Jonathan Harker writes of his visit back to Transylvania after a seven-year absence: “Every trace of all that had been was blotted out” (419). When I read this, I pictured total destruction, a once lush landscape replaced by ashes, an uninhabitable post-apocalyptic world. Essentially, I imagined that when Dracula turned to dust, his whole world did, too. However, just as that mental picture began to solidify, Harker informs us that the castle still stands. Though all around is waste, this emblem of domesticity, albeit perverted, looms as ever before, prompting me to wonder what happens to the other inhabitants of Transylvania.
Harker’s description of total desolation contrastsed with his acknowledgement of what still exists captures Stephen D. Arata’s attention as well. In his article “The Occidental Tourist: ‘Dracula’ and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization,” Arata addresses Harker’s Note, insightfully exploring several meanings. He poses that just as Dracula himself has been “blotted out,” Jonathan’s old view of Transylvania is erased. Similarly, he shows that all the journal entries, letters, and other apparently inauthentic writings about their experience are rendered untrustworthy; their validity has been “blotted out” (Arata 644).
These explanations clarify Harker’s note for me, but even these points leave a giant question mark regarding the state of the locals.
For hundreds of years, the Dracula family has occupied the same foreboding castle, and seemingly an entire culture has been built on superstition surrounding this nearly mythical man. The other people associated with the land are, like Dracula, described in mythic terms, with the leader of the gypsies being likened to a “centaur” (Stoker 416). As soon as Jonathan and Quincey slay the Count, the gypsies “turned, without a word, and rode away as if for their lives” (418). The wolves follow suit, and it seems that all who were once in service to darkness are now freed. Their departure hardly seems to celebrate newfound liberty, though; they can only fear the ones more powerful than their previous master and hope to avoid the wrath of the powerful five who “surrounded” them (416).
Like the gypsies, the local peasants are made mythic by their association with Dracula. Both the peasants who greet Jonathan on his first journey and those who encounter the band of travelers later in the book show great concern and compassion for the wayfarers. Their care stems from their knowledge of the evil surrounding the Count, a knowledge that informs all they do. Though some may have actually encountered Dracula, most have based their lives solely on what they have heard in stories. And while their knowledge is by no means empirical or exhaustive, they survive by it.
What happens, then, when their entire system of belief is shattered with nothing to replace it; or is it? Do the peasants even find out about the Count’s obliteration? Even if the gypsies were to spread the news, the peasants may still live in fear, now of the Westerners who have the power to slay Dracula.
Seven years later, no one seems to have settled around or in the castle, though doing so would be safe after the Count’s death. The gypsies likely still roam in fear; likewise, the Harkers give no indication that the peasants know anything has happened to the powerful force they fear.
Van Helsing boasts: “We want no proofs; we ask none to believe us!” desiring only that young Quincey Harker know of his mother’s pluck (419). Proofs or no proofs, the peasants and the gypsies may have been eager to believe their life-altering story were it told to them.
Arata, Stephen D. “The Occidental Tourist: ‘Dracula’ and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization.” Victorian Studies 33.4 (1990): 621-45.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Glennis Byron. Toronto: Broadview, 1998.