Knowledge is a crucial part of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire story.  It plays a two-fold role, as both a weapon wielded by the protagonists, but also as a cultural stumbling block the titular character uses to his advantage.  The theme of communication of knowledge runs as deep as the very structure of the novel itself, told in an expanded epistolary format.  This dual role of information is emblematic of attitudes and concerns prevalent at the time of its writing at the height of Imperial strength.

            In the beginning of the novel, especially the opening segments with John Harker, knowledge—and, more importantly, the ignorance that comes with a hubristic intelligence—works against the imprisoned solicitor.  He disregards the advice and warnings of the Romanians as superstitious folly, and even casts aside his own uncertainty due to lack of material evidence.  Finally, as the segment comes to an end, Dracula uses the postal system—intended for the dissemination of information—to obfuscate the truth of Harker’s whereabouts, upending the strength of the growing information network and corrupting it for his own nefarious scheme.

            However, from the introduction of Van Helsing on, information, used properly, becomes a force for good, not evil.  He is able to rally a team of allies to fight valiantly for Lucy’s life, summoning Seward overnight by telegram, a feat still relatively novel as the time.  Furthermore, his power comes from a combination of his own experience and information acquired through literature he has read—books, preserving knowledge and passing it on to others for their use.  And in one of the most substantial set-backs in the battle for Lucy’s health, Mrs. Westinra’s ignorance causes her to clear away the very flowers that we protecting and healing her daughter.

            The epistolary format of Dracula, though, demonstrates Stoker’s interest in the spread of information.  He combines letters, diaries, phonographic journals, and newspaper clippings to piece together a wealth of experience into a solid narrative arc.  Information travels, is carried amongst the characters.  The reader is shown explicitly how ideas are developed and shared, with an implicit understanding; even if the protagonists are unable to triumph over the evil plaguing their lives, their story will be preserved and passed on, so that someone may be able to destroy Dracula.  Knowledge, infectious and easily spread, becomes an antidote to the vampiric contagion that threatens the very heart of England.

            If the preservation of the experiences and knowledge of the protagonists’ struggle against darkness was Stoker’s attempt, his success has been truly epic.  Dracula has influenced modern vampire lore more than all the other works combined; we criticize John Harker for not being genre-savvy, but his mistakes are the only reason I know to recognize a vampire in the first place.  If not for his meticulously precise journal, representative of Stoker’s informative connection, vampires would not be the ubiquitous feature of contemporary culture that they are today.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Will Cohen

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