Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Count Dracula’s mortal purpose maintaining the Christian dominance in Wallachia, and by extension the whole of Europe, has narrative successors in Van Helsing’s band. Additionally, Dracula studied alchemy, science, and all things occult or arcane during his prodigious natural life (321). Although his noble works in life are corrupted in death, the polymathic Van Helsing becomes a worthy replacement as “a most wonderful man” dedicated to what he perceives to be a God-given task (322).

Dracula and Van Helsing are alike in their shared sentiments of executing God’s will and their repeated uses of crusade imagery in conversation. In addition to defending his native Romania, Dracula travelled eastward to combat the Ottoman Empire in “Turkey-land” and Hungary (36). The location of Hungary – which is immediately adjacent to Romania – is of historic relevance as the medieval ‘Bulwark of Christianity’ on the frontier between the Christian and Ottoman nations controlling entry into mainland Europe. In the 19th century, Dracula’s Transylvanian stronghold exists on a similar frontier separating the peoples of the Occident and the ‘Orient’ with the British Isles replacing continental Europe as the practical capital of Christianity. Van Helsing sees his mission to destroy the nosferatu not as a personal obsession or a debt to Mina, but as a divine quest to protect European Christian ideals from a sinister, godless Eastern influence. These motives are surprisingly similar to those used by crusaders (including Dracula) to justify bloody military conquest in the name of self-preservation and divine right. Although the word “crusade” is never used, Van Helsing compares his band’s journey “towards the sunrise” to the “old knights of the cross” and their mission of slaying the undead to the redemption of souls through the death of Christ (341).

Ultimate redemption is interesting not only as a justification for murder, but also as the redemption or reclamation of a place, such as the attempted recapture of Jerusalem by early crusaders. This reclamation occurs through the sterilization of earth by the Host: first, the earth-boxes in London and finally Castle Dracul’s chapel (257). Much like crusaders hoping to reclaim previously Christian Jerusalem, Van Helsing’s band seeks to restore Christianity to Transylvania by destroying evil influence and retaking a symbolic point: a castle chapel in place of a fortress Temple. The fulfillment of this quest is made clear when the Harker family completes a celebratory (almost ritualistic) pilgrimage to Transylvania (402).

This is my Blood: Dracula, Morality, and Religion

Dracula represents a complete inversion of the Victorian worldview. The Count’s impossible physiology turns science on its head -quite literally in the case of his “lizard” (41) crawl- and any vessel containing his powers moves with an unnatural, lurching awkwardness. Dracula’s physiognomy is equally alien: his glaring red eyes (151) are a complete departure from the limpid blues, stormy grays, and passionate violets of other contemporary texts. Similarly, his skeletal, bone-white face (143) is incapable of a Victorian protagonist’s perpetual flush. Despite these obvious physical reversals, the most telling inversions of Victorian thought lie in the spheres of Dracula’s moral character and the religion of Transylvania.

Dracula subtly upends ideas of Victorian morality. He is superficially polite, but unable to serve as an honest host. His active hours are inverted, and his physiology forbids the suppers and smokes so crucial to Victorian society (24). He contradicts the class system, acting as both master and servant (17, 23). The Count is immune to the Victorian fascination with technology and progress (30). He places no importance in hygiene, shaving, or toiletries, as he has no need for them (33). Dracula possesses a sense of honor, but his morals are perverted into a hunter’s code of predator and prey (37). Dracula respects his ancient Christian heritage and the conversion or else eradication of heathen Turkic peoples (36), but only as a sanguine history, not unlike Renfield’s account of consumed souls (80).

Religious expression in Transylvania is in direct opposition to the Anglican doctrine. The means of defeating Dracula, the customs of the Transylvanian people, are as bizarre to Johnathan as the monster himself. Johnathan is baffled by the strange gifts given to him in the carriage (15) and equally bewildered by the comfort he later takes in them (35, 50). As an Anglican, he sees the Catholic Rosary as an idolatrous adoration of Mary, but cannot help but feel comfort in some conduit of Christian belief in a world ruled only by the superstition of the boyar and his Szgany (49). However, Jonathan and others remain wary of Catholicism, and some of this fear can is made manifest in Dracula. Vampirism can be compared to the Catholic belief of transubstantiation: the literal belief that the bread and wine of the eucharist become flesh and blood. Protestants, including Anglicans, believe only in a symbolic transformation. While Anglicans drink wine as if it were blood, both Catholics and Dracula (very differently) practice the reverse: drinking blood as if it were wine.

