Before the 18th century, the concept of vampirism was unheard of in Britain; it would be later introduced to the public through a fictional book called Dracula which was authored by Bram Stoker. The author presented vampires in two aspects; as repulsive blood-sucking creatures that live in graves while at the same time being extraordinarily charming and good lovers (Greg). The story of Dracula is thought as a shorthand depiction of the apprehensions that Imperial Britain had at the time such as unchecked immigration and fears of an impending invasion by other imperial states like Germany.
Dracula as a Reflection of the Fear of Invasion
Dracula is presented as an immigrant who relocates to England after buying an estate in London and where he preys on the weak such as children and women. To subdue his victims, Dracula uses supernatural abilities such as shapeshifting into bat and mist forms to gain access to his victim`s homes (Stoker, 506). This ability to change his shape gave him characteristics akin to the devil which was by design since the name Dracula in Wallachian means devil. It is also the surname of the Wallachian ruler Vlad the Impaler who was known for his ruthlessness nature during the wars to regain his throne and prevent encroachment by the Ottomans. It was reported that he used the cruel method of skewering his rivals using stakes and leaving them to die horrible deaths. The author uses the similarity between Dracula and Vlad the Impaler to signify the fear and suspicions that Imperial Britain had for foreigners that were mainly driven by xenophobia. It is also no coincidence that Vlad the Impaler was known to own a castle in Transylvania which was in a mountainous region that experienced foggy conditions which the castle appear ghostly. Transylvania was itself under the rule another European power, the Astro-Hungarians who had pledged their allegiance to Germany which by then was a foe to England (Genesea).
British press in a subliminal reference to the growing hostilities between Germany and Britain referred to Dracula as “a half-human Huns of Attila” who were thought of being evil. Stoker presents Dracula as the personification of Germany whose earliest inhabitants were the Huns. Dracula represented the expansionist attitudes of Germany and other European countries such as Russia which had led to an unsustainable military buildup. Germany like Dracula had set out to usurp British territory and wealth by rapidly expanding its military at an alarming rate (Genesea). Dracula even professes he is from the lineage of Attila who was higher than even the devil which depicted his expansionist sentiments. Stoker used vampirism to indicated British fear of a German invasion and would act as the foreshadowing of World War 1 where Germany would go to war with Britain (Genesea). Just as Dracula claimed chose his victims indiscriminately just like the war that would follow which would see millions of lives lost.
Dracula as a Reflection of the fear of Immigration.
The novel also presents a clash between old belief systems and scientific principles where it was implied that civility would give way to widespread decadence. The fear of degeneration that a creature like Dracula brought to the city of London unnoticed seemed to reflect the fear of being overrun by foreigners due to unrestricted immigration. At the time the Victorian society was worried that immigrants were to blame for increasing crime levels due to the increased ghetto communes. One example of the worrying crime trends of the time after the murders by Jack the Ripper which were suspected to have originated from the Jewish ghettos owing to the secretive nature of the community (Greg). The deaths were never solved, and the press accused the Jews living in ghettos of hiding the perpetrator of the crimes due to their close ranks.
The author by design places Dracula’s dens in immigrant areas such as Whitechapel and Bermondsey which were synonymous with crime and murder (Greg). Being secretive the Jews and other immigrants from Eastern Europe became objects of suspicion as can be deduced from the Eastern-European heritage of Dracula. Dracula represented a new and yet invisible threat to imperial Britain that set out to infect the people with pervasiveness which would upend social order. The British were afraid that the continued immigration by fellow Europeans would lead to dilution of English traditions such as civil duty and restraint. British press took every opportunity to show the ills of having so many immigrants in the country such as the depiction of women being unable to resist sexual pervasion brought by the immigrants.
Dracula as a Reflection of Sexual Perversion
In the book, the imagery of Dracula infecting the blood of his victims is seen to suggest sexual pervasion which would lead to sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis. It was feared that the British identity could be lost due to blood ties that would arise from intermarriages between citizens and foreigners (Garnett). Immigrants were seen as prescribing to a different moral code and were incapable of assimilating into the Victorian society. The expectation was that immigration would seek to exert its influence on British culture just like Dracula forcefully infected people with vampirism which would, in turn, lead to moral corruption (Jordan). Vampirism is depicted as being just as infectious as moral corruption and sexual pervasiveness which can be quickly passed on.
The book is seen as favoring the traditional concept of a woman as opposed the modern ideal. In the story, Dracula takes advantage of Lucy`s progressive nature to attack her and eventually infect her with vampirism. Lucy`s accepting blood transfusions from two men is portrayed as her being sexually moral (Stoker, 218). Her sinful nature ultimately leads her to turn into a vampire and begins feeding on children. Feeding on children is seen to depict the new woman as lacking maternal instincts. In contrast, Mina who is a profoundly religious and traditional woman was able to overcome Dracula`s advances choosing to remain loyal to her husband (Greg). Mina epitomizes positive feminine qualities of Victorian-era women such as having nurturing instincts and being faithful as evidenced by devotion and care for her ill husband.
Dracula can be interpreted as an embodiment of all the foreign threats to Imperial Britain such as unchecked immigration and invasion by other imperial states the most notable being Germany. Some of these fears like the invasion of Britain by German would come to pass, with the two nations going to war against each other alongside other states like France in what is remembered as World War 1. In conclusion, Dracula can be viewed as a literary work that paints a picture of a traditional society that is undergoing growing pains as transforms into a more modern society with rights and freedoms previously unknown.