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The novel "Dracula" was written by Irish author Bram Stoker in 1897. Set in nineteenth-century Victorian England and other countries of the same time, this novel is told in an epistolary format through a collection of letters, diary entries etc. The main characters include Count Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Dr. Van Helsing. Count Dracula is the antagonist character of the novel, and is a vampire. The group of men and women led by Dr. Van Helsing are the main protagonist characters. The novel talks about Count Dracula's endeavor to relocate from Transylvania to England, and his demise. The story begins with an English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, visiting Dracula's castle to assist him with some real estate issues. During his stay in the castle, Harker discovers that the Count is a vampire and barely escapes with his life. Then the narrative turns into a ship's log entries that describe how that ship was found ashore with no crew members and only the dead captain tied to the helm. It is later revealed that Count Dracula, in the form of a dog, had boarded the ship when it was leaving its destination and had consumed all the crew members. Having travelled from Transylvania to England on that ship, Dracula now tracks down the lawyer's fiancee, Mina, and her friend, Lucy, in London. He infects Lucy and she starts showing strange and dire signs of illness. This is where Dr. Van Helsing is brought in and he realizes that Lucy has been bit. After many failed attempts to cure her with blood transfusions, the male protagonists eventually resort to killing the vampire that is Lucy, in a way only vampires can be killed. Then the team of male protagonists and Mina, the fiancee of the English lawyer, turn towards tracking down and killing Count Dracula. But Dracula attacks Mina and develops a sort of telepathic link between him and the girl, which Dr. Helsing later uses to track down and, eventually, kill the Count. This cures Mina and the novel ends on a positive note.[footnoteRef:1] (Stoker, 1897) [1: Stoker, B. (1897). Dracula. United Kingdom: Archibald Constable and Company.]
The novel simply as literary work was an extraordinary piece. When it was first published, reviewers and critics gave raves of praise and the book was ranked above the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley. It was praised by many as the best horror story of the century. It also had many underlying themes that are of great importance. The themes include the belief in salvation through religion, the dangers of modernity (hence, science), and the threats from female sexual expression. The most important of these are religious salvation and the apprehension towards science.
In many instances in the book, a conflict between science and religion/superstition is present. At many points, as the protagonists discover the truth about Count Dracula, they are torn between their religious beliefs and what science has taught them; and they, at times, question their own sanity. The author shows the failure of science in solving problems when the friend of the fiancee is bit and Dr. Helsing attempts to cure her through medicine and blood transfusions, but fails. And at the same time the author has shown the dominance of religion/superstition when the same friend is finally killed through garlic and crucifixes. Then, Count Dracula is said in the book to have been living strong and healthy for centuries, defying the laws and findings of science, but he is scarred the moment a crucifix touches him, making religion more powerful again. The ultimate theme is the dominance and success of religion in defeating the evil that is Count Dracula, and the ability of religion to go where science cannot, and answer that which science cannot. Another instance is when Dracula is shown to have the ability to change forms between man, bat and dog, while still retaining his extraordinary senses and humanistic state of mind. No law or finding of science at that time could define this, but in religion all of these forms were associated with evil, the ultimate form of Count Dracula.
Throughout the novel, Stoker has portrayed religion as being the more dominant force. It has also been portrayed as being a savior of sorts. In the beginning of the novel when Jonathan Harker, the English lawyer, is visiting Dracula's town of residence, he is offered many charms and such that are supposed to keep evil away. Even though he is a man of rationality and science, the lawyer feels somewhat safer with the charms; and the same charms are eventually shown to be the reason he is able to escape alive. Van Helsing is shown as the most respected of the group, owing to his vast knowledge and expertise in science. Helsing's character has been used to represent the science side of the story. At a couple of instances, he tries to solve problems through scientific and medical procedures, but fails. But at the same time, he is also shown to be a man open to the idea of the existence of certain supernatural entities that science could never explain. Through these characters, Stoker has explained the general mindset of the people of that era. People of that were of the general belief that no matter how set you are in your faith in science, it is faith in religion/superstition that eventually is the solution.
Through the character of Count Dracula, Stoker has demonstrated a very interesting fallacy in the laws of science. As mentioned earlier, Dracula is shown in the book as being able to change physical form, defy the laws of gravity (by climbing on walls like a lizard), live for an eternity without any deterioration of his physical being, and even reverse his ageing process. All these traits make him the ideal organism that can adapt to change. Now following Darwin's theory of evolution, this should mean that all humans (now succeed by a more powerful organism) must die or evolve into vampires for "survival of the fittest" to be true. This, obviously, is unacceptable and thus a fallacy of modern science's findings.
However, when Stoker draws to the end of the novel, his representation of the conflict between science and religion/superstition becomes starkly one-sided. All arguments tip in favor of religion/superstition being more important in the ultimate demise of Dracula. In the story, the group first uses the telepathic link that has been created between the Count and Mina to track down and corner Dracula. Then, they kill Dracula at his crumbling residence in Transylvania by slashing his throat and stabbing him in the heart, at which point he crumbles to dust. Again, religion/superstition is the victor here. No form of science and no trick or method of science could completely destroy Dracula. They did help keep his evil at bay but they were no cure and definitely no solution the problem, like Lucy's blood transfusions. In the end, despite science's own place in the story, it was religion/superstition that eventually gave the solution in the form of garlic and crucifixes and stabbing in the heart with silver knives.
The constant struggle between science and religion/superstition that is demonstrated in Stoker's novel is a reflection of the beliefs of the general society at that time. Nineteenth-century England was dominated by clergymen-scientists who were very dedicated to their work but still mindful of their religion. This aspect of society is showcased through the character of Van Helsing, who is a veteran medical practitioner but still open to the idea of supernatural existence. Even though he uses the tools he has through his medical knowledge to try and defeat Dracula, he finally gives in to the more effective religious methods. In fact,…[continue]
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