Theme is a pervasive idea presented in a literary piece. Dracula, a masterpiece of Bram Stoker, contains many themes, including the dilemma of knowledge and the dark sides of human nature, such as proclivity to commit evil and limits of human knowledge. Some of the major themes in Dracula are discussed below.
Themes in Dracula
Limits of Knowledge
Knowledge and its limits together form one of the major themes of the novel Dracula. This pursuit of knowledge lies in Van Helsing, Lucy, and Parker’s efforts to understand the nature and working of Dracula as a character. It is because they are not aware of the extent of his power and vicious access to human nature that they must know how to fight against him. Despite the vast technical knowledge of modern gadgets, Stoker, too, fails to understand the nature of Dracula. However, traditional knowledge and knowledge of traditions come to help him and others in the shape of information from Van Helsing. It shows the limits of modern knowledge and the benefits of retaining traditional knowledge.
Another important thing is that this knowledge and its thirst should be in human control, or else it may cause havoc. Professor Van Helsing’s argument that Dracula has overstepped the human limits of knowing things seems correct in that after crossing these limits, Dracula has become a nuisance for human beings so much so that his elimination becomes a must.
Good and Evil
Good and evil is another major theme of the novel, Dracula. Dracula represents evil or evil ways through which he wants to assert his power over others and his superiority. However, Van Helsing knows that this evil could face defeat through goodness. That is why he frames this battle as a conflict between good and evil. However, it is interesting to note that he sees goodness in all Christian objects used for religious rituals to use against Dracula. It shows that if a person does not accept Christianity and Christian goodness, he does not get salvation. His expression of sadness over this exclusion of Dracula is a case in point that Van Helsing considers him evil. Van Helsing shows goodness by saving people from Dracula.
Madness is another theme of the novel. Many of its characters meet and face strange and esoteric events that border madness. Jonathan Harker, who heralds the arrival of Dracula and flees his castle, questions his own memories and whether he should trust them or not. On the other hand, Renfield, who is mad, shows how Dracula can use madness to his advantage. Seward assumes him a mad person though Dracula uses Renfield to look mad to others and talk to him. In this connection, Seward thinks that as it is impossible for him to imagine Dracula and evil associated with him, for he also borders madness.
Fear of Outsiders
Fear of outsiders entering one’s country and causing havoc is another major theme of the novel. It is clear that Dracula is not an English person. His nationality, therefore, makes it even more terrifying for the English characters like Lucy, Van Helsing and others, and forces them to drive him out. He is not only different from others but also his ways are strange, as Harker tells others when exposing Dracula. In fact, Harker’s main worry is not Dracula himself, but the evil that he is going to spread in his country. Therefore, his origin of Transylvania comes into question when Van Helsing starts fighting a battle with him.
The power of money is another major theme of the novel. Dracula is quite wealthy and has the means with which to purchase a mansion in London, a modern suburb of that time. He resorts to legal means to purchase that mansion through financial transactions and has the money to hire a legal consultant. He does not use his supernatural powers to travel and purchase things. Rather, he uses his wealth as Jonathan Harker, too, finds heaps of gold when he is thrown behind bars in his castle. This is a piece of evidence that Dracula is not hungry for wealth. In fact, he has enough cash to facilitate his movements despite the fact that Harker first suspects him but does not expose him until he becomes a danger for him.
Along with many major themes, superstition is another secondary theme of the novel. Dr. Seward and Van Helsing’s attempts to find out more about vampires and then fight a battle against them to save others’ lives fall into the realm of supernatural and hence superstitions. When Van Helsing first sees Lucy, he immediately senses something like this. The treatment that he suggests with the sterility of the area using garlic is in itself a superstition. However, there is no pragmatic view about the use of garlic, nor any existence of such vampires in history except in such novels. Therefore, all of Van Helsing’s assumptions about mystical bonds of vampires, the use of religious symbols to ward off such dangerous creatures, and the use of vegetables to ward off supernatural witches are mere superstitions.
Sex and the expression of sexual desires is another secondary theme that runs parallel to various other themes in the novel. Lucy and the three Vampire sisters are literary expressions of sexual desires. For example, the very act of seducing Jonathan Harker by those three sisters is a sexual act that shows their underlying desire to have sexual relations. Even Harker faces a dilemma and then thinks that they are very beautiful though he suppresses his desire.
Science vs. the Supernatural
A very interesting but secondary theme that appears at several places in the novel is the conflict between science and the supernatural elements. In a way, it seems that Seward and Professor Van Helsing try to explain Lucy’s sickness using modern medicine, but they could not until belief comes to their aid. This conflict comes out through Jonathan and Dracula where many others join the battle pitting the new belief system against Christianity.
British idealism is another minor theme of the novel in that Van Helsing’s treatment of Lucy’s illness through the cross points to the fact that Christianity pervades the British social and religious structure. That is why Van Helsing also shows the idealism of British healing touch when treating others and saving them from the fear and terror of Dracula.
Revival of Religious Faith
The revival of religious faith and the renewal of faith in religion is another minor theme of the novel. It has been proved through the cross that makes Dracula flee that religion still has the healing touch and salvation for the misled mankind.