The Theme Of Revenge In Dracula Critical Thinking
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The novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker represents a wide variety of themes. Researchers have often delved into the dominant themes in the novel and attempted to explore their implication on human life or how they apply to mankind. One of the themes that is very prevalent in the novel is the theme of revenge. This theme is perpetuated by the main antagonist, Dracula as well as a host of other characters in the novel. However, revenge is not simply pursued by some of the characters in the novel for the sake of it. In this novel, revenge is a virtue that motivates most of the characters in the novel to engage in actions meant to distress or exterminate enemies.
According to Senf, “Dracula raises a lot of questions about ourselves and the society” (160). In regard to revenge, the novel causes the reader to think about the role of this virtue in human life because it characterizes several characters. The first character in the novel who perpetuates the theme of revenge is Jonathan Harker. At the beginning of the novel, Jonathan makes his way to Transylvania, which is where Count Dracula resides. He is initially unaware of the evil nature of Count Dracula. He even goes to Count Dracula’s lodging where he is offered shelter. Later on, Count Dracula reveals his true nature and subjects Harker to great distress and torture. Jonathan is extremely afraid, but at the same time, he realizes that he has to free himself. If does not do this, then his future fate is unknown. He states that he cannot die and that he has to get out in order to ensure that he ends the evil reign of Dracula and also ensure that he does not get away with what he has done to him. This statement reveals two things. The first is that he wishes to escape so that he can stop Dracula from continuing with his evil actions and therefore causing harm to others. It is crucial to stop Dracula because he is a complex and multilevel character and who is “both an obvious threat to every human being on earth and simultaneously a menace to the public and the society, Dracula endangers human civilization” (Baumbach 1). Even more importantly, the phrase shows that Harker is driven by revenge. When he says that he cannot let Count Dracula get away with what he did to him, he obviously means that he wants to seek revenge. He wants to possibly inflict pain to Count Dracula the same way that Count Dracula inflicted pain on him. It is often said that there is no dangerous man than the one who is driven by revenge and in the case of Jonathan, this is the case. Even in the following actions throughout the novel, his desire for revenge is clear as he relentlessly pursues Count Dracula.
Being held hostage by Dracula is not the only thing that makes Harker revengeful. Although he is quite a changed man after being taken hostage, his thirst for revenge is further accentuated by the fact the when Dracula takes over his wife, he is unable to protect her. When Dracula makes his way to Victorian London, his main targets are women who he conquers and transforms them into lustful vampires. Mina, who is Jonathan’s wife, is one of the unfortunate victims of Dracula. Harker is extremely disturbed by the fact that he was unable to protect his wife from the evil acts of Dracula. His self-guilt and the evil nature of his wife’s’ transformation by Dracula further perpetuates his desire and hunger for revenge. This causes Harker to pursue Count Dracula relentless throughout the novel. Although he claims that he wants to stop Count Dracula from inflicting more pain on the people, the real reason is that of revenge. Ultimately, it emerges that the desire for revenge is an even stronger factor that facilitates success against the enemy. If Harker was simply pursuing Count Dracula to stop him, his search would perhaps not have been so steadfast. It is the inner drive for revenge that pushes him beyond all limits such that he is finally able to capture Dracula and exert the revenge that he has been searching for a long time.
Count Dracula is another character who is also partly motived by revenge. As mentioned earlier, Dracula makes his way to London where he starts preying on its residents specifically young women. One of Dracula’s victims is Lucy, who is Mina’s friends. Dracula slowly starts feeding on blood from Lucy. This causes her to slowly transform becoming weak and sickly. Unfortunately, many of those around her refuse to see reality. They do not believe in superstition and, therefore, none of them hypothesizes that she could be a victim of a vampire attack. It is only the wise Van Helsing who realizes what is wrong with her. Lucy dies and is buried, but she comes back in form of a vampire and starts attacking people. Van Helsing tracks her down and through the help of her lover beheads her. Dracula is enraged by this. This is because by preying on women and transforming them into a vampire, he is essentially attempting to create a spiritual bond with them, and when Lucy is beheaded, he knows that this bond has been broken. His thirst for revenge causes him to attack Mina. He bites her and, therefore, forms another spiritual bond with her. Through this, he is able to control her. Therefore, his actions result from the thirst for revenge therefore showing how revenge can prompt individuals to commit unimaginable and unthinkable actions.
Once again, this action only helps to enrage Harker even more. “When Mina is bitten by Dracula and half transformed into a vampire herself, Jonathan is even more desperate to kill the Count “(Enotes 12). In simple terms, the biting on Mina by Dracula only increases the desire for revenge in Harker.
Van Helsing and his compatriots are clearly infuriated by this and likewise, they plot their revenge. In fact, they realize that Dracula is much stronger than they had perhaps anticipated and because of the great thirst for revenge, they start articulating a stronger plan.
In “Killing the "Terrible Monster": Dracula and the Irish Response to British Imperialism”, the author writes “Stoker couches their revenge in militaristic terms” (n.p). This is indeed exemplified through the words of some Van Helsing who states that “We should have ready some plan of attack” (Stoker, 293). In addition, Stoker writes that when the hunters arrive in Transylvania, “amongst them they carried a small arsenal” (340). Simply put, the hunters are driven by their revenge and because of this, they make strategic plans (almost military in nature) on how to defeat the monster because they cannot fathom the idea of him continuing to survive after all he has done.
Drager writes that, “Dracula chooses his victims based on a general sense of revenge rather than any personal reason” (n.p). She gives an example of Lucy. She states that the choice of Lucy by Dracula seems random to Lucy’s friend since she has personally never met Dracula and has not wronged him or his people on a personal level. Lucy appears to a complete innocent and, therefore, the fact that Dracula targets her is simply a marker of cruelty (Drager n.p)
When Van Helsing and his friends including Harker are chasing Dracula, it comes to an instance when they are just about to catch him. Knowing what lies ahead, Count Dracula is already planning for his revenge if he is caught. He states “You think to baffle me, you with your pale faces al in a row, like sheep in a butcher’s. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest, but I have more. My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already. And through them you and others shall yet be mine, my creatures, to do my bidding and be to my jackals when I want to feed. Bah!”(Stoker, 486). Once again, this is a depiction of how the desire for revenge can push people to commit and do unimaginable things. Dracula claims that he has planned his revenge over centuries, and, in fact, he claims that some of his revenge is already in action. He has already conquered the women belonging to his hunters, and he will use them to capture his hunters likewise.
The theme of revenge is prevalent in the novel ‘Dracula” by Brain Stoker. Several actions that happen in the novel draw their premise from revenge. In fact, revenge seems to be a constant virtue that motivates most of the characters in the novel to engage in both evil actions (in the case of Dracula) and noble actions (in the case of Harker, Val Helsing and co). Ultimately, the hunters thirst for revenge prevails as they are finally able to capture the deadly Dracula and exterminate him once for all. With this action, their thirst for revenge is quenched, and they can perhaps go back to their normal lives.
Dagger, Katey. "Reverse Colonization as a Function of Criminal Atavism in Bram Stoker's Dracula." Emergence: A Journal of Undergraduate Literary Criticism and Creative Research 5 (2014).
Baumbach, Jun-Prof Sibylle. "Bram Stoker’s Dracula-A Foreign Threat to the British Empire."
Enotes. “Dracula by Bram Stoker”. 2009. < http://www.enotes.com/dracula>
Killing the "Terrible Monster": Dracula and the Irish Response to British Imperialism
Senf, Carol A. "" Dracula": The Unseen Face in the Mirror." The Journal of Narrative Technique (1979): 160-170.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York: Dover, 2000
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