Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are stories of inhumane beings causing destruction and agony for the main characters until the time of their defeat. These two classic horror stories possess similar character types which contrast in key elements. Each story includes a protagonist, villain, and secondary character. The manner in which these characters participate in and affect the outcome of the story, however, varies greatly.
The protagonists in these notable horrors both fight to defeat the destructive villains. In the story of Frankenstein, the title character Victor Frankenstein studied the sciences at a university in Ingolstadt, and became fascinated with the secret behind the creation of life. Genius, yet foolish at the same time, he unlocked the secret and brought a hideous monster to life – the one who would haunt him forever.
This being was not yet a “monster” per say, but by Frankenstein neglecting his creation, the feelings of abandonment and loneliness developed to become the root causes for its destructive and vengeful nature. Frankenstein suffered the loss of his loved ones at the hand of that which he created. The monster vowed revenge upon Frankenstein who had granted it such a miserable life:
‘Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge’ (Shelley, p. 137).
Had Frankenstein fathered the creature rather than disown it, he may not have endured such hardships. Almost no remorse is felt for Frankenstein because he was the root cause of all of the destruction and deserved to face the consequences.
The protagonist in Dracula, Jonathan Harker, is a character that the readers can actually pity because he did not bring upon any of the agonies he and the other characters faced.
The young and naïve British solicitor was sent to Transylvania to finalize a real estate transaction with one, Count Dracula. Harker quickly felt uneasy about this assignment he had been asked to complete, however, he complied for the sake of his job: “What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked? Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor’s clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner?” (Stoker, pp. 24-25).
Harker soon after found himself a prisoner in the Count’s castle, courageously escaped, and subsequently fell ill with brain fever. The audience feels sympathy for this protagonist, who had no involvement in choosing to meet the vampire Dracula and did not anticipate having his friends fall victim to the villain.
The protagonists of Frankenstein and Dracula also differ in the way that they fought the respective villains. Frankenstein, who created the monster in secrecy, could only conquer it in secrecy as well.
He attempted to explain his story to others and gain support, but they simply rendered him ill for speaking of such a being. He thus devoted his life to the defeat of his enemy, abandoning the few family and friends he had left after the past misfortunes: “‘I have but one resource, and I devote myself, either in my life or death, to his destruction” (Shelley, p. 208).
In the end, Frankenstein does not kill his monster but dies while chasing it through the cold of the north. Similarly, at one point in Dracula, Harker is deemed ill for his allegations of Count Dracula being a vampire.
The nurse who cared for him wrote his fiancée Mina saying “He has had some fearful shock – so says our doctor – and in his delirium, his ravings have been dreadful; of wolves and poison and blood; of ghosts and demons; and I fear to say of what” (Stoker, p. 109).
Yet, with Lucy’s peculiar illness marked by two pin-prick points on her neck and reading Harker’s well-kept journal, Mina realized that her fiancé’s ravings of encountering a vampire may actually have been true. Once Harker recovers, he gets Mina and his fellow friends involved and together they defeat Dracula.
Ultimately, both protagonists met well-suited fates – Frankenstein suffered the deaths of others as well as his own for creating his own enemy so secretly, while Harker, completely innocent, encountered the villain by chance and prevailed with the help of others.
The classic novels are parallel due to the fact that each plot revolves around the horror of the villains’ actions and the suspense of what each villain’s destiny holds. Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula had two very different motives for their destructive behaviors.
Frankenstein’s creation referred to as “the monster,” was deserted at the moment life was infused into it. The monster had no knowledge of the world it had been so thoughtlessly brought into and was to discover everything about life on its own. It was created as a “superior being” rather than a monster, but that is what it became after being exposed to the rest of the world.
Instinctively, seeing such a hideous, unearthly being, society did not welcome the monster, as it recalls: “‘The whole village was roused: some fled, some attacked me'” (Shelley, p. 103). The monster was not inherently evil, for it constantly displayed longing to be accepted and to combat loneliness. It attempted to befriend cottagers and even saved a young girl from drowning, yet he was still treated without an ounce of respect.
‘There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No; from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery’ (Shelley, pp. 137-138).
The monster’s motive for being destructive, thus, was simply because it had been overcome by constant rejection, without having been given a chance to be accepted. In contrast, Count Dracula in Dracula had completely different reasons for being villainous. Dracula was a monster from the beginning, seeking out the perfect victims for selfish reasons.
The Count would suck the blood from helpless human beings for his rejuvenation, as Jonathan Harker discovered during his stay at the castle: “There lay the Count, but looking if his youth had been half renewed…his mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck” (Stoker, p. 60).
Another of Dracula’s motives was to expand his own kind, known as vampires or the “Un-Dead,” and gradually gain power and dominance. Again, this was observed by Harker:
This was the being I was helping to transfer to London where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless (Stoker, p. 60).
Count Dracula, contrary to Frankenstein’s monster, is a true villain who receives no pity from the readers for his clearly selfish objectives. The stories of Frankenstein and Dracula both include secondary characters, who happen to be female as well as the lovers of the protagonists.
Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza, embodied the novel’s motif of passive women as she waited patiently for Victor’s attention. Throughout the novel, she kept her distance from Frankenstein and his work and hardly got involved when he showed signs of stress and illness.
Knowing nothing, she wondered if she may have been the cause of her fiancé’s grief: “Do you not love another?…I love you…But it is your happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare to you that our marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were the dictate of your own free choice” (Shelley, p. 194).
Frankenstein never confided in Elizabeth about the monster, so she remained ignorant of the perilous situation she was in.
Nearing the end of the story on the wedding night, Elizabeth helplessly fell victim to the monster. In Dracula, however, Jonathan Harker’s fiancée and soon after wife, Mina, was a completely different character. When she found that Harker’s departure was unusually lengthy, she did not simply consider that he found another woman, as Elizabeth had in Frankenstein.
She expressed her concern for the well-being of her lover and at the instant of knowing he was ill, she was by his side. She showed great involvement in her fiancée’s life and appreciated that the men were trying to protect her, but she was adamant that she assist in the obliteration of Dracula: “it did not seem to be good that they should brave danger and, perhaps, lessen their safety…through the care of me” (Stoker, p. 248).
Mina was selfless, intelligent, and resourceful, and after being victimized by the count, she used her connection with Dracula to lead the men to his hideout. The count was captured and killed, saving Mina from transforming into a vampire and saving the rest of the world from possible danger. Mina can be considered a heroine, being so strong, knowing, and helpful in such a situation not meant for female involvement, taking place in the Victorian times.
Elizabeth Lavenza and Mina Murray, both secondary characters, had two very different roles in each story and met two very different fates. Therefore, the stories of Frankenstein and Dracula have separate plots, though they both include similar character types.
Protagonists Victor Frankenstein and Jonathan Harker both strive to conquer villains, yet the first dies a lonely death, and the latter lives on. Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula both cause irreparable damage but have quite dissimilar motives for their behaviors.
Finally, Elizabeth Lavenza and Mina Murray participate throughout each respective novel in different ways, though both being secondary female characters with alike relations to the protagonists. These classic horrors illustrate how having common characters does not necessarily denote having common plots.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1988.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1965.