Dracula Through the Lens of Freud
Count Dracula is one of the most recognizable figures in the world today; his name has become synonymous with vampires and with the sexualization of horror. In fact, the sexual aspect of Dracula has become one of the most commented upon features of the figure and of his story. There is certainly a huge basis for such an emphasis in Bram Stokers original novel. In Dracula, the first book in which the character of Count Dracula is introduced, the title character is a supreme example of the male ego, with his sexuality and his attitude towards and treatment of women characterized by an extreme imbalance of power in his favor. His ability to rob other men, most notably Jonathan Harker and Renfield, of their potency is also quite telling from a psychoanalytical viewpoint. All of these details make a psychoanalytic reading of the novel not only possible, but extremely elucidating in terms of emerging Victorian sexuality and gender perceptions as they were beginning to be understood.
Much of the work of psychoanalysis, especially in literature, revolves around Freuds description of the Oedipal complex. In the case of Dracula, this plays out rather strangely. Because the vampire has no mother (or father for that matter), the standard sexual drama of the desire to murder ones father and sleep with ones mother cannot be plaid out. This places Dracula somewhere outside the realm of normal masculinity; he is almost super-masculine both by virtue of his strength and virility and his control over his desires.
This latter aspect has been a traditionally feminine trait, and in fact Draculas super-masculinity seems to come with a certain amount of androgyny, too. His physical description is somewhat feminine, with an “aquiline” face, “thin nose,” “bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion,” and lips of “remarkable ruddiness” (Stoker Chapter 2, par. 19). This makes Dracula a strange embodiment of male and female.
This is mirrored in the very nature of the vampire itself, who penetrates and yet also seeks to receive vital fluids from its victim. The fact that this act of overt sexuality does not have anything to do with male or female genitalia but rather with the mouth and neck increases the androgyny of the act. Neither does the gender of the victim; though Dracula primarily pursues females, “his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury” when he saw blood on Harkers face (Stoker Chapter 2, par. 52). This “fury” could easily have been misinterpreted lust, given the necessarily subjective position of Harker himself. Though able to contain himself, Dracula is little more tan an id, with extreme desires inhibited only by is great strength and prudence.
This ability to control himself appears in the self-containment Dracula exhibits. His daily return to the coffin where he sleeps alone, sealed off and protected, is womblike.