Fashion, Color, and Love

One descriptor that is used frequently in the text that I often find strange is color. Typically reserved for conveying emotion through visuals and setting the mood in scenes, color in Bram Stoker’s Dracula appears to develop a deeper connection between the characters. One scene where color conveys a meaning deeper than just mood is when Arthur, Quincey, and Dr. Seward prepare to travel with Van Helsing to the tomb of the undead Mina on the night of September 29th (227). In his diary, Dr. Seward writes, “It was odd to notice that by common consent we had all put on black clothes. Of course, Arthur wore black, for he was in deep mourning, but the rest of us wore it by instinct.” (227). I would argue that although it may have felt instinctual for Dr. Seward and Quincey to wear black, they too were mourning just as deeply as Arthur was, as it was well known that all three of these men had proposed and confessed their love to Lucy earlier in the novel. Additionally, the Count, who is always described as, “…a tall old man, […] clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere,” has this deep spiritual connection with the undead Lucy and consistently dons black clothing (22). Although color could be describing the emotion these individuals feel, I would argue that color in this novel is actually portraying connections that these individuals have with each other. Whether it be for the love between two living souls or the love of blood and connection with others that are undead, there is, in my mind, no denying that individuals donning black in Stoker’s novel have a deep love connection with one other that may not be obvious at first glance.

Monsters and Madness

As in many other texts of gothic literature, Bram Stoker’s Dracula contains the elements and monsters of the supernatural that would freeze any man where he stands were he to encounter it in person. However, as it is evident through even the beginning of his novel, Stoker decided to leave this supernatural element unexplained, writing passages filled with evidence that Count Dracula is in fact an actual vampire. Jonathan Harker, eventually realizing he is imprisoned by this beastly creature, begins to question his own sanity, wondering if he has gone mad and yearns for the feeling of safety away from the Count and his castle. In Jonathan’s journal he writes, “Safety and the assurance of safety are things of the past. Whilst I live on here there is but one thing to hope for: that I may not go mad, if, indeed, I be not mad already.” (43). However, the self-notion of Harker being at the precipice of madness is the least of his worries, as he then writes, “…then surely it is madness to think that of all the foul things the lurk in this hateful place the Count is the least dreadful to me…” (43). Taking a deeper look into his writings, it appears Harker is not necessarily afraid of what he can see and comprehend, but what he cannot see and comprehend. This may be a stretch, but what I think this passage, and entire text, is claiming that it is the unknown and the anticipation of what may exist in the unknown that drives individuals mad. Although the Count is a vile monster, Harker has this connection to him, an almost human connection where he can turn to the Count for safety when it appears that none exists. Without the Count, who knows what else may lurk within the castle walls, and without the familiarity of something to keep Johnathan sane, slipping into a state of madness is only a matter of time.

Internal conflicts and excuses

Vol II Chapter V

“A gloomy shadow spread itself like a dark veil over Robert Audley’s handsome face. He remembered what he had said the day before at Southampton – ‘A hand that is stronger than my own is beckoning me onward upon the dark road.’ A quarter of an hour before, he had believed that all was over, and that he was released from the dreadful duty of discovering the secret of George’s death. Now this girl, this apparently passionless girl, had found a voice, and was urging him on towards his fate.” (200).

This passage caught my attention because it is interesting how Robert explicitly realizes that there may be greater forces at work that are urging him toward finding out what happened to George. Throughout Volume two especially, the notion of God being a figure in everybody’s life becomes ever more prominent as Robert continues to piece together what exactly happened to his friend. In this passage, specifically, the phrases “A hand that is stronger than my own…” and “fate” stand out to me because they suggest that Robert believes that God is real, and that Robert has no control whether he discovers what happened to his poor friend or not. However, with a source of good in any novel there must be a contrasting evil. Braddon’s description of, “A gloomy shadow spread itself like a dark veil…” seems like a strange way to begin a passage that then shifts to Robert talking about the hand stronger than his own leading him on towards his fate. Often, fate is associated more directly with God and the heavens whereas darkness, such as the veil over Robert or the road that he is being led down, is associated with evil spirits and Hell. Whether or not these forces are real is up to the discretion of the reader, however I think what this passage and text is truly about is the internal conflict between good and evil within humans. Robert is ready to give up his search for the circumstances behind George’s disappearance, but something keeps leading him in the direction of the truth. Technically, Robert could stop searching for the answer to his friend’s disappearance at any point in time, but he would likely never be satisfied settling for anything but the truth. The “stronger hand at work” and “fate” seem more like mental excuses to continue his search rather than face his internal conflicts and come to the realization that it would be acceptable to never know what happened to his poor friend.

Pursuing Happiness?

Chapter 1

“He was glad of her reply; and yet that and the strange laugh jarred upon his feelings. He was silent for some moments, and then said with a kind of effort – ‘Well, Lucy, I will not ask too much of you. I dare say I am a romantic old fool; but if you do not dislike me, and if you do not love anyone else, I see no reason why we should not make a very happy couple. Is it a bargain, Lucy?’” (17).

I found this passage rather strange because Lucy Graham is asked not to be happy with Mr. Audley as her husband, but if she will be satisfied being him since she doesn’t love anybody else. Since his previous wife’s death, Mr. Audley has not taken interest in any women except Lucy Graham, and he was clearly taken aback by her response when first asked if he would be his significant other. However, the passage provided above is, essentially, just another way of once again asking Lucy to be his wife, just without the feeling of true love. Specifically, the word “bargaining” in this passage stands out among the others because it is clear the Lucy Graham is not in love with Mr. Audley, but Sir Michael Audley so desperately wants her to be his partner. This could cause conflict in the future because, as humans know all too well, the feelings of love and passion can easily change overtime. Lucy is described as one of the most beautiful women in all the land, but in the bargain, she made with Mr. Audley, she did not love anybody else only at that time in the story. As mentioned before, she has admitted not to being in love with Sir Michael, but to essentially not dislike him enough for the time being to be his wife and the woman of Audley Court. What I really think this passage is about is relinquishing happiness for status, power, and wealth. Humans, as a species, constantly must make decisions that influence out societal status and perceived wealth and, often, we aren’t happy with the decisions we make. In the case of Lucy Graham, she may be happy for the time being with her newfound wealth, jewelry, and travels, but it is likely she will eventually need more than just the old Sir Michael providing for her to make her truly happy in life without having internal conflicts.