Robert and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Court


“In those troublesome dreams…” (Braddon 244)

This strangely allegorical dream cements Robert’s belief in both the righteousness of his cause and its otherworldly issue. Robert’s “troublesome dreams” are surprisingly supernatural breaks in a sensational but otherwise worldly novel (244). Although spirits and monsters have been invoked before, they have been the object of ridicule – typically by Robert himself. Now that he is stricken by the same sentiments, Robert does not blame indigestion or behave like “some ghost-haunted hero in a German story” (260). Robert instead acts as a biblical Judge called upon by “some hand greater than [his] own” to mete out godly justice. Much like the reluctant prophet Jonah, Robert is reminded of a (in his mind) divine quest whenever he attempts a return to his once mundane life. Robert was not swallowed by a great fish, but instead forced to answer to – or else compete with – the enigmatic Clara in his search for the truth of George’s fate. In addition to strengthening his promise to Clara, the dreams also provide valuable insight into Robert’s unexpressed thoughts. He sees “Audley Court, rooted up.. standing bare and unprotected… threatened by the… boisterous sea” as if it were a boat and Lady Audley as a “mermaid, beckoning his uncle to destruction” like a tempting siren (244). Robert sees it as his duty to steer his uncle’s estate away from the perilous rocks at the expense of Lord Michael’s dignity like Odysseus being bound to a mast. Robert is a dutiful nephew, but his actions are not entirely selfless. As heir apparent, Robert has a clear interest in steering his uncle’s estate and the Audley reputation away from the shores of peril. Lady Audley’s connection to the ocean goes far beyond her childhood home, in Robert’s dream she becomes the primordial darkness of the ocean with her “pale face and starry…” sea-green eyes surrounded by looking out from the sea’s “silvery foam” as light and lustrous as her curls (244). This comparison is part of the lasting tradition of giving feminine character to ocean storms: long periods of calm equilibrium interrupted by punctuations of brief but intense violence. The “dismal horizon” of the dream storm is defeated by a single “ray of light” parting the troubled sea (244). This biblical conclusion and the contrast of white light and dark sea reinforce Robert’s image of Clara as a seraphic beauty in complete opposition to Lady Audley.

Audley the Scrivener

“Robert Audley was supposed to be a barrister…” (Bradon 35)

This opening phrase can mean either that Audley is not truthfully employed or that he was born to occupy an office in Fig-Tree Court, Temple. The characterization that follows reveals both interpretations as equally applicable. Robert Audley is a man defined by what he is not and he has no interest in veering from the course predetermined by the circumstances of his birth. He is perfectly content to surrender himself to the dull pleasures of the routine. Numbers and passive language reappear throughout his introduction, reminders of Audley’s repetitious life and his past as an accountant: Robert is the “only child” of a father who left him “£400,” he’s aged “about seven-and-twenty,” a barrister for the “five years” his name has been painted upon “one door,” and he attends his “allotted number of dinners” (35). Although Robert’s complaints of “overwork” are laughed off, they are not entirely inaccurate (35). Audley’s greatest fault is not that he cares too little, but rather that he cares too much. Audley’s absolute rejection of violence is his only motivation, he spends all his hours contemplating how best to avoid conflict. Audley became a barrister only to avoid conflict with friends, this fear of opposition would explain why he “never… even wished to have a brief” as a confrontational litigator (35). Audley’s introduction is made even stranger by his friendship with George Talboys – a man in every way his opposite. Talboys sought out the life of violence as a dragoon that Audley so carefully avoided, not out of desperation but simple excitement. The cigar smoking Talboys plays cards while Audley smokes his “German pipe” and reads the same “French novels” unknown to Talboys earlier (35). Talboys is anxious to offboard the Argus while Audley is comfortable as a passenger on the leisurely cruise of his life.