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By Bianca van de Water B ram Stoker’s Dracula and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound
By Bianca van de Water B ram Stoker’s Dracula and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound
By Bianca van de Water B ram Stoker’s Dracula and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound
By Bianca van de Water B ram Stoker’s Dracula and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound

By Bianca van de Water

Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Arthur Conan

Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles feature

prominent

doppelgängers,

namely

the

heroic investigator Professor Abraham Van

Helsing versus his atavistic double Count

Dracula, and, the legendary Sherlock Holmes versus his doppelgänger nemesis John Stapleton

respectively.

The

aesthetic

function

of

literary

doppelgängers

is

to

provide

a

contrast,

complementarity,

and

likeness

to

their

alter

egos

(Živković

122).

Additionally,

monstrous

doppelgängers’ cultural significance is to portray societal fears of “inexorable encroachment of the

uncivilised world” (Bourgault du Coudray 5). Dracula and Stapleton both resemble and reflect their

alter egos as if perceived through a glass darkly. Furthermore, these two characters pose a threat to

social and domestic stability in aristocratic and bourgeois society and could therefore be considered

an embodiment of Victorian social anxieties.

The doppelgänger in Dracula performs a significant social function in exemplifying the “other” in

Victorian society. Count Dracula is an expatriate, whose foreign demeanour poses a threat to British

society, in that “evil is a foreign danger introduced by foreign agents in disguise” (Spencer 207). He is

a native of Transylvania, a locale described in Dracula as both sublime and backward. Jonathan Harker

notes in his journal that the Carpathian Mountains stretch across “one of the wildest and least known

portions of Europe” (Stoker 8). The scenery is “wild and uncanny” (395) consisting of “green sloping

land full of forests and woods, with here and there steep hills” (13), where pine forests “ran down the

hillside like tongues of flame” (Ibid.). Castle Dracula itself was “perched a thousand feet on the summit

of a sheer precipice ((395) rearing “high above a waste of desolation” (402). Hereby, Count Dracula’s

environment is depicted as wild, natural and uncivilised. Furthermore, Transylvania’s technological

and social underdevelopment is also noted in Harker’s journal, in that there are no “Ordnance Survey

maps” of Transylvania “as yet to compare with those” of Great Britain (8). Transylvanian people are

described as “quaint” (383) and “very picturesque” (9), with a predilection for “every known

superstition in the world” (8). Hereby, Count Dracula’s environment is described as an atavistic milieu,

in that civilisation and modernity have exerted little influence over this area. In doing so, the text

suggests that Dracula, as a product of his environment, may likewise be savage and atavistic. Indeed,

the Count could be considered an “atavistic type writ large” as he is the “supreme leader” (Cottom

539) of the Roma, the anti-thesis of middle class decency for their “licentious ways”, “improvident

display” and refusal “to become dutiful subjects

of the modern nation” (538). In sum, Dracula’s

migration to Britain constitutes a threat to society, in that he could influence, perhaps pervert, British

society with his alien, atavistic mindset. This fear of a changed, converted and perverted society is

symbolised in the vampire’s act of penetrating women, who, consequently, have no choice but to

become “other” like Dracula. As such, London is deemed “was no place for him” (Stoker 334). The

foreigner as scapegoat had become a ubiquitous character in English literature as the British Empire

had fallen into decline partially due to competition from abroad (Hindle XX). Consequently, British

society harboured increasing anxieties that their nation was in irrevocable decline as a political,

economic and cultural power (Arata 622). In sum, the Dracula character validates, defines and

mediates societal fears regarding “racial mingling, crossbreeding, and intermarriage” (Bourgault de

Chaudray 3), whereby his ultimate demise potentially pacifies these anxieties in turn.

Likewise, his alter ego, Van Helsing, is a foreigner from Continental Europe. However, as a north-

western European from a nation socially and geographically close to Great Britain, “his immigration

and assimilation would not seem as threatening

as that of an Eastern European like Dracula

(Viragh 240). Accordingly, Van Helsing’s country of origin is described favourably. Britain and the

Netherlands share a communications network, demonstrated in the telegrams exchanged between

Dr Seward in London and Van Helsing in Amsterdam, which illustrates that the Netherlands, like

Britain, is a modern, technologically-advanced nation. Throughout the hunt for Dracula, Van Helsing

commutes to Amsterdam to gather books and supplies. Additionally, Dr Seward used to study in the

Dutch capital, with Van Helsing as his lecturer, which further characterises this location as a

scientifically-advanced place and as such constitutes a binary opposition to Transylvania. These details

demonstrate that Britain and the Netherlands exchange knowledge and information, reiterating that

Dutch nationals exert a welcome foreign influence. Hereby, Van Helsing constitutes a likeness as well

as contrast to his doppelgänger Dracula, in that both characters are foreigners, but the Professor

originates from an equivalent, “scientific, matter-of-fact” (Stoker 254) country, whereas his double

originates from an awe-inspiring, atavistic country whose people may spread uncivilised ideas and

notions among Britain’s citizenry. In doing so, the doubles function to validate as well as mediate

xenophobic social anxieties by identifying desirable and undesirable foreign influences.

Similarly, the doppelgänger in The Hound of the Baskervilles, John Stapleton, performs a function

comparable to Dracula in that he is likewise an atavistic outsider. However, in this text the doubles

demonstrate a dichotomy characterised by a contrast between capital city and countryside rather

than Western and Eastern Europe. Sherlock Holmes resides in London, “this great city” (Doyle, The

Hound 32) considered the “most advanced metropolitan center of modern civilization” (Cottom 539).

Holmes is thus a sophisticated, urbane man, who plays the violin and enjoys going to the opera, which

is evidenced in his statement that he has a “box for ‘Les Huguenots’” (Doyle, The Hound 115).

