Analysis of Major Characters
Late in the novel, when Dracula escapes from Van Helsing and company at his Piccadilly house, the count declares, “My revenge is just begun!” It is not immediately clear for what offense Dracula must obtain revenge, but the most convincing answer comes in the opening chapters, when Dracula relates the proud but disappointing history of his family. In Chapter III, he speaks of the “brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship.” The count notes the power his people once held, but laments the fact that the “warlike days are over.”
Although he retains his lordship in Transylvania, the world around him has changed and grown significantly—the “glories” of days gone by now belong to other families and other races. Indeed, when the count discusses “the crowded streets of your mighty London,” we sense that he lusts for power and conquest: “I long . . . to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is. But alas!” In this light, Dracula becomes not simply a creature of fathomless evil. Rather, he is a somewhat sympathetic and more human creation, determined to regain his family’s lost power and subject the world to his own dark, brutal vision.
Old Professor Van Helsing is an experienced, competent man, but due to the unfortunately unskilled manner in which Stoker renders Van Helsing’s speech, he often comes across as somewhat bumbling. Nevertheless, Van Helsing emerges as a well-matched adversary to the count, and he is initially the only character who possesses a mind open enough to contemplate and address Dracula’s particular brand of evil.
A doctor, philosopher, and metaphysician, Van Helsing arrives on the scene versed not only in the modern methods of Western medicine, but with an unparalleled knowledge of superstitions and folk remedies. He straddles two distinct worlds, the old and the new: the first marked by fearful respect for tradition, the second by ever-progressing modernity. Unlike his former pupil, Dr. Seward, whose obsession with modern techniques blinds him to the real nature of Lucy’s sickness, Van Helsing not only diagnoses the young girl’s affliction correctly, but offers her the only opportunity for a cure.
Like many of the other characters, Van Helsing is relatively static, as he undergoes no great change or development throughout the course of the novel. Having helped rid the Earth of the count’s evil, he departs as he arrived: morally righteous and religiously committed. Van Helsing views his pursuit of Dracula with an air of grandiosity. He envisions his band as “ministers of God’s own wish,” and assures his comrades that “we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more.” Hyperbole aside, Stoker portrays Van Helsing as the embodiment of unswerving good, the hero he recruits “to set the world free.”
Mina Murray is the ultimate Victorian woman. Van Helsing’s praise of Mina testifies to the fact that she is indeed the embodiment of the virtues of the age. She is “one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble. . . .” Mina stands as the model of domestic propriety, an assistant schoolmistress who dutifully studies newfangled machines like the typewriter so as to be useful to her husband. Unlike Lucy, she is not most noteworthy for her physical beauty, which spares Mina her friend’s fate of being transformed into a voluptuous she-devil.
Mina’s sexuality remains enigmatic throughout the whole of Dracula. Though she marries, she never gives voice to anything resembling a sexual desire or impulse, which enables her to retain her purity. Indeed, the entire second half of the novel concerns the issue of Mina’s purity. Stoker creates suspense about whether Mina, like Lucy, will be lost. Given that Dracula means to use women to access the men of England, Mina’s loss could have terrifying repercussions.
We might expect that Mina, who sympathizes with the boldly progressive “New Women” of England, would be doomed to suffer Lucy’s fate as punishment for her progressiveness. But Stoker instead fashions Mina into a goddess of conservative male fantasy. Though resourceful and intelligent enough to conduct the research that leads Van Helsing’s crew to the count, Mina is far from a “New Woman” herself. Rather, she is a dutiful wife and mother, and her successes are always in the service of men. Mina’s moral perfection remains as stainless, in the end, as her forehead.
In many ways, Lucy is much like her dear friend Mina. She is a paragon of virtue and innocence, qualities that draw not one but three suitors to her. Lucy differs from her friend in one crucial aspect, however—she is sexualized. Lucy’s physical beauty captivates each of her suitors, and she displays a comfort or playfulness about her desirability that Mina never feels. In an early letter to Mina, Lucy laments, “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?”
Although she chastises herself for this “heresy,” her statement indicates that she has desires that cannot be met. Stoker amplifies this faint whisper of Lucy’s insatiability to a monstrous volume when he describes the undead Lucy as a wanton creature of ravenous sexual appetite. In this demonic state, Lucy stands as a dangerous threat to men and their tenuous self-control, and therefore, she must be destroyed. Lucy’s death returns her to a more harmless state, fixing a look of purity on her face that assures men that the world and its women are exactly as they should be.
by Somethingisbrokehere, January 08, 2013
Please let me state again: Finding anything sexual about Lucy's death and stating it as "unambiguous" that stake is a reference to a penis is absurd. Have you even read the book? I've read the book and I understand it well. Now here is a question: If a stake really meant penis than what did it offer in the books overall meaning? That a bunch of Christians are killing the undead by nailing their penises through people's hearts? Really? That is exactly what your notes are saying and it is embarrassing to think that someone ACTUALLY BELIEVES TH... Read more→
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by Mysticmidget, January 10, 2013
I agree with "somethingisbrokehere". I read through this summary to aid in an essay about this book and was positively shocked...though it gave me plenty of giggles! Dracula has many things about it which make it partly comedy to me, though of course it's only due to the change of the times. The thought of Bram Stoker reading this site's take on his novel is...oh, do try it, it is HILARIOUS. Psychoanalyzing can be taken too far, and I would ask that this site DOES NOT CHANGE THEIR TAKE ON LUCY'S FINAL DEATH, because in the future I might lik
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by Somethingisbrokehere, February 05, 2013
Okay I should've gone into detail more, but the whole penis idea doesn't fit into the plot and doesn't make sense. First of all from a Christian perspective (Mr. Stoker was Protestant) that would be considered an evil thing to do. Since they are undead that would similar to necrophilia which is most definitely unChristian and would go against everything the book is talking about. Also remember, this book was written in 1897 which really wasn't that long ago. The whole idea of stakes being penises doesn't make sense as cleansing (I don't thin
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