Stoker’s Dracula as Christian Fiction

by Mike Duran · 24 comments

So I finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula several months ago, and really liked it. A little melodramatic in spots, overly florid in others. The entire story is told in a crucifixseries of journal entries, and though the technique works, there are times when it challenges credulity. I mean, wow, they journaled a lot! But overall the story reads like a classic, especially as it stands in relation to vampire lit.

But throughout my reading, I kept thinking how “Christian” Bram Stoker’s Dracula seems. Yes, I use the term “Christian” loosely, having major qualms with how religious booksellers have come to define our conception of both Christianity and fiction. Nevertheless, so many elements of the story parallel current CBA sensibilities.

For one, Christianity is portrayed in a positive light throughout Dracula. The protagonists pray, quote Scripture, seek God’s guidance, and ultimately prevail. If Count Dracula is meant to symbolize the devil, then it is clearly Stoker’s intent to show that the evil one is resisted through the power of God. And unlike much contemporary vampire fiction, Christianity is not minimized or mocked. Rather, our heroes display an unabashed reliance upon the God of Scripture and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Religious imagery and practice are explicit throughout the story. Literary critics often note the Christian allegory inherent in Dracula, not just in its overtly religious symbolism (crucifix, communion wafer, holy water, etc.), but ultimately in the collision of Christian ethics with Darwinian evolution, a topic that would have been of great interest to its Victorian audience. (See The New Annotated Dracula, pg. 542).

Furthermore, there are numerous impromptu prayers and reverential references to God. Here’s a sampling:

“Great God! Merciful God, let me be calm, for out of that way lies madness indeed.”–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 3

“The real God taketh heed lest a sparrow fall. But the God created from human vanity sees no difference between an eagle and a sparrow. Oh, if men only knew!”–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 8

“…the devil may work against us for all he’s worth, but God sends us men when we want them.””–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 12

“Poor Mina told me just now, with the tears running down her dear cheeks, that it is in trouble and trial that our faith is tested. That we must keep on trusting, and that God will aid us up to the end. The end! Oh my God! What end?”…God can, if He wishes it, guard me as well alone as with any one present.–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 22

“Take heart afresh, dear husband of Madam Mina. This battle is but begun and in the end we shall win. So sure as that God sits on high to watch over His children. Therefore be of much comfort till we return.”–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 24

“God grant that we may be guided aright, and that He will deign to watch over my husband and those dear to us both, and who are in such deadly peril. As for me, I am not worthy in His sight. Alas! I am unclean to His eyes, and shall be until He may deign to let me stand forth in His sight as one of those who have not incurred His wrath.”–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 27

And there’s lots more. Especially Van Helsing’s wonderfully eccentric exhortations, like this one:

“Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish. That the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him. He have allowed us to redeem one soul already, and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more. Like them we shall travel towards the sunrise. And like them, if we fall, we fall in good cause.”–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 24

Compound these elements and you’ve got a story brimming with explicit Christian content and biblical worldview.

An absence of profanity and sex. In many ways, CBA fiction is defined as being family friendly. Thematically, of course, Dracula is for adults. Yet despite its contemporary adaptations, the original contains no erotica. Yes, there is the suggestion of physical allure and temptation. But nothing explicit. On the other hand, Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which is often considered a Christian Classic, contains far more language than Stoker’s book.

Vampires are not glorified, romanticized, or portrayed as anything but vile, hellish beings. This is important because the current trend is to celebrate the vampire mystique. So instead of monsters, contemporary vampires are Casanovas.  In the classic, Dracula, though powerful, is clearly the spawn of Satan, a creature cursed and demonized. In Stoker’s world, vampires are the antithesis of resurrected saints, and thus, one of the greatest of all fictional antagonists.

A redemptive resolution. As Mina plummets toward Darkness, her husband Jonathan vows to kill the vampire, staking it through the heart and sending it to hell. Mina pleads with Jonathan to, if possible, slay the vampire first so that the Count may find redemption. What happens?

But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat. Whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.

It was like 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.

