The rise and fall of Dracula
If the 18th century gave us the tyrant aristocratic lord, Mary Shelley gifted us the mad scientist, and Dickens the misanthrope, it was Bram Stoker who breathed new life into the tyrant aristocrat with one of the iconic Gothic villains, Dracula.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) is a central work in the history of the Gothic, as influential in film and popular culture as it has been in fiction. It channels anxieties about multiple forms of otherness at the end of the nineteenth century and the apex of the British empire.
Dracula shares motifs of the Gothic genre: the dark castle setting, the woman in distress and a mysterious and supernatural plot. The count embodies the common Gothic archetype of the evil father and the dangerous lover, but it is their 'otherness' that poses the greatest threat.
Why did the tyrant lord resurface? Dracula represented worn-out European royalty and explored Freud's “return of the repressed”. The Count is destroyed, but so too symbolically is modern America, creating instability and leaving Gothic literature with no definite way forward.