6. In what way does Dracula represent British colonial anxiety?

The 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker carries with it a range of anxieties felt by his contemporaries about the state of things within the British Empire. The age of the British Empire’s dominion was drawing towards its close, and the people of Britain might well have sensed this. Despite great military successes, a series of reductions and losses of British overseas territories marked a worrying pattern. America, arguably Britain’s most important overseas territory, was lost completely in 1783 after the American War of Independence and the Treaty of Versailles which followed it. The vastly powerful East India Company lost its monopoly in 1807 and was dissolved in 1858 and in 1867 Canada changed from a colony to a dominion (a further loss of British control). In addition, Queen Victoria, who had become in many ways the symbol of the British Empire, passed her 78th birthday the year of Dracula’s publication and was near the end of her life. The British Empire, whilst still strong, was diminishing. This is echoed in Stoker’s historical foreshadowing of who will be England’s heir. ‘America... she will be a power in the world indeed’, wagers Dr. Seward (p.184). What’s more, it was a time of change as modernity approached, with the appearance of the ‘new woman’ and female suffrage being granted in New Zealand in 1893. As these changes were contemporary to the passing of the British Empire from world dominance, it was conceived by many that the two equated. Whilst it is possible that one may have caused the other, the probability is that the two were in fact unrelated. A psychological study carried out by B.F. Skinner on pigeons, and later by Derren Brown on humans, proved conclusively that such parallels often mean nothing but are inevitably drawn anyway. Such proved the case with the changes of the period. It was assumed by many that, with the diminishing power of the British Empire, her values were also diminishing as the social order slowly fell into chaos, just as the Roman Empire had done one and a half millennia earlier. Values that, it was held, made the British Empire what is was, with its prides such as the abolition of slavery in 1833 and a plethora of scientific advancements. Dracula can be seen as being, barely concealed within its plotline, a defence of traditional British values that Stoker felt were being lost: of the meek woman, of male comradery and of sexual ‘purity’, and of the things that might deteriorate these values. The British ethos, as envisioned by Stoker, is portrayed in the role of the traveller (namely Jonathan Harker) at the beginning of the novel. He is of the disposition that the culture he is in is below his own. He demonstrates this in his comments. For example, of the local maps, he comments that they

. despite his own memories. ‘I know he never will . That women should be interested in every aspect of her husband’s life was one such value. yet always recover and are constantly determined to maintain a good spirit. Of the Demeter p. Sexual repression is also present. Equally.235). that is to be mad’ (p. After his strange experiences on his way to Dracula’s castle. is intelligent and rational. these include: ‘I fear to trust those women. Equally. Dracula. even his stalwart manhood seemed to have shrunk somewhat. the values of the Enlightenment are upheld. London: Palgrave. even if they would have courage to submit’ (Seward p. Of the local cuisine.235). he accepts the premise given to him by the more qualified medical professionals caring for him that he has had ‘brain fever.’ (Seward p.. careful effort is made to explain that there is no sexual element. Seward is constantly referring to Van Helsing’s ‘iron nerve’.he is too true a gentleman’ (Mina p. To name just a few examples. Stoker. and is both reserved and gentle.80). When he holds her by the arm.28). Nonetheless.182).are ‘as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey maps’(p. Mina comments on Seward’s heart-rendering phonograph entries (p. and he was my husband’. 2002 .75).123). negativity being quickly shut out. He notes how unpunctual the trains are. for certainly if I had been fully awake I must have noticed the approach to such a remarkable place’(p..39). and that the locals are uneducated and superstitious. ‘a man may sleep – as a man’ (Jonathan Harker p. later in the novel when he returns to England. Seward also carries these 1 Bram. The traditional values of Victorian England are perpetually upheld by the central characters. As for stiff upper lip.179) ‘it is better to die like a man’ (Capt. and Dr..229). The references to this are myriad. the protagonists endure much hardship. Jonathan. he notes that ‘I must have been asleep.162). When Mina grasps Arthur’s hand (p. she feels it is ‘very improper’(p. Dr. ‘why are men so noble when we women are little worthy of them?’ (Lucy p. as was expected in Victorian society. that his notes may ‘refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina’(p. The patriarchy of Victorian society is just as endorsed. ‘No one must hear them spoken again!’. being a movement peaking in the Victorian era which espoused rational inquiry and scientific method. bestowing his compliments onto the lower culture.106). hinted at by Jonathan Harker’s given reason for going into so much detail. he says that the meat he is served is ‘in the style of London cat’s-meat’. ‘. yet she does not argue because ‘it was Jonathan. Mina herself is devotional to her husband. sometimes applauding the food. with constant references to the importance of ‘one’s manhood’. for example. he maintains his dignity and carries himself politely and takes an interest in the locals. being an ideal example of British reserve and patience abroad.271).

