we ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom
His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence
would defame Him. He has allowed us to redeem one soul already,
and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more. Like
them we shall travel toward sunrise; and like them, if we fall,
we fall in good cause.
Here, in Chapter XXIV, Van Helsing summarizes
the nature of their quest to Mina as they chase Dracula across Europe.
To modern readers, the professor’s words sound like an exercise
in hyperbole, as he draws very bold lines between good and evil.
However, Stoker does, in fact, intend Dracula to be as much a cautionary
moral tale as a novel of horror and suspense. Deeply informed by
the anxieties of the Victorian age—the threat that scientific advancement
posed to centuries of religious tradition, and the threat that broadening liberties
for women posed to patriarchal society—Dracula makes bold distinctions
between the socially acceptable and the socially unacceptable; between
right and wrong; between holy and unholy. Here, as Van Helsing likens
his mission to one of “the old knights of the Cross,” we should
understand him not as a bombastic windbag, but as a product of genuine
Victorian fear and righteousness.