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Paternalism In Bram Stoker's Dracula Essay

1005 words - 4 pages

Paternalism in Bram Stoker's Dracula

 
   Paternalism is the domination of a society by a male or parental figure that leads or governs much like the way a father would direct his family.  In Victorian society, the idea of paternalism was prevalent.  The idea was also frequently used as a motif in western literature.  Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, published in 1897, depicts a paternalistic society through a repression of the female sex and a continuous exaltation of the domineering male sex.  Stoker communicates this idea through an abundant use of prominent male characters, the presence of merely two women, who are each extremely suppressed, either sexually or intellectually, and the constant exaltation of the male sex over the female sex.

 

    In a paternalistic society, men are acclaimed as the foundation and the pillar of the social order.  Stoker illustrates this facet of paternalism through the use of affluent and prominent male characters.  Out of the characters in Dracula that play a major role in the plot development, only two are women with the remainder consisting of influential male members of civilization, all holding high occupations and being well-esteemed by members of society.  Through the illustration of a paternalistic society in both the eastern Carpathian and western Britain setting, Stoker illustrates the idea that paternalism was prevalent in all areas during that era.

 

 The aristocratic Dracula's portrayal as the paternal figure of his society, eastern Carpathia, through his relations with the townspeople, especially the gypsies, develops the concept that males in  society are domineering and have more influence than females.  Dracula directs the peasants and many are scared of him, as they would fear a father. The four other highly influential male  characters, Lord Godalming, Doctor Seward, Doctor Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker, are all paternalistic figures.  Each holds a high position in the society; Seward and Van Helsing are acclaimed doctors, Lord Godalming comes from an affluent family, and Harker is a solicitor. 

 

    Van Helsing however, is seen as the chief paternal figure.  He acts as the leader of the men and the architect of the plot to root out and remove the threat Count Dracula brings.  He also cares for those who are weak in the novel, as a father would care for his frail child.  When Mina and Lucy are seen as infected, frail, and vulnerable, he is there to console and to try to strengthen them.  Mina and Lucy, once victimized by Dracula, develop wounds that symbolize their infection and vulnerability, but Van Helsing stays by their side to protect them.  He even refers to Mina as "my child"  (Stoker 309).  When Lucy is extremely ill, he speaks to her as a father would, seen in the quote, "Now, little miss, here is your medicine.  Drink it off, like a good child"  (Stoker 131). Van Helsing is constantly concerned with those...

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