I shall be glad as long as I live that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face [of Dracula] a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there.–Dracula by Bram Stoker: Chapter 27

Did Dracula find peace? Is Stoker implying that no one is beyond the hope of salvation? If so, I think that’s good theology. Either way, in Dracula, not only do the good guys win, Mina is saved from the curse, and the Vampire is stopped.

Yet, despite all this, what do you think the chances are that a CBA house would publish Dracula today? If you said “Slim to none,” you’d be right. So seeing that Stoker’s classic contains so much Christian content and adheres admirably to CBA strictures, why is the vampire mythos still so incongruent with contemporary Christian Fiction?

Nicole June 21, 2009 at 11:46 PM

Fascinating information, Mike. Since vampires, et al, hold no interest for me, I really had no idea what the story was about other than blood-sucking. Not so many years back, CBA publishers had zero interest in such things, and, as you know, adult fantasy is still a hard sell, but Eric Wilson with his UnDead Trilogy has made an entrance into CBA. Karen Ball (B&H acq. editor) likes all stuff vampirish and fantasy, but what it takes in a proposal to sell it, I have no idea. Might be worth trying to get an interview with her, Mike.

Nicole June 22, 2009 at 8:52 PM

I do understand your plight in the fantasy/Xian-fic/specfic/scifi realms in CBA publishing. It's interesting to me that Jeff Gerke put his money where his mouth is and took on a risky venture with his Marcher Lord Press. I think–it's been awhile so I could be wrong–he's giving it a couple of years to prove profitable or at least break even. If not, there goes another avenue for readers who desire the Christian slant to the aforementioned genres and the writers who write them.
I agree, though, that any genre which gives an open door to a Christian worldview should be wide open to the possibilities and not be coming late to the party or more likely totally absent from the niche crowd because it does seem to be ripe for the picking.

Mike Duran June 22, 2009 at 3:09 PM

Nicole, despite Eric Wilson's trilogy, there remains far more resistance to vampires in Xian-fic than there does interest. While Karen Ball may express intrigue, John Olson's "Shade," which was published by B&H, is not really about vampires. In fact, it is openly described as the "vampireless vampire book." Are they trying to tiptoe around the concept? This, to me, refutes any suggestion of movement toward CBA exploring vampire mythology. And while Wilson and Thomas Nelson should be commended for taking risks, from my understanding, after the final book in the trilogy, that risk is over.

I understand that vampires are not everyone's cup of tea. But religious publisher's continued inability / unwillingness to explore an archetype so rife with possibility — especially one that reinforces a Christian worldview — strikes me as weird.

Sue Dent June 23, 2009 at 3:34 AM

No CBA or ECPA publisher has allowed a story to be written about vampires or werewolves of lore. They've only allowed a suggestion of such things and it's so odd those general market readers are left going huh along with core market readers. CBA was formed in 1950 to provide Christian Bookstores with fiction their visitors could read. It was/is targeted and overt fiction that was never meant to appeal to general market readers Christian or otherwise. Jeff Gerke's work is also targeted and overt just not as strict or rigid as CBA. CBA publishers are pushing to appeal to a readership that seems to be changing but aren't doing a good job of it. They're losing core market readers and doing little to attract enough Christian readers from the general market to make up for the loss. I wrote a vampire/werewolf story that has overwhelmingly appealed to CBA and ECPA readers as well as general market readers and has been deemed "socially acceptable" by Spring Arbor for distribution into the Christian market. I wonder why my work isn't being talked about here? Probably for the same reason my work isn't allowed into the larger Christian bookstores, it isn't through an affiliated publisher.

Matthew Dickens October 15, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Sue, you obviously haven’t read my CBA novel “Wayfarer”. I have a werewolf in mine. I also mention Dracula. That book had front store placement in all the Family Christian Stores in 2004. It was also an Amazon bestseller. My newest novel “Musterion” is a literary thriller about the supernatural history of the publishing industry. And Stoker’s novel is at the center of it. I went to Israel and San Francisco to do research for this new book, and I can assure that “Dracula” is not the Christian novel described by the author of this site. Speaking as an expert on the doctrine of resurrection, “Dracula” is a religious novel rife with Spiritism—Satan’s original lie to Eve. This is quite different from being Christian. When my new book comes out, all who read it will see just how powerful Stoker’s novel has been in promoting Satan’s agenda, and how it’s connected to some of the greatest works of literature.

