Is Dracula a Gothic Novel?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2000

18 Pages, Grade: 2,3 (B)

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Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. What is a Gothic novel?
2.1 The beginning of the gothic novel
2.2 The later Gothic novel

3. Abraham Stoker's Dracula
3.1 Background and summary

4. Gothic aspects
4.1 Nature
4.2 Characters
4.2.1 The role of women in the gothic novel
4.2.2 The Gothic villain/hero
4.3 Breaking Taboos
4.3.1 Jonathan in the world of Dracula
4.3.2 Dracula invades London
4.3.3 The degeneration of the stock

5. Science and religion

6. Vampires and eroticism

7. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In this paper I will examine Stoker's novel Dracula in order to determine whether it belongs to the Gothic genre or not.

Firstly, a short history of the Gothic novel will be presented and the most important authors and works of the era will be mentioned.

Furthermore, the different characteristics of the Gothic genre will be examined in order to compare them with Stoker's work. Aspects like nature, surroundings, atmosphere, the role of the women in the Gothic novel, the Gothic villain, will be compared with the elements found in Dracula. Another question that will have to be answered is, what makes Gothic novels so attractive. The breaking of certain taboos is essential to accomplish this atmosphere of danger and fear, and it will be examined whether Dracula contains any of these elements.

There also appear certain features and fears connected to the Victorian era such as loss of the Empire; invasion from a foreign land; degeneration of the stock; the constant development of science and its influence on religion; the attitude of the Victorian society towards eroticism. It will be examined whether Stoker addresses those fears and ideas indirectly through his novel.

2. What is a gothic novel?

2.1 The beginning of the gothic novel

Before presenting the aspects of a Gothic novel, we should first examine what the term "Gothic" means. According to the Oxford Companion to English Literature 1 "Gothic" is a style of architecture found in Western Europe from the 12th to the 16th century, characterized by the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the clustered pillars. The name was primarily used in connection with someone who behaves like a barbarian, due to the primitive and destructive Germanic tribe of the Goths, who during the 3rd and 5th centuries invaded the Eastern and Western Empires. The Oxford English Dictionary has 5 different definitions of the word; it is connected to the Goths or their language; it is a characteristic of the Middle Ages, mediaeval, romantic as opposed to classical; it is a synonym for barbarous, rude, savage; it is used "for some kind of written character resembling black letter"; a style of architecture2.

Knowing now the etymology of the word, let us examine what the experts say about the gothic novel. In the Glossary of Literary Terms M. H. Abrams defines the genre as a type of fiction which was introduced by Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story (1764), which flourished in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries3.

Horace Walpole gave himself the pseudonym Onuphrio Muralto in order to conceal the fact that he had written the novel. The critics were hostile but the public received the novel with great enthusiasm. Walpole's novel introduced us to the basic elements of the Gothic: the medieval settings in Southern Europe; the constant expectation of supernatural occurrences (which sometimes had natural explanations); the confrontation of hero and villain; the decayed, evil upper class and the ambitious, good bourgeoisie; the victimised women, who are also defiant and strong within; the use of confined and dark places like castles, dungeons, monasteries and prisons, etc. However, we should not forget the main aim of the author, namely, to evoke fear, grandeur and awe in the soul of the reader4.

Walpole led the way that was followed by many other important authors such as Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794), Matthew Lewis (The Monk, 1797), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, 1817), William Beckford (Vathek, 1786). Almost everyone was writing Gothic stories at the time; the Bronte sisters, who produced an `examination' of the dark side of human mind and passion, Jane Austen and her parody of the Northanger Abbey (1818), Edgar Alan Poe and his tales about perversity, catalepsy and necrophilia.

By the middle of the 19th century the Gothic novel seemed to come to its end; the term Gothic was used only in its architectural context. Paradoxically, the conditions in which it had flourished - the way of thinking during the period of the enlightenment, empirical science, Protestant religion, nationalism, superstition5 - were again intensified towards the end of the century and novels of the genre appeared again. It seemed that the genre had something very attractive for the reader and almost every novel was a success. Part of this success was to be explained by the Victorian pleasure in horror and darkness, and the growing interest in sexuality and sexual taboos.6

2.2 The later gothic novel

The Gothic genre turned out to have a flexible register which could be employed under every context and even take the form of a historical romance. Almost every writer tried to write something in this darker genre, even if only a tale. Expectations of horror, fear, anxiety and of evil were very popular at the time and co-existed with the Victorian novel. Furthermore, it is not strange that the new genre of detective and science fiction became so popular at the time. Some of the authors that became famous for their dark stories included J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Reade and of course Bram Stoker. Especially Le Fanu was a role-model for later gothic authors, because of his stories. In his collection In a Glass Darkly (1872) we find a vampire story Carmilla, which is referred to as one of the first vampire stories that deal with vampirism and perverse sexuality (lesbianism).

