Among many cultural, racial, geographic and literary aspects of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, religion is probably the most important one to be analysed. As the novel itself explains, Christianity is the predominant religion that is chosen to confront with the darkness in order to purify the earth. The followers of this religious movement are found in a situation where they need to save their land, empire and the established socio-cultural system from invasion of the un-dead. The danger comes from the outside and has no logical explanation. This novel is all about the battle between the divine forces against the old and archaic superstitions.
In this gothic novel, Count Dracula is presented as the evil, an anti-Christ. His name literally means “son of the Dragon” which inevitably gives him diabolic features. In all the myths all over the world Dragon always carries bad connotations. He is the one causing troubles to the civilian population and constantly keeping them in fear. His primary diet consists of young and beautiful women that he kidnaps and the only way to stop this terror from happening is the appearance of a knight, a hero. This hero is a saviour, the one who brings the light and ends up with the troublemaker. He is destined to destroy the evil and his mission is to bring peace. There is, of course, no better representative of a saviour than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. His ideological, moral and ethical principles are the basis of the Catholic Church, a religion whose influence is undoubtedly predominant throughout the history since the birth of the Christ.
Christianity was chosen by Stoker as analogy of the knight destined to defeat the beast. Now, all the Christian-men are the embodiment of this ideology which is to fight in order too save the established system so as to ensure the bright future of the succeeding generations. This very idea is strongly affirmed by Abraham Van Helsing in his speech:
“Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish. That the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him. He has allowed us to redeem one soul already, and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more. Like them we shall travel towards the sunrise. And like them, if we fall, we fall in good cause.” (Stoker, 1897: 531, chapter XXIV).
The choice of the weapons and tools used in order to fight with the un-dead has fallen on the holy water, fragments from Bible, prays, crucifixes and communion wafers. All these are symbols representing the physical and spiritual aspects of the Christ. These measures were ought to be taken since Dracula is not a human but something mysterious and unexplainable. His powers surpass human’s physical abilities. He even has the ability to change the weather, something only Christ could do. Thus the only way to fight with the unknown is to use something that has no logical explanation either. This one is the religious belief of the holy and divine force of the Christ as the only weapon capable of defeating the evil. This also means that only those who believe have the right to be saved. The ones who do not will inevitably fall into Dracula’s temptations.
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This way readers can draw a clear parallel between Dracula and Christ. Many factors indicate their symbolic relationship. In his article Keeping the Faith: Catholicism in Dracula and its Adaptations D. Bruno Starrs states: “The novel’s religious analogy is obvious: in the most basic of his many perversions of Catholic lore, Count Dracula is the figurative anti-Christ who promises eternal life through the ingestion not of sacramental wine representing the blood of Christ, but of actual human blood.” (2004:1). It is well known that during the Holy Communion Catholics drink the holy wine representing the blood of Christ in order to purify their soul and gain eternal life in heaven. Dracula, on the other hand, drinks human blood to continue living on earth.
He also contradicts to the common Christian belief of the sacred meaning of marriage. Dracula practices multiple marriage since has three vampire wives and even tries to make more through Mina and Lucy. However, in Christian Church marriage is considered to be for life and only once.
Another aspect of Dracula’s personality that distorts Christianity is his bisexual behaviour. As Jamili Wetzels states: “In combination with the use of his penetrating teeth, Dracula’s response to both Jonathan and Mina Harker’s blood is almost a sexual one, thus giving Dracula’s behaviour a bisexual connotation.” (2012:11). Furthermore, David Rogers adds: “his luscious mouth with his sharp protruding (and penetrating) teeth combining the symbolic shape of the feminine with a signifier of masculine phallic power to provide (…) only the most conspicuous of many signs of his figurative bisexuality” (2000: XI).
In this horror novel, Dracula is presented as a threat to the Holy Land of England. His journey towards new continents were all in order to spread his beliefs which can be compared with the religious Crusades. These were intended to spread Christianity all over the world. This way the un-dead invades the peaceful city of London and brings his terror to all its citizens. He converts others into himself by biting them, thus making more followers of his diabolic belief. He contaminates their blood so they are left without humanity and finally become monsters. The only way to purify their souls and to bring them salvation is by destroying the diabolic inside them. So as to let the soul to go to heaven and reunite with the God the un-dead has to be killed in an almost religious way.
As the novel itself tells there are multiple ways in which Count Dracula corrupts and distorts Christianity. He is the embodiment of the anti-Christ that comes in order to contaminate the earth with the evil. He makes people become blood-sucking monster by falling into his temptations. He is a powerful antagonist with his own principles and ideology that contradict to many Christian customs. All these aspects of his identity perfectly reflect the difficult socio-cultural situation of England of that time.
- Starrs, D. Bruno Keeping the faith: Catholicism in ‘Dracula’ and its adaptations (2004). Journal of Dracula Studies.
- Bram Stoker, Dracula, Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York.
- Jamili Wetzels, 3240622, Bachelor Thesis, English Language and Culture, Utrecht University, The Influence of Science and the Supernatural on the Gothic Novel,
- Rogers, David. “Introduction.” Dracula. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, (2000).