Literary analysis on dracula


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Literary analysis on dracula

  1. 1. Cash 1Box # 108Sandra CashProfessor BouchardENG 132Literary Analysis on DraculaApril 16, 2012 Literary Analysis on Dracula The book, Dracula has fascinated plenty of readers since it’s publications in 1897(SparkNotes Editors). This is due to the interesting characters, themes and symbolism.But, in order for one to understand all of this, one must first know about Bram Stoker’slife, and the plot of the book. Then one can look at and analyze the characters, themesand symbolism. Finally, Dracula can be looked at from a Biblical world view, and it canbe looked at from a new historian lens. Bram Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847 (SparkNotes Editors). As achild, he was very sickly, so in order to entertain himself he read many books andlistened to the horror stories his mother told him (“Author Biography”). This is what ledStoker to start writing ghost stories (“Author Biography”). In Stocker’s early writingcareer, he wrote short stories for children that were not very successful (SparkNotesEditors).It was not until Stoker wrote Dracula, that he became popular. This is whatdistinguished Stoker as one of the most well-known Gothic authors of the Victorian fin-de-siècle (SparkNotes Editors) (Scarborough).
  2. 2. Cash 2 Gothic fiction is a genre that was extremely popular in the early nineteenthcentury (SparkNotes Editors). Gothic fiction traditionally includes elements such asgloomy castles, sublime landscapes, and innocent maidens threatened by ineffable evil(SparkNotes Editors). Few Gothic novels are still enjoyed today, but one example at leastis still read: Dracula (“Dracula”). Dracula was one of the last books of this genre, andits effects can be seen in modern-day writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, and Anne Rice(“Dracula”). In 1890, Stoker holidayed in the Northeast coast fishing village of Whitby inYorkshire, where it is said he found inspiration for his novel Dracula (C.D. Merriman). Itshould be noted that Stoker was not the creator of vampires, but that vampire legendshave been a part of folklore, legends, and myths since ancient times (SparkNotesEditors). Due to the fact that Dracula became quite popular Dracula is now synonymouswith vampire (“Dracula”). Rather, Stoker gave vampires a history, and the stereotypicalrules we now associate with them. Bram Stoker died in London, England on 20 April1912 (C.D. Merriman). After his death, his wife had Draculas Guest and Other WeirdStories published in 1922 (C.D. Merriman). Some people say that the story "DraculasGuest" was in reality supposed to be the first chapter for his novel Dracula (C.D.Merriman). Dracula starts out with a journal account of Jonathan Harker’s trip toTransylvania where he helps Dracula put in order Dracula’s new estate in London.Dracula makes Jonathan a prisoner in his castle. While Jonathan is a prisoner, he seesstrange things, and starts to believe that he has gone insane. He later escapes, but is in thehospital for brain fever. While this is happening, back in England, Mina, who is
  3. 3. Cash 3Jonathan’s fiancée is visiting with Lucy. Lucy has finally decided which of her threesuitors she will marry. Dr. Seward and Quincey P. Morris both say they will be still goodfriends to Lucy. One night, when Lucy is sleep walking, Dracula claims her as his firstvictim. Lucy becomes very ill and since Dr. Seward can not treat Lucy, he asks hismentor Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Helsing figures out what is wrong with Lucy,but at first does not tell Dr. Seward, or her fiancé Arthur Holmwood, because he does notbelieve they will believe him and wants to confirm his suspicions. Sadly, Helsing doesnot save Lucy, and she becomes a vampire. This is when Helsing, finally tellsHolmwood, Seward, and Quincey Morris that Lucy now belongs to the undead. At first,they do not believe Helsing, until they go to her tomb and find her preying on a child.This is when they decided they must destroy her, so that Lucy’s soul will return to eternalrest. Mina, who left to help take care of her now husband Jonathan, hears of Lucydeath. She then talks to Helsing about Lucy’s death, and informs him about herhusband’s brain fever by giving Helsing Jonathan’s journal. Helsing then confirms thather husband’s journal is indeed true. Once Jonathan knows it’s true, he is relieved that hedid not go insane, but he is also terrified because the Count Dracula must be stopped.This begins the quest of Mina, Jonathan, Quincey, Seward, Holmwood, and Helsing to“strike in Gods name, that so all may be well with the dead that we love and that theUnDead pass away” (Stoker, 190). During their crusade to kill Dracula, while followinghis trail to Transylvania, Dracula attacks Mina. The group following him to his castle,becomes even more determined to kill Dracula, so that they can save Mina. Finally,
