I want to finish the year with the review of one of my favorite books of the reading year, one that I thought heavily about after reading it.
Dracula is a widely known classic story, one that is engraved in our culture and one that inspired and still inspires numerous pieces of art. One can say that we are collectively attracted to Dracula, and vampires in general. What does make this story more appealing to the whole civilization, in the Victorian era, as well as in the present time?
Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, at the end of the Victorian era. The Victorian era is famous for the progress in the field of science, men of the era relying on logic and reason in the strive for the synthesis that will explain how does that the world function, and liberate us from diseases and suffering. At the same time, strict morality and obedience to social and religious conventions were prominent. Everything that deviated from decency and established values had to be disguised and ruthlessly suppressed in order to maintain the idea of the progress of civilization. In the Victorian era, science and religion worked together to free civilized man from the destructive aspects of nature.
At the same time, there is the rise of gothic literature and the birth of the horror genre, as the art rose from the repression. This is the response of romanticism to the age of reason and the Enlightenment, but also puritanism and religious austerity that accepts only certain characteristics of men. Gothic genre rises as both compensation and exploration of taboos and forbidden topics and impulses. Gothic writers express their unconscious preoccupations of the collective - sexual passion, aggression, murder, death, decay, incest, curse, madness.
Here, Dracula finds its important spot. Dracula is a predator that is between the world of the living and the inanimate, he has strength and longevity, is immortal but only as long as he consumes the physical, mental, life energy of others. In that way, he represents the anti-thesis and archetypal opposition to Christ, who gives his blood to others in order for them to have eternal life.
Christ rejuvenates and redeems body, soul and spirit, while Dracula is the living dead that curses body, maddens soul and corrupts spirit, a dead creature that has lost its spirit and soul and therefore is not subject to moral and ethical norms and conventions. Therefore, through him, we are free to explore taboo and psychoanalytically significant topics: repressed sexuality, oral sadism and necrophilia.
Dracula is the repressed collective darkness in the world that is enlightened by both reason and Christ.
Dracula has the characteristics of 19th-century villains; he is a stranger, lives far away in a foreign land (home and homeland were sacred in the victorian era), he has bestial elements (pronounced, sharp fangs) and is very much connected with the natural world (he manages wind and storms, and summons wolves). At the same time, he is a mysterious, absent protagonist; like an optical illusion, Stoker finishes him in the mind of the beholder; we learn about him solely from the reports of others and their subjective perception.
The Count is poorly defined - indefinite, almost intangible, he changes forms, is elusive, connected only with the underworld, seen in the night, lives in the darkness of the unconscious - he is created from one's forebodings, imagination and projections.
The central part of the story is how correct, moral characters react to him. Jonathan, Lucy, Mina - for everyone he has a different role, and the multiplicity of his character is evident.
Count Dracula and his brides operate through fascination, seduction, enchantment, obsession, loss of soul, madness - all dissociation and suppression of consciousness through overbearing unconscious elements. They are a threat from the underworld, a threat to life and the conscious world.
The sexual element is prominent and present, let us remind ourselves that Dracula goes to night visits to women, where they participated in the bodily fluid exchange, while the vampire brides are much less subtly erotic and seductive.
Jonathan is a young hero that embarks on a journey into the unknown, a distant castle in "one of the most cruel and least known parts of Europe."
This is an area beyond the ordinary, where something unusual will almost certainly happen - "every known superstition in the world is gathered in the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the center of some imaginative vortex."
He is on a heroic journey to the land of the unconscious where the rules of the rational do not rule and the past, superstitious, irrational, supernatural still retains power.
“...And yet, unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere “modernity” cannot kill.”
Is important to note that Jonathan is on the verge of maturity - he is engaged, he has passed the final exam that qualifies him for the profession, his boss has expectations, so he has to step into adult roles and responsibilities. Jonathan needs to complete the formation of ego and adult identity to function in the real world; the moment he meets his shadow in the figure of Count.
Interestingly, the Count does not attack him, only keeps him as a prisoner in his castle- even protects him from predatory vampire brides. In Jonathan's case, they are more dangerous than Dracula - they have greater opportunity to besiege and enchant victims as men, have more open sexual magnetism and predatory sexuality (unlike Dracula who creates confusion and comes with a deception that is not elaborated). Dracula and the Brides represent the negative counter-sexual aspects that seduce and offer a lot but take autonomy in the process - through enchantment capture the person in the unconscious. Here Jonathan's desire to have sex is transformed into an attack through denial; attraction and love in repulsion and sadism. Repressed sexual desires turn into morbid signals that point to a constant association of sadism and fear - normal sexuality in repression tends to regress to an earlier form, the first of which is oral sadism. The attitude towards vampires represents the aggression, hatred, and fear toward the object of desire we tend to demonize.
Vampire brides also represent the Madonna- whore complex that is engraved in Victorian society - where a woman being sexual equals woman being demonic and evil.
