Dracula and Frankenstein (compared)

Now that you’ve read both of these novels, I’d like you to compare them as literary texts.  Let’s focus specifically on them as works that reflect some of the ideals and also anxieties of the times in which they were written.  In what ways do you think they relate to those ideals?  Are they revolutionary?  Regressive?  A combination of both?  In your response, pay special attention to the resolution created by both texts.  What evidence do the endings provide?

Please reply in 100 words by tomorrow at 12:00 pm.

10 thoughts on “Dracula and Frankenstein (compared)

  1. I believe that both works share an epistolary framework(though Dracula embraces it more), but in many ways they differ thematically in their individual takes on the supernatural. The novel Dracula is exciting and scientific in many ways, but also reinforces Victorian values such as woman’s place in the home, man’s place as guardian, sexual repression, and the importance of Christian values. Frankenstein’s novel I find is slightly more revolutionary, in that the ambiguity of the monster and the sympathy the reader feels for him seems to suggest that his creation might not be abominable so much as society is not ready for it. Frankenstein’s ending seems to reinforce this tragic sense of failed idealism and rejection, as both the creator and the monster are fated to die in fairly miserable conditions. However, in Dracula the Christian values and society prevail over the efforts of sexual perversion, as represented by the count and his women.

  2. Dracula and Frankenstein were written roughly around the same time, so they reflect some of the same ideals and anxieties. During the 1800s society was prudish, strict, the men were able to do whatever they wanted, the women were restricted and limited in many ways. For most, a woman’s purpose was to marry a wealthy man and have children. The ideals that I had listed previously reflect the society that is portrayed in Frankenstein and Dracula. For instance, Dracula is an aristocrat and Victor Frankenstein is considered to be distinguished and is aristocratic. Another example would be in Dracula, the women, Lucy, and Mina were portrayed as delicate and there were a few times in the book that Mina stated that the men are valued for their strength and fighting ability when killing Dracula. The previous examples demonstrate some of the common ideas of the 1800s.
    Both novels, in my opinion, are revolutionary. Frankenstein for starters was revolutionary mainly because it was unusual for women, at this time, like Mary Shelley, to write these kinds of stories. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is revolutionary and regressive, I believe it is regressive because the Dracula that Stoker created was based on Vlad the Impaler. Vlad the Impaler was a 15th-century Wallachian ruler known for his ruthlessness but was regarded as a hero for keeping the invading Turks at bay. In both novels, the problem was resolved in the end. For instance, at the end of Frankenstein, the greedy Victor Frankenstein comes to his expected death when playing God. The readers also get a resolution for the monster who also comes to his own possible death, although no one knows if he went through with it, we can assume. At the end of Dracula, the overconfident and bloodthirsty vampire also came to his own fitting death at the hands of Jonathan and Quincey. At the end of Dracula, there is a note by Jonathan Harker that sums up what follows the death of both Quincy and Dracula.

  3. One of the anxieties of the time period was the contrast between a scientific, empirical worldview and the passionate Romantics’ ideas about returning to nature and the past. This is certainly reflected in Frankenstein; some read the novel as a cautionary tale about the risks of scientific inquiry and others read it as a personal reflection on Mary Shelley’s life. Dracula, too, touches on science: specifically, the co-existence of science and the “unknown.”Victorianism is associated with duplicity; most notable Victorian literature includes two-sided characters or situations. There are several of these in Dracula. For example, near the end of the novel, Mina experiences duplicity when she switches back and forth between her vampiric, hypnotized state and her sensible, kind one. One notable difference between the two texts’ endings is that Dracula has a happy ending, where everyone gets married and has babies, while Frankenstein ends unhappily, with most of the characters dead or disappeared. In both, the “monster” is dead, but Frankenstein has a characteristically Romantic ending: it is highly dramatic and rather vague. Dracula’s ending lines turn right back to the issue of empiricism and disbelief in things unseen with Harker’s comments on how their manuscript, since there are no “official documents” is unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone outside the group.

  4. I see many of the ideals of the time shine through in Dracula through the many characters that are faced with the “other” of the novel. With their highly learned stations in life (even the female characters with their high-class standing) they offer the perfect contrast to the offending other that threatens them. Here, science and logic are used against the other—wishful thinking in Frankenstein for example where science is just the genesis of the “other”. So in Dracula the anxieties of the time probably made reading it against the more gruesome scenes much more receptive since overcoming the thought of such a unbelievable “other” that defies all logic is ultimately defeated by acceptance that he [Dracula] is in fact most illogical. Or, at least, as it is a novel, the reader is always kept a safe distance from actually having to face such an illogical entity. Whereas in Frankenstein (probably due mostly to the time it was written) the story’s resolution comes from a more personal place (for the characters themselves, anyway) where one could nearly forget that the final scenes are even between a creator and his creation. Victor, finally sick of running from his problems, and his creation, sad that he didn’t get his revenge for ever being created could be a scene in any story just about. The relief of beating the “other” doesn’t shine in the same way as the defeat of Dracula does.

