Bram Stoker's Novel 'Dracula' as a Representation of Marxism

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Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist explanation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical perspective to view social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism is presented throughout the 1897 Gothic novel ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker, which displays Count Dracula, who is attempting to move from Transylvania to so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse. Within the novel it could feasibly be argued that Dracula is a capitalist, who manipulates and thrives upon the laborers. Therefore, it could be investigated through a Marxist perspective despite it originally being written as a Gothic text.

Bram Stoker symbolizes the Count as a lifeless and pale entity shown through the quote “I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain”. Which here clearly portrays the Count as a being without life, which could suggest that capitalists do not have an idea of the harsh circumstances they embed onto the lower class, as they themselves are without life from their continuous exploitation of their laborers. Due to Dracula being a symbol as a capitalist, then it clearly highlights that capitalism is ruining society and all of the miserly capitalists are unaware of the true aspects of living, also it clearly highlights how Stoker is showing Karl Marx’s representation of Marxism by criticizing capitalism in the way by portraying the capitalists as lifeless and dead inside, due to their harsh and malicious mistreatment of the lower classes in society. Here, Stoker is showing the reader that capitalism is only benefitting the bourgeoisie, and the majority of society, which is the lower class, is being significantly being taken advantage of by the capitalist society by contributing mainly by manual labor and being hardly paid enough to live, by the not understanding capitalists that have no ‘sign of life’. Stoker himself was socially conservative. Social conservatism is a political philosophy and variety of conservatism which places an emphasis on traditional power structures over social pluralism. They also engaged with the economic insecurity of lower-class and benefitting their economic instability. The working class hardly feature in the novel, and those that do are essentially caricatures of reality. Yet it is a narrative about exploitation, and the use and abuse of power, as much as a tale about vampires which could possibly show that Stoker may have believed that capitalism was an exploitive system where the people involved were lifeless due to their mistreatment of others for their own gain.

Marxists believe that within society, people think and behave according to basic economic factors. Those factors are derived from the dominant class imposing their beliefs upon the lower class in order to conform to the standards and beliefs the more dominant class and make them believe, by working for them, that that they can achieve these standards, but in fact they cannot. Dracula represents a class struggle between the capitalist bourgeois and the character of Dracula as a monopolist who controls a significant portion of the market, and Dracula worked in relation to the bourgeois fears of domination from above from the monopolistic Dracula shown through the quote: “I don't want to talk to you: you don't count now; the Master is at hand”. This clearly shows that Stoker is showing that the Count, being an exploitative capitalist, has influence and power over others even within conversations backing up the theory that, “minds are not free at all, they only think they are”, highlighting to the reader that capitalists are arrogant due to the control and supremacy they hold upon others as they are controlling and higher in society than anyone else in the average, standard classes.

Marx himself had used the vampire metaphor to discuss the workings of the capital and how it drains the life out of those who are in the lower classes: “Capital is dead labor which vampire like, lives only by sucking the living labor and lives the more, the more labor it sucks”. The Count is as Marx describes a form of capital which sucks the life from the working class. Dracula has no life himself, but he maintains living off the others like capitalism and due to this Stoker could have portrayed Dracula as the form of capitalism Marx describes shown through the quote “I am here to do Your bidding, Master. I am Your slave...”, which shows that once Dracula has taken life from those, they become his willing slaves, like how capitalists make the working proletariat class their slaves through the harsh form of difficult and painful manual labor. As the Marxist critic Franco Moretti explained, “Dracula is a true monopolist; solitary and despotic, he will not brook competition”. Dracula expressed the fears of the bourgeois and the petty bourgeois who fear domination from the unchallenged power of big business, and with the Count himself, being a ‘true monopolist’, shows that there is always a bigger power within a capitalist society, and with Dracula being one of the biggest it shows how capitalists show no mercy and will make others their slaves to gain in anticompetitive power.

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The whole movement of region in the gothic novel as the Count travels from Transylvania - modern day Romania, to Britain, shows that capitalist move from one region to another to capitalize that region and exploit the workers in order to benefit from their demise as the Count says “Not so! Alas! Not so. It is only the beginning!”, which showcases that when a capitalist moves onto a region, they will exploit it with all its benefits, and they will simply move onto another in order to gain as much equity as possible, whilst degrading the working class, leaving them lifeless, like the capitalists seem lifeless, but aren’t as they seem lifeless but are actually feeding off the working class to maintain their wealthy lifestyle.

Stoker also presents the working-class as ineffectual and inferior to the capitalist society. This is shown after the death of Lucy, Steward and Van Helsing, Quincey, and Arthur, all seem to have less of a purpose, although they still do have a desire to avenge Lucy, the matter seems to have diminished in purpose and put aside, as well as Mina’s role has lessened as well at this point, as the men had ‘released’ her from their circle and un-wanting her participation in the hunt anymore. The general course of events sets up the class standings of the characters, as Marx writes that “the entire society must fall into two classes: those with property and those property-less souls who labor”. The men in this instance represent the labor category hunting the Count of his killing of Lucy, but they seem less capable to act against him, never seeming any closer into killing him. Here, Stoker is clearly emphasizing how the laborers actually wield no physical power over the capitalists as they are replaceable and are less significant in comparison to the bourgeoise. This could infer that Stoker shared the view that capitalism is a wasteful, irrational system, a system which controls us when we should be controlling it. This view is expressed as the Count is presented as powerful and the laborers actually wield no power over him due to how the capitalist society controls the laborers rather than the other way around.

Marx also comments, “The laborer becomes the poorer the more wealth he produces, indeed the more powerful and wide ranging his production becomes. The laborer becomes a cheap commodity, the more commodities he creates”. Stoker clearly emphasizes this point in Dracula through the quote “The blood is the life!”. Throughout the novel blood could possibly be viewed that Stoker used blood as an extended metaphor for money, and by having the Count suck blood out of the deprived, it shows how capitalists see money as the only true point to life and it should be obtained at all costs, even if it does drain the life out of others and exploit society at the expenses of the working class, and it evidently shows how capitalism is only benefiting the most powerful members of society, as it degrades those who aren’t without anyway for them to escape from the poverty circle, hence being a slave to the bourgeoisie in order to get standard living needs ,which is in fact a push to say that their style of living is a worse fate than death.

In summary, Marxism is seen evidently strong throughout Bram Stoker’s novel, and it is almost like we are living the world of Dracula’s hierarchy. As readers we become enticed to feel empathy for the oppressed and anger towards the aristocrat. His novel may possibly depict the world of 1897 and allow us to live it through the gothic genre and witness the class struggle. Marx himself once stated: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”. Marx knew that the proletarians had nothing to lose not even dignity, they had to stand up for themselves and show society what it could truly be, which clearly shows that from a Marxist lens Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ criticizes the harsh reality of capitalism and how it thrives on exploiting its laborers.

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Bram Stoker’s Novel ‘Dracula’ as a Representation of Marxism. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/bram-stokers-novel-dracula-as-a-representation-of-marxism/
“Bram Stoker’s Novel ‘Dracula’ as a Representation of Marxism.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/bram-stokers-novel-dracula-as-a-representation-of-marxism/
Bram Stoker’s Novel ‘Dracula’ as a Representation of Marxism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/bram-stokers-novel-dracula-as-a-representation-of-marxism/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Bram Stoker’s Novel ‘Dracula’ as a Representation of Marxism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/bram-stokers-novel-dracula-as-a-representation-of-marxism/
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