Dracula

by: Bram Stoker

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Blood

Blood functions in many ways in the novel. Its first mention, in Chapter III, comes when the count tells Harker that “blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonorable peace; and the -glories of the great races are as a tale that is told.” The count proudly recounts his family history, relating blood to one’s ancestry—to the “great races” that have, in Dracula’s view, withered. The count foretells the coming of a war between lineages: between the East and the West, the ancient and the modern, and the evil and the good.

Later, the depictions of Dracula and his minions feeding on blood suggest the exchange of bodily fluids associated with sexual intercourse: Lucy is “drained” to the point of nearly passing out after the count penetrates her. The vampires’ drinking of blood echoes the Christian rite of Communion, but in a perverted sense. Rather than gain eternal spiritual life by consuming wine that has been transformed into Christ’s blood, Dracula drinks actual human blood in order to extend his physical—but quite soulless—life. The importance of blood in Christian mythology elevates the battle between Van Helsing’s warriors and the count to the significance of a holy war or crusade.

Science and Superstition

We notice the stamp of modernity almost immediately when the focus of the novel shifts to England. Dr. Seward records his diary on a phonograph, Mina Murray practices typewriting on a newfangled machine, and so on. Indeed, the whole of England seems willing to walk into a future of progress and advancement. While the peasants of Transylvania busily bless one another against the evil eye at their roadside shrines, Mr. Swales, the poor Englishman whom Lucy and Mina meet in the Whitby cemetery, has no patience for such unfounded superstitions as ghosts and monsters. The threat Dracula poses to London hinges, in large part, on the advance of modernity. Advances in science have caused the English to dismiss the reality of the very superstitions, such as Dracula, that seek to undo their society. Van Helsing bridges this divide: equipped with the unique knowledge of both the East and the West, he represents the best hope of understanding the incomprehensible and ridding the world of evil.

Christian Iconography

The icons of Christian, and particularly Catholic, worship appear throughout the novel with great frequency. In the early chapters, the peasants of Eastern Europe offer Jonathan Harker crucifixes to steel him against the malevolence that awaits him. Later, Van Helsing arrives armed with crosses and Communion wafers. The frequency with which Stoker returns to these images frames Van Helsing’s mission as an explicitly religious one. He is, as he says near the end of the novel, nothing less than a “minister of God’s own wish.”


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