“The world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it.”
Count Dracula needs no introduction. As a villain of the Western Cannon, his reputation proceeds him.
He was famously portrayed by the great Bella Lugosi in Dracula (1931), the venerable Christopher Lee in Dracula (1958); Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992); later by a young Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000; and most recently by Luke Evans in Dracula: Untold (a movie I absolutely can’t believe they got away with making in our hyper-leftist culture).
As a villain, Dracula is more well known than the heroes of Stoker’s novel. Although, I’d chance to guess that most people would recognize the name Doctor Van Helsing and know that he’s the Count’s archnemesis. But, otherwise, Count Dracula consistently upstages the various heroes he’s thrown against.
By the way our culture seems to venerate Dracula, and vampires by that extent, you’d be forgiven for thinking Count Dracula is the hero. But he is a villain—more even than that, he’s a predator.
Van Helsing reminds us that Count Dracula, although having lived for centuries, has a child’s mind that “do only work selfish and therefore small.”
Dracula is not misunderstood. His motivations are not mystifying. He isn’t secretly a jilted or heartbroken lover out to revenge his long dead love. He is a monster. A monster in the sense of pure human appetite. He hungers, for blood, for sex, for power over others; a man who has given up all sense ethics and propriety in order to satiate his most base instincts.
A monster, a beast, a villain.
The following will contain spoilers for the novel.
The heroes of Bram’s Stoker’s Dracula are ordinary men. Jonathan Harker, solicitor; Doctor John “Jack” Seward, administrator of an insane asylum; Arthur Holmwood, later made Lord Godalming; Quincy Morris, a wealthy Texan; Mina Murray, Jonathan Harker’s fiancé; and Doctor Abraham Van Helsing, MD, D. Ph., D. Litt., etc.
When I say ordinary, I mean they are characters with normal lives. They have careers, friends, responsibilities.
What makes them heroes is simple: when faced with an unimaginable evil, they don’t shrink or shy away, they face it. First, justice for their friend, Lucy Westenra; then to protect the innocent unknowing people of England; finally, to rescue their heart, Mina.
The men all swear, multiple times, in much the manner of a chivalric romance, to destroy Dracula.
The first oath is given by the father of the group, Dr. Van Helsing, when Lucy lays on her deathbed and begs the good doctor to protect her lover and give her peace, he responds: “‘I swear it!’ said he, solemnly, kneeling beside her and holding up his hand, as one who registers an oath.” Van Helsing goes further when he later refers to their band of slayers as like the old knights of the Cross. Medievalism is a hallmark of the Romantic Era and it thrives in Stoker’s work.
Van Helsing, learned elder, is the leader of this band of knights. He seeks out their advice and opinions; takes into account their plans and personal conclusions and uses them to put together his own epiphanies. It is Van Helsing who reaches out to Mina Harker and her husband, Jonathan, to finally bring everything full circle.
Mina Murray, later Mina Harker, is truly the heart of this band of beast slayers. Anyone discounting her as a hero or suggesting that she is shoved aside because patriarchy, doesn’t understand her character and frankly doesn’t understand the book.
As a woman, Mina stands in the extreme opposite of Count Dracula. Mina is the only member of the group who can create and nurture life within herself. This is in stark contrast to the Count, who can only make an artificial life by the death and draining of his victims. Mina is the Count’s only true opposite, his foil. Or rather, the Count is Mina’s foil.
It’s through her work as a typist that the men have a chronological explanation of the Dracula’s time in London. Between her diary, the dairy of her friend Lucy Westenra, Jonathan’s journal, various new clippings, and the phonographic recordings of Dr. Seward, Mina is able to piece together the strange events surrounding the death of her friend.
The death of Lucy Westenra is the fulcrum. Mina and Lucy were best friends. Lucy was preparing for her marriage to Arthur Holmwood. Arthur’s friends, Quincy Morris and Dr. Jack Seward were in her orbit through Arthur.
Naturally, when Lucy falls ill, Arthur askes his Doctor friend to come and check on her. Confounded, Seward calls upon his friend and former teacher, Van Helsing.
Van Helsing arrives and seems to already be suspicious of what’s causing Lucy’s aliment. Transfusions of blood are applied to no avail. It’s too late. Lucy dies and then children start turning up with a perfect set of pinpricks on their necks—the same both doctors noted on Lucy’s neck.
It takes some convincing and a few sleepless nights, but Van Helsing manages to convince Seward, Arthur, and Quincy, that Lucy is a vampire. They swear, by the love they bore her and the blood they shared with her, that they will lay her to rest. “I grieve my heart out for that so sweet young girl; I give my blood for her, though I am old and worn; I give my time, my skill, my sleep; I let other sufferers want that she may have all.”
