When thinking of Vampires, do the 21st Century renditions populated through media culture such as The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, and True Blood come to mind? The most common denominator here, separate to that of the romantic scale, is that all three were originally novels, crafted from the mythology of Vampires.
In regards to novels however, arguably the most known featuring this breed of monster, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published 26th of May, 1897.
In order to deep dive into why Stoker’s monster is so notably remarkable, the conceptuality of Humanism can be examined.
The origin of the word Humanism is quite compact, branching over many different layers of history. Humanism, in simple terms, is “a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.” Now, with the expansion of technological developments, Humanists see a sharp dividing line between humans and their ‘others’, typically animals and machines. The ideas of pure humanity, its values, importantances and divinity.
When thinking of monsters, with most representatives being used to display a type of humanistic behaviour, they are petulantly depicted as “other”, with a defined line drawn between them and humanity. While this is not always the case, the line gets blurred, purposeful or not.
Stoker emulates this concept through his exploration of Vampires in Dracula in relation to his anxieties around the peak of industrial development, and cultural advancements the world was having at the time. “Stoker puts an emphasis on the newest technology of Britain and combines them with traditional and folkloric traits,” in order to create a fearful monster empowered through these traits.
A large anxiety present within the text is the sexual identity of women and men. The term ‘New Women’ has appeared over the years in regards to plenty of the womanly character’s. One of the monstrous traits of Dracula is his ability to steal women away. “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”. (Stoker 357). An example of sexuality shifts and to “address the fact that women started to focus on pleasure and not only on pregnancy.”
Dracula has an “otherness” about him, and it is shown throughout that this is a trigger for women, present through Mina and Lucy. For example, as seen when feeding from Lucy during the night Stoker explores that she must “enjoy the night’s forbidden pleasures” (Stoker 71).
Stoker’s fear of sexuality has been referenced much throughout history, and in the terms of Humanism this is highlighted through his Vampiration of his monsters. Crossing the boundaries of pure humanity, its values, importantances and divinity. For it was not just the Count who had this nature about him, it is also present through the Vampire’s as whole, as we encounter Hacker’s invisible grovel with the creatures. “There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear.” (Stoker 42).
When discussing, especially within religious aspects, the element of ‘blood’ has been a recurring conceptualisation of purity for centuries. Thinking back towards royal families and keeping the bloodline pure, especially in regards to the era of the text being from the Victorian reign of 1837 and the Queen’s death in 1901. It comes to no shock that a bloodthirsty monster is the centerpiece for illuminating Stokers fears for future developments.
“And you, their best beloved one, are now to me, flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin; my bountiful wine-press for a while; and shall be later on my companion and my helper.” (Stoker 367). Stoker illuminates here the importance of blood as well as the difference between what the Count is conceptually to those who are human. It’s not just the blood that flows through the Vampire’s that alienates them from humanity but their horror-esc desire for it. “First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!” (Stoker 327). The consumption of blood, while also being an example of sexuality, is a powerful example of the Humanist fear of a tainted, unethical divinity.
Blood is a cultural concept within the text. England at the time was expanding, as represented throughout the novel in reference to different ethnicities. Transylvania is a metaphor for this with “four distinct nationalities: Saxons…mixed with them the Wallachs…Magyars…and Szekelys.” (Stoker 8). The arrival of Vampires is said to symbolise colonisation, along with reverse colonisation with “Count Dracula’s desire to become a part of the English society”. This has always been a prevalent concern of cultural expansion within the West, the growing fear of other ethnicities taking their places. “Blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonourable peace, and the glories of the great races are as a tale that is told.” (Stoked 33). Here, we can gauge that Dracula is gratified with his “race”, his aristocratic lineage of which he is birthing.
Blood is an abstraction for heritage, for cultural identity and ancestry. Blood holds weight and significance within humanity and purity while in contrast to not only sexuality but race, which have negative connotations within societal factors. Pairing these ideas with the beliefs of Humanism, Stoker’s fears are personified into an entirely new identity.
A vicious blood drinking monster who prays on women, enticing them, tainting their innocence through the lense of religious historical boundaries, is the personification of relevant anxieties held by Bram Stoker. Count Dracula and the Vampireism of the monsters within the text stand outside their counterparts in remarkability when analysed contextually, especially within comparison to Humanism and its democratic and ethical life stance.
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