Dracula Theme of Foreignness and "The Other"
One of the things that makes Dracula so scary (besides the blood-sucking, of course) is that he's foreign. Some critics think of Dracula as a kind of allegory about the collapse of British imperialism (check out, for example, Stephen Arata's article, which we link to in "Best of the Web"). According to that reading of the novel, Dracula's immigration to Britain represents a kind of invasion. Back in Stoker's day, folks worried that all the years Britain had spent colonizing and oppressing other cultures might, you know, have ticked some people off.
The concern was that those colonial "Others" might come to Britain looking for payback. Stoker makes a big point of describing Dracula as emphatically foreign. His English is imperfect, he speaks with an accent, and he needs Jonathan's guidance when it comes to negotiating British cultural norms and legal procedures.
Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"
- Why is Dracula from Transylvania, in Eastern Europe, instead of from someplace closer to Britain, like France or Germany? How would the novel be different if Dracula were from someplace closer? What if he were from someplace further away, like South America? How would that change the novel?
- Why does Dracula need Jonathan Harker to visit him in Transylvania before moving to Britain?
- Why is Van Helsing also a foreigner? He and Dracula are the only two non-native English speakers in the novel. How are they similar?
- Quincey Morris is also a foreigner, although unlike Dracula and Van Helsing, he is a native English speaker. Why does Bram Stoker include an American?
Chew on This
The Crew of Light is composed of an alliance of British, American, and Western European men in order to combat the Eastern threat, Dracula.
Dracula's invasion of Britain is reproduced on a smaller level in his "invasion" of Lucy's English home: His ability to victimize Lucy Westenra, the "light of the West," suggests the alarming ease with which he could potentially victimize the entire nation.