Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Capitalist Exploiter

Dracula, the world’s favorite dark-haired vampire (Spike, from Buffy, is probably our favorite blonde vampire), is a king, a leader, even a CEO. His minions work for him and it is Dracula who decides when and whom they will feast upon. The currency in which this particular CEO trades is not oil or gold or dollar bills, but blood. Sweet, coppery blood. In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula blood works best not as a symbol of food, but as a symbol of money and riches. Dracula is a capitalist first and foremost. That Dracula is the epitome of the phrase capitalist pig and that blood is a commodity to be dangled in front of people as a carrot to entice them to do one’s bidding is first made explicit in a scene early in the novel when Jonathan Harker first encounters the three female vampires in Dracula’s castle. They are, to put it bluntly, beautiful whores. That is to say, as a prostitute will have sex with anyone in exchange for money, these women will offer themselves to anyone in exchange for blood. Further cementing their role as women of easy virtute, Harker writes that “the girl went on her knees, and bent over me.”

If written today, we would immediately know what a girl going on her knees implies and it would hardly raise an eyebrow, but in Victorian England it would have been incredibly shocking. The sexually explicit description that follows these words clearly indicate an erotic encounter as much as an horrific encounter. This woman and the others are obviously prostituting their charms in the hope of an exchange for blood. And for the vampire, blood means life. Just as money means life for a streetwalker today. Just as money means life for anyone working today. Dracula enters and puts an end to the encounter. As a capitalist, Dracula is not in the business of sharing the wealth except when it suits him to do so. At this stage, allowing his underlings to have access to Harker is unacceptable. Dracula proves himself the very epitome of a CEO when he claims ownership to something he cannot own: “This man belongs to me!” He then promises the girls that they can have Harker’s blood after he himself is done with it. In other words, after Dracula skims all the profit he can and gets all the value from the commodity that is Harker’s blood, only then he will deign to share in the wealth. Dracula is a model capitalist, demanding and getting respect for nothing more than the promise of blood.

Big business uses the accumulation of currency to inspire servile respect among the laborers, and in this respect (and hey, who knows, maybe in many other respects we probably shouldn’t contemplated) Dracula is no different from Bill Gates. The fact that Bill Gates has never actually invented anything in his life, and the fact that nearly all his products are inferior in comparision to similar products made by his competitors has not kept him from consistently ranking high in polls of the most admired man in the world. Those who would agree with this assessment are not much different from Renfield, Dracula’s most disgusting underling. Dr. Seward describes Renfield’s behavior as generally being respectful in the asylum; that is, until Renfield comes under the spell of Dracula. With the promise of blood held before him, Renfield drops all pretense of respect to any but his master. As he says, no one else counts now. “The master is at hand.” But what exactly is it that the master, Dracula, offers Renfield? Renfield eats flies, spiders, birds. He is less than a man; he is almost half animal. Renfield is but another laborer in the vast corporation that exists to supply Dracula with an afterlife of splendor. While Dracula lives in a castle, Renfield lives in an asylum. Blood may be blood, but then again a 60 inch plasma TV and a 15 inch TV both project the same images. Is it better to feast upon human blood like Dracula does than insect blood like Renfield? Might as well inquire whether it’s preferable to eat dinner at Bill Gates’ mansion than to eat at McDonald’s. Not only is blood to be seen as currency, it’s to be seen as life-giving currency.

When Renfield attacks Seward with the knife and licks up his blood, he leaves with the attendant saying, “The blood is the life.” Although it is true that without blood, one cannot live, the circumstances of this scene indicate that what Renfield means is more commodity-oriented. Renfield needed the blood and for a change he was actually able to get it from a human being. Perhaps this is a brief moment of class consciousness flashing in Renfield. Perhaps this is a moment of Renfield realizing that he doesn’t have to remain in the shackles of Dracula’s oppressive capitalistic ownership. Or perhaps not. When Renfield cries that blood is the life, he may as well as being crying that money is everything. And that message is broadcast every minute of every hour of every day. Renfield has bought into it; he has sacrificed interest in everything else for the promise of blood that his master has made to him. Millions sacrifice more for the promise of happiness that their masters have made to them if they’ll just work a little longer and a little harder. But how many people live lives like Renfield while their bosses live lives like Dracula?

Dracula cannot live without blood and people cannot live without money. But like so many capitalist captains of industry, Dracula mistakenly believes that he possesses the right to ownership of human beings. Throughout the novel, characters receive blood transfusions to keep them going when they appear to be ill or near death. Without that weekly paycheck deigned to us by our masters, we too would become ill and near death. Dracula really is not so very different from those running the world today.

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