Dracula Essay Ideas

+ All Bram Stoker Dracula Essays:

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One of the human’s most distinct emotions is fear, specifically that in which surfaces as the result of the unknown. Fear is an emotion generally associated with anxiety – a powerful feeling that is brought upon by worry, dread and trepidation. To dread something that is unknown is often the result of foreshadowing, which is a dominant literary component of the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Stoker’s effective use of foreshadowing has an influence on the most evident effect in his novel: the effect of anxiety. As the multiplicity of the characters increases, the story itself thickens with the underlying emotion of fear. Therefore, as the story continues through a one person narrative, the reader becomes equipped with the capability of predicting certain fears through evidently frightening circumstances prior to the character’s ability to do so.

It becomes evident that the novel operates on fear quite early on. Within the first chapter of the book – Jonathan Stoker’s leading journal entry – distress begins to surface throughout his journey to his initial encounter with Dracula. Jonathan is an English solicitor who is embarking on his first professional venture, in hopes of selling real Estate to Count Dracula. Originally, Jonathan keeps his journal in order to later be able to tell his fiancée Mina Murray of his journeys. However; it soon becomes the primary text responsible in large parts for keeping him sane. The final means on transportation liable for getting Jonathan to the Count’s castle is that of a carriage. Upon boarding it, Jonathan notes how “[he] felt a little strange, and not a little frightened. [He thought] had there been any alternative [he] should have taken it, instead of prosecuting that unknown night journey” (Stoker, p.12). This is a point in which the feeling of anxiety surfaces within the reader, and this feeling is intensified when Jonathan writes “…a dog began to howl somewhere in a farmhouse far down the road – a long, agonized wailing, as if from fear” (p.12), and in response to the realization that such howling was created by a pack of wolves, transcribes that “[he] grew dreadfully afraid” (p.13). It is evident to the reader that this is foreshadowing for a series of events yet to come – a series of events with seemingly negative associations or consequences. Jonathan accentuates his fear for the unknown when he writes that “all at once the wolves began to howl as thought the moonlight had had some peculiar effect on them” (p.14) and by noting that the effect was out of the ordinary, it is made obvious that the reasoning behind the acting out of the wolves is both unclear to Jonathan, as well as uncommon.

Another primary factor associated with the surfacing of anxiety is that of confusion. Confusion is a constituent that often leads to stress and stress to worry – all stepping stones toward the more intensified emotions of fear and anxiety. Upon the conclusion of Jonathan’s worrisome journey to the Count’s Castle, he shook Dracula’s hand and noted that “the strength of the handshake was so much akin to that which [he] had noticed in the driver, whose face [he] had not seen, that for a moment [he] doubted if it were not the same person to whom [he] was speaking” (p. 17). Jonathan’s brief – yet seemingly important – contemplation about the possibility of Dracula holding the position of both the operator of the carriage and the Count himself ignites the emotion of worry within the reader; and also equips the reader with the capability of now fearing for Jonathan’s overall safety.  However, it is not until the physical description of the Count himself that the fear of Jonathan’s safety is solidified. Jonathan goes on to describe Dracula by writing “His face was a strong – a very strong – aquiline, with high bridge of the think nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth” (p.19). By regarding the Count’s teeth as peculiar – Jonathan emphasizes that his physical description deviates from what he and readers would now consider the norm, and such an abnormality stresses the anxiety supplementary to the unknown; resulting in the preliminary sense of fear toward the Count himself. Jonathan records that the Count did say “You may go anywhere you wish in the castle, except where the doors are locked, where of course you will not wish to go” (p. 23). After spending a short amount of time within the Count’s castle – Jonathan reaches the realization which was in a small sense dreaded by readers all along; he comes to terms with the fact that “The castle is a veritable prison, and [he is the] prisoner!” (p.29).

Anxiety is at this point in the novel an extremely dominant emotion conveyed by the reader, as by this point it is accepted that Jonathan is in danger, yet the reasoning behind why it is he that has been placed in a seemingly horrific situation remains unclear. This steady lingering of the unknown could be considered responsible for the continuation of anxiety throughout the duration of the novel. It is now in which the readers are asking the same questions as the character. Who is Dracula, and what is the reasoning behind Jonathan’s captivity? The audience’s fear of the Count himself is strengthened when Jonathan writes how “[his] very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when [he] saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings” (p.38). Jonathan refers to the Count’s actions as “lizard like” (p.38), and emphasizes his emotions when writing “I feel the dread of this horrible place overpowering me; I am in fear – in awful fear – and there is no escape for me; I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of…” (p.38). Dracula’s now obvious deviations from that of both societal norms and human behaviour leaves readers hypothesizing and theorizing Dracula’s capabilities and motives. It also leaves the audience faced with the decision as to whether or not Jonathan is simply mad; as it is clear that such a circumstance is ostensibly impossible. The surfacing of such impossibility, again, heightens the emotion of fear in regards to the unknown. The readers are posed with the question of how could these impossibilities occur. The reader’s equally intensified sense of worry in regards to Jonathan’s safety is solidified when Jonathan writes “Whilst I live on here there is but one thing to hope for: that I may not go mad, if, indeed, I be not mad already. If I be sane, then surely it is maddening to think that of all the foul things that lurk in this hateful place the Count is the least dreadful to me; that to him alone I can look for safety, even though this be only whilst I serve his purpose” (p.40).

It is throughout the duration of the initial introductory journal pieces, as documented by Jonathan Harker, that the reader’s sense of anxiety is developed. Stoker’s effective use of foreshadowing has a persuasive influence on the dominant effect of anxiety throughout the novel; and the continuation of this theme is carried on throughout the multiplicity of characters that are presented, including Jonathan’s wife Mina Harker. The theme of anxiety is derivative in large portions to both the reader and the character’s fear of the unknown – the accompanying theme that remains constant within the novel as well, which is a result of Stoker’s effective use of literary schematics. In conjunction with this surface the reader’s evident distaste for Count Dracula; as such anxiety has ultimately resulted in fear of his character, accompanied by the audience’s lack of knowledge in regards to his capabilities. It was said by Einstein “in time we hate that which we often fear” (Bartlett, 112) and such a statement is proven to be true through the readers interpretation of Dracula as seen through the eyes of Jonathan Harker.

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