  5. I’m going to comment on a different aspect of the novels as I enjoyed seeing the diverging takes on science in both. Mary Shelley seemed to lean towards the demonization of science and how it perverses nature while Bram Stoker uses science (though I will admit in an also somewhat unorthodox way mingled with the supernatural) as the tool to shed light on the demons. It is also wonderful to see the evolution scientific discovery from Frankenstein to Dracula. Where Shelley created a fictional machine, Stoker uses actual cutting edge technology of the day like the phonograph and blood transfusion. The Victorian era is a time period where the rapid demystification of the world can be seen through scientific enlightenment. ‘Intelligent’ societies begin leaving their superstitions behind and explaining them away with experiments, facts, and figures though this process is something that dates back to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Throughout its history, the sciences have been a polarizing subject as its favorite pastime seems to be challenging beliefs causing people to be executed, excommunicated, ostracized and more. For this reason, I believe Dracula is the more revolutionary novel as it embraces science with open arms in a highly conservative Christian society which seems counter-intuitive. I can attest that the Bible belt, which some who have been subjected to its social norms for twenty-two year may argue is a modern day Victorian society, is not the biggest fans of the sciences. Science is radical as its very nature is to discover new things even if those new things are how to deal with the supernatural or, maybe, our belief in the supernatural…

  6. The works of Dracula and Frankenstein are more alike than they are different. Both works are somewhat filtered by being told from multiple narratives. One of the main ideals that are reflected in both works, is the threat of strong/ aggressive woman, whether that is their brains or sexuality. In Frankenstein, Victor fears the idea of creating a mate for his monster. In class, we have emphasized one gender role of women of the time, which was to have children and take care of them. Frankenstein demonstrates the disastorus result of having a child without the involvement of a woman, thus empowering women throughout the text. In Dracula, we are introduced to many women who are aggressive and mostly intelligent, specifically Mina, Lucy, and the Vamps. All of these women demonstrate bold and aggressive behaviors, that may not have been normal for the time period. Mina is even said to “have the brain of a man”. However, they still have the motherly characteristics. One example of this would be when Lucy (as a vampire) is holding the child to her breast when the men find her hunting. Here, although she is a deadly monster, she is still performing to the gender standards. Each of these texts emphasize the gender roles of women.

  7. Both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula had common themes or anxieties with things like female power and science; however, the two novels had different stances on these anxieties. These contrasting stances could be for a number of reasons, for one Stoker published Dracula 79 years after the first publication of Frankenstein, it’s also important to note that Dracula has a male author and Frankenstein a female author. Frankenstein had more heightened anxiety with science, the novel was not only a cautionary tale against becoming too engrossed in passions but it also posed as a cautionary tale against taking science too far. Dracula, on the other hand, embraces the power and life-saving benefits science provides. Frankenstein gives little to no power to its female characters. This could be taken as a different kind of gendered anxiety, such as anxiety Shelley may have felt with being at the mercy of a man’s passions and decisions. Dracula had several all-powerful female characters, and it was the females that were used to manipulate and control the actions of the male characters. This could have been Stoker’s contribution to the feminist movement, however, because the women were being used as a force of evil and destruction, it speaks more as negative anxiety towards female power.

  8. Although scientific experimentation plays a different role in both Frankenstein and Dracula, I believe Dracula is the more scientifically revolutionary novel. Man having created the monster and being the one to give life in Frankenstein somehow seems less threatening than the count and existence of the vampires because they are unable to be categorized scientifically and their origin is unknown. The progression of science is fascinating to see from the two novels and I completely agree with Kit when she highlighted the difference between Shelley using fictional scientific machines and Stoker using the current technology of the time in her post because I found that the technology being accurate to the period made the story more intense. The tragic ending of Frankenstein made me feel that the science in the novel is what failed and that is what created the downfall, but with the count’s death at the ending of Dracula it felt as though man had defeated science and overcame the threat it created.

  9. Dracula provides a complicated, somewhat contradictory portrayal of Victorian females. Female sexuality is literally demonized via vampiric seducers. Lucy is clearly “clean,” following the rules of courtship and managing three suitors – while at the same time, she expresses desire for all three men and treats their proposals somewhat playfully, which implies a somewhat immoral or improper attitude. Mina, on the other hand, is who has arranged all the various documents and diaries that compose the novel. Though she is put on the sidelines during the action of the plot, as the men deem that is her place, she arguably still has the most important role of them all. She compiles all the text that comprises the novel which enables the reader to enter the story. Without her character, the story would not exist at all – which is a significant role to place on a woman, even if she is told to stay out of the way. Mina makes use of her sideline role, reinventing her at-home position into one of significance and impact.
    I think the resolution of Dracula, like Frankenstein, maintains the novels as socially acceptable pieces for the time – in the end, the bad guy is presumably dead. However, while Shelley presents a clear moral lesson (Don’t play God, Don’t take science too far, etc.), Stoker’s overarching theme is harder to pin down. Faith in God, morals, and masculinity is one interpretation – as the men of the novel eventually defeat Dracula through their will, love for society and wives, and belief in their duty to God. Yet, Stoker places sexual scenes throughout the novel and places a woman in the role of authorship – pushing it further away from Victorian idealism into a revolutionary text.

  10. I find Stoker’s text to be much more progressive than Shelley’s. Although they share many of the same anxieties regarding the constant changes in society as it headed further into industrialization and new planes of scientific discovery, the ways in which they approach these anxieties are very different. Though Dracula is presented as just as horrific and monstrous as the creature in Frankenstein, there is a level of fascination he’s met with that is not seen with the creature. The characters in Stoker’s text are just as interested in studying Dracula as they are slaying him. Also, although we have discussed Stoker’s text as having a fairly regressive approach to its treatment of women that don’t fit into Victorian ideals and standards, I find that this is something better left to personal interpretation rather than making a broad decision. While these less conventional women are more or less “punished” for their choices to divert from societal norms, I don’t think that it’s valid to say that every woman who has picked up Stoker’s text would view them as bad or regressive portrayals – some may even identify with them. Beyond that, looking at Mina alone and disregarding Lucy and the three vampire women, Stoker does include a very forward thinking and modern version of the idealized Victorian woman, so it is undoubtedly progressive in that respect. Stoker’s text also chooses to at least flesh out its female characters, which is much more than can be said about the women of Shelley’s text, all of whom are little more than objects.

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