Science Versus Superstition in Dracula and Victoria England

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Rebekah Baer

2813 Final Paper

30 July 2010

Science Versus Superstition in "Dracula" and Victoria England

During the Victorian Era in Britain, British citizens began to explore the east and became fascinated with it. There was a great interest in the orient and the objects and culture that came from it. Although the people were mystified by the superstitious nature of the orient learned from their eastern excursions, they were afraid of the east being able to travel to the west. Although the British consumed eastern culture, they were still afraid of too much infiltration by the east. They didn't want their pure British culture to be tainted. Because of this, they used science to explain, classify, and control the unknown superstitious nature of the orient. This push of science onto the eastern world is seen in several scenes throughout the novel Dracula, which was written by Bram Stoker during the Victorian Era in Britain. The proper British characters are constantly trying to overcome Dracula with science. British Imperialism and the British Empire's attitude towards the east are shown through the relationship through science and superstition in Dracula.

While traveling east, the British encountered a lot of new and previously unknown commodities, cultures, and people. These eastern cultures were seen as backwards to the British people. They had a sort of superstitious quality about them and were thought to be improper because of it. Britain didn't want their proper society contaminated by the superstitious cultures of the orient. There existed a fear that the east would begin to travel west and come back to Britain. The unknown societies and practices were so foreign to them. Britain feared the unknown and so took control by using science to try to understand and classify the cultures. By using proper science, the British were also showing their sense of superiority and elitism. It was believed that the Eastern notion of honor was skewed. It was driven by superstition, which resulted in easterners having flawed notions of what honorable behavior is1. This chaos and backwardness justified a need for a forced British order. Attempting to classify everything around them lead to the comfort that there was nothing they couldn't handle and that they had gained control over everything. There was nothing to be afraid of because the world was under proper Britain and their elitist science.
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This is similar to how proper Britain in the novel "Dracula" did not want to be tainted by the superstitious ways of Dracula from the east. From the very beginning of the novel, orientalism is prevalent in the comparisons made between the east and west. There is a sense of us versus them that Jonathan Harker has before he even arrives in Transylvania and meets Dracula. He speaks of leaving the west and entering the east. Steve Patterson describes how the British at the time represented progress, enlightenment, and modernity while the east represented chaos, superstition, and backwardness2. ...

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