Seward, young British physician and unreliable narrator, embodies late-Victorian scientism and rationalism in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Irony in Seward's portrayal reveals much of the author's criticism of the late-Victorian scientific establishment. Although Seward sees himself as radically modern, Stoker highlights his conventional conception of science which prevents him to understand Dracula as a vampire. Through the British physician's relationship with both his former professor Van Helsing and his lunatic patient Renfield, Stoker derides his character's arrogance and inability to understand the supernatural. The novel denounces Seward's blind rationalism but celebrates Van Helsing's good use of both modern and old knowledge. Dracula is therefore a severe criticism of late-Victorian scientists' reductionist materialism and disdain for religion and occultism but the novel does not reject modern science and technology per se.
[...] - Seward rejects the professor's theory and questions Van Helsing's sanity - Dramatic irony = the reader knows that Van Helsing is right Consequences of Seward's blind rationalism - Very end of chapter XVIII. Renfield has asked for the young doctor. - Renfield warns Seward of the terrible consequences of his refusal of letting him go. - Unlike Seward, Renfield understands Dracula's threat. Seward has not learned from experience. Terrible consequences = Dracula is able to prey on Mina. Arrogance of Seward toward his patient. [...]
[...] Unlike Seward, the reader is already aware of the existence of Dracula and vampirism; Stoker therefore suggests to us that Seward's stubborn rationalism prevents him to see the truth. Again, the author blames not only his character but also most of his contemporaries for being blinded by an excessive and exclusive faith in modern science. It should also be noticed that Seward is obsessed by insanity; the next paragraph will best demonstrate the importance of this observation by directly addressing the relationship between Seward and his patient Renfield. [...]
[...] This quotation demonstrates that Stoker uses the relationship between Seward and his patient to criticize the blind rationalism and scientism of his character as he does with the relationship between the young doctor and his former professor. Here, Stoker's irony makes his denunciation of late-Victorian scientism particularly powerful. Yet, it is very important to distinguish Stoker's irony toward Seward's blind materialism from the overall message about science in Dracula. In “Saved by Science? The Mixed Messages of Stoker's Dracula” (1989), Rosemary Jann claims that Stoker's view is more complex than usually recognized . [...]
[...] Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young. (Chapter XIV p171) According to Van Helsing who wants Seward to come to the conclusion that Lucy has become a vampire, his former student is unable or refuses to understand what is happening because he is blinded by his exclusive faith in modern rationalism and scientism. [...]
[...] Although allegedly a scientist himself, van Helsing proposes that superstition is a force more powerful than scientific rationality, a proposition he finds validated by the appearance of Count Dracula in the midst of the “scientific, skeptical, matter-of- fact nineteenth century.” These comments by Van Helsing, however superficial and ridiculous, give us a clue to the more profound implications developed by the novel's strategies. Blinderman's interpretation of Van Helsing as a supporter of obscurantism is very disputable. Unlike Blinderman's affirmation, Van Helsing does not reject very method of scientific work.” On the contrary, Stoker depicts Van Helsing as an acknowledged expert in medicine and the humanities—“Abraham Van Helsing, M.D. [...]
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