Social Sensitivity

While Dracula’s subject matter is disturbing, young readers today are unlikely to find the novel extremely frightening and may miss its sexual elements altogether. Depictions of violence in movies and television have produced a great difference between modern readers and Stoker’s original Victorian audience. The suspense and terror which mark Dracula’s finest passages depend on the reader’s imagination rather than graphic descriptions.

The sexuality in the novel is so suppressed that it may not be recognized by young readers, although it is now commonplace to find discussions of the sexual elements in critical discussions of the novel. Also, recent vampire movies, especially comedies, have exploited the sexuality inherent in the vampire legend. Even the earliest film versions focus on male vampires attacking beautiful female victims, asleep in alluring nightclothes.

What violence and sex there is in the novel is thematically important. Blood, which ties these two elements together, is used symbolically to suggest life and relationships and has religious overtones as well. Dracula, the representation of evil, threatens everything good not just because he brings death, but because he drinks blood and therefore interferes with the other characters’ relationships. Mina, for example, is bitten but not killed by Dracula, resulting in her emotional separation from her husband, friends, and even God.

In addition to the obvious conflict between good and evil in the novel, some critics have also pointed to an East-West conflict and have viewed Dracula as a political allegory. This view is supported by the novel’s setting and the characters’ nationalities.

Ultimately, this classic horror novel is reassuring, because the vampire is destroyed and the surviving characters’ lives return to normal. The assurance of redemption in the novel is so strong that even the evil Dracula looks peaceful in the moment after he is stabbed and before his body crumbles to dust.

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