The Monstrosity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Fictional writers often represent evil as an entity, or ‘individual’ with inhuman abilities and sinister objective. This is what we refer to as a monster. They are often personified with repulsive attributes and give a story a strong sense of immorality and central conflict. A more than fitting paradigm of a story that truly epitomizes a monster is Bram Stoker’s suspenseful gothic novel, Dracula. The antagonist in this epistolary narrative, Count Dracula, is a vampire who resides in a vast Transylvanian fortress. He is intelligent and well mannered in his façade yet holds a malevolent state of mind. From the beginning of the novel, it is stated that Count Dracula’s intended destination is London. Here he could inhabit his race more effectively. The story begins with a compilation of Jonathan Harker’s journals. Jonathan Harker is a British solicitor who travels to Count Dracula’s castle in the Carpathian Mountains to aid him with the legal documents for his move to England. Credulous at first, Harker sees Dracula as a sophisticated elderly man who wants to relocate due to his isolation. His suspicions begin to mature as he notices some very unusual behavior by the count. Ultimately, the Count imprisons Harker in his castle with pitiless intentions in mind and then makes his way to England to begin his conquest where he commits most of his violent acts. By sucking the blood of his victims (whom are all female), they eventually become vampires themselves, thus adding to Count Dracula's line of vampirism. Analogous to common vampire legend, he is immortal unless pierced through the heart with a stake and then decapitated. Dracula also commits many other ‘monstrous’ actions throughout the story. According to an article by Hanna Meretoja: “…monstrosity refers to something inhuman, unnatural, abnormal, and freakish.” Contrary to the common assertion that Dracula is not a monster due to his human-like manifestation (or lack thereof), he possesses the majority of characteristics that Meretoja lists with his atypical powers. Meretoja further suggests; “…those who do terrifying, evil deeds are designated as monsters.” Dracula is a well-defined instance of a monster in literature due to his inhuman abilities, malicious acts toward the human race, and most significantly, his intended conquest of England.

Chris Martinez, a student at Texas A&M University, states; “A monster doesn't have to be a beast that rises out of the water causing death and destruction to millions of people. It can be a man, or men, who let greed and corruption take hold of their lives.” Several of the hideous actions Count Dracula commits in this novel could have been achievable by a highly troubled individual. This does not make him any less of a monster. His complete disregard for human survival is a factor that grants him added horrific elements. The first section of the novel entails Jonathan Harker’s imprisonment by the means of Count Dracula. If you look at a monster through Meretoja’s perspective, you can say that this is truly a monstrous act. By the fourth chapter, it becomes evident that the Count had no intentions of releasing Harker. In one of Harker’s journal entries, he writes:
Last night the Count asked me in the sauvest tones to write three letters, one saying that my work here was nearly done, and that I should start for home within a few days, another that I was starting on the next morning from the time of the letter, and the third that I had left the castle and arrived at Bistritz … He knows that I know too much, and that I must not live (Stoker 64). Dracula with murderous mindset. Another instance of monstrous behavior is when Dracula provides his three wives a child for ‘dinner’. Jonathan Harker writes in his journal:

“Are we to have nothing tonight?" said one of them, with a low laugh, as she pointed to
the bag which he had thrown upon the floor, and which moved as though there were
some living thing within it. For answer he nodded his head. One of the women jumped
forward and opened it. If my ears did not deceive me there was a gasp and a low wail, as
of a half smothered child. The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror. But
as I looked, they disappeared, and with them the dreadful bag (Stoker 63).

This was one of Dracula’s most repulsive acts as it is now evident that children are not spared. Claiming Dracula is not a monster after committing such a despicable act would be complicated since murdering a child is commonly seen as something only a monster is capable of.

Noel Caroll, author of The Philosophy of Film: Introductory Text and Readings, defines a monster as ‘any being not believed to exist now according to contemporary science’ (168) His definition describes Count Dracula accurately. Dracula’s inhuman strengths are added distinguishing characteristics of a monster based on Caroll’s classification. One of the first noticeable instances in the book is when Jonathan Harker catches a glimpse of him out his window. “I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings” (Stoker 58). It is highly improbable that any scientific occurrence similar to the latter could happen in the time period that this novel was written in. While it’s not evident that this particular action could be used for evil, it does give Dracula a monstrous ambiance in Caroll’s respect. Dracula is also spellbinding in several different fashions. For instance, he is able to possess other humans and they must submit to his powers. All of Dracula’s outlandish mind control capabilities are used for acquiring further supremacy. An example of a character that is possessed by Dracula is R.M. Renfield. He is the ‘madman’ of the story who is isolated in a ‘lunatic asylum’. Later in the novel, it is learned that Dracula in fact, possessed him after he gains consciousness. He pleads with Jonathan Harker’s wife, Mina Murray to flee from the trance that Dracula also has over her. In this regard, Count Dracula is manipulative for power and malice. Another peculiar ability of Dracula’s is how he is able transform into various animals. Once again in reference to Caroll’s definition, this isn’t logical in that time period.

It becomes very evident of Dracula's cruel intentions as the reader submerges deeper into the novel. His sinister objective to conquest England becomes more than apparent in one particular quotation.
You think to baffle me, you with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher's. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest, but I have more.
My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already. And through them you and others shall yet be mine, my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed. Bah! (Stoker 304)

This makes Count Dracula monstrous in the relation to terrorism. “Terrorism becomes a monstrous evil because it threatens to expose self-subverting characteristics in the global system” (Derian 334-35). It’s apparent that Dracula feels no hesitance in invading England. He clearly lacks any respect for human life and would go great lengths to take others against their will and turn them into vampires. This makes his monstrous in both Chris Martinez’ and Hanna Meretoja’s definition. After 9/11 Most Americans look at terrorists as monsters.

Dracula is a monster in many different aspects. Hanna Meretoja and Chris Martinez’s description of a monster describe it to be nothing more than an evil entity. According to them, attributes such as size and intelligence are completely irrelevant. On the contrary, Caroll explains a monster as something that cannot exist according to contemporary science. Dracula fits all of their definitions. With his utter disrespect for the human race, his disgusting behavior toward humanity, and his intended conquest of England, calling him anything less than a monster would be absurd. Stoker purposely gave him all of these monstrous characteristics to give the novel central conflict.

I'm not a great writer when it comes to content. I feel that this paper is pretty weak-- espeically towards the end. Any suggestions, critiques, etc. would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thank you for your time!
Hey! Try reading Stephen King's «Danse Macabre».