The use of hypnotism is extensive throughout the last few chapters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Van Helsing places Mina in a hypnotic state or trance numerous times in order to locate Dracula and to learn about his premeditated actions. Stoker’s great use of hypnotism is what leads to Dracula’s destruction in the end. However, what influences Stoker to use hypnotherapy in order to kill off the most important character in his book? Taking a New Historical approach can help a reader understand how Stoker was influenced by his culture to incorporate hypnosis into Dracula and why he chose it as a method for destroying Dracula, while healing Mina.
Hypnosis can be dated back to the ancient Chinese and Egyptians, who used it in religious rituals and as a medical treatment. However, in the late 18th century, it was Franz Anton Mesmer who believed that he could cure through “animal magnetism” and soothing words and gestures. In order not to be tied to Mesmer, physicians in France and England introduced the terms hypnosis and hypnotherapy. “In the 1890’s, the British Medical Association approved hypnotherapy as an appropriate adjunct therapy for several conditions” (Hypnotherapy). Considering hypnosis was approved by the British around the time that Dracula was written and published, it is easy to see how Stoker was influenced by the extensive talk about hypnotism and why he decided to incorporate it into his book.
Starting in chapter twenty-three until the final chapter, twenty- seven, Stoker mentions small, yet significant details that have a great influence on the outcome of the hypnosis. These small details illustrate how Stoker researched and understood how hypnosis worked and its final outcome. Analyzing these small details can help a reader understand how involved Stoker was in the research process and how he applied it to Dracula. However, was it only research that allowed Stoker to have such a keen understanding of Hypnotism or could we also give credit to his upbringing and the society in which he associated with?
Theodor W. Adorno, a Marxist and a New Historicist believed that “society precedes the subject; society comes before the individual consciousness and before all its experience” (Kim 464). He was also confident that “a subject cannot exist without a particular historical moment to which it belongs” (Kim 465). These thoughts and ideas imply that society has a strong and influential effect on both the reader and writer because before we can form an opinion, society has already had its impact on the individual. Understanding this New Historical view is a key element in comprehending exactly why Stoker made the decision to write Dracula from such a scientific point of view, thus including many scientific advancements, such as hypnotism.
Stoker had great knowledge regarding neurology; however, this knowledge was unsurprising because his family consisted of many physicians. Stoker himself “contained volumes on physiology, and his...