Sociopolitical Philosophy In The Works Of Stoker And Yeats Essay

Sociopolitical Philosophy In The Works Of Stoker And Yeats Essay

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Sociopolitical Philosophy in the Works of Stoker and Yeats


     Around the turn of this century there was widespread fear throughout
Europe, and especially Ireland, of the consequences of the race mixing that was
occurring and the rise of the lower classes over the aristocracies in control.
In Ireland, the Protestants who were in control of the country began to fear the
rise of the Catholics, which threatened their land and political power. Two
Irish authors of the period, Bram Stoker and William Butler Yeats, offer their
views on this “problem” in their works of fiction. These include Stoker's
Dracula and Yeats' On Baile's Strand and The Only Jealousy of Emer, and these
works show the authors' differences in ideas on how to deal with this threat to
civilization. Stoker feels that triumph over this threat can only be achieved
by the defeat of these “demonic” forces through modernity, while Yeats believes
that only by facing the violent and demonic forces and emerging from them could
Ireland return to its ancient and traditional roots and find its place in
society.
     The vampire was a common metaphor used by many authors in an attempt to
portray the rising lower class and foreign influence as evil and harmful to
modern civilization. The Irish Protestant author Sheridan Le Fanu uses vampires
to represent the Catholic uprising in Ireland in his story Carmilla. Like much
of gothic fiction, Carmilla is about the mixing of blood and the harm that
results from it. When vampires strike, they are tainting the blood of the pure
and innocent, causing them to degenerate into undead savages who will take over
and colonize until their race makes up the condition of the whole world. This
was the fear the Protestants had of the rising Catholic class. They were seen
as a lowly people and the fear was that they too would colonize and degenerate
Ireland, and perhaps the rest of Europe, back into a primitive land of savages.
This fear of the breakdown of civilization by dark forces is also what Dracula
is about.
     In Dracula, Stoker sets up the heroes and victors of the novel as
civilized people, while the foreign villain is ancient and demonic. The book
begins with the journal of Jonathan Harker, a stenographer from London who is
sent to Transylvania to close a land deal with the mysterious Cou...


... middle of paper ...


...rk forces that threaten
it, and removing itself from these forces, in addition to simply delaying the
inevitable, will only lead to further tragedy.
     The works of these two Irish authors are fine pieces of fiction that
effectively employ the elements of horror and tragedy which are common in gothic
literature, but they also serve as valuable insights into the philosophies that
were shared by many Europeans during these times of anxiety and change. It is
difficult to say which philosophy is superior to the other. Stoker's Dracula 
was published in 1897, while Yeats' works were written later, with The Only
Jealousy of Emer written in 1919, giving him the advantage of witnessing the
Easter Rising of 1916. The turmoil of the period was not as simple as modern
versus primitive or good versus evil, and certainly not everyone in Europe
shared their views or anything close to them, thus making it virtually
impossible to judge the superiority of one philosophy over another. While
readers may not agree with either of the authors, these works are still
entertaining and serve as a testament to the power of literature as a platform
for social and political opinion.

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