Matthew Dickens

Dayle June 23, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Mike, due to the fact that e-mail offers no inflection, keep in mind I say this with all sincerity: For your sake, you really need to let this go.

CBA & ECPA are merely purveyors of a niche product. That being books purchased mainly by American Evangelical Christians.

The label Christian fiction should not be interpreted any other way. They have never declared themselves the governing body or ruling authority on the strict definition of the label Christian Fiction. If they ever do, I will join forces with you to defeat them.

There's plenty of Christian fiction in the regular fiction section of your favorite bookstore–curse words and all. Try reading Koontz's latest stuff.

Mike Duran June 24, 2009 at 1:56 AM

Dayle, my book is being shopped ABA, so I have no real stake in the debate… other than being a Christian reader and author. As such, I'm concerned about Christian fiction in the same way I'm concerned about Christian music and Christian film — they are cultural representations of Christianity. Though CBA / ECPA "never declared themselves the governing body or ruling authority on the strict definition of the label Christian Fiction," by being the primary purveyors of Christian fiction, they are, perhaps by default, shaping its identity.

Really, I'm not saying anything other than what other, far more authoritative voices have been saying. Dave Long, Mick Silva, Jeffrey Overstreet, Barbara Nicolosi, Andy Crouch, and many others have, at one point or another, expressed similar sentiments and/or frustrations with the Christian fiction industry. Perhaps in your eyes I'm grinding an axe. But if that's the case, I have many companions.

Dayle June 24, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Mike, I understand your frustration and your overall point, but I think you're positing the wrong solution.

The solution is not to open the eyes of these publishers and make them realize that they are doing a dis-service to the world with their stringent rules and guidelines and thus becoming a blight on the cause of evangelicalism. They serve an audience that demands a certain type of product. It seems to me your real issue is with them.

Changing the little signs in the bookstores would seem to be the real solution.

Mike Duran June 25, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Hmm. I'm not sure I'm positing any solution. At least not in this post. The sacred / secular paradigm is far too entrenched in American Evangelicalism for industry "tweaks" to matter. An entire culture of separatists has been created. Christian readers have cordoned their little niche and defend it with relative fervor. Any "solution" would involve organizational / financial risks (on the part of the publishers) and extended theological / philosophical rumination (on the part of the readers), and I'm unsure how either fares against money and entertainment. But I would agree, Dayle, that the audience is more of the problem than the suppliers. After all, this is the country that's fixated upon Reality TV.

If anything, I am happy to regularly point out why the term Christian art (be it fiction, film, or music) misconstrues both the concept of art and how Christians are to interact with culture. If readers — or publishers! — happen to dig that vibe, I'm all the more happy to continue my rants.

Kaci June 25, 2009 at 4:07 AM

But I would agree, Dayle, that the audience is more of the problem than the suppliers. After all, this is the country that's fixated upon Reality TV.

Ha.

Rachel Starr Thomson October 20, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Now I want to read Dracula :). Your final question is a really, really good one. Possibly because that's what modern man wants to make it?

Eva March 7, 2011 at 3:12 PM

About the book not being sexually explicit, it does contain sexual content
Many of the scenes can be viewed as sexual. The purifying of the body can be seen as sexual, the vampire women often tempt the men, there are apparent nods to pedophilia and polygamy , the perversion of Victorian sexual gender roles is seen throughout the story, only to briefly mention a few general examples. This book has a sexual allegory.
The vampires are not only portrayed as evil. We see glimpses of their humanity at times. For example: When the one of the female vampires says that Dracula cannot love he replies “Yes, I too can love, you yourselves can tell it from the past”. Once Lucy is a vampire she is still portrayed as though she needs to be pitied.
I am not even going that deep into the story, but there is a very strong sexual element, and Stoker uses this book as a way to express his views on the matter. Similarly, the humanity in vampires is emphasized, as well as them not being monsters, but cursed humans.
I am only 15, but it is apparent that you were not looking deep enough into the story to find these meanings, that is probably why it is not considered Christian Fiction.

