Dracula - Symbolism Of Blood

Dracula - Symbolism Of Blood

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In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the most blatant and powerful symbol is blood. He takes the blood that means so much to the believers of this legend and has it represent more than even they could imagine. Blood is the main object associated with vampires and vampirism. From a mythical standpoint, it is the basis of life for the vampires as they feed off of the blood of young, vibrant souls. From a more scientific standpoint blood is what would drip out of the corpse's mouth when family members would dig up their dead kin to check for the dreaded disease. Stoker takes the significance of this symbol and puts his own unique twist to the meaning of blood. He combines the traditional folklore of vampirism and the immense sexual undertones of the Victorian era to create a simply horrific tale which completely confuses the emotions of his readers. Stoker knew bloods importance in vampire history and used the overwhelming symbolism to convey his own personal lust and sexual obsessions. The scenes where Lucy is receiving transfusions; first from Holmwood, then from Seward, and the unforgettable vampire baptism between Dracula and Mina all have these very erotic, sexual feelings associated with them. What makes these so powerful is the combination of violence and sex. As a reader, you know that what Dracula is doing are horrific and wrong, but because they are so sexually described and associated you think you should enjoy them, but you can't. This is the confusion which stoker implements into his readers minds, especially ones of the Victorian era. This is why stoker used blood as the most important symbol in the novel; to create an intense horror that was not just in the words of the book, but in the minds of the reader.
One of the most obvious examples of this intention is after the first blood transfusion for Lucy, given to her by her fiancé Arthur Holmwood. The transfusion goes successfully and once Lucy regains consciousness she rights in her diary about how "Arthur feels very, very close to me" and that she can "feel his presence warm about me." These simple descriptions of her feelings after the transfusion are very sensual in how she says he is "warm about" her and throughout her body. The similarities between Lucy's reaction after the transfusion and the way one reacts to being sexually involved with someone are nearly identical.

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The connection between her Arthur seems to be a stronger connection than the love she had for him prior to the transfusion. All of these feelings that were inserted into Lucy's body via the transfusion had these sexual connotations and themes behind them. The reader is left troubled because moments ago this young woman was nearly lifeless with two small pin-pricks in the side of her neck and deathly pale skin. Now, she has been rejuvenated with this sexual energy by way of blood – the same thing that the vicious monster who nearly killed her feeds on. It's Stoker's way of toying and confusing the reader. Lucy is in better spirits, but you know that Dracula will be back to feed on her. And this new sexual energy which, no matter how small it may be, implements those erotic thoughts into the readers mind. This array of feelings and emotions the reader experiences is all due to the symbolism behind the blood.
The second transfusion Lucy receives from John Seward has even more sensuality behind it. Seward's love for Lucy had not faltered since his fail proposal and when he had the opportunity to give her blood he was more than willing. As the transfusion begins, Seward speaks in his diary about the "feeling of personal pride" he felt as the color began to come back in Lucy's lips and cheeks. His emotions only get more intense as he says "No man knows…what it is to feel his own life-blood drawn into the veins of the woman he loves." It's very odd how much Seward seems to be enjoying this blood transfusion. Logically, a blood transfusion should be very physically draining and would cause much discomfort – another example of Stoker using blood as a method to confuse and further frighten the reader of his horror novel. Seward's obvious enjoyment of the situation is again seen when Van Helsing tells him that the operation is complete. "'Already?' I remonstrated. ‘You took a great deal more from Art.'" It wasn't until after the operation that Seward began to feel the affects – eerily similar to ones feeling after having an affair. The blood that Seward gave to Lucy was not only blood, but some of the passion and love that he has for her. Van Helsing is aware of this when he tells John that "…nothing must be said of this. If our young lover should show up…no word to him. It would…frighten him and enjealous him…" Again, it is shown that the transfusion is more than just a transfusion. Why should Arthur Holmwood be jealous if Seward potentially saved his fiancés life by giving her blood? Stoker is conveying that the blood is not only a physical object, but also a tremendous emotional object.
The most vibrantly illustrated scene in the novel and a tremendous example of Stoker's symbolism is the infamous "vampire baptism" of Mina Harker. This scene is the essence of Stoker's attempt to emotionally confuse and discomfort the reader. As the scene begins Stoker paints a picture of the Count pressing Mina's face to his bare, bleeding chest. As the scene continues it becomes even more erotic and sexual and even more disturbing. "With his left had he held both Mrs. Harker's hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom." The sensuality and terror only elevates as the description continues; Seward describes Mina's nightdress as "smeared with blood" as a "thin stream trickled down the man's bare breast." When Dracula turns and notices the intruders "his eyes flamed red with devilish passion…" This initiation is one of the most disturbing moments in the story because it intertwines two complete polar opposites – violence and sex. The terror that is described in the scene is almost comparable to that of a rape. It troubles the reader because a beautiful, sacred act like sex is being exploited and abused by Dracula when he forces Mina to suck his chest. The conflicting actions in the scene are what Stoker used to distress the reader and disturb their feelings.
Stoker's objective with using blood as the main symbol is to confuse and distress readers. He used the blood – the blood that in traditional folklore meant so many terrible, disturbing things and made the blood the basis of passion and sex in this novel. The blood that most Dracula readers are expecting to read about – the blood that is full of violent, brutal attacks and used to feed the terrible monsters that stalk the night and feed upon children is now the blood that when shared between two people is sacred and brings them closer together. Using this unique and macabre way of introducing sex and passion into the novel makes this horror novel – to Stoker's delight – even more gruesome and terrifying.
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