In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, we see the epic conflict between Dracula, the degenerate aristocrat, and the respectability of emerging middle class values represented in the Crew of Light. Two key members of this Crew of Light are Quincy Morris, the honourable and reliable soldier and Abraham Van Helsing, the master of things obscure and occult and the ice cool analyst. This essay will focus on the role and purpose of these two characters in Bram Stoker’s novel. To do this I have selected two specific passages from the text of Dracula. The first passage is at p. 50, and is a letter describing Quincy Morris.
Lucy Westernera, a friend and suitor to Quincy, writes the letter. The second passage, pp. 93-4, is a letter written about Van Helsing from his friend and former student, Dr Seward. Both these passages give us insights as to the character of the two men. Whilst being an important member of the Crew of Light, Quincy Morris is also perceived as being non-threatening as a foreigner in the Crew of Light. Lucy knows little of Quincy’s background and this would seem to breed a slight element of disrespect for him. This is illustrated where Lucy says: “It amused me to hear him talk American slang. ” (P. 50)
Although Stoker does not directly combat racism and xenophobia he addresses the matter in a both subtle and jovial manner. Including subtle prejudices associated with Quincy like this softens the Victorian stereotype of foreigners and, ergo, reassures the Victorian reader that proper English virtues can exist in certain foreigners, characteristics such as honesty, bravery and being well mannered. Lucy continues on in her letter to help enforce the fact that Quincy does indeed uphold these revered characteristics: “Mr Morris doesn’t always speak slang… for he is really well educated and has exquisite manners.
Lucy’s letter here typifies the prejudice against Quincy; it is harmless and not intended to be insulting, but at the same time it reminds the reader that the prejudice and xenophobia that was commonplace in Victorian Britain is still present in the text. The slang that Quincy Morris uses when speaking to Lucy helps to distinguish him from Lucy’s other suitors. I believe that Stoker included the slang to show how Quincy has to adapt himself to be accepted in the Crew of Light. He only resorts to phrases like “driving in double harness”, when he is nervous and speaks from his heart.
It would seem that Stoker wished to show the reader how no matter how much you try to change yourself to fit in with society, it is impossible to truly escape the person inside. However, the opinion of Quincy Morris in the eyes of Dr Seward and Arthur Holmwood paints a very different picture to the harmless gentleman described by Lucy in her letter to Mina Harker. To the men, Quincy is seen as a brave and honourable fighter; he has served in the army alongside Seward and Holmwood. Quincy brings with him knowledge and technology of warfare; Stoker gives him the same characteristics that America held in the eyes of a Victorian reader.
He is seen as a dependable ally and suitably westernised, so that he could be accepted in British society. The fact that Quincy has served in the army alongside two English gentlemen also gives him a bond with the two men. This bond seeks to eradicate traditional xenophobic barriers that may otherwise have arisen between them. Because of this bond, neither Seward nor Holmwood treats Quincy as they may have treated a foreigner. For instance, great trust is put in Quincy when he helps to look after Lucy in the nights while she is still alive.
And Quincy’s blood is seen to be good enough to help Lucy, for he gives blood to her in the form of a transfusion: “A brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble. You’re a man and no mistake. ” (p. 75) The desperation of the Crew of Light to save the life of Lucy allows them to see through typical Victorian racial obstacles and treat Quincy as the gentleman he is. I believe Stoker wanted to express how he felt about the combination of bloods in Lucy, giving the men a bond, which would seek to eradicate traditional racial barriers.
The racial ties in Dracula can be seen to co-exist with the unison of blood through transfusion to Lucy. The racial qualities encoded within the blood are enhanced, diluted, corrupted or transferred. Stoker is able to show the power of western racial bloods both literally, in the various acts of transfusion, or metaphorically, in the alliance formed around Van Helsing’s leadership. Therefore this conveys not only the victory of the Western stock over the less developed opposition, but also the intellectual, moral, and crucially, emotional qualities encoded within the blood, which allow the western stock to defeat their opponent.
Van Helsing and Quincy Morris become part of the more developed western stock as soon as their blood is transferred to Lucy. Stoker’s theme of racial alliance is repeated in The Mystery of the Sea, although here an English hero is romantically partnered with an American heroine in opposition to a Spanish nobleman. The novel describes the search for a hoard of gold – hidden on the Scottish coast by an ancestor of the Spaniard. This detail, along with the American heroine’s family descent from Sir Francis Drake, allows a contemporary political conflict to be readdressed as a matter of historical, racial and religious significance.