2 . Abraham Stoker's Dracula

2.1 Background and summary

Abraham Stoker's reputation is due almost exclusively to his novel Dracula (1897). Nevertheless he is the author of 4 more Gothic novels - The Mystery of the Sea (1902), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911) - and of numerous short stories7. He worked as a theatrical manager and closest friend of the London actor Sir Henry Irving.

Stoker wrote Dracula more than 60 years after Maturin's novel Melmoth the Wanderer, which is why the question whether it is a Gothic novel or not comes up in the first place.

The novel begins with Jonathan Harker's trip to Transylvania8 where he is to meet Count Dracula, a vampire, who wants to buy a real estate in London. Jonathan is trapped in the castle and is threatened by three female vampires, while Dracula manages to reach London. A group of people under the leadership of Abraham Van Helsing - a scientist from Holland - start a search for Dracula in order to eliminate him. Dracula and Van Helsing are the two opposite characters in the story, representing the evil and the good father figure. Mina Murray, who happens to be Harker's fiancée, is the most important female figure in the novel. Her opposites are Lucy Westenra - her once best friend - and the three female vampires in Dracula's castle. The other men in the novel are: Lord Arthur Godalming - the fiancé of Lucy -, Quincy Morris - a self-made American millionaire - and Dr. John Seward, psychiatrist and best friend of Van Helsing. All three are loyal, brave, honest and in love with Lucy and will try to avenge her death.

The story is a collection of diary entries, letters, newspaper articles and phonographic records. The text is very vivid, because of the constant - and at the same time elegant - change from beautiful landscape descriptions to action- scenes; almost every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, which means that an episode finds an abrupt end in order to heighten the suspense of the reader. Stoker's heroes are very sympathetic, the women are as clever as they are beautiful and the villain and his accomplices are surrounded by an unspeakable evil, as expected.

Mina and Jonathan use the method of stenography to write down their experiences; Van Helsing writes his in the traditional way, while his grammatical mistakes are a part of the text in order to emphasize the fact that he is a foreigner; Dr. Seward uses the phonograph and later on Mina uses a typing machine to record all these notes. Dracula is only `heard' and `seen' through these entries, we only learn about him from these diary notes, he never writes down anything himself and at one point in the story he even destroys some of these records.

The story develops into a detective novel, where the men search for Dracula's hideouts in order to find his coffins and destroy them. Only then will he abandon London and will have to go back to his castle for protection. The men track him down in a breath-taking hunting sequence and manage to destroy him with a stake through the heart, just before sunset. Quincy pays for this with his life, but Lucy's death is revenged and Mina is saved from a vampireexistence, since she was bitten by the Count himself.

In the end, Mina gives birth to a little boy, who will be named after Quincy and is the hope for the future.

3 . Gothic aspects

3.1 Nature

At the beginning of the novel, Harker travels to Transylvania, "the land beyond the forest", through a melancholy landscape of mountains and forests. Stoker picked this place on purpose, in order to give his readers the feeling of something exotic and unknown, where anything can and will happen. We follow the young lawyer from a village on the edge of the Carpathians with hospitable, picturesque-looking villagers. It is daylight and everything looks warm and happy. The villagers are very superstitious and they all try to change his mind about travelling to Count Dracula's castle, without, nevertheless, explaining to him why. All sorts of bad premonitions take place, but Harker does not seem to notice them. He finds all this noise about himself rather amusing:

When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and, saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further. [...] I shall never forget the last glimpse I had of the inn-yard and its crowd of picturesque figures, all crossing themselves, as they stood round the archway, with its background of rich foliage of oleander and orange trees in green tubs clustered in the centre of the yard. (Chapter 1, p. 16)

Jonathan travels from a world of light into a world of darkness and he does not notice it, until it is too late. This change from one place to the other is emphasized through the elements of nature that surround the scenery. In the world of light, there are flowers, orange trees, green grass, the sun is shining, the people are smiling, even though they fear for Harker's life and know what is in store for him. Slowly the landscape changes; beside the road we see crosses put there for the dead, women praying beside them on their knees; it is now afternoon and the carriage that will bring Jonathan to Count Dracula goes deeper into the forest.

As the evening fell it began to get very cold, and the growing twilight seemed to merge into one dark mistiness the gloom of trees, oak, beech, and pine, ..., the dark firs stood out here and there against the background of late-lying snow. [...] There were dark, rolling clouds overhead, and in the air a heavy, oppressive sense of thunder. [...] The only light was the flickering of our own lamps.. (Chapter 1, p. 19).

