Dracula: The beginning of an icon

Week 3 in my Coursera course is Dracula. One thing I noticed that I did not include in my essay is that Dracula follows most, but not all, of what we think of as the ‘rules’ of vampires. Bram Stoker created most of the rules, and I wonder where some others began (in particular the idea that the sun burns vampires). My essay:

Dracula has a political undercurrent that may reflect European society at the time. The Count is an aristocrat and a warrior in his homeland, claiming heritage back to Attila the Hun. Several times in discussions with Jonathan Harker the Count references his noble heritage. In comparison, the Counts opponents are largely commoners, albeit of the relatively new professional classes, rather than everyday working men.

The Count seeks to re-establish his noble power and reassert the aristocracy that has begun to fade in London. The Count commands the commoners, the Slavs and gypsies. Although they fear him, they recognize his power and help him, foiling Harker’s attempts at contacting the outside world, and helping to transport the Count wherever he wishes. In London, too, the working men largely assist the Count, albeit unknowingly. One also says he is impressed by the Count’s power, as the Count could hold one end of the crate easily, while he struggled with his own end.

This puts the two historical classes (lords and serfs) clearly against the new elite of doctors, lawyers, learned men and their wives. The only true aristocrat in the group is only recently a lord, and does not wield his power as the Count does, and among the new elite, none is a warrior as the Count was. This may help explain the Count’s appeal to the commoners: His power and history as a warrior taps into a need, unmet by the elites, a need to feel strong and able in war.

The power and virulity associated with warriors may also explain why the Count’s victims are consistently females from the elite. The women are attracted to the power of the warrior king, and thus are more easily seduced into turning against their own kind and joining the old guard themselves.

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