When I was a young greenhorn on Tumblr (a few months ago) I stumbled across a post on one of those Bookfessions blogs. I don’t recall just how, but I did, and I found one that annoyed and disgusted me greatly. It read as follows:
“Dracula is my favorite book. Not because of the romance, but because Stoker captured the feeling of being unloved for something you can’t help. He made his monster seem human.”
That is absolutely not what Dracula is about. Neither is it about the romance per se. The romance only figures in as it shows how powerful love–true love–is.
Dracula is distinctly the opposite of an apologia for vampires. If my memory serves me correctly, there is no indication that Dracula nor any of the other vampires “can’t help” being the way they are (I recall nothing saying they are compelled to drink men’s blood, though I may be wrong about that); rather, the vampires are presented as evil. The things they desire—revenge, dominance, conquest, power for power’s sake and other selfish reasons—are not necessarily good things nor the highest things in life. You can see that this is the sort of thing Dracula is looking for from his description of his ancestors in Chapter 3:
We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, ay, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the were-wolves themselves had come. Here, too, when they came, they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert. (Project Gutenberg, Dracula, Chapter III)
The Dracula family’s history is characterized by violence, and violence for its own sake, for the glory of it.
Are we to admire and pity this? I might admire and pity Dracula if he demonstrated some kind of shame at having such violent desires—but he does not, and in fact enjoys them, which is part of what makes him so evil. And you know what? Dracula doesn’t care about whether he’s loved or not. He cares about being in control. About power. “Love” does not enter the formula for Dracula’s plans, except in how the love (romantic or otherwise) of each of the other good characters is capable of foiling his plans.
Clearly Stoker’s vampires are not the vampires ofTwilight, who do not wish to feed on human blood and so find alternatives; these vampires take delight in draining another person’s lifeblood. Dracula slowly drains Lucy Westenra, and is not touched at all by Lucy’s plight, by the fact that she is getting weaker and weaker and that he is turning her into a vampire against her own will. Does this monster truly seem human? Is a monster who does not try to contain his monstrousness, but rather revels in it, takes pride in it, to be considered human? Are we truly to pity Dracula, who turns Lucy into a vampire that preys not simply on people but primarily on innocent children?
Nowhere in Dracula do I recall reading that vampires are required to suck human blood—merely that they do (which takes away any force of the idea that they can’t help who they are). Such a nature is already in itself perverted (drinking human blood just because you want to is unnatural, and yes I know that such a thing is a real fetish and I still say that) so if we were to pity Dracula at all he would have to see his condition as a bad thing and desire to stop his behavior even if on his own he is incapable of doing so; but this is not the case. Even on a practical level, Dracula does not do good. He’s not ashamed of being evil, he’s actually proud of and takes pleasure in that fact, and goes around killing people by sucking their blood. Let me add once again, he does all this unashamedly.
If Dracula were human, and if he had any shred of moral goodness in him, he would on some level be bothered by what he does—but he never is. Rather than portraying Dracula as “unloved for something [he] can’t help” and making “his monster seem human,” Stoker goes to great lengths to show how evil and ultimately inhuman his monster is. Though greed and lust for power are desires humans exhibit, they are not the desires and actions that make humans humans.
If you want a story where someone who can’t (to a certain extent) help being what they are is unloved, you should read Frankenstein.
(I want to go on and talk about how the character Dracula is very similar to Satan but this post is already long. *sigh*)