The architecture is also Gothic;

...a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky." (Chapter 1, p. 23).

This is a typical Gothic castle, which the hero glances in the twilight, and remains speechless with awe.

In Gothic novels, nature becomes the accomplice of evil. It is reflected through bad weather, darkness, cold, storms and thunders. The beautiful landscapes turn into wild rivers and forests somewhere between the steep hills. The animals in the story are also servants of the villain. The black, majestic horses of Dracula's carriage, the pack of wolves that follow him and with their howling freeze Jonathan's and everyone else's blood. Stoker follows the laws of the Gothic and gives us an imposing description of the scenery in the first part of the novel.

The first four chapters of the novel tell us the story of Jonathan's trip to Transylvania; in the 5th chapter, we are introduced to Mina, Jonathan's fiancée who writes to her best friend, Lucy Westenra. From this point on, the novel changes its character, it leaves the known Gothic terrain and becomes a "positivistische Schauergeschichte"9, according to H. R. Brittnacher. We leave the dark forests and castles, as well as the ruthless aristocrats, behind us and the crusade of science against vampirism begins.

The traditional Gothic story becomes a dark detective story, where each movement is being recorded by the heroes, every trace of evil is secured and put into the archive and Dracula is hunted like an every-day criminal, who has to be put away. The role of science and its connection to tradition will be discussed later on.

3.2 Characters

3.2.1 The role of women in the gothic novel

Before I start analysing the different characters in this novel, I would like to say a few words about the role of women in the gothic novel and how they are presented through this genre.

According to E. Weißmann-Orzlowski, the feminine sexuality, the ability to give birth and the otherness of women, are the causes of men's fear and hate for them. These feelings have been brewing since the pre-historic time until today and the strategy that men use, in order to diminish this fear and hate, is to define women as different, and therefore simplify this stereotype10. Women are labelled in pairs of contradicting definitions: saint-sinner, virgin-whore, passive-active, nurturing mother- devouring mother, angel-witch.

Literature has always reflected this model when men are presented as the heroes who fight for their fragile women. They represent power, that of the body and the mind as well, whereas women can only play the first role in a love story. In the Gothic genre, this female role is not different. In Dracula, we have both extremes: Mina as the kind, loving, helpless, passive and trusting fiancée; Lucy, a beautiful virgin, who has to pay with her life, for her sexual connection with Dracula; and the three vampire-women, who embody evil itself, witches and seductresses at the same time.

Mina, on the one hand, represents everything holy to a man. She is the true housewife, caring and supportive to her husband, who has been through so much. She even learns stenography in order to help him with his diary and collect information about Dracula. No matter what happens, she stays true to her beliefs and keeps on helping the hunters, even after being assaulted by the Count. She is a true martyr and her innocence is pointed out through out the whole novel, even though she was polluted with impure blood and put the group in danger a few times. She makes up for it all, by becoming a loving mother in the end, with a young boy (and not a girl), who is to bring hope for the future to his fathers.

The most attractive (living) woman of the novel, Lucy Westenra, the best friend of Mina, is a young virgin about to get married to Lord Arthur Godalming although 2 more men, his best friends, have also proposed to her and were rejected. After being bitten by Dracula she dies and becomes the sensual, attractive and deadly femme fatale, who murders little children. This sexual attraction, which is not proper for a decent woman of her time, jeopardises the ways of society and becomes her doom; the fears of her seduction and the sexual fantasies she awakes in the heroes of the novel -even Van Helsing himself cannot resist- are grave, and they justify her sacrifice in the end11.

For she is not a grinning devil now - not any more a foul Thing for all eternity. No longer she is the devil's Undead. She is God's true dead, whose soul is with Him!

(Chapter 16, p. 223)

The destruction of the three vampire-women, who are also close relatives to Dracula (they share the same characteristics: "Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes..." Chapter 3, p. 46), is not even questioned. From the beginning they represent everything sexual, seductive and therefore dangerous for Jonathan and any other man in the story, and they have to be put out of the way before they pollute every man that has contact with them. Jonathan became ill (since he could not deny their charms and gave in to his sexual fantasies) and had to be taken care of in a monastery full of nuns (a direct opposition), to pray for salvation and forgiveness for his sins, and even though he survived, he will always be scarred for his momentary weakness.

