A recurring theme throughout Dracula is the dangers of modernity.

Essay `1

One thing that’s interesting about the book is how it deals with the foreign and the unknown. It’s an English-language novel written by a British man which largely takes place in England, but there’s still a considerable amount of time spent in Eastern Europe, where the main threat originates, whose foremost opponent comes from the Netherlands. There’s also a Texan. It’s a remarkably international fight for what is principally an invasion of England by an evil Transylvanian monster. The woman in the video in the third module page makes mention of the use of the word “teeming” in the book to describe a ripe and unsuspecting England, ready to be sucked dry by Dracula. Johnathan uses the word in this context, “That fearful Count was coming to London . . . with its teeming millions” (Stoker 256), to imply that Dracula would do in London what he has done in Transylvania, perhaps making England just as fearful, dark, and dingy as he perceived Eastern Europe to be.
This fear of foreign invasion, not by a nation, but by a pathogen in the person of Dracula, is the core conflict and motivating force of the book. Dracula is the other in many ways: in his appearance, social status, sexuality, etc. But his foremost distinct attribute, apart from being a vampire, is that he is from the east, or, I guess, he is at least from a place that is east of where all the other characters are from. All the worst aspects of this foreign culture are collected in the person of the Count, who is looking to import them into England by force. He even travels from England in a boat called the “Czarina Catherine” (Stoker 454), which I assume is a reference to the Empress Catherine II of Russia, herself a famously promiscuous and expansionist Eastern European power. It’s notable that none of the non-Eastern European characters are depicted as particularly bad. All of the main crew are shown to be good hearted and valiant, while the only wholly evil characters are the vampires, and perhaps the some of the Romani and Szekely men who serve them. The only character who breaks from this is Renfield, whose most evil impulses are perhaps influenced by the Count.
What do you make of the whole “culture shock” and foreign panic angle of the book? Is Stoker trying to say something about these other cultures?

Essay2

A recurring theme throughout Dracula is the dangers of modernity. Throughout the novel, our protagonists frequently display modern western ideas and technology which becomes one of their greatest weaknesses against Dracula. The Count is an old-fashioned character (understandably, considering he isn’t mortal) and he uses this to his advantage in the modernized London. Jonathan notes early in the novel that Dracula said of Carfax, “I myself am of an old family, and to live in a new house would kill me. A house cannot be made habitable in a day, and after all, how few days go to make up a century” (Stoker 19). This statement shows readers early how Dracula has a distaste for modernity, although we may not know why yet. This also hints towards Dracula’s age as he comments on how short a century seems. Of course, this does give him power over the protagonists as most of the characters are modernized. Mina and Lucy often mention the “New Woman”, Jonathan and Mina are learning shorthand to help with Jonathan’s profession, and Dr. Seward himself records journal entries on phonograph cylinders. We also learn early in the novel that Dr. Seward values Western medical ideas. It is only when Van Helsing steps in with an open mind that our progressive characters start to consider taking action regarding Dracula that differs from the western standard. When Van Helsing gives Lucy the garlic to protect her, Dr. Seward notes, “We went into the room, taking the fowers with us. The Professor’s actions were certainly odd and not to be found in any pharmacopeia that I ever heard of” (Stoker 113). This proves Dr. Seward to be a man with great faith in modern medicine, but little consideration for culture or traditional beliefs which play a great role in Lucy’s healing process. The Victorian Era was amidst a time of developments in medicine and mindset that Dr. Seward clearly shows interest in. Because this novel was set in a time of transition into progression, the characters face more trial in terms of history and Dracula’s old-fashioned ways than they would have without the great role modernity played.
Question: Do you feel that the message this theme sends is true? Do you think that Stoker was right in believing that modernization is dangerous and history will repeat itself?

 

 

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