  4. 4. Cash 4before Dracula is transported in his box, the team tries to take the box from the gypsies.During this event, Jonathan and Quincey finally make it to the box and kill Dracula, butQuincey has been fatally wounded. Now that Mina is free from turning into a vampire,she and the rest return to England and remain lifelong friends. An analysis of the main characters gives a more deep understanding of Dracula.The major characters in the story are Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing,Mina (Murray) Harker, Lucy, Dr. John Seward, Arthur Homwood, and Quincey P.Morris. Dracula is the greatest vampire, who in life had been a man of legend(“Dracula”). This is because Dracula is actually based on a real fifteenth-century family(SparkNotes Editors). He is supposed to be a descendant of the Price of Wallachia VladDracula (SparkNotes Editors). Vlad was exceptionally smart and infamously violent. Heenjoyed a gory career just like Count Dracula (SparkNotes Editors). Vlad has a reputationfor slaughtering beggars, forcing women to consume their babies, and piercing hisenemies on long spikes (SparkNotes Editors). Dracula is similar to sin: at first sin lookspleasing, and fun; but only after committing it, does it show how destructive it actually is. Jonathan Harker is a young solicitor, who is naïve and at first does not take anyheed in the warning he got while on his way to Count Dracula’s castle. Once he findshimself a prisoner, he is very inquisitive to discover the truth about Count Dracula, andfiguring out a way to escape. It is only after Dracula attacks Mina, that Jonathan changesfrom a self-doubting, thinking man into a vicious warrior, always sharpening his knife(SparkNotes Editors). It is in this way that Jonathan is the dynamic character, for hebecomes almost completely opposite of what he was in the beginning of the story.
  5. 5. Cash 5 Dr. Van Helsing is a philosopher and a metaphysician, who can be strong-willed,and is the only character that possesses an open mind enough to contemplate and addressDracula’s evil intentions. Helsing seems to have knowledge of superstitions and folkremedies. He lives in two distinct worlds, the old and the new (SparkNotes Editors). Thefirst is marked by fearful respect for tradition, and the second by ever-progressinginnovation (SparkNotes Editors). He envisions his band as “ministers of God’s ownwish,” and reassures his comrades that “we go out as the old knights of the Cross toredeem more” (SparkNotes Editors) (Stoker 283). Mina is the ultimate Victorian woman, for she wants nothing more than to be agood wife to her husband and to be a good woman in the eyes of God (SparkNotesEditors) (“Dracula”). In Dr. Helsing words, “She has a man’s brain – a brain that a manshould have were he much gifted – and a woman’s heart. The good God fashioned her fora purpose, believe me, when he made that so good combination” (Stoker 208). Sheproves time and time again that she is equal to the men, who are on this crusade to killDracula. Lucy is Mina’s best friend and is an attractive, vibrant young woman. Becauseshe is such an attractive young woman, she has three suitors, Dr. John Seward, ArthurHomwood, and Quincey P. Morris, from whom she must choose. Lucy chooses Arthur,but does not marry him, due to the fact that she becomes a vampire. After Lucy hasturned into a vampire, it compromises her much-praised chastity, and virtue. She is themain reason that Helsing and the rest first start to believe in vampires, and declare war onvampires.
  6. 6. Cash 6 Dr. John Seward runs the insane asylum near to Dracula’s castle. In this asylum,he conducts ambitious interviews with one of his patients, Renfield, in order tounderstand better the nature of life-consuming psychosis. Although he is not as smart,brave, or in love as some of the other characters, he is a good narrator for the story(“Dracula”). This is because he smart, and brave enough and informed and inquisitiveenough for the plot of the story to unfold naturally through his eyes (“Dracula”). Arthur Holmwood becomes Lord Godalming after his father dies. He inherits thetitle, and he also inherits large estates from Lucy’s mother. Arthur is a sensitive, sensibleand strong man, and Helsing enjoys him as a colleague. Arthur is strong, because he doeswhatever circumstances demand. For example, he agrees to kill Lucy’s demonic form. Heis also generous, for he pays for the whole vampire hunt and lets everyone use his title togain access to information about Dracula. Quincey Morris is an American from Texas, who proves to be a brave and goodhearted man. He is an early American stereotype; he calls ladies “little girl” and he callsSeward “Jack” (“Dracula”). He only seems to be in this hunt on Dracula because of hislove for Lucy, otherwise he has nothing great at stake. In the end, he sacrifices his life inorder to rid the world of Dracula’s influence. There are a lot of symbols throughout this story that tie into the themes. Somepeople say the symbol of blood is used in a perverted way of Christian Communion(SparkNotes Editors). Instead of “gain eternal spiritual life by consuming wine that hasbeen transformed into Christ’s blood, Dracula drinks actual human blood in order toextend his physical – but quite soulless – life” (SparkNotes Editors). There are Christian