3.2.2 The Gothic villain/hero

According to Leslie Fiedler, Gothic as a genre "centres not in the heroine -the persecuted principle of salvation- but in the villain -the persecuting principle of damnation" .12

The Gothic villain represents the melancholy aristocrat, who, through his melancholy, perceives the world with extreme sensibility, that leads him to a unique introspection13. The British Romantic conception of the vampire, however, owns its existence to the works of Lord Byron and the Byronic Hero, which the poet established through his works. In his story The Giaour (1813) Byron's hero is cursed to wander forever without hope of forgiveness, simultaneously loathing his need for blood, nonetheless doomed to drain the blood of his female relations. The suggestion of the vampire as sexual predator was by this time already established. Byron did not follow the folklore stories about the traditional vampire, but gave him a unique romanticism instead, through his isolated and sad existence and the fact that he was an aristocrat. This contradiction made the myth of the vampire more attractive to the reader, who seemed to sympathize with the villain's story.

Count Dracula bears all the similarities to a Gothic villain; he lives isolated in his dark castle, in the woods of a far-away land. His characteristics have something attractive and frightful at the same time:

His face was a strong aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils. [...] His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, [...] was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp teeth; these, protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. [...] The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor. (Chapter 2, p. 27)

There is an aura of loneliness, sadness and savageness that surrounds him. He is cruel and satanic, yet at the same time vulnerable, clever and attractive. He is very intelligent, educated and polite, when he wants to. The horror of the vampire, his strangeness and his familiarity, comes from the similarity to those whose homes he enters, and from the way he brings the hidden side of their personality to light. The men in the novel have to become like the Count in order to destroy him, they turn into predators, hunting to destroy his bloodline and chase him from their homeland.

The great enemy of Count Dracula is Doctor Ambrosio Van Helsing. Is he his alter ego at the same time? His characteristics resemble him a little; he too has bushy eyebrows and they seem to meet between his eyes. He is old, even though not as old as the Count, also very intelligent and educated and he also makes mistakes of judgement sometimes, just like his enemy. He is, however, not as attractive as Dracula, and not as free to do what he wants to, as the Count, and these are his motives for destroying him, as we will see later on. According to Van Helsing, Dracula and his female vampires must be destroyed, otherwise they could take over the whole world. He sees this as a devastating possibility and this is what makes him so fanatical about it. According to many researches, Van Helsing's hatred feeds on his suppressed sexual fantasies14, that are shown explicitly in the text, but have to be kept secret, because of his role as a father figure to the others. Dracula, on the other hand, is free to make his fantasies come true and the evidence lies in the existence of his three vampire women as well as the seduction of Lucy and Mina. All are women, who were seduced or were taken by force, as in the case of Mina, whom Dracula had to threaten with the death of her husband, in order to drink her blood. The scene of Dracula invading her room and abusing her, while Jonathan is asleep, resembles that of a rape scene.

On the bed beside the window lay Jonathan Harker, his face flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor. Kneeling on the edge of the bed [...] was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her stood a tall thin man, clad in black. [...] With his left hand, he held both Mrs. Harker' s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. (Chapter 21, p. 288)

Dracula knows exactly what he wants, how to achieve it and he wants the same as the other men in the novel - the women. Van Helsing's suppressed sexuality and passion cannot be experienced (it is forbidden by the society rules), therefore he presents them as evil and tries to eliminate them; he projects them onto the Count, who is enjoying all these feelings, and he must destroy him and his passions as well15. In some secret path of his mind, Van Helsing also admires Dracula but he would never admit it.

He is clever and cunning and resourceful; but he be not of manstature as to brain. He be of child-brain in much.

(Chapter 10, p. 137 )

In a way, Dracula is put to the same level as the women; he has a childish mind, but in this case the other men will not try to protect him, as they do with the women, but it is as if Van Helsing wants to make him look bad, so that they could feel better themselves.

4.3 Breaking taboos

The question that comes to mind, while reading a Gothic, or in this case, a vampire story is, why are such novels so popular? Especially the vampire novels were and still are read by so many people with great interest. Why is that? In order to answer this question, we must have a brief look at a simple model of the human instincts.

Psychologists were able to determine three main types of instincts, drives or so-called biological survival programs that humanity possesses16:


aggressor offspring male

defender parent female

The first one, crimen, has to do with the instinct of man for survival and the need to live in groups in order to defend his territory and his own kind. On the other hand, the aggressor seeks to conquer other territories and other groups. This is connected to the instinct of fructus, because as a parent, one has to defend his offspring, provide it with the means to survive, in order for mankind itself to survive. Connected to this instinct is the nutrition, the feeding behaviour and the raising of the offspring by the parents who care for it. The sexus is connected with the former two, because the role given to the male is that of the aggressor or protector at the same time, the hunter, the father; the female gives birth, feeds and brings up the offspring. Furthermore, the different aspects of sexus have to do with courtship, the males have to compete for the females, a sexual conflict and selection take place.

These drives have also become taboos in our modern society, that still exist. If anyone were to break these taboos, he would have to be punished and perhaps become an outcast. So, what is it that happens in Gothic novels that makes them so attractive?

