The Other Dracula

In the “Debates” chapter of Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies, Patrick Brantlinger points out that “one of the ironies in the history of male identities is how activities that have traditionally been associated with masculinity seem frequently to have both encouraged and hidden homosexuality” (68). He also mentions that “Despite the tragic treatment that most Victorian authors give to interracial romance, there were many interracial unions and mixed-race populations throughout the Empire,” giving the example of Catherine and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, whose “love is so powerful that they declare themselves to be each other – metaphorically a vampire, Gothic version of that hybrid figure, the double-goer” (72). With the help of some scholarly research, I would like to examine the character of Dracula as having these contradictory traits and mixed identities, and I will also briefly look at the role of blood in these contradictions.

The reason that Gothic Others or spaces can abject multitudinous cultural and psychological contradictions and thus face us with those paradoxes in disguise, is that the spectral characters, images and settings possess the hidden reality that contradictions of all kinds are not discrete, but that each “lesser term” is contained in its counterpart and that difference emerges from “standing against and relating to independency” (Hogle 11). For example, Dracula can “disgorge blood from his breasts as much as he can penetrate flesh with his phallic teeth,” be attracted by both sexes, be western and eastern simultaneously with his white complexion blended with aquiline features, be aristocratic as well as consort with homeless gypsies (thus threatening class boundaries), be both sophisticated and manifest a “child-brain,” morph into animals as well as various human guises, and “can be nearly all things on the continuum between a very earthy being bound by time, and the unearthly demon surviving across centuries” (Hogle 12). It seems that Dracula is omnipotent – not only can he smoothly cross lines of liminality and be a number of different things, but he can confer some of his powers to those around him. In what is known as the “fellatio/breastfeeding scene,” (Mighall 71) the “danger” posed by Dracula is that he does not merely infect Mina by drinking her blood, but also forces her to drink his, perpetrating a series of reversals: of “a potential wife and mother at Dracula’s breast, of a vampire as a willing victim, of an obscene parody of childhood innocence used to illustrate adult violation. Dracula uses force to make the woman his slave, but also to wean her from passivity to a frightening new power” (Tropp 139).

Blood plays a crucial role in the novel, as it is the life-giving fluid and can alter gender conventions or realities. The Count tells Harker at one point that “blood is too precious a thing in the days of dishonorable peace; and the glories of the great races are as a tale that is told” (Stoker 110). When Dracula recounts his family history, he relates blood to ancestry and the races that he speaks of: which have died out. He predicts “the coming of a war between lineages, between the East and West, the ancient and the modern, and the evil and the good” (Sparknotes 18). This can he compared to foretelling that the lineages will have “bad blood” between them, to use an idiom. Blood is implied in a sense as a thing which causes the rise and fall, indeed continuation of races, and which carries on their legacies – not semen, as one would imagine when thinking of siring children and carrying on one’s name. Later, the depiction of Dracula and his minions feeding conjures up the image of bodily fluids being exchanged Lucy is “drained” almost to the point of losing consciousness when the count “penetrates” her. Dracula’s drinking of blood also extends his physical life, thereby strengthening his virility and potency. Blood is used, therefore, to alter conventions and to allow Dracula to assume many contradictory qualities all at once. Dracula’s multifaceted (though not sparkly like Edward Cullen’s) character is what makes him so fascinating and memorable to readers, then and now.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh   University Press, 2009. Print.

Blanchard, Matt and Morgan, Benjamin eds. Sparknotes: Dracula by Bram Stoker.New York: Spark Publishing, 2002. Print.

Hogle, Jerrold E., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Mighall, Robert. Sex, History and the Vampire. Eds. Hughes; William and Smith. Print.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.London: Walker Books. 2004. Print.

Tropp, Martin. Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (1818-1918).London: McFarland and Company. Inc.,1990. Print.

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