Love ties these men together: the love a man has for his wife, the love a father has for his daughter, the love a brother has for his sister. Van Helsing assures Arthur that he loves him as a father loves his son, loves Jack and Quincy as his friends. Later, Mina expresses the same of the men around her.
“I suppose there is something in a woman’s nature that makes a man free to break down before her and express his feelings on the tender or emotional side without feeling it derogatory to his manhood; for when Lord Godalming [Arthur] found himself alone with me he sat down on the sofa and gave way utterly and openly.” She takes his hands and worries that he may find her comfort insulting, but he does not. She further says; “‘I loved dear Lucy, and I know what she was to you, and what you were to her. She and I were like sisters; and now she is gone, will you not let me be like a sister to you in your trouble?’”
Arthur confirms this relationship, declaring; “‘You will let me be like a brother, will you not, for all our lives—for dear Lucy’s sake?’” Quincy, laconic as a true Texan, sweetly calls Mina, “little girl” the same way he referred to his dearest Lucy.
When the hunters meet all together for the first time, Van Helsing lays his golden crucifix on the table and Mina takes “his right hand, and Lord Godalming his left; Jonathan held my right with his left and stretched across to Mr. Morris. So as we all took hands our solemn compact was made.” Another oath is sworn, it will not be the last. The men and Mina confirm what they know about the Count and then, to protect Mina, they decide that her part in the hunting is over. She must be their anchor.
Van Helsing says: “And now for you, Madam Mina, this night is the end until all be well. You are too precious to us to have such risk. When we part tonight, you no more question. We shall tell you all in good time. We are men, and are able to bear; but you must be our star and our hope, and we shall act all the more free that you are not in the danger, such as we are.”
This is the height of manly courage, then, although Mina calls it a “bitter pill for me to swallow,” she accepts their decision, at that is the height of feminine courage.
In our hyper-leftist postmodern culture, feminist have led us to believe that masculine courage is the only courage. Female heroes, from television to books, all take up a sword and fight in their own names. They refuse to be on the sidelines, as if there are sidelines in human conflict. And sometimes a woman must take up the sword to remind men to find their manly courage (i.e., Saint Joan d’Arc); but there is more than masculine courage.
Feminine courage is anxiousness. It is suffering. It is waiting. It is offering up your husband, your brother, your father, your son—like a sacrifice.
Mina goes to bed as the men tell her and says; “as if a woman can sleep when those she loves are in danger!” Still, she summons that womanly courage. “I shall lie down and pretend to sleep, lest Jonathan have added anxiety about me when he returns.”
This is a remarkable form of human courage, often forgotten in a world that pretends men and woman are the same. This womanly courage is the courage to hide your own suffering, to bear something, patiently, so that loved ones can go out and do what must be done.
There is an aspect is courtly romance, seen most commonly in Arthurian myth, where the knight grows anxious despite the safety of his domestic bliss; he yearns for adventure and glory. And the woman, despite fearing that he may be injured or perish, sends him on his way. She cannot deny him his manly courage and in doing so, does not deny her own womanly courage.
Mina submits to the men’s decision to leave her out of their hunts. She does this because she loves and respects men, and therefore, the differences between men and women.
It doesn’t work out they way they want it. Eventually, Mina is brought back into the group and joins them on their quest to slay Dracula before he can make it home to his castle in Transylvania.
Mina has been fed the Count’s own blood and will be made a vampire when she dies. The need to rescue her from this fate drives the men onward. Her soul is at risk, she is unclean in the eyes of God, and her men will be damned before she is. They succeed, at cost, and the curse is lifted.
“‘I am only too happy to have been of any service! Oh, God!’” he cried suddenly, struggling up to a sitting posture and pointing to me, ‘It was all worth this to die! Look! Look!’ the sun was right now upon the mountain top, and the red gleams fell upon my face, so that it was bathed in rosy light. With one impulse the men sank on their knees, and a deep and earnest ‘Amen’ broke from all their eyes followed the pointing of his finger as the dying man spoke: ‘Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! The snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!’”
Masculine courage and masculine sacrifice has won the day, Dracula is dust and his curse is lifted from the innocent Mina Harker, who’s feminine courage gave her men the strength to do bravery and die bravely.
Some years later, Van Helsing, holding the young Quincy Harker as a grandfather holds his grandchild, says; “this boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they dare much for her sake.”
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a fantastic novel, it may easily be ascribed the description of greatest in gothic horror. It oozes romantic charm, serves up everything expected in a gothic romance—mysterious countries and customs, insanity, nightmares, ancient cemeteries, dark tombs, etc.
As to rating, it gets my highest recommendation: required reading.
“Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters.”