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Blood in Dracula: Symbolism, Imagery & Significance

Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Unsurprisingly, blood is a key symbol in 'Dracula,' and has some intriguing connotations. We'll learn about some concepts blood represents in Stoker's novel by examining various examples of imagery associated with it.

Some Interpretations of Blood's Significance in Dracula

Blood in Dracula takes on at least three different roles. One is its importance as a vital fluid, both for humans and for vampires. We see the value of blood for humans when Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker are bitten by the Count and start to waste away from blood loss. We also see its value for vampires as their only form of nourishment. Blood corrupts religious symbolism as well: in Christianity, the faithful participate in communion, or the consumption of the sacred body and blood of Christ. Vampires, on the other hand, participate in the unholy consumption of human blood. Still another connotation is sexual: the consumption, transfusion, and exchange of blood at times symbolizes sexual desire and intercourse. For the vampires in the novel, it is also a means of reproduction.

Blood as a Symbol of Vitality

At a literal level, blood in Stoker's novel represents an essential life force for humans and vampires alike. In men (as donors), blood is linked with strength and bravery. Dr. Van Helsing says that Arthur ''is so young and strong and of blood so pure that we need not defibrinate it,'' later adding that ''a brave man's blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble.'' In women (as vampiric victims), it gauges a state between life and death. During her first transfusion, Dr. Seward notes that ''something like life seemed to come back to poor Lucy's cheeks.'' When it fails to cure her completely, he compares her to ''a corpse after a prolonged illness.'' For vampires, blood provides nourishment and rejuvenation. When Jonathan Harker discovers Dracula sleeping in his tomb, he observes him ''looking as if his youth had been half renewed'' as the result of ''the whole awful creature (being) simply gorged with blood.''

D.H. Fristons illustration of victim in Sheridan Le Fanus vampire novella Carmilla, which Stoker studied
D.H. Fristons illustration of victim in Sheridan Le Fanus vampire novella Carmilla, which Stoker studied

Blood as a Spiritual Symbol

Blood is an extremely important and pervasive Christian religious symbol. Christians take communion by consuming sacred wafers and wine in church that represent the body and blood of Christ. This rite is intended to help them remember his sacrifice by crucifixion, enter into spiritual union with him, and to remember that he will return to bring them to heaven. In John 6:55 in the Bible, Jesus states: ''The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.''

Renfield blasphemously echoes this concept when he avows: ''The blood is the life!'' He refers not to Christ's blood, but to that of the live animals he eats in hopes of increasing his power. Consuming human blood gives vampires fortification and youthfulness, but in a damning and demonic sense. Rather than promoting the Christian ethic of selfless sacrifice and redemption, their consumption symbolizes self-serving greed and corruption. If taking communion promotes human concord with the resurrected deity, being bitten by the Count results in a monstrous union with the league of Undead demons. Thus, in Stoker's novel, vampires drink human blood partly to mock and subvert Christian theology.

Communion wafer and wine, representing the body and blood of Christ
Communion wafer and wine, representing the body and blood of Christ

Blood as a Symbol of Sexual Intimacy and Reproduction

Blood in Dracula is clearly associated with sexual desire, intercourse, and reproduction. We first see this when Jonathan Harker is surrounded by the Count's female companions in the castle. He describes these vampires as having a ''voluptuousness that was both thrilling and repulsive.'' Despite his engagement to Mina, he admits that ''I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.'' Here, the women present an image of predatory lovers.

Le Vampire by Philip Burne-Jones
Le Vampire by Philip Burne-Jones

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