Destructive effects of the supernatural in ‘Dorian Gray’ and ‘Dracula’
In both Dorian Gray and Dracula the theme of the supernatural is constant and occurs strongly in the characters, the themes and the settings. There are a handful of characters in each book that show how destructive the supernatural is, and often these characters reflect the settings around them. Both writers were writing at similar times in the Victorian era meaning that they have similar ideas and fears, for example the fear of invasion and change is shown often in both books, this period is known as the fin de siècle. Also, the idea of the ‘new women’ is shown in the female characters. Both books are based on the upper-class societies, meaning that their characters have similar thoughts on the general public and the role that women play in life.
In both books characters are broken down and transgressed due to a supernatural power over them, for example Dorian Gray is broken down due to the idea of Lord Henrys hypnotic speeches that guide him towards the ideas of hedonism, which is a big focus for Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde realised that a big part of the aristocracy was keeping their actions private, behind closed doors they took drugs and had sex, but this was not to be known by anyone else. Dorian Gray gets immersed deeply in Lord Henry’s ideas on life and this caused him to take his freedom to the extreme, he smokes opium and even drives a girl to suicide with his awful behaviour. Dorian’s first encounter with the supernatural is when he makes the Faustian pact for his soul to be swapped with the painting, ‘If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that I would give everything!’ ‘I would give my soul for that!’ In this extract Dorian signs his soul over for eternal youth.
The reader can clearly see that Lord Henry has caused Dorian to become corrupt, this is shown mostly when Dorian realises this for himself, in particular when Dorian looks at his painting and sees a subtle change of evilness in the picture depicting that he has sinned, therefore tarnishing his own soul. Dorian then says, ‘He would not see Lord Henry any more - would not, at any rate, listen to those subtly poisonous theories that in Basil Hallward’s garden first stirred within him the passion for impossible things.’ This extract from chapter seven presents the reader with conformation that Lord Henry is the source of Dorians destruction and he is what causes Dorian to commit so many sins and, in the end, take his own life. Dorian is destroyed due to his paranoia, he is seen as anxious and is concerned that his servants will see his painting so he does anything in his power to hide it. This shows the reader that the supernatural idea of the soul being outwardly shown as evil sends a man insane. We see in the end that the painting drives him to kill his own soul just so that he does not see the harm he has done over the years, therefore showing that the supernatural has destroyed his very being.
The character of Dorian Gray directly relates to the character of Lucy Westenra in Dracula, this is because they both start out as young innocent people but transgress into something so evil and soulless that they will commit any number of sins without feeling remorse. This is shown even more clearly in Lucy, as Dorian can sometimes be seen to show a very small sign of regret just after he actually acts, whereas Lucy is fully transformed into a subhuman vampire like being by Dracula that survives off of blood from children or animals. Both books have a varied degree of supernatural, in Dorian Gray the supernatural is subtle and is hidden behind the characters apart from the painting, however in Dracula the main character is a vampire, a supernatural being that can control and use animals to seduce Lucy and to kill people, he doesn’t have a reflection which conveys a very clear and very open supernatural theme. The fact that Lucy subsequently also has no reflection demonstrates her change to supernatural, it also allows her to not reflect upon her sins because she cannot look upon her evil image, this directly contrasts with Dorian who is forced to see his own sins in his picture.
The extreme cruelty of the supernatural is shown in Dracula by the numerous acts he commits, not only against Lucy but also the attempted destruction of Jonathan Harker and the seduction of Mina. Lucy is overpowered by the supernatural and slowly becomes part of that world herself, although there is reference to her struggle against Dracula’s power “I never liked garlic before, but tonight it is delightful! there is peace in its smell.” This demonstrates her fight against Dracula and the peace she feels when his presence is deterred.
Both Lucy and Dorian recognise the destruction of themselves by the supernatural forces towards the end of their lives. Lucy sees the destruction of herself by Dracula and recognises his evil, in her last letter she asks “what am I to do, God shield me from harm this night…” “My dear mother gone, it is time I go too…” “God help me!”. Dorian sees his destruction in the picture which shows him to be old and ugly, he decides to destroy the evil image that mocks him knowing that this has destroyed his own soul.
To conclude both characters are destroyed by the power of the supernatural, they both transgressed to become corrupt individuals who are controlled by a power far stronger than themselves. Lucy Westenra was destroyed by the power of Dracula who gradually turned her into a vampire that feeds off blood and flesh. Whilst Dorian Gray was changed by the power of Lord Henry’s hypnotic speech and devilish influence, not only was Dorian influenced by Lord Henry but also by the painting of his soul that mocked every sin he made and this eventually drove him to his bloody death.