Modern Medicine In Dracula

1463 Words6 Pages
Topic: What role does modern medicine and science play in the defeat of Dracula?

Many critics argue that the fin-de-siècle revival of the Gothic was connected with anxieties about contemporary scientific discourses (Byron 50). These anxieties are at the heart of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula (1897). Set predominantly in Victorian England, the novel tells the story of “The Crew of Light”, who must subordinate their beliefs in modern medicine, science and rationality in order to defeat the mysterious Count Dracula. Stoker employs Dutch scientist, philosopher and metaphysician, Abraham Van Helsing, in order to explore this tension between contemporary scientific discourses and the traditional. Although Dracula is ultimately defeated by
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According to Rosemary, the Victorian gentleman believed that ‘what one can see and prove constitutes reality’ (275). Stoker’s Dr. John Seward embodies this sort of scientific rationality. When he finds out about Lucy Westenra’s illness and somnambulism, he attempts to heal her with blood transfusions: ‘Lucy had got a terrible shock, and it told on her more than before, for though plenty of blood went into her veins, her body did not respond to the treatment as well as on the other occasions’ (Stoker 160). Lecercle points out that blood transfusions can be seen as the inverse of vampirism (71). They are essentially modern medicine’s attempt to bring the supernatural under control. After four unsuccessful attempts at a blood transfusion, Professor Abraham Van Helsing concedes that modern medicine and science cannot explain Lucy’s condition, rather vampirism must be at work. He counsels Seward for his inability to diagnose vampirism: ‘you are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced... Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain’ (Stoker 204). Stoker is seemingly criticising scientists at the fin de siècle for their lack of open mind and inability to consider possibilities beyond the reach of contemporary science. Rosemary adds ‘the narrative gestures more specifically toward popular debate about science by arguing that it is their very reliance on scientific rationality that makes the English so vulnerable to Dracula's threat’ (274). Count Dracula, who has powerful hypnotic and telepathic abilities and defies the normal laws of life and death, is proof of occult forces beyond the reach of contemporary science. The Count is able to go unnoticed in Whitby as modern
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