Stoker’s Prisoners

I believe one claim from Stoker is “everyone is a prisoner.” Simply put, every character in this novel is a prisoner in a unique way. There are two characters that really make this claim evident. First off, the obvious example is Jonathan Harker, who directly claims he felt like Count Dracula’s prisoner. At the end of Chapter II, Harker yells, “The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner” (Stoker Ch. III). This example of a prisoner is right in front of our eyes. Stoker has Harker directly tell the readers he feels captured… but why? Stoker is doing this to increase the gothic elements of the story. The Count poses as a friendly, quiet, simple man when Harker first enters his estate. A few chapters later he turns into a possessive, hostile, blood-sucking vampire. This quick switch of egos, along with Harker explaining he is a prisoner, helps dramatize and gothicize the story. As this quick switch happens, the reader is then left guessing what vampires were really like in the 19th century. Were they once kind, caring humans who could not fight their darkened transformation or were they always evil bloodthirsty killers who were born into it? The way Stoker describes Harker as a prisoner, it seems like we will never come to an answer.  

Stoker categorizes Lucy as a prisoner of her own true self. In chapter XVI, she resurrects and escapes from her grave. The story reads, “It pleases me that the Un-Dead, Miss Lucy, shall not leave to-night, that so on the morrow night she may be more eager. Therefore I shall fix some things she like not—garlic and a crucifix—and so seal up the door of the tomb” (Stoker Ch. XVI).  From this, I see Lucy’s old self stuck as a prisoner to her current, vampish self. If she were to be in control of her rebirthing self, the men would not be able to restrict her. Something else that portrayed Lucy as a prisoner was when the men drove a stake through her heart. Chapter XV reads, “I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body” (Stoker Ch. XV) Her own husband was now mutilating her in the most inhumane way. The men believe this act of violence will save her. I believe Stoker writes this so we will ask ourselves: do men have power over women? Does violence to women save women? So far, the gothic literature we have read contained a lot of feminine power, which seemed to be quite common in 18th-19th century Britain. Stoker portraying Lucy as a prisoner to herself helps him show power from the opposing gender creating a two-sided dispute of who the dominant gender was in 19th century Victorian literature.  

2 thoughts on “Stoker’s Prisoners”

  1. I thought this post was very well written. I appreciated how concise you were in getting to the point and the “but why?” part made me pay attention even more. However, my job is not to grade you on your writing. I think the idea of prisoners in this book is a great one. Would you think that Mina is now a prisoner? She has been affected by Dracula and we are wondering if she will ever be free of his influence. If she’s not a prisoner now, what has to happen for her to be considered a prisoner?

  2. I think the idea that everyone is a prisoner in their own unique way is an interesting claim that made me think about each character individually. I certainly believe there are easier examples like Jonathan Harker, but there are some more complex examples like Van Helsing. Do you think his faith has made him a prisoner to hunting vampires and destroying evil? I think there are density a lot of cases to be made for each character being a prisoner, and this is a really intriguing post.

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