A rather blatant example of transgression being his implication of homosexuality (p. Mina calls Dr. darkness. Seward’s dealings with Lucy ‘the other side of a true love episode’ (p. in which the Count casts aside the wicked women in a fit of jealous anger. he remains sceptical until he has had all of the requisite evidence. ‘a devilish mockery of Lucy’s sweet purity’ . he states that he had impression of ‘leaving the West and entering the East’... dark. she is proposed to by three men. Page 34 alone contains: ‘very cold. grim. dark.228).. He is. there is little need for subtlety. Has she been leading them all on? ‘Why can’t they let a girl marry three men....’ he says. Van Helsing. Her polygamist desires are confirmed as.. As he draws closer and closer. Not only this. All three of which are fairly intelligent. unmercifully wild. she has made herself a target vulnerable to Dracula and what he represents.... Her purity is changed to ‘voluptuous wantonness’(p. the symbolic archangel of truth within the novel. Firstly. In her first introduction. weird and solemn.. Lucy’s descent is symbolic of the change Stoker witnessed about him. despite his affinity for the Dutch scientist. This is the image of her we are troubled with before she has even began her descent into illness. but Dracula’s abode is at the extreme East of Transylvania... It is in the character of Lucy that we find the most evidence of social transgression..’ she says (p. and would not likely have proposed to her at the drop of the hat.218). Time and time again she evidences that...80). great mass of greyness. His polite tone and at first gentle manner represent this transgression as something which is all too easy to fall for. in Stoker’s world. ‘I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will’. of his killing of Lucy. It is clear that Dracula will embody everything that Bram Stoker opposes. when presented with Van Helsing’s extraordinary claims. after the blood of the three men is mixed within her.. ‘I too can love.... an increasing number of negative words are used. He is himself a scientist and makes rational. ghost-like. darkness..62).... the patriarch of social transgression within the novel. grim. Yet Dracula’s villainy is obvious in his condemnation to death of mothers and children. quite clearly. logical accounts of madmen’s behaviours..186).. considered the land of demons since the Dark Ages. an appropriately dark backdrop is given to the source of all their problems: the East. one dark mistiness. Equally.. gloom...Enlightenment values of scepticism and level-headedness.. As Jonathan journeys to Dracula’s castle. evil eye’... says ‘this so sweet maid is a polyandrist’ (p. As if there were any doubt as to Stoker’s intentions. patch of grey. Countering all of these points are the embodiments of that which threatens them. stormy sea.

which gives him yet more credibility as an orchestrator of British colonial anxieties. being the resulting ‘disease’ of social transgression within Stoker’s text. If entirely within her clothes. There was a notion of Stoker’s time that the virtue of being British was to be found in your veins. the representatives of the old. as the blood of British. Van Helsing finds it. .52-54).221). English. Vampirism itself. might be viewed as representative of the diseases and infections that were becoming an increasing anxiety to his contemporary society.. Mina. ‘better’ order defeat the forces that challenge them. Helsing says to her. It was especially prevalent during the Victorian era as penicillin had not yet been discovered. This is unlikely. is given some attributes which place him as less noble. that the best people were pure-blooded English. many aspects of Stoker’s novel which relate to anxieties of the time. who is otherwise wiser than the other characters. superior and inferior.(p.. Each was potentially lethal and a major concern to Stoker’s time. when Lucy hides a diary entry in her breast (another suggestion of her transgression). This relates to the concept of a hierarchy of creatures. in conclusion. saying that it ‘dropped from Lucy’s breast when we carried her to the bath’(p.163). it would have been seen by both of them. From then process much can be read into the state of mind of late Victorian society. coupled with a sense of comedy in his expression ‘Gott in Himmel!’ (p. Even the portrayal of Van Helsing. he then puts it back where he found it. supportive and submissive is the Victorian ideal. If the note had been in any part outside of her clothes. which was widespread due to poor systems of water access. in nature. that there are still good women left’ (p. To add to this. Again. There is. reduces him to be. with black peoples being closest to animals and the English (naturally) being at the top. tender.143). Lucy represents the British colonial anxiety that this was being watered down. American and Dutch people are mixed within her. This. suggesting that he has some romantic compulsion. typhoid and scarlet fever. ‘You haven me hope. In literary protest to this. it would not likely have fallen out. The most obvious of these being syphilis. Dracula is of lower race.132).195). Dracula himself proudly proclaims that he is the produce of much mixed blood during a spiel which demonstrates his aggressive nature (p. Humans themselves were placed in hierarchy. Even if this can be explained. being reserved. as the Dutch were not quite the English in this hierarchical model. at the top of which were humans. There is also cholera. He chooses to help Lucy in no small part due to the fact that ‘she charm me’ (p. very intelligent but not quite up to the noble standard of English-born. a disease that can be transmitted by exchange of bodily fluids (such as blood or through sexual contact) with someone who is already infected.

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