Dracula: An Epitome of the Gothic Novel

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Alex Prather
Weems
British Literature
August 9, 2010
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is quite the epitome of the gothic novel. Towards the beginning of the story, the setting takes place in an old and ominous castle, which is highly characteristic of gothic literature. Harker’s tribulation begins when “the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle,” (Stoker 18). There is also a gloomy and menacing tone given to the setting of the novel, as in most pieces of gothic literature. This gloom is evident early on in the novel, as it reads, “Then a dog began to howl somewhere in a farmhouse far down the road--a long, agonized wailing, as if from fear.”(Stoker 16). Also coinciding with the nature of gothic novels is the ever reoccurring supernatural events, such as Count Dracula scaling the castle walls, up-side down: “I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings.” (Stoker 39). Another common theme of gothic novels is one of women in distress. This theme is evident throughout Dracula, as Lucy Westenra is in a constant struggle for her life for many days. “She was ghastly, chalkily pale; the red seemed to have gone even from her lips and gums, and the bones of her face stood out prominently;” (Stoker 133).

In novels where there is a theme of good versus evil, there is usually a “villain” with ill intentions and a hero or heroin who tries to thwart the villain’s malevolent plans. Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is a perfect example of a “good versus evil” novel. Stoker uses the Christian characters such as Mina, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, Harker, and others to portray the side of good in the story. Dracula and his fellow vampires are depicted as the evil characters of the gothic novel. The novel begins with the evil Count Dracula holding Harker captive, in order to attain his ultimate goal, to drink his blood. Harker states in his journal that he wishes to die rather than suffer the evil of the count’s desires: “He might kill me, but death now seemed the happier choice of evils,’ (Stoker 57). There is a constant struggle between the good and evil characters of this story to survive. As Dracula drinks the protagonists’ blood, he becomes stronger and revitalized. He is mentioned in renewed form in Mina’s journal when it states, “’I believe it is the Count, but he has grown young. My God if this be so!’” (Stoker 187). His transformation into a younger and more powerful being depends on the carrying out of his devious plans. Lucy Westenra struggles to survive as Dracula slowly drains her life away in order to sustain his in good health. Eventually the side of good prevails as in most “good versus evil” plots, and Dracula is defeated. The death of the Count is finalized, as the novel states, “It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breathe, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.” (Stoker 398).

The entity of Dracula embodies many themes and motifs. He is a sign of pure evil, even taking the form of a devil-resembling man. Count Dracula’s features are described as devilish in the beginning of the novel: “The mouth…with peculiarly sharp white teeth…his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed.” (Stoker 22-23). Count Dracula also embodies sexual desire and lust. One can see his sexual side and desire being fulfilled as he forces Mina to drink his blood, resembling a different swapping of body fluids: “…his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom…a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast…” (Stoker 300). One may even venture to say that he portrays homosexuality. The Count desires to save Jonathan Harker as his own: “Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me!” (Stoker 44). He is a symbol of corruption, as he turns pure women...
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