Katherine Coble March 7, 2011 at 3:44 PM

I’m quite sad, though not surprised, that there are readers who have not read Dracula.

It is a classic for any number of reasons.

I must admit that it is less a Christian book than a Victorian book about the dangers of carnality and the attractions of Spiritualism. That, of course, in no way means that Christians shouldn’t read it. In fact, I would recommend…virtually insist…that any Christian with a desire to reach the lost read it at the first opportunity.

Bram Stoker was a friend and contemporary of Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He owned a popular West End Theatre and managed one of the greatest actors to have ever performed in the English Speaking stage. He was to his time what Stephen Spielberg or Francis Ford Coppola is in
ours. Soker labored for years over Dracula, pouring his soul into it. The drafts which exist show how his reactions to the sexual and spiritual crises of his own and his friends’ lives directly impacted his work.

In other words you have in Dracula a letter straight from The World, from an unsaved person who was wrestling with the ideas of sexual temptation as the battered up against societal norms and the institutionalized religion of his day. If Paul’s epistles are our guide to how to live in Christ, Stoker’s epistolary novel is a window into how one lives without Christ, at the mercy of seduction and the terror of death.

Katherine Coble March 7, 2011 at 3:49 PM

My apologies; in double-checking myself I am reminded that SToker managed the theatre which was in actuality owned by the actor, Henry Irving. I apologize for the misinformation.

Herp VanDerp March 7, 2012 at 5:19 PM

This is true….Dracula plays to the deeper part of man

Melissa Ortega December 17, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Never saw this post before now. Love it, Mike!! There is a bit of Christian allegory to me too in the scene where the three lovers must pour out their wrath on the corrupt – Lucy’s vampire-ish transformation – by driving a stake through her heart in order to separate her from her sinful state. That scene helped me empathize with the emotion God might have felt in seeing his own Son staked to a cross – himself and not himself – himself bearing our own sins and receiving God’s wrath – in order that it might be torn from all of us. Stoker’s description of their mulitude of feelings in that moment brought me to tears. Whether Stoker intended that or not, that’s what I got out of it.

I love this book for a million reasons, but I never would have read it if it hadn’t been for another Christian telling me to pick it up. I was far too prejudiced against it at the time (thanks, Hollywood).

I also like to remind other Christians who refuse to read ANYTHING with a vampire (because that *must* be satanic) that the favorite book of the Christian darling, CS Lewis, was about a vampire. Lilith was incredible metaphor which really impacted my tendency toward vanity at exactly the right time in my life. I think I see something of her in Lewis’ description of Orual (in Til We Have Faces) being like a great, blood-sucking spider at the middle of an enormous web. Powerful stuff.

I just may go back and re-read Dracula this year thanks to this little post.

Martine October 14, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Considering when this was written, I don’t think Bram Stoker had a CHOICE how to portray the Church. However, if you read carefully between the lines, you could see a very different picture. The weird dichotomy between the Englishman, and the Eastern Catholics shows up when the Protestant Jonothan sees the cross as an idol. The rather misogynist way that the overly Christian( in a non traditional way) Van Hellsing acts( we know he has a wife he committed to an insane asylum). The overall charm of Dracula himself. You can’t help but like him, and want Mina to just become a vampire for the empowerment if nothing else. I think Bram Stokers propriety tells him to go one way…but his heart tells him to go another way.
Theres a reason that vampires have always been such a great and popular addition to literature and storytelling in all media. Vampires are empowerment. The kind you don’t ever get from a religion that tells you to kneel. After all, Stoker wanted his man crush, Irving to play the part of Dracula in his theater. He could have named the book “Van Hellsing”….he didn’t.

Linsey Lockley January 4, 2014 at 6:34 PM

All the more reason for writers who are Christians, whether they like to be called “Christians writers” or not, to locate secular publishing houses to publish their Biblically themed horror and fantasy. I’ve done it, but not without God’s hand on it, and that’s really the key. After all, why should we write for a Christian readership when the readership that needs it won’t touch “Christian” books?

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