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The Spirit of a late Victorian Age.
With reference to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Stoker’s monstrous figure, Count Dracula, has today reached epic and almost mythical proportions, like Frankestein (not the doctor), the Gordon Medusa, even Virginia Woolf (thanks to Albee). Like the aforementioned examples, what we associate in our minds to be these monsters, mostly conditioned by popular culture and Hollywood, are merely visual representation. In the novel itself, however, according to other essayists who have thoroughly examined this piece, Dracula represents an entire genre of thinking and human development, concentrated in the prose of literature.
Mark M. Hennelly, Jr. identifies Dracula as “an allegory of rival epistimologies in quest of a gnosis which will rehabilitate the Victorian wasteland; and as its conclusion dramatizes, this rehabilitation demands, a transfusion, the metaphor is inevitable, from the blood-knowledge of Dracula” (Literature of the Occult, 140). By the Victorian wasteland the essayist here is referring the superfluity and the redundancy of the Victorians, particularly the nouveau riche and the middle class. The homes of these upper classes are lacking space as much as the small rooms in which the proletariat are forced to stay; the former lack space because of an accumulation of furniture and objects, the latter because of the smallness of the rooms themselves. The epistimologies in rival are the rational and the irrational. “Beneath the ordered society of his time each [novelist of the Irrational] say an unordered chaos, a world disintegrating, a new order waiting to be established” (Literature of the Occult, 143). This duality between the rational and the irrational could only be captured in a novel that is unmistakably Gothic and Romantic.
The novel begins with “a travel diary” (Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism, 35) of Jonothan Harkens, the young British lawyer who has been hired to handle Count Dracula’s estate. Particularly, Count Dracula’s strange castle which stands at the edge of a cliff. Jonothan Harkens becomes a “prisoner” (Dracula, 47) in this enormous tower in which there are no “servants” (Dracula, 32) and yet there is a redundancy of furniture and space and books. This device as a literary device works on the reader because he becomes engrossed in Harkens sincere writings and becomes a part of the castle. The castle itself represents one aspect of the Gothic, the second of which I will expatiate upon later.
The castle itself becomes a body, a vessel, if you will, from which there is no escape unless the owner of the castle allows him to. There is a kind of Medieval morbidity that underlies this idea but what Stoker was doing was using the gothic genre to push against the rational and tend into the realm of fantasy and the occult. By rendering Count Dracula’s as a silent character creates a stable focus for the rest of the changing narrators. That is to say, while the narration passes from Mina to Harkens to Lucy the castle itself remains a silent counterpart.
Why is this important? Like I have mentioned earlier, there is a kind of Medieval morbidity to personifying the castle. This represents both the body and the spirit screaming to a God who as pious persons we must believe in but in actuality we never do get to see. “There is no doubt that the Western European characters are at least nominal Christians or that the English characters are adherents to the Church of England,” Carol Senf writes in “Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism” (67). A good example of this is when Jonothan Harkens is offered a rosary. “I did not know what to do, for as an English Churchman, I have been taught that these things as…idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady” (Dracula, 67). This kind of ambivalence and “rival of epistimologies” runs throughout the entire novel, where the very nature of duality is concentrated.
The blood is the life, and for Victorian scientists, “genetic material circulated in the bloodstream…because it contained the information that communicated the animal’s or human’s mental and physical makeup” (Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism, 75). Although this theory is unmistakably Darwin, what it tends to identify is a group of people who believed in Darwin’s biology and Newton’s physics. In fact, according to the essay “For Blood is the Life” it talks about Darwin’s nephew, Francis Galton putting his uncle’s theories into practice, by transfusing the blood of one animal into the body of the other in order to “influence the offspring” (Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism, 75)
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