In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, several themes are readily apparent, including prominent symbols like blood, vampirism, and sexism. However, one theme that often goes unnoticed yet plays a pivotal role in our comprehension of the novel is the distortion of Christianity, something that is displayed countless times throughout Dracula. I believe these distortions are intended to instill fear in the reader while elevating the image of God and “holiness” in the context of the Victorian era, a period marked by significant challenges to traditional beliefs and values. In this context, Stoker employs a range of Christian symbols that serve the dual purpose of distorting Christianity through the actions of Dracula and uplifting it through the deeds of the protagonists. For example, in chapter 2 “When the Count saw my face”, referring to the interaction between Jonathan and Dracula, “his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.” It becomes clear early on throughout the novel that Stoker begins to assign religious symbols to the characters. The depiction of Dracula’s blood-thirsty nature in this interaction is crafted to evoke a profound sense of monstrosity in the reader. Meanwhile, Jonathan, who is saved by the crucifix, symbolizes the holiness of a Christian man, eliciting empathy, and a reassuring comfort in this character.
As the novel progresses, the assimilation of characters into religious symbols, or the distortion thereof, persistently generates empathy for the Christian values prevalent during that era. The distortion of Christianity intensifies as the novel progresses, with elements like communion, marriage, sexuality, and “followership” portrayed in ways that dishonor the Christian ideals. For example, Van Helsing states “And now, my friends, we have a duty here to do. We must sterilize this earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a far distant land for such fell use. He has chosen this earth because it has been holy.” (Chp 22). Van Helsing’s dialogue regarding Dracula serves as a strong metaphor, symbolizing the divide between Christianity and Non-believers, highlighting the ongoing conflict between faith and malevolence within the novel. In a deeper analysis, I believe that this portrayal highlights a noticeable contrast that challenges followers who grapple with progressive ideas that challenge the traditional beliefs of the Victorian era.