Stage 2 English ‘Dracula’ by Sarah

How can the Western ideas, values and beliefs of science compare against the Eastern superstitions presented in the novel, ‘Dracula’?

“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.”

‘Dracula’ was written in 1897 by Bram Stoker. It became a popularized epistolary novel after exposing vampirism in Europe with particular emphasis of its impact on human society.

Western ideas, values and beliefs of science, and Eastern European superstitions are the basis of ‘Dracula’. Contributing elements include historical background of science and century old superstition of Eastern Europe. The advancement of technology in Western Europe compared to lack of technology in Eastern Europe. The progression of medicine in Western Europe.

Those unfortunate enough to encounter Dracula ultimately decide their fate based on their personal beliefs in either science or superstition, depending on their origin, East or West.

History/Religion

Christianity had dictated “moral” society for hundreds of years but along with folklore and superstition it was being rejected for western beliefs in science, predominantly in the 19th century. These Western beliefs of science were a contributing factor to the ill-fated events followed in the 19th century novel, ‘Dracula’.

The Western European characters of ‘Dracula’ believed only in the conventional proof that science provided. This added to their reluctance to defy their morals and believe in mythical creatures science could not prove such as vampires.

Dr. Seward is a good example of this with his study of RM Renfield. Renfield is under strict examination as an assumed psychotic patient. After intensive observation Dr Seward labels Renfield’s condition as “zoophagous” meaning psychotic. Being unaware of superstition due to the closed Eastern European fixation he was not able to diagnose Renfield’s symptoms of vampirism.

Interestingly, Renfield becomes infatuated by Mina and makes a desperate attempt to kill her attacker, Dracula, by luring him into his cell but instead loses his own life. One could argue in Catholic analogy a possible solution to blood-lust is self-sacrifice, which could be assumed from Renfield’s death.

Jonathan Harker is another example of the closed scientific mindset. He is not able to recognize Dracula’s true identity as a vampire, dismissing his experiences as imagination.

Religion, Books and schooling of Eastern European characters actually increased their vulnerability to Dracula. ‘Dracula’ illustrates the importance of trusting multiple types of information even those perceived as irrational.

One can see that the changing belief in science rather than superstition and religion has proved to be an inconvenience to the characters of ‘Dracula’ in recognizing vampirism.

On the other hand, the substantial belief of superstition in Eastern Europe is essential in defeating Dracula. There are similarities between superstition and religion; faith. However believe in science and be skeptical of such superstitions, for example Professor Van Helsing.

“Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them”.

Vampirism had appeared throughout Eastern Europe in the late 17th century and soon evolved agitation and obsession with vampires. Belief in superstitions, vampires in particular gained control in large accumulations of people. Vampires became reality in their eyes; there were reported sightings and antidotes for vampirism.

“Bodies believed to be suicide victims or those who died at the gallows were often buried at crossroads to confuse their restless souls”.

If not for the superstitious knowledge Professor Van Helsing possessed on using crucifixes, wooden stakes and garlic to kill vampires, defeating Dracula would have been without doubt, unachievable.

Technology

The Victorian Era was a time of astonishing scientific and technological discovery consequently beginning the revolution of dependence on science rather than familiarity. Almost every Western character in ‘Dracula’ is completely fanatical with the technological advancement of the era, a number effectively fail to remember daily life previous to its inventions. Dr Seward becomes so dependent on technology he utters

“..to write a diary with a pen is irksome to me”.

He also relies heavily on his phonograph to keep his diary and telegraphs to maintain communication. Technology is an element that distinguishes the West from the primitivism of the East.

Although through relying on science western Europeans were intelligent, this blocked the truth; the superstition of vampires. There is a similarity with the absence of technology, without technology how distinguishable is the West from the East? Western Europeans devoted all their faith in modernity and technological progression. Mass hysteria would be fashioned in Western Europe if it were suddenly plagued by vampires despite their technologically advanced society.

Although the East can be described as almost “primitive” with technology, faith in superstition is all that can be relied upon, and in ‘Dracula’ this was essential. ‘Dracula’ illustrated that despite petty instruments of knowledge such as technology, would not render Western Europe as invincible. Technology ultimately played a minimal role in defeating Dracula.

Medicine

The progression of medicine arrived with the advancement of technology in the 19th century. Medicine was an element carried throughout ‘Dracula’ by Dr Seward. Dr Seward confirms the consequences of an inexperienced, arrogant doctor who places all his faith in modern medicine. When Lucy falls “ill” Dr Seward’s inexperience and strict scientific mindset, and medicine’s developmental stage becomes apparent.

Blood transfusions were a new medical discovery of the time, but it is clear that it had not been undoubtedly successful as testing for blood types were not indicated. Lucy is donated blood from four various men. In reality, she would have certainly died because of incompatible blood types.

While on the contrary medicine and superstition unquestionably aided the defeat of Dracula. Professor Van Helsing is the perfect amalgam of science and medicine, and superstition. A clueless Dr Seward calls upon Van Helsing for advice on Lucy’s “illness”. The bite mark on Lucy’s neck was almost immediately dismissed by Seward on the other hand Van Helsing’s superstitious mindset allowed him to identify vampirism.

Van Helsing does not expand his state of mind after the journey, as he enters a believing, religious person with profound scientific knowledge and leaves the same. While all characters in ‘Dracula’ leave with insightful belief in superstition from simply

“You must understand that seeing is believing, but also know that believing is seeing”.

Conclusion

Considering all the events that occurred in ‘Dracula’ one can see the differences in Western scientific and Eastern superstitious mindset contributed to the journey and consequently the outcome of ‘Dracula’.

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