Dracula: Metaphor Analysis

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Not surprisingly, the major metaphor in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the title character himself.  Yes, he is, on the surface level, the antagonist (at least from the point of view of Harker, Van Helsing, Mina and their companions—in his own mind, as are all “villains,” he is no doubt the protagonist, striving, as he did centuries before, to “fight as the lion fights, for lordship” [Ch. 3, p. 39]). But on the symbolic level, Count Dracula, the vampire, represents inhuman (and thus, literally, “monstrous”) domination over others (as opposed to the self-sacrificial love and giving exemplified, for instance, by the numerous blood transfusions to Lucy; or Morris’ death in the process of slaying Dracula at the book’s close). As Robert T. Carroll explains in The Skeptic’s Dictionary, “the vampire has become a metaphor for those who define and create themselves by destroying others” (http:skepdic.com/vampires.html). Certainly Stoker’s brilliant literary creation serves this metaphorical purpose.
Since vampires are, as global folklore holds, creatures that drink blood, it is also not surprising that blood is a central metaphor in the book. As Renfield cries out, quoting Scripture (Deut. 12:23), “The blood is the life” (Ch. 11, p. 181). Blood symbolizes the very life force, the essence, of a human being in Dracula. Since the title character is no longer human (but an “un-Dead” animalistic creature), he must obtain the life-force of others to continue his existence (just as Renfield, the madman he holds in thrall, consumes flies and spiders). More positively, however, we also see blood as a positive symbol of life, most notably in the men’s many blood transfusions for Lucy: “One, two, three, all open their veins for her…” (Ch. 12, p. 190). And Van Helsing’s repeated use of a consecrated Host, or Communion wafer, to (ironically) desecrate Dracula’s earth-boxes points to another appearance of blood in the novel; for, according to the Roman Catholic doctrine of consanguinity, the blood of Christ is present in the consecrated Host no less than in the consecrated wine of the Eucharist. Van Helsing is therefore, we might say, “fighting blood with blood”: the stolen blood that courses through Count Dracula’s veins with the freely shed blood of Jesus, present in the Host.
Wild animals—particularly wolves and dogs—constitute another recurring metaphor in the text. We hear wild wolves howling when Dracula is close at hand—and we see he has power to subdue them. We learn of Dracula freeing the wolf known as “Berserker” from the zoo in order to break the window to Lucy’s room for him. We see Dracula come ashore at Whitby in the shape of a large dog, leaping off the doomed vessel Demeter. According to John Clute and John Grant, “Wolves typify dangerous wildness” and are often “servants of evil” in fantasy (The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999; p. 1027); and, again, such is the case in Stoker’s novel. Dracula is close to wolves and is often described in beastial language because, in his quest to dominate others, he has forfeited his humanity. And he and the beasts he controls symbolize the wildness within all human hearts, “champing at the bit” to be unleashed.

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