As was said before, these drives are in a way the rules of our society. But the nature of human kind also has a subconscious need to breake any rule that suppresses it. So, if we cannot experience this freedom in reality, we will have to reproduce it in fiction. That is exactly what the Gothic genre has achieved, especially the vampire novel. The pattern of one instinct turns into the other unexpectedly, making the plot and the situation more attractive. The direct opposition of good-evil, male-female, sexual-prude, is what interests us while reading a dark story.

In Le Fanu' s Carmilla we have the story of a female vampire who kills little girls, after having an affair with them. That breakes the pattern of male-female relationships, and the fact that the killer is an erotic female makes the story more attractive.

Stoker's Dracula is a manifestation of crossing all the lines by twisting and breaking all the taboos mentioned above.

4.3.1 Jonathan in the world of Dracula

Jonathan travels in the world of the Count, without knowing what an adventure he is making himself a part of. Dracula invites Jonathan to come in: "Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!" (Chapter 2, p. 24), and stands like a statue until Jonathan enters the castle. Only then does he move to his direction as if Harker had passed the point of no return. Somehow it is exactly the Count's plan; he does not harm Jonathan but has three vampire women to take care of him. Here we have female killers hunting an unsuspected male, one of the first taboo-breaking patterns.

They are evil women, not only because they drink blood and kill but because Jonathan finds them seductive and is sexually attracted to them17. They give a promise for the fulfilment of his secret wishes, a promise that Mina, on the other hand, being so innocent and pure, cannot stand up to. He writes to her, as if she were his consciousness, someone he has to give account to, for the things he does. The three vampires become, however, active - a negative characteristic for a woman - and make the first move to give Jonathan pleasure. He is excited by their beauty, longs for them to touch him but is at the same time afraid and aware that should Mina read about this in his diary, it would hurt her.

I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, [...] All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them, that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.[...] I lay quiet [...] in an agony of delightful anticipation.[...] There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive...

(Chapter 3, p. 46)

The whole scene is a hidden description of the longing for an evil/erotic woman, being at the same time very much afraid of her, a sexual longing mixed with the fear of being drained18. Jonathan becomes the defender of his virtue, he is a male and he is hunted by female aggressors. The instincts of crimen and sexus are mixed and this makes the situation very interesting. For Harker vampirism is associated with sexual pleasure and the female vampires have not only sexual but also forbidden virtues, according to the spirit of the time. While Harker's society instructs him to be monogamous, they give him resolution of all social commandments19.

Even when he manages to escape, he does it in a brain fever (Chapter 4, p. 61) and the conflict between his subconscious fantasies and his conscious fear of them becomes very clear.

I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!

(Chapter 4, p. 61).

4.3.2 Dracula invades London

Dracula travels to London, leaves his homeland and enters the Western world on a ship. Van Helsing also comes to London, answering the request of Dr. Seward to help Lucy Westenra. In the whole story the role of the family is very strong. Harker' s old boss, the old solicitor who sees Jonathan as his own son, Godalming' s father and Lucy's mother, all die leaving the young ones alone.

Van Helsing and Dracula become the father figures, one being the good and the other one the bad father20. The head of the ideal (human) family, Van Helsing, is the only one that is allowed to call the other men child, a name they normally use only for the women. He follows the custom of patriarchy, that says: men dominate over women and young men are dominated by the elders. Dracula, on the other hand, is the father figure of his own world and protects his children; he is a male parent, giving birth and nurturing his female children, another mixing of instincts, fructus and sexus, that should normally not take place. This is made clear during the scene of Mina's rape:

The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink.

(Chapter 21, p. 288)

The men in the novel not only have to fight against someone who threatens the life and the innocence of their women, but also their race and country. Dracula is presented as a child (as Van Helsing describes him), an old man, an animal. These three symbolic methods give Dracula certain characteristics: the child symbolizes the fear of the other men and their need to underestimate him in order to feel better. He is also a symbol for the future, even though a dark one, for change and individuality. The old man is a symbol for knowledge and wisdom but at the same time for excess and sin. The animals that represent Dracula, such as rats, bats and wolves are a characteristic of an instinctive and impulsive way of life, whereas the wolf symbolizes malevolent powers and the fear for the unknown21.

He comes to London with the help of the British law, through Harker who is a solicitor, he is familiar with the ways of the Western civilization and he is capable of conquering this land, if its men do not stop him. Dracula is very proud of his ancestors and of his origin:

We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit [...] which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on [...] Europe, Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the werewolves themselves had come.

