “crumbles” away (Stoker 401). Perhaps most significant to this scene is Mina’s narration, which reveals that Dracula had a “look of peace” upon his “face,” one which she “never could have imagined might have rested there” as he dissolved into the air (401). In considering Dracula as a foreign influence to be vanquished, one may interpret Stoker’s protagonists as crusaders. But the notion that Dracula needed to be at peace runs contrary to that theme and fits with the higher ethical standards of Victorian society. Stoker’s juxtaposition of these chaotic and serene depictions demonstrates the dual themes running through the novel.
As Stephen Arata highlights, fears of reverse colonization were salient in the minds of Victorians. What had once been the pride of the “white man’s burden” to “civilize” the rest of the world had now turned into fears related to “being colonized by ‘primitive’ forces;” fears which Arata highlights as stemming from “cultural guilt” (Arata 623). The protagonists of Stoker’s novel justify their actions by claiming that all of their efforts to “sterilize” Dracula’s ties to Transylvania and rid society from his vampire-like tendencies were for the good of the moral order and cultural progress – an idea which seems to parallel the justifications made by the Victorians for their colonization efforts (Stoker 317). A final “look of peace” on Dracula’s face perhaps demonstrates the remorse that these Eurocentric characters felt and may have been Stoker’s attempt to call attention to the cultural feelings of guilt around their previous influence over and eradication of the foreign.