Religion versus Science and Technology (Van Helsing) *Spoliers for the book Dracula*

In Bram Stokers “Dracula”, his character, Dr. Van Helsing believes that modern technology, science is faulty as it does not take into account the need to acknowledge history, in specific religious beliefs and the affect they have on modern society. When speaking to Stewart in Chapter XVIII he remarks on how God fashioned Madam Mina for a purpose with her man’s brain. The doctor refers to god, religion and then goes on later to make mention of the power presented by science and self –devotion. Dr. Van Helsing himself seems to utilize science, technology and religion depending upon what type of statement he wishes to make. He seems to feel that both have a place within the modern world. Religion based solely on faith, traditions and superstitions versus a modern world where by if science and technology cannot explain it then it does not exist.

When the friends meet in Dr. Steward’s study, Dr. (professor) Van Helsing states that since everyone knows the facts up to now, he will tell them about the history of Dracula. He then proposes after they have not only the facts but also the history of Dracula, they will be able to come up with a plan of action. He begins his history by saying that vampires exist and we all have proof in our previous dealings with Dracula and if that were not enough we also have “teachings and records of the past”. (Stoker) Van Helsing’s belief in science made him skeptical of the existence of vampires and it was only through undeniable proof and the validation from historical accounts as well as his open mindedness that leads him to the conclusion that vampires do indeed exist. Although his scientific mind allows him to analyze the data to the conclusion of the existence of vampires, he does bring into the discussion how if they fail not only might they end up like Dracula “-without hear or conscience, preying on the bodies and souls of those we love best. To us for ever are the gates of heaven shut; for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all; a blot on the face of God’s sunshine; an arrow in the side of Him who died for man.” (Stoker) In this Van Helsing shows both his belief in religion and his belief in the observations of science and the influence of modern technology.

Van Helsing gives the group going to vanquish Dracula even though the vampire is a powerful being by reminding the group of the powers they have such as science and the ability to think and act rationally in both the daylight and night hours, he also reminds them they have their faith, superstitions and traditions upon which they can rely. For they should not forget what they had observed, his ability to become different animals such as a wolf or a bat; how he can become mist or even “elemental dust” (Stoker) and let us not forget that he can see in the dark. Superstition tells them that a vampire cannot enter where he has not been invited (although once invited in he can come and go as he pleases), nor can he go about during the daylight hours and can only change at various times, he also is not supposed to be able to cross running water unless it is at the ebb or low tide. All of these things have either been observed by the group or have been found in the teachings and history. Stoker uses Van Helsing to add a voice of reason and wisdom into the group, he also uses the professor (Dr.) to direct our attention to god, the role he plays. The Dr. (professor) reminds the group that they will be denied entrance to heaven if they become a vampire and loss their soul. Van Helsing’s faith in religion, scientific and modern technologies are the weapons he believes they can use to defeat Dracula and end his reign of terror.

When Mina and Van Helsing travel to Transylvania and Dracula’s castle, they do so with the hope they can kill him and thereby free Mina from his hold. Van Helsing observes how she begins to eat less, become paler, sleep more during the day. In a bid to save her the professor (Dr.) creates a circle of faith (Holy circle) to keep the three female vampires from enticing Mina away from the protective Holy circle. The next morning Val Helsing goes to the castle and finds their resting place and kills them. At Mina’s urging they begin to travel away from the castle to try to meet up with the other members of their party. Mina senses her husband is near and is eager to meet up with them. Van Helsing’s use of the Holy circle shows how he truly believes in the trappings of religion and how important they are to maintain, for sometimes it is only faith that keeps you going. Using Van Helsing’s glasses they are able to see the race between Dracula’s minions and rest of the men of their group.

Dracula is intercepted before the sun can set, so he is at his most vulnerable, the team at Van Helsing’s urging has used a number of methods to predict and plot not only Dracula’s return to his castle but also how they can arrive at the castle before him. The men arm themselves with modern weapons (technology) and follow the trail while relying on their faith to assist them in staying safe. The death of Dracula is described as “ a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.” (Stoker) This scene where Dracula is killed has visual reminders of modern technology for the gypsies transporting the vampire home are held at bay with rifles while Hawkins and Morris fight their way to the cart and the box which contains Dracula, who is then killed with two knives.

Throughout Stoker’s story we see various occasions that when the use of modern technology and science fails, religion is used. Van Helsing himself time and time again falls back on religion and the historical accounting when he cannot explain what has occurred by using science. The idea of a vampire is certainly not one which is the first appears to be a rational conclusion to what happened to Lucy but it is the conclusion which is reach following the recounting of various instances of Dracula turning into an animal; disappearing into thin air (as either elemental dust or mist); his lack of a shadow and his inability to have a reflection in a mirror. When science fails to label Dracula, Van Helsing turns to the historical documents of the church and it there he finds the answer in what Dracula is. Van Helsing himself uses science until he cannot find a logical reason for what he has observed and then he turns to his religious teachings and historical documents to find his answers. He himself uses a Holy circle to protect Mina from the female vampires who come and try to lure her to Dracula’s castle.

Van Helsing’s character although seemingly simplistic in nature provides the perfect adversary to his monster character, Dracula. Stoker moves Dracula from rural Transylvania to London, England during the Victorian Era because most individuals during this time relied upon the observation of science and the dictates of modern technology to address their problems and it is only when Van Helsing arrives with his willingness and open mindedness that the problem begins to be solved. Lucy’s strange aliment cannot be explained by modern technology and science therefore he turns to historical accountants of similar cases and it is with this knowledge that he begins to comprehend the nature of Lucy’s illness and the vileness of Dracula. Once the evil of Dracula is acknowledged, Van Helsing and his friends begin to formulate a plan to destroy him. For the plan to succeed they use a combination of (scientific skills) clinical observation, modern technologies such as rifles and of course religion (their personal faith in god).

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Herfordshire: Woodsworth Editions Limited, 1st published 1897; republished edition 1993. book. p. 211, 212, 214,333


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