In Jonathan's case, Dracula is a much more concrete character than in, for instance, an encounter with Lucy, we get his most detailed descriptions. He is a mature person with whom Jonathan has the most communication and contact, Count is here in the archetype of the Wise old man who rules a wild, dangerous area, who has knowledge, precision, organization, clarity and separation - a Logos that protects him from the Eros of women. Let us not forget that Jonathan sees only himself in the mirror when Dracula is behind him which insinuates that Count is essentially a part of himself and that realization alone causes disintegration and madness.
Lucy is a changeable character, the only one in the novel who was both a human and a vampire, and her physical and mental state fluctuate throughout the story constantly - she is excited and restless; she amuses herself with the erotic possibilities of three husbands and loves the attention of men. In the strict Victorian era, she is conditioned to dissociate her sexual feelings and strong libido from the conscious mind. Her unorthodox desires can find their expression only in altered states of consciousness - trance, sleepwalking and dreams, all of which precedes the Count's attacks.
Lucy is not at peace with herself - she has somewhat a hysterical personality structure with deep internal conflicts.
During the day she has to have the innocence and purity that are mandatory for women in the era, but during the night, her restlessness, erotic side of the mind, sensuality come out.
She has an ego/persona imbalance between the real identity and social role she has to play and is ultimately lost between the night and day, conscious and unconscious self.
In Lucy's case, Dracula is a negative undifferentiated Animus - seducer, even though the relationship is never shown and she has no memory of him or his form. Dracula is a catalyst for change to the possession of the unconscious- her conscious ego is afraid of change - she is overwhelmed by unconscious content - the weak ego cannot assimilate the content of the shadow without being overwhelmed by it.
Lucy has no positive masculine figures to counter Dracula's erotic animus - only men who are sexually interested in her. Mina is for her Logos - reason, judgment, differentiation - when Mina leaves her there is no more objectivity or escape from unconscious eros. Being a divided character, with a weak ego, she succumbed and gave up conscious control, allowing the vampire/unconscious/shadow to dominate. Her ego was challenged beyond what she could handle and instead of the assimilation, it was shattered and destroyed.
Lucy ultimately experiences triumph as a sexualized vampire, takes the blood of more men, a being of flesh, the underworld and the night- Eros, Id and the shadow have won and taken over her identity, destroying her conscious will and persona.
“She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth—which it made one shudder to see—the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy’s sweet purity. ”
Mina had by far the most successful encounter with Dracula. Mina has mental balance, so she can compensate and integrate unconscious content presented by a vampire attack. More integrated than Lucy, her sense of self is well developed and she is well adapted to reality, more firmly rooted in society - she is engaged, has a teaching job, learns new skills that allow her to maintain an active role even when attacked by Dracula. She wants to be as equal as possible to Jonathan, she is practical, active, brave, and has shown that she can deal with uncertainty, fear and distress with firmness. Opposite to Lucy that has a passive role, waiting for a savior, Mine has an active role throughout, she determines her destiny with her abilities. Her sole source of meaning is not sexuality and men, even though she is accomplished through a stable male-female relationship.
Mina has a balance of Eros and Logos; feelings and reason; she is a character who has already progressed on the path of individuation, of formed identity.
“That wonderful Mrs. Mina! She has a male brain ... and a female heart. ”
Although she has done most of the work of synthesis of knowledge about Dracula, she is forced by men to stand aside- they no longer need her, she is too valuable to expose her. Her ability, intellect, curiosity, all of it must be repressed to fulfill the role of an obedient Victorian woman. Mina is forced by men to play the role of damsel in distress, of a fragile passive woman with which she does not resonate at all.
"Even though it was a bitter pill for me to swallow, I couldn't say anything but accept their chivalrous care for me."
When Mina has to suppress the authentic parts of herself, her psychic balance is endangered. There she meets her shadow in the Count. But, in Mina's encounter with Dracula, she does not stay unconscious - Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina and extracts the important pieces of information from her subconscious that help to capture and defeat Dracula. Through the conscious exercise of the rational, in a process similar to psychotherapy, awareness of the unconscious manages to outwit and control the unconscious instinct of Dracula.
Mina manages to keep her ego identity but pities and understands the Count - and in him her own dark and destructive parts that she partially integrates (she is the only character that drinks Dracula's blood). In a way, she feeds off her shadow, but in the process destroys Dracula's aspects that cannot be integrated, that are ultimately overpowered by positive aspects of masculine figures in her life. She is, what Campbell calls, the master of both worlds, she has authentic individuality that is connected with the unconscious, even in the darkest realms, but also she remains functional and integrated into society that gains from her maturation.
Even though the novel is called Dracula, Dracula is not a central figure. Dracula lives in each one of us representing the otherness- parts of ourselves that are not allowed by society, drives, impulses and wishes that we cannot admit to ourselves.
What Dracula is, depends on us - the dark egoistic sadist that feeds of suffering and others' life force, the seductive demonic lover, the wise old man. The sexual libertinism and unbridled violence, emotional, grotesque, irrational - Dracula is in complete contrast to the man of reason and morality, yet so infinitely attractive to him. Dracula is also Trickster that will appear when we pretend to be something we are not, to unveil hypocrisy and show our true face.
Above all, Dracula is elusive and indestructible, the symbol of transformation and initiation into another kind of existence and the constant reminder that if we are looking for Dracula's darkness, we will find it in our own reflection.