The Viral Darkness

As a student who is studying to attend medical school I tend to associate the word “viral” with a sickness or venom. This association between dark themes and the word viral are evident in the first two chapters of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Stoker sets the scene as one with a forthcoming doom. Pestillence seems to fill the air and disrupt the normalcy of the town. This is evident in the way that the townspeople act towards the eve of St. George’s Day, as they approached speaking about the day with extreme caution and fear. This is exemplified in the way that the old woman questioned Harker’s decision to visit on St. George’s Day stating, “Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? Do you know where you are going, and what you are going to?”(p. 3–4). The way in which the woman reacted was out of fear that Harker would soon face an impending doom. This sort of fear in relation to this day in age would be like someone wandering into a large group of people without wearing a mask. An onlooker would want to protect the exposed individual out of fear that they would contract the Coronavirus, so they might offer them a mask, much like the woman offered Harker a crucifix to protect him from the viral creatures of the night.

In the story, Dracula is never formally referred to as being viral or having a specific virus or illness, however the way in which the townspeople act towards Harker going to visit the count make it seem like he is about to encounter the epitome of evil and that he is going to experience something that can only be compared to being infected with a horrible virus. This is especially notable when Harker approaches the inn and described that, “When we started, the crowd round the inn door, which had by this time swelled to a considerable size, all made the sign of the cross and pointed two fingers towards me.”(p. 4). It is events such as these where Stoker begins to set the stage for a sinister virus to take hold of its host.

The most explicit scene in which we (the audience) sees Dracula as a sickly or contagious creature is found on page thirteen where Harker becomes involved in an up close and personal encounter with the king of evil himself, Dracula. Here, Harker describes the Count’s breath as being “rank” and felt nauseous as he felt his cold touch upon his shoulder, and as the cherry on top the Count finished their interaction with a “grim sort of smile”. Medically speaking, bad breath and cold, lifeless hands are clear signs of decay. Given the scenario, it is clear that Harker should fear the fact that Dracula very clearly has something seriously wrong with him, such as a virus, that may very well infect Harker.

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