Dracula Themes: Foreigners Assignment

971 words - 4 pages

The fear of the “other,” or of those different from a certain value, is an idea that has permeated mindsets since the first human societies interacted with one another. A frequent medium by which these stereotypes were and are perpetuated and spread is via literature. Literature reflects on societal values, attitudes, and fears which is representative of the time in which it is produced. Taking a look at late 17th century, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) offers the read an in-depth look into the British fear of the other and all that is foreign. This idea is presented, primarily, in the form of two foreign characters: the invader from the East, Count Dracula and the Dutchman Abraham Van Helsing. Through both characters, the reader is able to formulate particular ideas about the negative attitudes that existed about foreigners at this time in Britain.

During Queen Victoria’s reign Great Britain became a powerful nation, becoming the centre of banking and the source of the investment capital. As a result of 8 colonial expansions, the expansion was seen by the British as having a civilizing mission. The civilizing mission was based upon their own national, racial, and moral ideals and beliefs according to which non-Europeans were perceived as inferior in every sense. This value is embedded in Dracula, as Stoker describes the Szgany as uncivilized and primitive: “There are thousands of them in Hungary and Transylvania, who are almost outside all Law…They are fearless and without religion, save superstition, and they talk only their own varieties of the Romany tongue”.

With Charles Darwin’s presentation of the evolution on living beings, causing public anxiety, racial degeneration was a concern to late Victorians for two possibilities: that the Englishman abroad will be absorbed into an alien and primitive culture because of his own internal weaknesses; or that a stronger, more primitive race will invade from without and assimilate the English. This fear is portrayed in Dracula, as Dracula represents an entire ethnicity of people, “a great and noble race,” “living for centuries,” and finally tries to spread this race elsewhere in London, as a father/furtherer of a new order of beings.

He becomes educated in the English language and gets a vital insight into the basis of civilization and culture by studying the history, politics, political economy, and law, comprehending its “customs and manners” but only as a means to try and blend in so he can manoeuvre around and blend into the public and act as a natural member of it. Harker also explains that “[f]or a man who was never in the country, and who did not evidently do much in the way of business, his knowledge and acumen were wonderful”. However, the readers continue to see evidence of Dracula’s foreignness and difference from the frequent jumbling and misplacement of English words such as “who more gladly than we” and “when was redeemed”....

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