Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Fears of Victorian England Essay

Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Fears of Victorian England Essay

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In periods of cultural insecurity, when there are fears of regression and degeneration, the longing for strict border controls around the definition of gender, as well as race, class, and nationality, becomes especially intense. If the different races can be kept in their places, if the various classes can be held in their proper districts of the city, and if men and women can be fixed in their separate spheres, many hope, apocalypse can be prevented and we can preserve a comforting sense of identity and permanence in the face of that relentless specter of millennial change. (Showalter, 4)
In the first chapter of her book Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle, Elaine Showalter outlines the social circumstances in the western world as the year 1900 approached. She asserts that the fin-de-siècle mentality, a so-called "endism," intensified battles of race and class, leading to fierce backlash by advocates of the status quo. Fearing that the coming end of the century signified the last step in a gradual process of the breakdown of society which distorted separations between social classes, these people screamed for a "return" to a more ordered society. Gender roles were to be firmly recognized, classes and races were to be separated.
Dracula, written during this period by Bram Stoker, can be read as an example of this struggle between the "heroic" forces of order and the individuals that hope to undermine it. To use Noel Carroll's term, Dracula is a "fusion monster," a creature that "transgresses categorical distinctions" (Carroll, 43). Literally, he inspires fear to all because he is a combination of life and death, but, more profoundly for the novel's Victorian audience, because he clouds boundaries between the ge...

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... traditional view that external dangers should be, and can be, braved only by men. By designating such a man as the leader of the protagonists, Stoker seems to support an intermediate stance - although obviously closer to traditional than to revolutionary - in the fin de siècle crisis of social structure. Stoker did recognize the changing face of Victorian society at the end of the 19th century, and did his best to develop a view that could be accepted by all factions.

Works Cited
Beckson, Karl. London in the 1890s: A Cultural History. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1992.
Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Carroll, Noel. The Philosophy of Horror. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Showalter, Elaine. Sexual Anarachy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. New York: Viking, 1990.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Aerie Books, 1988.

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