Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arata on Dracula

UPDATE: More material, academic papers, analysis & critique @ my current blog Elastic Collisions -

Stephen D. Arata has many things to say about Dracula. From the Orientalist approach with Jonathon Harker and the gothic portrayel of traveling, to the effects of Dracula being Occidental. There are a few specifics in Arata’s well written essay that this post will go into specifically.

As stated in The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colinization, Dracula himself is an Occidentialist, which is “someone who views the western world in a dehumanizing light” (Wikipedia – Occidentialism  According to Arata, Dracula’s “Occidentialism represents the essence of bad faith, since it both promotes and masks the Counts sinister plan to invade and exploit Britain and her people.”  Indeed, other students have noted on Englands desire for strong social change (such as Andrew) in the Victorian period, and Dracula represents this, as looking at Arata’s essay will show. This social change, however, is brought upon through fear. What I am looking to focus on his how Arata’s essay relates too England’s fear of the upcoming power in the west. What will be most looked at is the character of Dracula, what elements of the west he embodies and what effect this could have had for readers at the time.

Around this period there were a few philosophies kicking around the minds of the colonialists. The idea of westward expansion almost coincides with other ideas that are easily described as more sinister, such as manifest destiny, all which were well publicized beliefs by westerners. Keep in mind that the character of Dracula embodies the evil growing power of the western world, which I feel Arata argues. There of course are many reasons for this culturally and historically that would cause Arata too believe this; the whole drive of the middle class in England, which is part of its boom, is due too resources being shipped and creating jobs this way. America, through many years of fighting taxation and eventually separation, caused England to lose its title of “workplace of the world” through the 18th and 19th centuries. Then there is the idea of westward expansion, as these divine, holy people (the now inhabitants calling themselves Americans), bringing education with the likes of Berkley and ‘taming’  natives, being ideologies that are easy to attack and become frustrated with as they have inherent self righteous connotations. Arata almost seems to be stating that Bram Stoker is well aware of this, and that Dracula, sucking Europe dry, relates too this America, sucking up its lands. And not just with religion, but agriculture and manufacturing. With every essence of being a British Citizen. On top of that, Dracula is a foreigner.

Arata also points towards something else, hinting at a more passive effect. “Dracula is different, however. A large part of the terror he inspires originates in his ability to stroll, unrecognized and unhindered, through the streets of London.”  This is the passage that most struck out to me, as Literature is at, arguable, its strongest point. And here, with the human races most popular medium, is Dracula, so dangerous because he is so deceptive he can hide among the Englishmen, before he uses them by feeding on their life essence.  This also creates an attack on the idea of “Englishness”; what it means to be an English man, which was quite popular at the time.  It creates an important connection; western ideas can invade and effect the English identity. It can be so unnoticeable that someone may not perceive it. The message too the Englishman is simple: Be warned. Dracula is still there as America is. It may even walk around you. Be vigilant. Be English.

1 comment:

  1. Adam, I very much agree with your views of Arata’s essay. Dracula is clearly a threat to Englishman everywhere not just sexually, but as you point out, as a real danger to what it means to be English. England during that time was beginning to see its vast Empire crumble further, and in so doing must have begun to feel quite impotent. We as readers shouldn’t gloss over the fact that England, at one time, controlled a vast empire of which it was said, “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. (

    As you note a rising American power, and even to some extent a burgeoning empire in Germany, began to negatively impact their belief in themselves as imperialistic and noble Englishman. Stoker’s character of Dracula represents a foreign element being able to deceive the English without seeming foreign as you note he is, “so dangerous because he is so deceptive he can hide among the Englishmen, before he uses them by feeding on their life essence.” Dracula was analogous to a tumor lying inside the unknowing carrier, until it reaches a critical mass and begins to kill its host. He would feed on England’s very blood, until the time when he became strong enough to take on the next waiting power, America.