“Dracula” vs “The Metamorphosis”
In the novel ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker, the reader gets to know Van Helsing as Dracula’s adversary, the day to his night, and as the representative of a community from which Van Helsing derives his purpose and his power. His knowledge derives from the knowledge of the community in the philosophical and healing arts, and likewise his purpose is derived from that knowledge and the way the community seemed to have come to rely on him to protect itself from Dracula’s menace. In the concrete his job was to stop Dracula and to save the girl Lucy. In this sense Van Helsing is a kind of complete other to Dracula, totally light as opposed to Dracula’s black or darkness, a total adversary with whom Dracula shared nothing in common. The monster that was Dracula shared nothing of the deep humanity that Van Helsing represented. He was the unalloyed good guy, the representative of the superhero who was out to save humanity from Dracula, who in turn represented absolute evil. The response of Van Helsing to the evil of Dracula is to basically represent the basic aversion and the disgust of ordinary people towards the danger and the horror that the monster represented, and to basically try to quell and to vanquish that evil with every weapon and tool, physical, metaphysical, and religious, to do so. It is important to note that Van Helsing seems to represent the consensus reaction of the community to the Dracula horror. One role of community in this instance is to concentrate a reaction to the evil, and to bring out in its midst a champion that would embody its thoughts and emotions and also make use of its collective intellect and abilities to defeat the foe (Stoker; Goodreads Inc.; Mordrake).
In contrast to Stoker’s Dracula, where the monster is someone other, in ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka depicts the monster is internalized as someone who exists in one’s own very person. This is a novel where Gregor, the main character, comes to inhabit the monster, and takes the monster’s view from the inside looking out. Gregor’s response to the monster is one that is natural to its changed self. He accepts the monster and lives with the new reality. There is a disconnect between his preferences when he was a man, and the preferences that became tied to his new body, a large insect. Where he used to like milk, he changed to like what the monster wanted to eat, which was leftover and rooting food, among other things. He came to accept what his new body was, the body of a monster, with seeming little regret nor longing for his old body. He did not treat his own new monster nature with horror and disgust in the way that Van Helsing did, but rather took the monster as his natural body, with its processes his own processes. He came to identify fully with his new monster body, all the way to death. He responded with an uncanny naturalness to the changed monster body that he came to inhabit, whereas in the case of Van Helsing the response was to try to rid the world of Dracula the monster. The gist is that where Van Helsing viewed Dracula as the evil other, Gregor’s response to the monster that was himself was to embrace every disgusting aspect of the monster’s nature. In the context of the outside looking in, on the other hand, the family as representing the community responded in much the same way as Van Helsing’s community and Stoker’s ordinary readers do, and that is with horror and disgust. Increasingly it became clear that the community reaction was to marginalize and to rid itself of the monster. The family came to imbibe this inevitable dynamic that the community represented. There was no room for Gregor the monster in their life and in the life of the community, and they wished him dead. The community’s value in this case is to preserve a set of standards for what is acceptable to human society and what is not. One can say that in this sense the value of community for Van Helsing and for Gregor are the same, and that is to set common norms for what is acceptable behavior and ways of being and what is not. Dracula and Gregor are representatives of the extremes that the community will not accept and will try to marginalize and suppress (Goodreads Inc.; Mordrake; Kafka; Delahoyde).
Delahoyde, Michael. “Kafka, The Metamorphosis”. Washington State University. n.d. Web. 21 February 2014.
Goodreads Inc. “Dracula by Bram Stoker”. Goodreads.com. 2014. Web. 21 February 2014.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. 2002. Web. 21 February 2014.
Mordrake, Edward. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”. Crisis Magazine. 24 October 2013. Web. 21 February 2014.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. Web. 21 February 2014.