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Published: 24-11-2019

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Evil Against Good - Perpetual Conflict in Dracula

In the Gothic novel Dracula, Bram Stoker largely presents very good and evil in stark contrast in a really straightforward manner. This probably mirrors Victorian views of very good and evil as opposed but inextricable, a strict view of right and wrong in a religious sense. But much more interesting than this construct is the character of Renfield, the man who appears to be neutral, caught amongst the clearly righteous excellent and the evidently evil. Throughout the novel, he is submerged in a metaphorical grey area. Stoker makes use of Renfield to provoke deeper believed about great and evil, and indeed desires the reader to fear this grey area itself.

Often, Stoker does tend to present really simply accessible interpretations on very good and evil. For example, when Mina is fed on by and equally feeds from Dracula in chapter twenty a single, the literary approach isn’t tough to suss out. Descriptions such as “white-clad” and “clad in black” are used to describe Mina and Dracula: the colours are naturally opposed but Stoker has even gone as far as switching the syntax of the adjectives to emphasise the opposing ideas. You also see Mina’s “nightdress” which has been “smeared with blood” and which therefore has connotations of a loss of virginity, due to the Victorian belief that the exchange of blood and reproductive fluids are synonymous. It means a loss of innocence from colour imagery, a deflowering of Mina’s character. There is also clear contrast in terms of religious lexicon from “God’s mercy” to the “devil and his children”. So, in a lot of approaches (visual and metaphorical, and in allusions to the Bible), Stoker presents very good and evil to be a very clear reduce-subject, one thing that does not require an awful lot of believed.

This begs the question: what about Renfield? Where does he match in? He’s usually an really ambiguous character. His initial interactions with Dracula are not clear in his exposition. It is also unclear why it is that he’s so specifically sensitive to Dracula’s movements. Yet another ambiguity is his strange and unnatural obsession with immortality. He’s described as a “madman”. No previous, no personality. So we are left to rely purely on the text, but the writing provides a very grey also. We are typically left confused about Renfield’s warped character: he displays kindness and politeness (considerably like the ideal Victorian bachelor) by “tidying” ahead of Mina enters his cell and even says “let the lady come in” only right after he has completed cleaning. However, this only tends to make it far more uncomfortable to see the character displaying indicators of evil. As Seward says when Mina enters the cell, “I thought that he could have had some homicidal intent”. Just like the in-in between of horror and terror, the grey, Renfield is an instance of the abject. He is both great and evil.

One particular of the displays of Renfield’s feasible evil is his strange habit of consuming the insects in his area. The flies and spiders sent by Dracula himself are naturally beneath his influence, as Harker says in the fourth chapter of the novel in reference to Castle Dracula, supposedly a place where the Devil and the “Devil’s children”. Possibly, the insects are the “devil’s children” in query, below the influence of the Count. The juxtaposition of the insects and Renfield tends to make him appear considerably far more animalistic, bringing about the Victorian fear of devolution and as a result transmitting the impression that he is evil.

In chapter twenty one particular when Renfield is on his deathbed, he mentions the “Acherontia atropos of the Sphinges” . As Van Helsing says, this translates to the “Death’s Head Moth”. The use of this symbol has a huge effect on both the Victorian and the modern reader. In the 1840s, the entomologist Moses Harris claimed that the moth was “the device of evil spirits” due to the fact of its skull-like pattern, and this interpretation was digested by the society of the time individuals then believed that the moth was some sort of evil omen. In popular culture, surrealist Salvador Dalí also used the design and style for his operate in relation to death, additional pushing standard beliefs surrounding the moth. Renfield however eats these insects in his cell: this is again an in-between state of evil and great simply because the physical eating of the insects in the appropriate order of the food chain is a completely natural approach. Nonetheless, it feels twisted, and brings back the sickly, abject, revulsed feeling at the act.

When Renfield is quite close to death, it is created clear to the reader that he simply need to already be dead due to the injuries he’s sustained. These contain his “pool of blood” he’s laying in, his “back broken”: he’s “paralysed”, and has a “mark on his head”. This is the connection Renfield holds to the dark side, evil, even when he’s close physically to death. But he’s strangely alive, with “uncertain breaths”, and he is “quickly revived” when Seward wets his lips with brandy. He’s also undergoing “agonised confusion” and the men are in a state of “nervous suspense”. So he’s on his deathbed but really strangely crucial and sane (which is unusual for him): this is just one more instance of how he is entirely a middle man amongst good and evil. This boundary amongst the two holds forth Victorian fears of the liminal, threatening Stoker’s readers with illogicality and ambiguity.

As David Rogers says, Victorian occasions had an “apocalyptic nature”: this was an era of uncertainty and adjust. Often, Stoker accentuates this worry by employing Renfield as a middle man to make this uncertainty and unease about the forces of very good and evil much more accessible to his readers.
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