An (ill)Legitimate Take on Harker’s Paternity

In the novel’s final note, Harker clearly establishes that he, not Dracula, is Quincey’s father. Although his insisted paternity accounts for cultural anxiety about imperialism, when coupled with historical understandings of illegitimate offspring, it could also reflect cultural anxiety about marriage.

Quincey’s birth announcement makes clear that there is no chance Dracula is the father, as Harker emphasizes his “birthday is the same day as that on which Quincey Morris died” (402), well over 10 months of pregnancy. The culmination of the anti-Dracula crusade in Quincey’s birth is a halcyon ending to the battle against foreignness. As a male British subject who can continue Britain’s legacy, Quincey represents the resilience of Britain and thus its supposed natural and justified superiority. In this sense, Harker’s note seems to be about advancing pro-Britain, pro-imperialist, pro-xenophobic rhetoric and assuaging any questions pointing otherwise.

I want to examine Harker’s paternity claim in light of living vampires. Gerard claims that “The living vampire is in general the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons” (334), meaning that a second, lesser-known kind of vampire was understood to emerge from children born out of wedlock. Gerard uses language like “flawless pedigree” and “intrusion of a vampire into his family vault” (354) to refer to the precautions and attitudes espoused by Victorian families to avoid creating illegitimate offspring and ‘living vampires.’ Harker’s insisted paternity, then, can be analyzed not only through an imperialist lens, but also through a marital lens. Harker eliminates any questions about his paternity to extinguish the possibility that Quincey might be a living vampire, or the product of an illegitimate encounter between Dracula and Mina. Harker makes it clear that his family is consistent with the idyllic Victorian structure.

Harker’s paternity appears to be about reinforcing British superiority, but could also be about reinforcing traditional familial structures. Ending the novel with an assurance of the Harkers’ “flawless pedigree” leaves readers with a happy ending that just so happens to conform to Victorian marital and familial propriety. This propriety goes hand-in-hand with social expectations for sexuality, as the fear of illegitimacy would likely discourage embracing non-marital sexual desire. Xenophobia and family structure might also go hand-in-hand: perhaps Harker’s insisted paternity does not represent either imperialist or familial anxieties, but rather both/and. This dynamic supports our in-class analysis of blood’s symbolism on p. 187 as representing fears about both ethnicity and family, culminating in anxiety about ‘ruining whiteness’ through interracial relationships. In any event, I think a strong case can be made that Harker’s fierce claim to fatherhood illustrates not only a reference to imperialist politics, but also to Victorian notions of marital, familial, and sexual propriety — all conveniently framed behind the supernatural.

2 thoughts on “An (ill)Legitimate Take on Harker’s Paternity”

  1. I think you bring up very good points. We can see similar ideas spread throughout Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market. Rossetti presents us with two beautiful sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who are pelted with the “seed” of the fearsome goblin men. The goblin men are depicted as different and other, and we can see how the forbidden fruit they sell taints the women who buy it. The goblin men aren’t noble and are instead thought to be animalistic, almost archaic. This idea of devolution is touched on in this poem, similarly to how it is peppered throughout Dracula, where there is a deep-seated fear that foreigners (like Dracula) will swoop in and erase all of the progress the British Empire believes themselves to be making in the world.

  2. This is a very good observation, and something we see signs of in the text well before the end of the novel. Not only from the side of England but from how Dracula views himself. One of these points is how he is somewhat cautious about his accent when he is around people. This objection to foreigners is one of many themes we see in the novel that are a reflection of Victorian literature. Another example of this would be the relationship between Dracula and Christianity given the importance of the religion in England during this time.

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