Liminality in Dracula
“Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial” (Turner, The Ritual Process 95). Arnold van Gennep’s original concept of liminality is a central theme to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It provides depth and understanding behind many of the superstitious beliefs and occurrences throughout the novel. Liminality is the threshold and the presence of an in between state occurring within rituals, natural events, and supernatural beings among a variety of other happenings. Many of these are touched upon in Dracula including, but not limited to, the half-being, physical boundaries, and the nature of the vampire.
The half-being is liminal as it defines being composed of two different entities, but existing as neither independently. The vampire itself is a half-being as it exists as a human with animalistic powers and tendencies and the ability to transform into or possess certain other creatures. It is neither beast nor human, but an in-between creature. The Count appears human and fairly normal and approachable, but really is the exact opposite. As a half-being, he uses his appearance and public behaviour as a mask to achieve his true wishes without cause or concern. “The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae (" threshold people") are necessarily ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space.” (Turner, The Ritual Process 95). He exhibits the contrast of civilization and social norm compared to a wild, predatory creature existing as an unclassifiable being and the threshold himself. Also, as researched by Hennely Jr., the Count’s own animalistic instincts as a half-being are another example of liminal behaviour. “In the archaic brain stem, liminality unleashes primitive emotions containing ancestral mammalian and reptilian...
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