The same theme of racial significance in The Mystery of the Sea is shown in Dracula but the matter is confronted in a much more subtle way. When this text was being written, there was much social confusion in Britain. Britain had just come through the industrial revolution and a new middle class was emerging, ready to challenge the elite stock. Rural aristocratic, bucolic attitudes were giving way to a more industrial, urban and aspirant middle class. I believe that Dracula can be seen to represent the dying aristocracy, unwilling to accommodate the newly formed middle class.
He is desperate to conserve his noble blood, but it seems like society itself is working to destroy him. Because Stoker treats Dracula with respect, but respect tinged with loathing, the ambiguities of Britain’s social confusions are portrayed. In order to be rid of this monster, British society needed to look beyond its borders and call upon its foreign allies to destroy it. When Van Helsing is introduced into the text it is through a letter from his only associate in the Crew of Light, Dr Seward. Van Helsing was once Seward’s master and this gives him the link he needs to be accepted as a foreigner in the crew of light.
While the description of Van Helsing is written in a positive mode, there are some undertones that suggest prejudice against him; For example Seward says: “He is a seemingly arbitrary man, but this is because he knows what he is talking about better than anyone else. ” (P. 94) I believe the word ‘arbitrary’ was a carefully chosen by Stoker, because although it is clear from the quote Seward has great respect for Van Helsing, it also suggests that he is not quite of the same mindset. Seward is the man of science and reason, whereas Van Helsing is a man who “has an absolutely open mind” (pp.
94). To have an open mind implies that Van Helsing may have knowledge of things put down by the traditional scientist, and this gives us an early insight into his character. Seward also describes Van Helsing as having: “An iron nerve” and “A temper of the ice-brook. ” (P. 94) These character features are reinforced by the actions of Van Helsing in the course of the text; for example, he has a will strong enough to keep the vampire Lucy at bay with his crucifix. Van Helsing gives Stoker a subtle method of expressing his views in the text without being accused of preaching.
One can assume that Stoker did not want to be seen as just another man trying to argue for either science or religion, as was popular at the time. If one reads closely there are some instances where one can assume that Van Helsing’s words are the same as the opinions of Stoker. For instance, when Van Helsing says: “Well, the devil may work against us for all he’s worth, but God sends us men when we want them. ” (p. 75) I propose that this quote comes directly from Stoker himself, and is based in his opinion of societal beliefs. A dependence on science and technology somewhat veils the supernatural, rather than explains it.
The characters in Dracula are faced with situations that science has no explanation for and they must trust in God or nothing else. I believe this is why Stoker shows a dependence on more old-fashioned, religious weapons and defences, such as the crucifix, holy wafer and knives from the Crew of Light. One must infer that Van Helsing is given added respect in his knowledge of the occult because he is a foreigner. The Crew of Light and the Victorian reader would perceive that his origins might be similar to the origins of the occult. To put matters simply, the occult was not British.
It is comforting to the Victorian reader to know that Dracula derives from foreign shores, and that this monster is not the literal product of British society, even if its metaphorical power was vividly apparent. Van Helsing is seen in the text as a source of knowledge on the occult, and without him I am certain that the Crew of Light would be unable to fight Dracula effectively. However it does seem somewhat ironic that the Crew of Light must enlist the help of a foreigner to protect their country from the very same thing: Yet this is not the first time that foreign help has been enlisted by the British to drive out a foreign invader.
In the early 5th century, the Goths helped the indigenous people of Britain drive out their Roman oppressors and become independent. It is more than coincidence that Van Helsing’s place of origin, Holland, is where many of the Gothic tribes settled. The Crew of Light draw out Van Helsing’s knowledge of the occult in the same way that the military expertise of the Goths was used by the indigenous people of Britain to help them drive out the foreign invaders. This is a Gothic historical analogy for a Gothic novel.
In this essay I have discussed why Stoker has chosen to include the characters of Quincy Morris and Abraham Van Helsing. I believe I have found three main points that I will now reiterate in conclusion. Firstly, Stoker does not treat Quincy Morris as a foreigner, because there is nothing but his blood that separates him from the other British members of the Crew of Light. And his blood is transferred and mixed with the blood of the other members of the crew of light through the process of a transfusion, where any racial qualities encoded within the blood will have been diluted.
Secondly, Stoker has chosen to present the occult as something that is not British, and he personifies this in the character of Van Helsing. This underlines the significance of foreignness as a theme in the novel. Finally, Van Helsing’s foreign origin serves to politicise the conflict between Dracula as an invading foreigner and the intrinsic Englishness of the majority of the Crew of Light. Within this novel, these two characters form an integral part of Bram Stoker’s purpose.