While reading Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula, I noticed that the novel was primarily formatted as a sequence of diary entries and letters. The narrator was constantly changing, and therefor we were given a glimpse into several characters’ view of the unraveling events. We hear the innermost thoughts of characters such as Van Helsing, Mina, Lucy, and Jonathan. However, we are not allowed to see through the eyes of the Count himself. In a novel which toys so excessively with point of view, I was intrigued by the fact that the book’s namesake did not get a chance to share his perspective.
A Glimpse into Dracula’s Perspective
Through other characters’ perceptions, the novel gives us certain facts about Dracula’s state of being. He cannot be seen in mirrors, he does not eat food, he is immortal, and he is incredibly pale from lack of blood. He lives in a mansion with few others, and seemingly yearns to be an Englishman. Based on Mina and Lucy’s experiences, one can only assume that Dracula was himself once only a man. That humanity was stolen from him years ago. Now, he is damned to a life of isolation and hunger. He can no longer enjoy the taste of culinary treats or bask in sunlight. Realistically, he likely no longer knows what his person looks like due to the impossibility of seeing his own reflection. He must murder to survive, or else live a life of perpetual hunger and pain. He is not only stripped of the pleasures of a human life, he is stripped of the choice between good and evil. Reading about such a beast from the view of those that fear him results in an undeniable antagonist which feeds on the misery of others. One cannot fail to wonder, however, if that is truly all that Dracula is.
Dracula as a Subject of Sympathy
If the novel were instead to have been told from Dracula’s perspective, he may be seen as a subject of sympathy rather than a mysterious villain. A man who can never die, but can never be accepted except by those who are just as damned as he is. A man who can never assimilate into society and is instead feared, banished, exiled. A man who can never identify with humanity again. The scene in which the Count and Jonathan are in the mansion’s library is, from Dracula’s perspective, heartbreaking. He studies English literature and maps of England relentlessly, but is painfully aware that he will never be able to enjoy the country as another could. The Count tells Jonathan, “I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine and sparkling waters which please the young and gay. I am no longer young. And my heart, through weary years of mourning over the dead, is not attuned to mirth” (Dracula page 22). He admits that he has very little joy in his life, yet the reader continues to despise a man plagued with despair. This mourning of the dead that he speaks of could likely be the guilt of the many lives he was forced to take in order to survive. The Count does not choose to murder; he is forced to. Many times, the Count reveals that he wishes for a normal life, a life which he can never have. Yet, due to the fact that the novel is told from the perspective of those who fear him, Dracula is not typically seen as a subject of sympathy. If we were to be given Dracula’s perspective of these perpetual horrors he must commit and the nightmarish isolation he is forced to eternally endure, his villainous characterization may dissolve and the reader would be given the chance to identify with this tortured being. Due to Stoker’s writing style, we see a man condemned to depravity and view him as a parasite. Dracula is a testament to the power of perspective.