Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been scaring readers since 1897.
Hidden among the chilly text is symbolism and social commentary. Here are four examples.
Feminine virtue is at stake in Dracula. The characters of Mina and Lucy represent good and bad respectively.
Female vampires give into their sensuality and that was something virtuous women in the late 19th century simply did not do; submitting to one’s sexuality was to call one’s social character into question.
Men felt threatened by fallen women. Sexually aggressive women would destroy the very fabric of society by calling into question male dominance.
The stake used to kill vampires can be interpreted as a phallic symbol.
The battle of good and evil take place in the book with Dracula in the role of the Devil and the heroes representing salvation with God.
Those who become vampires are damned for eternity. Or at least until they are killed and their soul is restored and saved from evil.
Vampires are fought with Christian symbols – crucifixes and communion wafers.
Blood in the novel has numerous meanings. It can refer to ancestry, the source of life or something that couldn’t be spoken of publicly.
The vampire puncturing the skin and draining fluids is an allusion to sex, so is the fact victims are turned into the undead at night. Some see the vampire’s blood lust as representing syphilis, the most common sexually transmitted disease when the novel was written.
Finally, the vampire drinking blood is an unholy version of Christian communion.
The novel was written during the Victorian era, an age of technological change and scientific discovery. Stoker touches upon this by juxtaposing the old world – the Count’s Transylvania castle – with the new, modern world of London.
He also touches upon old and new knowledge and how both can be beneficial to society. It is the modern world that rejects superstition and fails to believe, at first, that there could be such a thing as vampires.
It is worth noting that while many literary critics see countless symbols in Dracula, other see none and claim the text is being interpreted with a modern eye instead of through the lens of 1890s England.
If you’ve never read Dracula, I highly recommend it. The novel holds up well considering the passage of time. The 1992 movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” closely follows the novel. Both might be just what you need for a good Halloween scare.
What other symbolism do you see in Dracula? Leave a comment below.
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