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Published: 05-11-2019

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The Influence of Stoker’s Descriptions of Settings on Dracula

Bram Stoker’s use of setting to establish some of the essential gothic elements to the novel Dracula proves to be essential in building both suspense and intrigue. This can be studied particularly closely with reference to Jonathan Harker’s narrative of his journey into the Carpathian Mountains and Mina Harker’s description of her hometown, Whitby. Each passages highlight the natural beauty of the area as nicely as a lingering sense of mystery, resulting in heightened dramatic tension. This is a lot more apparent inside Jonathan Harker’s account of his crossing through an area that is one of “the wildest and least identified portions of Europe.” Mina’s description of Whitby, a “beautifully green,” “lovely place,” is also shrouded with legends that are a direct consequence of the way in which the setting is perceived. Indeed, the perception of Whitby Abbey as a ruin that locks in the “white lady” is linked in to the myth of the bells that ring when ships at sea are lost to result in apprehension inside the reader that persistently increases throughout the novel. Meanwhile, the repetition and reiteration of the “darkness” and “grim,” “solemn effect” of nightfall in Transylvania forseshadow the imminent horror that await each Jonathan and Mina. Each chosen passages precede the arrival of Count Dracula– initially, before Jonathan meets him at Castle Dracula, and, subsequently, upon the Count’s arrival in Whitby, England. Therefore, the use of setting as a device to create suspense is highly productive. The result is an excited anticipation of an “atmosphere” that will quickly evolve into an “oppressive sense of thunder.” The reader is forced to recognize the worry of the unknown.

Jonathan Harker’s passage by way of Transylvania and towards the Carpathian Mountains starts with reassuringly pleasant scenery. “A bewildering mass of fruit blossom” in a “green sloping land” encourages a false sense of security that Stoker quickly exploits. Indeed, he leaves the reader in awe of such an obscure and far-away land: “the mighty slopes” are said to have “towered” more than Harker, even though the “jagged rock” and “pointed crags” of the mountains present the landscape as daunting and emphasize its variations from Harker’s homeland, Britain.

It need to be noted that the foreign and unknown land of the East is a prominent theme all through the book. Transylvania is mentioned to be “an imaginative whirlpool,” even though Harker notes that “every recognized superstition in the globe is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians.” David Rodgers remarks that Stoker creates an environment “that with its indistinguishable location” is “a land nether wholly material or locatable nor defined by the strict negotiations of these terms.” Indeed, to a Victorian audience that had observed the boundaries of imperialism stretch across the complete globe, an location that was so secluded was rare and unnerving. The loss of the West’s comforts and civilized nature is accentuated inside the early chapters of the novel when Harker acknowledges, “There were numerous factors new to me: hay-ricks in the trees, and here and there, very beautiful masses of weeping birch.” It is notable that the reputation of travel books in the Victorian period was huge – Stoker is thought to have employed Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest (the English translation of “Transylvania”) to provide factual information for Dracula. Indeed, Victorian need to explore and acquire expertise for remote lands meant that the setting of books was essential to the all round disposition of the reader.



Stoker abruptly describes the setting differently, causing a main shift in mood. Whilst previously the setting of the passage by way of the Carpathians was each gorgeous and foreign, when evening falls, an eerie tension of the mysterious is recommended to the reader. Harker notes that “the shadows of the night started to creep round us.” This is proof of the peculiar alter that occurs as daytime ends. Stoker guarantees that the reader is conscious of Harker’s growing apprehension of the “great masses of greyness,” and the “bestrewed trees” that are said to be “peculiarly weird.” Meanwhile, evening is a “growing twilight” that “seemed to merge into a single dark mistiness of gloom.” Stoker makes use of repetition of the crucial concepts of the landscape under nightfall to make a relentlessness that seems to submerge the valley the carriage is traveling in, in a “darkness” both “grey” and “grim.” The landscape has turn into a unfavorable backdrop with an impending sense of doom. The “ghost-like clouds,” and, later, “dark, rolling clouds,” glide “ceaselessly via the valleys” to give a compounding feeling of enclosure as the clouds kind a ceiling to trap in the “thunderous” and currently claustrophobic atmosphere.



Stoker’s intention is to establish the metonymy of gloom and horror, a characteristic of gothic drama. Metonymy, a subtype of a metaphor, makes use of a single thing–here, darkness or gloom–to stand for some thing else–here, mystery and the supernatural. Prolonged darkness sets a precedent for the rest of the novel. The reader learns that darkness, – the time in which Dracula thrives as a vampire, is the time to expect the horror to climax. Like a fantastic deal of gothic literature, such as The Mysterious Stranger (1860), which is thought to have influenced Stoker, dramatic tension is enhanced steadily, with all of the text contributing towards the author’s intention, such as metaphors such as the “snake-like vertebra … of the road” — all utilised to reaffirm gothic suspense and intrigue.

Mina Harker’s description of Whitby includes some of the most notable gothic traits. The easing of dramatic tension is important to enabling the creating-up of suspense at a later on. The “beautiful view” of the churchyard and the “romantic bits” of Whitby Abbey settle the reader’s nerves, considerably like the initial description of Romania in the early stages of the novel. The setting of Whitby does as a result show similarities to the way in which the Carpathians are described. Nevertheless, the homely feel is emphasized especially by the manner in which Mina states, “This is a lovely location.”



Possibly most integral to the function of Whitby’s setting in understanding gothic drama is the mysterious history of Whitby Abbey and the “legend” “that when a ship is lost bells are heard out at sea.” Meanwhile, the “mournful sound on the wind” that sounds in the course of bad climate continues the sense of history in Stoker’s introduction of Transylvania. By referring to the influence of the sea Stoker highlights its significance, which is apparent later, when Dracula arrives in Whitby in a terrific tempest.



Stoker effectively creates a mood of looming excitement that stresses the threat of, predominantly, the unknown. In the case of Whitby, this is clearly the unexplained legends of the setting–the “white lady” of the abbey and mournful cries of the sea. One particular is naturally intrigued as Stoker utilizes the character of Mina Harker to accurately depict a classic English village, although still maintaining the gothic principles of the novel.

Stoker’s use of setting as a technical device to control dramatic tension and allow the contrast of the all-natural and unknown let the foundations of Dracula to be formed. By way of setting, and specially the impact of darkness, Stoker effects a alter in mood. The thunderous atmosphere towards the finish of Harker’s narrative of the Carpathians shows the suspense and claustrophobic anticipation of gothic drama. Meanwhile, the suggestion of history and ancient legend in Mina Harker’s account of Whitby guarantees that the reader does not feel wholly comfy with the supposedly “beautiful” surroundings–a sign of the terror that will ensue.



The fear of the unknown in an age when imperial Britain was at its height was a topic that enticed Victorian audiences toward the concept of the supernatural and mysterious. 1 of the key components that enabled such strong themes to function was the use of setting to offer a backdrop for the impending action. In each selected passages, such ideas are explored to great effect, with the reader in the end left intrigued and drawn into a plot that promises to submerge them in anxiety, fear and, indeed, horror.
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