(Chapter 3, p. 38)

The Western world is, therefore, confronted with a vast enemy. Van Helsing and his group fight for the salvation of their world and everything in it. It is not by chance that Stoker chooses Transylvania as the kingdom of vampires, a place in Eastern Europe, from where so many invaders have come before. This fear of an invasion -geographical as well as bodily - demonstrates the Victorian beliefs22. Van Helsing, Lord Godalming, Jonathan Harker and the other men, are obsessed with this thought; they will defend their countries and the bodies of their women to death. The motive of crimen and the need to defend their territory against any aggressor is presented here, through a battle of life and death. Dracula will eventually run away for his life and he will be hunted down. Crimen is again mixed with sexus, because it is the male fighters who compete for the females, in order to keep them pure and be able to mate later on. Both Mina and Lucy were going to get married, before Dracula attacked them; Lucy's ability to become a mother is destroyed, therefore she is no longer needed; she has to be destroyed as well. The only reason why Mina is not killed, is that she had still a chance to recuperate and eventually become a mother.

4.3.3 The degeneration of the stock

Amongst all these fears that the Englishmen have, one of the greatest is the degeneration of their stock. Dracula is a big problem, since he mixes his bad blood with that of the Englishwomen and makes them in this respect sterile. When Lucy is bitten by Dracula and his blood starts to flow in her veins, she becomes sick, she will eventually turn all the good blood away and will become a vampire, full of bad blood. Van Helsing tries to stop that with blood transfusions from the three strong men, Andrew, Quincy and Jack. They all give their blood to purify that of Lucy. Blood plays an important role in the story, because of the many things it symbolizes.

The racial qualities of each family are encoded in their own blood. This invader from the East wants to destroy them from within, by mixing his blood with their own, therefore an alliance must be made, to fight him. Van Helsing comes from Holland, Quincy is American and everyone else is British. Two fronts are selected and the West has to defend itself against the East. Blood is the carrier of life; only God can decide over life and death, therefore any kind of abuse is forbidden; in other words, blood is holy and trying to change it is a taboo. A vampire, who has no blood inside, is an abomination in the eyes of God and goes against all laws of nature23. Dracula is a representative of Death and that is shown by his pale complexion; according to Brittnacher, this characteristic is also a social distinction between aristocrats and members of the middle class; almost 70% of all literary vampires are aristocrats24 ; Dracula, Lord Ruthven in John Polydori' s The Vampyre (1819), Carmilla in Le Fanu' s novel and many others. Harker and his friends create in Dracula an image of aristocratic tyranny, of corrupt power and privilege, of foreign threat to present their own cause as just and patriotic.

4 . Science and religion

As Mulvey-Roberts points out, Dracula is a novel based on "the decadent reliance of Empirical Science at the expense of traditional religion" (1998, p. 87). Stoker wrote his story in an epoch, when the industrial revolution and science started to change everything. It is not a coincidence, that he chose such different characters. This battle between good and evil, is also a battle between the new and the old; Dracula is himself over 400 years old, he represents a time long forgotten, although it seems that time does not change, in the places where he comes from. All the other male characters are young, except Van Helsing who, nevertheless, is a scientist, an anthropologist and a doctor. He seems to be the connecting point between old folklore beliefs and scientific facts, because he uses both to eliminate this evil, whereas Dr. Seward, the psychiatrist, has to be persuaded first that these old remedies and beliefs still work. Even Quincey is a part of this new order, being himself a self-made man, who comes from America, a young country at the time. All of them try to pry in the new areas of science, of the human mind or new worlds, like America and Transylvania25.

Dracula started his invasion with the help of a solicitor, utilising the services of a carrier and shipping agent; he continues by attacking helpless women and drinking their blood. His hunters are a step ahead, by the means of science: everything is being written down and documented, through stenography and with the help of a typewriter and a phonograph. Articles from newspapers, letters, notes are put into an archive, that helps the heroes to find Dracula, like in a detective story.

Van Helsing uses the method of hypnosis to get into the mind of Mina, so that they can monitor Dracula's actions. His coffins are infected with consecrated wafer and are sterilized, so that he cannot find refuge in them. They study maps, read manuals, travel by train and send telegrams, to hunt him down. In the end, Dracula's situation is so hopeless that the reader would pity him, if he was not presented as a cruel, heartless monster.

Religion plays only a small part, and only completes the means of science. The whole search for Dracula reminds us of a primitive witch-hunt or a ghost- exorcism. In this novel, vampires have to be prevented by the means of garlic flowers, crucifixes, holy water and prayers against demons. Dracula comes from Transylvania, the border between Christianity and the world of pagans. He has the features of a pagan God who wants to conquer the civilized world. He bites Lucy in an old and ruined monastery and Dracula himself lives in a deserted Abbey. It is possible, that this symbolism could predominate the fall of Christianity, as the Count plans for the future26. The fact that Stoker makes religion an important matter in his novel is another evidence that Dracula is a Gothic novel, because the treatment of religion is typical for this genre.

