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Bram Stokers Dracula: A Struggle To Maintain Victorian Upper And Middle Class

1831 words - 7 pages

The Victorian men and women conveyed in Bram Stoker's Dracula are pure and virtuous members of the upper and middle class. However, hiding behind this composed and civilized conception of England lies a dark and turbulent underbelly. This underbelly is the lumpenproletariat, whom Karl Marx defined as "the lowest and most degraded section of the proletariat; the ‘down and outs’ who make no contribution to the workers cause". Victorian culture discriminated against these vagrants, who were seen not only as shiftless and immoral, but dangerous as well. Sex was taboo and purity was held sacred to the Victorian middle and upper class, but prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases ran rampant among the lumpenproletariat. The rich strive to be pious and good, but consider those of lower social standing to be less than human. The reaction of the characters in Dracula to the evil of the vampires can be likened to the Victorian conception of the lower classes. They were seen as a hedonistic but powerful force, with the collective capacity to end the affluent citizen's way of life. In this sense, the novel can be viewed as a struggle to maintain upper-class Victorian traditions against the traditions of the lower class. This paper will examine the similarities between the vampires and the perception of the lower classes in regards to superstition, sexuality, inequality and the "preying" of the lumpenproletariat on the respectable middle-class. It will also examine the signs evident in the novel of the Victorian mindset.
          Dracula is an aristocrat with a castle and noble title, but in reality he is more associated with the lumpen. While trapped in Dracula's castle early in the novel, Jonathan discovers that he has no hired help, has been performing menial tasks such as bed-making and table setting in secret, and even acting as the horse-carriage driver. He slumbers in dirt, much like the homeless, and is nomadic for most of the book. The Count associates himself most clearly with the lumpenproletariat in the form of a horde of gypsies who "attach themselves as a rule to some great noble"(49). They even do his bidding: "The [gypsies] have given me these"(50) Dracula says of Jonathan's ill-fated letters. Dracula attempts to hide his lumpen nature and exude an aristocratic air, but in reality he, and vampirism in general, is much more closely associated with the lower classes.
          The delineation between the lower and middle-upper classes can also be seen clearly in both parties' attitudes towards superstition and science. While the privileged classes are highly scientific and skeptical of superstition, the lower classes are just the opposite. Dr. Seward uses the phonograph machine, a cutting edge technology, to record his lengthy journal entries which include updates on his patient, Renfield, as well...

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