What is “Dracula” by Bram Stoker Сultural Significance?
The story of the mysterious Count Dracula by Bram Stoker was written just over a century ago, but its dark and spooky atmosphere recalls a much older period in history. This is because the concept of the vampire, a creature who is “undead”, conjures up a world of ghosts and spirits who do not obey the normal rules of nature. The author contrasts the logical, scientific world of Victorian England with the chaotic and rural European state of Transylvania. What appears to be an idyllic pastoral landscape turns into a horrifying place of concealment for modern mankind’s worst nightmares. This book has done more than any other work of fiction to revive an ancient dread of evil spirits that pre-dates the Christian era.
A key theme in the book is the potentially destructive nature of love relationships between men and women, since the three beautiful vampires in Count Dracula’s castle tempt the young traveller Jonathan Harker, and terrify him at the same time. The character of Lucy combines great beauty with great evil, having been infected with the blood of the vampires, and this turns the traditional expectations of Victorian Christian morality upside down. Through no fault of their own, victims are turned into evil parasites on the human race, and this can be seen as a metaphor for the overwhelming power of romantic love to change a person from an upstanding, moral citizen into something criminal. Vampires deserve death as a punishment, and as a preventative measure which stops their immoral behavior from spreading to other people.
The reader gradually begins to understand the nature of the creatures, their mode of reproduction through biting their victims, and the very precise methods that can be used to protect people against their predatory activities. Notions such as the protective power of garlic and the efficacy of a stake through the heart owe more to folk mythology than to medical or anatomical knowledge. The dramatic twists of the plot, and the lurid descriptions of blood and death are features which the book shares with other Gothic horror novels. Part of the horror of the book is due to the way it transforms everyday items and actions into something filled with evil potential. The idea of a being which has no reflection in a mirror, for example, has the power to haunt the reader’s memory every time he or she passes a mirror in real life.
The book’s format of letters and other apparently fact-based documents such as newspaper extracts lends it an aura of truth. Since the time of the book’s first appearance there have been countless plays, films, television programmes and even computer games based on the vampire creatures described in this book. The modern world, for all its great technological prowess, still has no prospect of conquering death, and this may be why the paranormal vampire creatures, and their heroic hunters, are enjoying something of a revival in the twenty-first century. Many people have lost their faith in the traditional Judeao-Christian God, but there is a deep-seated instinct within mankind for a belief in the supernatural. In the absence of traditional religions, Bram Stoker’s mythical vampires fill this need in a thrilling and entertaining way. The book reminds readers of the capacity that lies within human beings for immorality and violence, and prompts reflection on big themes such as love and death. For this reason it seems likely to remain a much imitated and well-loved classic of Western culture.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Edited by Maurice Hindle. New York: Penguin, 2003. [First published 1897]