5 . Vampires and eroticism

A lot has been written about sexuality in Dracula, about male homoeroticism, about the exchange of female bodies between men, about perverse sexual acts in connection to the drawing of blood and to the fear of female sexuality. In many Gothic novels from Ann Radcliffe, M. G. Lewis, S. Le Fanu, even in Polidori' s Vampyre, the heroes escape from their oppressors only with half a heart. They are very determined to get away from what they do not want to know - sometimes it is what they subconsciously long for - but when they fall into the hands of the villain, they not always suffer tortures and rape without some hint of lust.

It is very common for the genre to mix lust and horror, another taboo being broken, and this connects even Stoker's novel with its ancestors. From the beginning its heroes are put to the test, and those who stand up against it, and remain pure, are the winners in the end. Jonathan describes his first meeting with the three vampire women:

I seemed somehow to know her face, [...] in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how and where. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.

(Chapter 3, p. 46)

Brittnacher mentions Freud's Traumdeutung (1900) and how his theories explain that we have the secret wish that our dreams would be fulfilled27.

Furthermore, Zondergeld believes that "the bite of the vampire, that turns the victim into a vampire as well, has purely sexual components. The vampire myth was used in the 19th century to present `perverse' erotic fantasies in a secretive way"28.

Let us examine how the vampire' s features are normally described: vampires usually have bare teeth, withdrawn lips, "a huge set of teeth", or "extremely long teeth"; the former descriptions give us a small hint of exhibitionism. We can relate these aspects with both the male and female genital organs, which are full of blood. The latter plays an important role in Dracula as well, either when it is flowing from the vampire's mouth, or being transfused to the dying Lucy; it is not a coincidence, that all persons that give their `blood' to Lucy are men and all are in love with her. When Arthur gives his blood for Lucy, he perceives it as a kind of marriage, whereas the other men do not speak of the transfusions they made, so that he would not become jealous of them29.

Mind, nothing must be said of this. If our young lover should turn up unexpected, as before, no word to him. It would at once frighten him and enjealous him too!

(Chapter 10, p.137)

Blood circulates as a metaphor for other bodily fluids (milk, semen) and once again we have the connection between bad blood and perverse sexuality30. Vampires penetrate the body and drink its blood, but also the vampire hunters penetrate the vampire's body and cut his head off. Lucy is killed by her fiancée, who puts a stake through her heart.

The Thing in the coffin writhed; [...] The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; [...] But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake. [...] And then the writhing and quivering of the body became less, and the teeth seemed to champ, and the face to quiver. Finally it lay still. [...] [Arthur] reeled and would have fallen had we not caught him. The great drops of sweat sprang from his forehead, and his breath came in broken gasps. (Chapter 16, p. 222)

The whole scene is very intense and even though the action is very macabre, it nevertheless includes many elements of a typical love scene. The quivering body of the woman, being crushed by the male's determination, and at the end finds peace. Arthur's face is full of sweat, he cannot breathe correctly and this has been a great strain on him. His bride also changes after her death, she looks peaceful and serene, she is almost smiling and her beauty has come back to her face.

On the other hand we have the destruction of the count, this time not through penetration but through cutting off his head. Dracula's death is unspectacular and is described in a few lines:

But on the instant came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat; whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris's bowie knife plunged into the heart. [...] Before our very eyes, and almost at the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.

(Chapter 27, p. 380)

Jonathan cuts Dracula's head with his big, long Kukri knife, a British colonial weapon. Again we have the theme of the British Empire against the Transylvanian invader. As Dracula's head is no longer part of his body, he cannot reproduce his own kind anymore, and therefore the action resembles that of a castration.

Dracula transforms pure and virginal women into seductresses; Lucy's and Mina's transformations stress an urgent sexual appetite; the three women that ambush Harker are similar. Both Lucy and Dracula's women feed upon children; the females that are supposed to protect their children (fructus) become their predators (crimen). Again we have a taboo broken, by the image of a mother feeding on her child, something that also in our days seems impossible. We also have a reversal of Mina's maternal role; she who nurtures all the men around her by daylight, drinks the blood of the Devil himself in the night.

Mina's child, little Quincy, has many fathers as a fortunate alternative for many mothers, all vampire women who may hunt upon children at night and feed from them, instead of feeding them31.

6 . Conclusion

The aim of this paper was to present arguments which prove that Bram Stoker's novel belongs to the Gothic genre. A short definition of the Gothic in general and specifically of the Gothic novel was given and some of the most important Gothic authors were mentioned.

Aspects of the genre were presented, such as nature, the Gothic villain, the role of women in Gothic novels, driving instincts, and were compared with Dracula. A connection was found and Stoker's work indeed fulfils all these aspects.

