Bram Stoker’s Dracula1 is a story about the good against the evil and how five men try to fight the evil blood-drinking monster.
‘Bram Stoker’s Transylvanian count is one of those rare literary characters who has achieved first name basis recognition. He has achieved in fact, iconographic status’ (www. lsu. edu/necrofile/drac10).
This statement suggests that Dracula was an iconic figure in the nineteenth century. Dracula is written in the context of fear and anxiety; like horror stories it works on a symbolic level. The use of symbolism throughout the novel has added further interest and suspense to the story.Bram Stoker has used a range of symbolism throughout the text to draw reader’s attention to different issues.
I will focus on a few main symbols and discuss their use and importance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The use of blood, garlic and the crucifix in the novel all symbolise different issues. In the first half of the story the way Jonathon describes his journey in his journal, on the way to count Dracula’s castle, and the event that occur during his journey symbolise a fear factor. This is shown when Jonathon is leaving from the hotel and an old lady begs him not to go, she says ‘It is the eve of St George’s Day.
Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? ‘ (Dracula: 13) 1. This symbolises that something awful will happen because the old lady is so scared that she gives Jonathon her crucifix and puts it around his neck. She does not mention her fear but this makes Jonathon feel uneasy. Bram Stoker has used the symbolism of religion in Dracula by using the crucifix, garlic and also Van Helsing’s prayers.
The use of these shows the importance of religion and the strength of ones’ beliefs.As it is stated that ‘Stoker uses his allusion to the cross in Dracula as in the beginning the cross is seen as a sacred symbol and used for protection from evil’ (www. faegatekeeper. net/folkv.
html). The crucifix here symbolises religion, how the old lady believes that the crucifix will protect him from the evil and keep him safe. This symbol shows the old lady’s belief that God exists and that he will help keep evil things away from Jonathon. It states that Bram Stoker ‘has used the cross as symbolic representation of Christ and all that is holy.
Because historical Christian thinking encouraged associating vampires with Satan, a symbol like the crucifix with its Christian power would warn off the beast’ (www. geocities. com/omen2002/VampireHunters Guide. htm).
This shows how religion was a strong factor in the nineteenth century It is said that ‘It was part of the novel’s consistency that the characters have to come to grips with the reality of ancient evil, they must also return to the symbols of good that they also have rejected in a narrow-minded embracing of the modern’. (www. abacci. com/books/book.
sp? bookID=548)The characters use the crucifix, garlic and prayers to fight Dracula in the novel. Since ancient times garlic has been used as a herb and medicine to cure illnesses and as some people would believe to keep the evil away, it is even used now as a vitamin to strengthen the body’s natural defenses to disease. In Dracula Van Helsing uses garlic to keep Dracula away from Lucy and her from harming others, he puts garlic around her neck. Later when Lucy dies Van Helsing again seals her coffin with garlic and a crucifix to keep her from coming out.
As he states in one of his notes to Dr Seward ‘Therefore I shall fix some things she like not – garlic and a crucifix – and so seal up the door of the tomb’ (Dracula: 243) 1. Here garlic symbolises a strong power to keep away the evil and also used as a cure, Van Helsing places the crucifix in Lucy’s mouth, but it is stolen by a maid. The prayer that Van Helsing recites on Lucy’s grave also shows religious symbolism. Another use of symbolism in Dracula is when Jonathon reaches the count’s castle and is welcomed by the count.
He says ‘Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will! ‘ (Dracula: 26) 1. This can be a symbol to alert one that the count is a vampire or something evil as some people would believe that vampires like their victims to come to them of their own will. The use of blood in Bram Stoker’s Dracula symbolises many different aspects of the story. Blood itself is a literal word but it is important to understand the issues hat it symbolises in Dracula.
The colour of blood is red which in itself symbolises fear and danger.Dracula drinks blood of other humans to stay alive himself, but at the same time is taking away others lives and making them the undead. Blood here symbolises life and death, as the four men Arthur, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing and Quincy give blood to Lucy in Dracula to save her life.
Lucy dies later because Dracula takes her blood and she becomes the undead. Dr Seward states in his diary ‘Ten days! Then I guess, Jack Seward, that that poor pretty creature that we all love has had put into her veins within that time the blood of four strong men.Man alive, her whole body wouldn’t hold it’ (Dracula: 183) 1. Here Quincy asks Dr Seward that what took the blood out of Lucy? In reply he just shakes his head.
This quote shows us that Dracula is taking Lucy’s blood, he is reaching to her in some form or the other even though the lovers of Lucy keep a close eye on her. This symbolises the strength and evilness of Dracula, as he is able to turn into any form, in the story he becomes a bat, wolf, dog or a strong dark mist. The blood transfusion in Dracula is a symbol of sexuality and marriage.Arthur sees the blood transfusion of his blood to Lucy as her becoming his bride.
Dr Seward writes in his diary ‘Just so. Said he not that the transfusion of his blood to her veins had made her truly his bride? ‘ (Dracula: 211) 1. This would mean that Lucy was married to four of the men that gave her blood as Van Helsing calls Lucy as ‘someone with many husbands’. As the blood transfusion is symbolised as much closer to having sexual intercourse.
Hughes2 states that ‘a popular nineteenth-century quasi-medical discourse in which semen is regarded as a product of the blood’.This statement would suggest that Lucy was not the innocent virgin anymore. Lucy wrote in one of her letters to Mina that ‘why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? ‘ (Dracula: 76) Lucy claims that it is not possible to marry more then one man, looking at it this way it can be said that Lucy’s wish had indirectly been granted. She can be said to become the wife of the four men, who give her blood, this makes her a lustful whore, after dying and with the blood transfusions.
The blood also becomes a symbol of fear and sexuality when the three vamp sisters want to suck Jonathan’s blood, they try to seduce him sexually and at the same time want to suck his blood aswell. Lucy is described in a sexual manner when she becomes a vampire for example words like ‘voluptuous’ are used to describe the three vamp sisters and later for Lucy aswell. There is a symbol of sexual desire in Dracula, as this can be seen when Dracula says ‘This man belongs to me! ‘ to the three vamp sisters. This questions Dracula’s sexuality as it shows he is dangerously heterosexual or maybe bisexual.
Another symbol for sexual desire is when Lucy becomes a vampire and calls out to Arthur that ‘come to me, my arms are hungry for you’. Hughes2 describes this scene as ‘Lucy seemingly demands sperm but wants blood’; her behaviour is very similar to the three vamp sisters. During the nineteenth century there was a fear about foreigners, perhaps they were seen as evil and dangerous, as after Lucy has a transfusion of blood from Quincy she dies. This symbolises that the mixing of Quincy’s American blood was not good, as compared to British blood, the mixing of blood with foreigners’ blood could be seen as the cause of Lucy’s death.
Quincy as a foreigner from another country dies in the end, which symbolises that perhaps foreigners don’t belong here in Britain The importance of ones’ religion and beliefs is shown in Dracula throughout the novel. In conclusion it can be said that Bram Stoker has used symbolism throughout the story, as it is one of the main features of horror stories. It is important for one to understand these symbols and the importance of the issues they portray. The symbolism of blood and religion is used wisely in Dracula and keeps the readers’ attention and makes one think of the different meanings these symbols can have.