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Religious Themes from Dracula: We’re All Vampires

One by one, each vampire's death results in a vivid transition from scorn to peace. Where have I read this before?

~ESV used for Scripture translations~

Dracula is an essential piece of horror, written just before the turn of the century and just after the peak of Victorian romanticism. It traces the lives of Mr. & Mrs. Harker, Lucy Westenra, Dr. Seward, Professor Van Helsing, Lord Arthur Godalming, and Quincy Morris as they discover – and vow to defeat – the monster that is Count Dracula.

The premise of a Vampire is rooted deep in feudalism, in a world in which a faraway count of a kingdom can dictate the very lives of the serfs sustaining it. The peasant works each day knowing life, wife, and children are subject to the whims of his lord; Medieval idealism insisted a lord’s paternalistic duty to defend his subjects, but this kind of power often lead to oppression. How many serfs were subjected to this sort of vampirism? A real-life lord of a manor could be as sinister as Stoker’s Count.

A deeper horror lies in the spiritual significance of the monster. He feeds on blood; in being bitten, the victim requires blood as well. The road to vampirism begins a journey of internal conflict: the transition from innocence to lust, gentleness to cruelty, love to selfishness.

In portraying virtue, the book is also steeped in cultural customs of the day. The vampire turns familial relations – idealized for their time – on their head. A man, willing to sacrifice anything for his beloved, will, as a vampire, prey on virtuous women. Throughout the book we see multiple scenes where male characters donate their strength – their very blood – to the women they love (romantically or not), and this only further condemns Dracula’s predation.

Vampirism corrupts feminine ideals as well. Maternal love is desecrated in vampiress form. If she is bitten, a woman turns from a nurturer of children to a predator of them. In romantic relationships, she turns from sweet fiancé to femme fatale.

We observe this in the vampirization of Lucy and Mina. Both women are presented as moral pillars early in the novel, loved by their friends and fiancĂ©s, devoted to each other, and free of guile. Once Dracula begins his regular feed on Lucy, however, we see her transition into voluptuous wantonness. In their efforts to stop the process, Van Helsing and Seward crown Lucy’s room and neck with wreaths of garlic. As she crumbles to her deathbed, Lucy pushes the garlic away whenever she fades into sleep. Aroused to consciousness, and she clutches it close, as though it is dear to her. Human Lucy is sweet and faithful to her Arthur; Vampiress Lucy is brazen and voluptuous, hungry for blood. Only death is capable of returning the face to its former innocence.

Where have I read this before?

For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Romans 7:19-20

As Lucy nears vampirism, this becomes more apparent – she does not do the good that she wants, but the evil she does not want. Clutching and repelling the garlic is only part of this. At one point she wakes in a bit of a stupor, calling her Arthur to her side for a kiss. The wary Van Helsing sees what Arthur is blind to: she seeks to draw blood. Upon Van Helsing’s violent interference, Lucy wavers back to her human consciousness. “A true friend,” she smiles weakly in her realization for what could have been.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law of my mind and making me captive . . .

Romans 7:21-23a

After she is bitten, Mina becomes hyper-aware of this war in her being. While she never transitions as far as Lucy, she is wary of and prepares for the ostensibly inevitable danger she will become. She prays God to protect her husband and friends, but under the curse of Dracula, she is slave to him and knows her weakness.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Romans 7:24

In the end, Lucy’s vampire is killed, releasing her. For Mina, the Author of her sin is put to death, and she is free.

Every Christian is locked in the same battle, in the battle Paul describes of himself in his letter to the Romans. He desires to do God’s will, but is trapped in a body of death – a vampire continues to pull at his life, feeding on sin. This sin brings death, not life – we must wait, however gallantly we strive, to be rid of this body of death. I will struggle until the day I die, or until Christ returns to slay Sin once and for all.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 7:25-8:1

In the end, we see that Dracula was not the true enemy. The Count himself was a man before a vampire, once as human as us. After a stake is driven through Lucy’s heart, her restless bloodlust vanishes to reveal a face at rest, full of the love they knew before. In the Count’s death, his rage fades, replaced by a look of undeniable relief. The war between the flesh and the Spirit is finally over. The soul has found rest by putting the vampire to death.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

The sin is slain, and what was previously a monster can become his true self.

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