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Dracula and Frankenstein: a Mirror of Society and Politics

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Words: 1872 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 1872|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Frankenstein: The Creation as a Metaphor
  3. Politics and Change in Frankenstein
  4. Dracula: A Mirror of Victorian Era Society
  5. Religious Symbolism and Allegory in Dracula
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Introduction

Literature has always been an instrument to portray the society and politics of the time. The use of monsters in literature, as seen in works like Dracula and Frankenstein, has always represented the worst part of humanity: envy, dishonor, betrayal, infidelity, and jealousy, among others. Monsters symbolize that something has changed in society, something unknown has landed, and people are afraid of it. However, writers use monsters as metaphors in order to introduce us to what they want to critique; they use monsters to provide us with a closer look at society and politics of the time, often weaving in their own experiences and ideas.

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Frankenstein: The Creation as a Metaphor

“Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”, most well known by simply “Frankenstein”, is one of the most famous literary books about monsters. The writer Mary Shelley portrays her point of view of the time through the creation of Victor Frankenstein. In the novel critic to society starts from the beginning of the book, the contracts between poor’s and riches, the avarice of Victor Frankenstein, how he wanted to play God. However, what best describes the society of the time is once Victor found the creature he has created after it kills his brother. The monster starts to tell Frankenstein the story why he ended up killing his brother and why he ended up being vile when he was born with pure love in his heart.

We can see social critiques once Frankenstein starts to develop his story, when he wakes up he was born with love about society: “Believe me, Frankestein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone?”(J.M.S, 2016: 93), however, things started to change once he ran away from the lab. His first meeting with humans was unsuccessful, the man ran away scared, then he sees a family from the outside and learn from them, he wanted to meet them so badly but he waits until the right moment, despite the old man not reacting in a bad way the rest of the family got scared of him so he ran away and blame his creator for creating him so ugly. This is a critic of how society reacts about the unknown, about the rare, things that go out from the ordinary, they run away of it, they show prejudices. However, Frankenstein wanted to give humanity another chance, he found a girl drowning on a river and he tried to help her but he got shot for trying it; after that, he found Victor’s brother, he thought someone like him would not judge him for what he was, however, he got scared of him and told him his father Alphonse Frankenstein would make him pay for that, as he heard the name Frankenstein he killed him. We see an evolution of the monster here; he wants to be happy so he requests company and asks his creator for another creation, Frankenstein agrees but before finishing it he declines so, for this reason, the monsters will revenge and will kill Victor’s wife and himself despite that, once Victor is dead, his creation apologies and tells him he did not want to do it. This reflects that what made him evil was people’s reaction; however, this could also be extrapolated to the governments, if the governments fail to provide people’s needs it will generate an illness in society that will convert good people into devil, just like the beast killed his creator for not providing him company, people revealed because governments did not provide them the basic needs to live; the French Revolution was a monster created by Monarchy and upper class. In the novel the ugly creature represents the lower class whereas Frankenstein represents the higher class society and the first is in constant battle with Frankenstein, this is the main concept of the French Revolution, people fighting against the King.

Politics and Change in Frankenstein

When it comes to politics, the novel is based on a time of changes in Europe, the French Revolution (1789) was taking place and like fire it was spreading through the old continent, this leads to the monster being created, the monster was a change in which society was scared. A new way of politics: socialism and liberalism was taking place and the monarchy was taken apart but in the worse scenario, they were beheaded. Victor Frankenstein’s creation showed a reaction against the difference between riches and poor: “I heard of the division of the property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent, and noble blood [...] A man might be respected with only one of these advantages; but, without either, he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! [...] I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge.” (J.M.S, 2016: 109), this is a reflection of how population was feeling at that time and how the more knowledge population had the more tired they were about inequality, the power was concentrated in only a few, high taxes were paid to maintain those classes while bourgeoisie did not pay anything: “Tout pour le peuple, rien par le people” (All for the people, but without the people).

