The Victorian men and women conveyed in Bram Stoker's Dracula are pure and virtuous members of the upper and middle class. However, hiding behind this composed and civilized conception of England lies a dark and turbulent underbelly. This underbelly is the lumpenproletariat, whom Karl Marx defined as "the lowest and most degraded section of the proletariat; the down and outs' who make no contribution to the workers cause". Victorian culture discriminated against these vagrants, who were seen not only as shiftless and immoral, but dangerous as well. Sex was taboo and purity was held sacred to the Victorian middle and upper class, but prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases ran rampant among the lumpenproletariat. The rich strive to be pious and good, but consider those of lower social standing to be less than human. The reaction of the characters in Dracula to the evil of the vampires can be likened to the Victorian conception of the lower classes. They were seen as a hedonistic but powerful force, with the collective capacity to end the affluent citizen's way of life. In this sense, the novel can be viewed as a struggle to maintain upper-class Victorian traditions against the traditions of the lower class. This paper will examine the similarities between the vampires and the perception of the lower classes in regards to superstition, sexuality, inequality and the "preying" of the lumpenproletariat on the respectable middle-class. It will also examine the signs evident in the novel of the Victorian mindset.
Dracula is an aristocrat with a castle and noble title, but in reality he is more associated with the lumpen. While trapped in Dracula's castle early in the novel, Jonathan discovers that he has no hired help, has been performing menial tasks such as bed-making and table setting in secret, and even acting as the horse-carriage driver. He slumbers in dirt, much like the homeless, and is nomadic for most of the book. The Count associates himself most clearly with the lumpenproletariat in the form of a horde of gypsies who "attach themselves as a rule to some great noble"(49). They even do his bidding: "The [gypsies] have given me these"(50) Dracula says of Jonathan's ill-fated letters. Dracula attempts to hide his lumpen nature and exude an aristocratic air, but in reality he, and vampirism in general, is much more closely associated with the lower classes.
The delineation between the lower and middle-upper classes can also be seen clearly in both parties' attitudes towards superstition and science. While the privileged classes are highly scientific and skeptical of superstition, the lower classes are just the opposite. Dr. Seward uses the phonograph machine, a cutting edge technology, to record his lengthy journal entries which include updates on his patient, Renfield, as well as the vampire problem. Dr. Seward and his advanced knowledge of science personify the attitude among the rich that science can explain all. He is scientific to the core, seeking a logical explanation for everything. Van Helsing wonders at his naivety and lack of imagination when faced with something purely unscientific. "Do you mean to tell me, friend John, that you have no suspicion as to what poor Lucy died of; not after all the hints given, not only by events, but by me?"(203). When he is confronted with the vampires, the situation rebukes Seward's principles of reason, eventually forcing him to accept the occult and superstition he had long denied. In contrast to the conservative scientific reasoning of Britain's privileged, the lower classes of Victorian England were superstitious to a fault. Evidence is offered when Mina and Lucy talk to old Mr. Swales about tombstones: "You start on the assumption that all the poor... spirits, will have to take their tombstones with them on the Day of Judgment" says Mina (75). "Well, what else be they tombsteans[sic] for?" Swales replies. The lower class occult...
Cited: Stoker, Bram. Dracula. England: Pengiun, 2003.
defn:"Lumpenproletariat". Oxford English Dictionary. http://dictionary.oed.com
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