Modern researches on Stoker's Dracula have been largely psycho- biographical. It is, however, a fact that most of his stories deal with problems of the middle class, such as gender and race. These issues can be traced throughout all his fiction.

Dracula is a clear demonstration of how Gothic motives are used in addition with contemporary themes and problems. There are racial issues, concerning the risks posed by other racial groups - in this case, like Dracula, from the East. Furthermore, there are the psychological and symbolic definitions that are given to blood, as a symbol for a pure race, gender and class, if it is not polluted. In the story we have the combination of Western blood against Eastern blood, again a pattern of the triumph of the Western moral, intellectual and emotional qualities over these of the Eastern world.

In Gothic Fiction the evil is symbolized through sexual obsessions, feelings of guilt and even pride. This genre deals with the subconscious more than any other fiction. All these dark settings of castles, underground corridors, ghostly appearances, are in every Gothic novel to find and symbolize anything forbidden.

Stoker also provides us with the problematic of religion and science, an issue of his time, when religion and superstitions were examined and rejected by modern science. This issue has been discussed in other Gothic novels as well; for example in Lewis' The Monk, religion and men of the church are presented as evil, with plans of sexual seduction and power.

Dracula has had many interpretations and was analysed by many researchers over the years. It has been a very popular novel, this is why there will always be the danger of over-interpretation to deal with. However interesting all these theories may be, the fact is that Bram Stoker wrote a Gothic novel full of dark places and people, that still fascinates us with its vampires and the struggle of common human beings against darkness and evil; having in mind anything else than that, could destroy the joy of reading the book.


Abrams, M. H.: A Glossary of Literary Terms. London 1957.

Brittnacher, H. R.: Ä sthetik des Horrors. Gespenster, Vampire, Monster, Teufel und k ü nstliche Menschen in der phantastischen Literatur. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am M. 1994.

Bronfen, E.: Nur ü ber ihre Leiche. Tod, Weiblichkeit und Ä sthetik. Antje Kunstmann Verlag, München 1994.

Bunson, M.: VAMPIRE - The Encyclopaedia. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London 1993.

Halberstam, J.: Skin Shows. Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Duke University Press, Durham and London 1995.

Harvey, P. (ed.): The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Dorothy Eagle Press, Oxford 1967.

Mulvey-Roberts, M.: The Handbook to Gothic Literature. MacMillan Press Ltd., London 1998.

The Oxford English Dictionary, Volume IV, F-G, Oxford 1961.

Weißmann-Orzlowski, E.: Das Weibliche und die Um ö glichkeit seiner Integration. Eine Studie der Gothic Fiction nach C. G. Jung. Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am M. 1997.

Zondergeld, R. A.: Lexikon der phantastischen Literatur, Frankfurt am M. 1983.


1 Harvey (1967, p. 345).

2 The Oxford English Dictionary (1961, p. 313)

3 Abrams (1957, p. 39)

4 Mulvey-Roberts (1998, p. 82)

5 Mulvey-Roberts (1998, p. 85).

6 Mulvey-Roberts (1998, p. 86).

7 Bunson (1993, p. 245).

8 In Latin: trans=over, Sylvania=forest.

9 Brittnacher (1994, p. 121).

10 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 23).

11 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 25).

12 Mulvey-Roberts (1998, p. 116).

13 Brittnacher (1994, p. 172).

14 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 220).

15 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 220).

16 Material taken from the seminar of Pr. Dr. Wenzel, P. ,,The gothic Novel" in SS 00.

17 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 226).

18 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 226).

19 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 227).

20 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 217).

21 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 223).

22 Mulvey-Roberts (1998, p. 87)

23 Brittnacher (1994, p. 129).

24 Brittnacher (1994, p. 130).

25 Brittnacher (1994, p. 121).

26 Weißmann-Orzlowski (1997, p. 223).

27 Brittnacher (1994, p. 141).

28 Zondergeld (1983, p. 297).

29 Bronfen (1994, p. 456).

30 Brittnacher (1994, p. 143).

31 Halberstam (1995, p. 101).

18 of 18 pages


Is Dracula a Gothic Novel?
RWTH Aachen University
Gothic Novel, Prof. P. Wenzel
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Dracula, Gothic, Novel, Gothic, Novel, Prof, Wenzel
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Eleni Roumpou (Author), 2000, Is Dracula a Gothic Novel?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • Timo Klein on 4/9/2001


    Very expressive, madam!
    Gives a nice overview with regard to that marginal Gothic Novel.
    The headline of your paper is probably one of the most popular
    questions posed in a Gothic Novel-exam. Your work contents
    the essence - well done.

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