  7. 7. Cash 7symbols like the crucifix, which is used to impair a vampire’s power, and holy wafer,which is also used to impair a vampire’s power. These symbols help the reader to find themes throughout the story. For example,there are themes of good versus evil, and science versus religion. For good versus evil,it’s Helsing’s band of “ministers of God’s own wish,” against Dracula, and his minions(Stoker 283). Helsing and the rest take this as a holy crusade to kill Dracula. They alsouse Christian symbols to combat the supernatural evil Dracula. Dracula is portrayed as asatanic figure, especially by his appearance; having pointed ears, fangs, flaming eyes, anddrinking blood. Of course, in the end, good always defeats evil. In the story, once Lucythe vampire dies, she is transformed to “’unequalled sweetness and purity,’ and her soulis returned to her as a ‘holy calm’” (SparkNotes Editors). Even night and day, fog or mistand light are used to show good versus evil. For instance, Dracula can only use hispowers in the night, and the fog/mist is a disguise of Dracula. Where day and light aresymbols of good, and night, fog and mist can be symbols of evil. Another theme is science versus religion. This is shown at first when Helsing tellsDr. Seward and Arthur about the conclusion he has come to concerning vampires. Theythink he’s crazy, for vampires are only in folklore and such. Only after Helsing bringsthem to Lucy’s grave and they see her feeding on a child do they finally believe. Helsingsays this: “You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. . . . Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see
  8. 8. Cash 8 around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young. . . .” (Stoker 168).In this quote Helsing is explaining to Dr. Seward, that he is dismissing the supernaturalphenomenon rather than question the limits of his knowledge, because he only sees themas religious traditions, that are just that traditions nothing else. Stoker suggests that theEnglish find themselves targeted precisely because their modern knowledge, instead ofenlightening them, actually prevents them from identifying the true nature of their slayer(SparkNotes Editors). This is still true today, for people look at science to try to provethere is no creator therefore, there is no God. The knowledge that was gained throughscience is sometimes used by the devil to blind people. There are a couple viewpoints from which one could look at this story: a biblicalview point, and a new historicism view point. In the biblical view point, in the story itsself-Dracula helps to show that, even though we gain more knowledge, we should notforget some of the things we consider as “religious traditions.” For in the story, Helsingexplains to Dr. Seward that he tries to use science to explain everything, where hedismisses the supernatural phenomenon rather than question the limits of his knowledge.In fact, they go back to using Christian symbols to stop the vampires. For example, thecrucifix is used to impair a vampire’s power. While reading the part where Quincey issacrifices his life in order to rid the world of Dracula’s influence, I thought of the bibleverse John 15:13. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay downhis life for his friends” ("Bible gateway").
  9. 9. Cash 9 Another way this story could be viewed by is new historicism. Dracula can beseen as an allegory about the collapse of British imperialism (Shmoop Editorial Team). InStoker’s day, people were worried that after all the years Britain has spent colonizing,that the people would fight back and want revenge (Palmer, R, and Joel Colton). This wasalso the time when Great Britain’s worldwide empire started crumbling, and othercountries like Germany and the US were starting to gain power (Shmoop EditorialTeam). In Dracula Stoker really emphasizes Dracula being a foreigner, giving Draculaan accent, his grammar issues with English, and his need for Jonathan’s guidance when itcomes to negotiating British cultural norms and legal procedures (Shmoop EditorialTeam). Dracula, as shown in this paper, can be seen through a biblical world view, andfrom a new historian lens. In order to fully understand the story, one must know aboutBram Stoker’s life, analyze the characters, themes, and the symbolism that is usedthroughout the story. Dracula is the one of the last works by one of the mostdistinguished Gothic authors, and due to this, has fascinated readers since it waspublished in 1897 (SparkNotes Editors).
  10. 10. Cash 10Works Cited"Author Biography." Novels for Students. Vol. 18. Gale Cengage, . 17 Apr, 2012 Merriman,. "Bram Stoker." Bram stoker. The literature Network, 2011. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <>.“Dracula.” BookRags Book Notes. BookRang Inc., 2009. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <>."John 15:13." Bible gateway. Biblica, 2011. Web. 17 Apr 2012. < 15:13&version=NIV>.McKay, John, Bennett Hill, John Buckler, Roger Ebrey, Roger Beck, Clare Crowston, and Merry Wiesner-Hanks. A History of World Societies. Ninth. 2. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2012. Print.Scarborough, Terry . "Bram Stoker: A Brief Biography." The Victorian Web. N.p., 2008. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <>.SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Dracula.” SparkNotes LLC. 2003. Web. 16 Apr. 2012.Shmoop Editorial Team. "Dracula Theme of Foreignness and the Other"
  11. 11. Cash 11 Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.Stoker, Bram. Dracula . Kindle Edition. Public Domain Books, 1995. eBook.