“You’re under the thrall of the Dark Prince!” This quote is well-known amongst science-fiction fans today; it comes from the popular television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Buffy battles none other than the Count Dracula himself. As David J. Skal says in his book Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture, “[Dracula] is paradoxically driven by the same dreams and frustrations as the fictional heroes and their real-life readers” (Skal 23). Because he has the same dreams, desires and (to a certain extent) needs as his audience, he remains easily relatable to this day.
Dracula holds a fairly obvious place in pop culture, and its continued popularity and prevalence over the generations since its publication show that Bram Stoker’s characters, monsters, and message still ring true with a modern audience. Stoker designed characters and wrote about issues that remain relevant today: Dracula’s desire to improve his station, the gap between the rich/powerful and the poor/common, and the characters’ sexuality.
Dracula desires nothing so much as he desires to be an Englishman, or at least to fit into the role of an Englishman. He says that he would find himself
content if I am like the rest, so that no man stops if he sees me, or pause in his speaking if he hear my words…I have so long been master that I would be master still─or at least that none other should be master of me. (Stoker 30)
Dracula views England as a step up for him─in Transylvania he already rules, but to go there and achieve rule would be even better. He has learned English even though he has never heard it spoken, and Jonathan Harker fascinates him. Harker represents exactly what Dracula strives to become. He even goes so far as to steal Harker’s clothes (53).
This “grass-is-greener” mentality is a major part of modern society. It appears to be one of the major tenets of American economy, for example. Capitalism is in many ways based on this idea─ “Capitalism─and hence its origins─are rooted in the market and the market in turn is an emanation of human nature” (Cox 221.) The parallels of modern capitalism to Dracula’s lofty goals seem to show that it is in our nature as humans to strive to improve our station. The prevalence of “rags-to-riches” stories in our culture is another example of this, making Dracula, though the villain of the story, surprisingly relatable to modern audiences.
Another main, though less obvious theme of Stoker’s novel is the gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. The main and most apparent instance of this is Dracula’s power over the villagers that live near his castle. He is the “big house” in this relationship. Dracula states that “the common people know me, and I am master” (Stoker 30). He is the “landlord” that holds the “tenants”, the villagers, in fear.
This theme of the rich vs. the poor, the powerful vs. the weak, has historical roots as well as ties to the modern world. During Stoker’s life, this was highlighted by the aftermath of the Great Famine in Ireland, and the “irresponsibility” of British landlords (Kiberd 128). In fact, “the London Times…pronounced the hunger man-made and blamed ‘blood-sucking landlords’, whose avarice for rents led to the export of food that might have saved many lives”(Kiberd 128).
Today, “there are an estimated 36.5 million poor people in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world” according to Jeff Mason in a news article about presidential candidates trying to tackle the issue of poverty. The gap between the elite and the poor in America is a significant one. Audiences today, especially young adults, can possibly relate to this; any college student who has had to pay their own way through school might complain of the pains of rising rent costs, and insensitive or absent landlords being the masters of their fate....