Dracula: A Mirror of Victorian Era Society

Bram Stoker did something similar with his novel “Dracula” by using a monster as a metaphor to project the social period of that time, The Victorian Era. The Victorian era was a time of changes, there was a huge migration from rural areas to cities, education was important but only accessible for rich children and society was based on various classes: Upper Class, Middle Class and the Working Class. Due to the big amount of people moving to cities and the return of the soldiers, it was a time of poverty and diseases as well as unemployment as there was not enough jobs for the returned soldiers, this caused society to suffer a lot of mental illnesses. The fear of changes was also an important topic of the time, although it was the beginning of a modern era, the Victorian era was very conservative on itself, for example, sexuality was oppressed. The book reflects those prohibitions but with temptations like the forbidden fruit in the bible, for example, we can see in the novel how Dracula redeems himself from biting Harker when he cuts himself while shaving, having to hide his natural instinct – clearly, a metaphor of restriction of sexual intercourse, Dracula states this really well when he says “take care how you cut yourself, It is more dangerous than you think in this country” (B.S, 2016:52), this clearly represents oppression in the Victorian era as for men, masturbation and sex were considered dangerous as it could cause physical and mental disorders. We can also see oppression on how Harker has his mind divided whether if he wanted to kiss the three sisters’ lips or be true to his wife who is living in England.

This also leads to another controversial topic: homosexuality, it was in the nineteenth century when homosexuality started to be more persecuted and when homosexuality started “to be treated” with medicine, a good example is the trial of the playwright, Oscar Wilde, was sentenced in 1895. In the novel, Dracula has the desire to bite Jonathan’s neck and how when Jonathan’s cuts accidentally his neck while shaving he loses control over his body and the way he claims Jonathan is his and nobody else’s when the three sisters found him in the room he fell asleep. Although bisexuality was not a concept at that time, it could be said that Dracula was bisexual by the way he effeminizes Jonathan and masculinises Lucy; not to mention that one of the meanings behind the act of biting is sexual intercourse and vampires attacks their victims regardless their genre. However, blood is not only seen as symbol of sexual intimacy in the novel, blood is also a symbol of vitality, if Dracula did not kill people to suck their blood he would be dead, and as devil that talks a lot about his person, he does not mind killing people if that means he keeps being alive, not to mention that blood transfusion is what it kept Lucy being a human and not turning into a vampire. Apart of blood being a symbol of vitality and sexual intimacy, blood has a religious value as well, in the novel it is mentioned plenty of time “the communion” and “consecrated host” and in that celebration, the believer is taking the body and blood of Christ.

Religious Symbolism and Allegory in Dracula

Religious and its symbols are all over the novel (consecrated host, crucifixes), in fact, the novel is considered an allegory: a narrative to spread the message of God. The novel makes the reader to make a contrast between God and Dracula, being Dracula the evil and being God the salvation. We can also see how communion bread is used around Lucy’s tomb to prevent her to come back; crucifixes and cross signs are repeatedly through the novel, on the first chapter of the novel it can be seen how religious society was and everyone who knew where he was heading made any religious sign: “She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her next offered it to me. I did not know what to do. [...] When we started, the crowd round the inn door, which had by this time swelled to a considerable size, all made the sign of the cross and pointed two fingers towards me” (B.S, 2016:33 - 34). Bram Stoker portrayed Dracula as the devil, whereas the rest of the mortal characters are trying to defeat it, when Dracula bites a person the devil catches the person’s soul and there is no way for God to get it back unless they are killed and God has their souls back; as seen in the book, the rituals to fight a vampire are the same as in spiritual possession, making clear that Dracula was the devil of the novel.

Another important vision of the Victorian Era is that women became an important part of society, the role that women used to have: house-keepers, taking care of children change in the Victorian Era. A good example is Mina, a powerful woman that could think by herself, she did not have to do what his husband told her to, in fact, Mina in the novel is manured by Van Helsin: “Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has man’s brain, a brain that a man should have where he much gifted, and a woman’s heart” (Stoker; 2016: 273).

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Conclusion

To sum up, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula represent the society of their time, in them, the writers’ critic from their own experiences society and politics of the time, in both of them, the evil, and the bad side of society is represented by a monster but the monster is a pure metaphor that represents society.

References

  1. Shelley, Mary. 'Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.' Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.
  2. Stoker, Bram. 'Dracula.' Archibald Constable and Co., 1897.
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Dracula and Frankenstein: A Mirror of Society and Politics. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dracula-and-frankenstein-a-mirror-of-society-and-politics/
“Dracula and Frankenstein: A Mirror of Society and Politics.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dracula-and-frankenstein-a-mirror-of-society-and-politics/
Dracula and Frankenstein: A Mirror of Society and Politics. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dracula-and-frankenstein-a-mirror-of-society-and-politics/> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Dracula and Frankenstein: A Mirror of Society and Politics [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 31 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dracula-and-frankenstein-a-mirror-of-society-and-politics/
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