Contrarily, his doppelgänger John Stapleton is an outsider from beyond the British pale, in that he

resides in Grimpen, Dartmoor, a savage, uncivilised and atavistic location. The surrounding moorland

is described as a “desolate plain” (41), “melancholy downs” (73) and a “barren scene” characterised

by a “sense of loneliness” (83). The only signs of humanity comprise the long-abandoned “prehistoric”

(73) “stone huts” (54). Stapleton’s residence, Merripit House, is enclosed by the Grimpen Mire, a

“huge morass” (108) with “little green patches everywhere into which one may sink” (53). Crossing it

is so dangerous that “a false step yonder means death to man or beast” (48). Nonetheless, Stapleton

feels quite at ease in this swamp as he states “I can find my way to the very heart of it and return

alive” (Ibid.). This statement evidences that he is familiar with dangerous and even murderous places

and suggests he may likewise be familiar with chthonic, atavistic impulses. Stapleton’s atavism is also

remarked upon by Sherlock Holmes, when he states that he constitutes “an interesting instance of a

throwback, which appears to be both physical and spiritual” (96) when inspecting a portrait of

Stapleton’s ancestor Hugo Baskerville. In sum, the doppelgänger Stapleton constitutes a binary

opposite of his alter ego Sherlock Holmes, in that the former represents nature and savagery, whereas

the latter culture and sophistication. Stapleton’s chthonic, savage impulses consist of greed and

cunning, resulting in murderous plots to usurp Stapleton Hall. As such, the cultural significance of this

double is to embody atavistic forces threating the stability of social institutions, namely aristocratic

legitimacy and inheritance as represented by Sir Henry Baskerville.

In addition to providing a contrast, the doppelgängers in both texts share a significant commonality

with their alter egos, namely a thirst for knowledge and learning. Count Dracula owns an extensive

library “containing a vast number of English books” concerned with a wide range of topics, including

“history, geography, politics, political economy, botany, geology, law” (Stoker 26). However, he

acquires knowledge for practical, self-serving purposes. These texts all relate to “England and English

life and customs and manners” (26), which will facilitate his migration to Britain, where he intends to

“be a master still” (27) and become the “father or furtherer of a new order of beings” (322). His

counterpart, Van Helsing, has likewise a love of learning, in that he has a doctorate in literature and

philosophy (123). Throughout the narrative he returns to Amsterdam to collect his reference books

(134) even though previously he has “studied, over and over again” (321) texts related to vampirism.

Consequently, he has amassed extensive knowledge ranging from historical vampire tales from “old

Greece”,

“old

Rome”

and

“China”

(254),

to

anthropological

data

about

vampires’

habits,

requirements, strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, Van Helsing is conversant with the latest

medical advances, which is demonstrated in his familiarity with blood transfusions. Contrary to

Dracula, who acquires knowledge for egoistic reasons, Van Helsing applies his knowledge to save

rather than usurp mankind. Van Helsing considers defeating him an altruistic as well as Christian duty

as he is “blot on the face of God’s sunshine” and “arrow in the side of Him who died for man” (253).

In sum, both characters could be considered intellectuals, although Van Helsing is an academic but

Dracula an autodidact. The doubles differ most significantly in their purposes for learning: Dracula

represents an evil character who intends to change, perhaps revolutionise, British society, whereas

Van Helsing represents Christian morality and Church authority, and so appears supportive of

maintaining socio-cultural institutions.

Likewise, Sherlock Holmes and Stapleton share a passion for scientific knowledge. The hero-detective

acts as “the champion of empirical science” in the face of seemingly supernatural forces (Kissane and

Kissane 356). Holmes convincingly determines the earthly, everyday nature of the crimes, in that the

mysterious hell-hound is proved to be a cross between a bloodhound and mastiff (Doyle, The Hound

104), resulting in a giant specimen, whose mouth has been coated with a “cunning preparation” of

phosphorous (105), which causes the blue-tinged exhalations. Furthermore, Holmes establishes that

the agent of the crimes is no supernatural being but rather a flesh-and-blood criminal, namely

Stapleton. Hereby, Holmes establishes the sufficiency of scientific reasoning (Kissane and Kissane 356).

Holmes’s intellectual nature is further demonstrated in dialogues. In a conversation with Dr Mortimer,

he refers to his guesswork as “the scientific use of the imagination” (Doyle, The Hound 25), alluding to

an essay by eminent Victorian physicist and geologist John Tyndall (Clausson 67). In doing so, Holmes

implies his work in the science of detection equates the value of Tyndall’s research in the natural

sciences. Lastly, he refers to Dr Mortimer, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) (Doyle,

The Hound 5), as “a colleague

after our own hearts” (17; italics added). However, Watson states in

A Study in Scarlet that Holmes “was not studying medicine” but possesses a “zeal for certain studies

[which] was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was

extraordinarily ample and

minute” (Doyle, A Study 13). Holmes’s use of the word ‘colleague’ in The Hound of the Baskervilles is

ambiguous, in that it could demonstrate either presumptuousness, in that Holmes considers self-study

equal to recognised scholarship and professional membership, or, self-awareness, in that his

knowledge is indeed considerably extensive and profound. Nonetheless, the use of the word

“colleague” suggests that Holmes is a learned man. In turn, Holmes’s doppelgänger, Stapleton,

considers himself Holmes’s equal in cunning and deceit, as he identifies himself as “Sherlock Holmes”

(Doyle, The Hound 36) to an unwitting London cabman. The doppelgänger’s scientific knowledge is

complementary to Holmes’s knowledge as he is a recognised authority in entomology, whereby his

prior alias Vandeleur has been given to a previously unknown moth he had “been the first to describe”

(110). As a naturalist and lepidopterist, he has dedicated himself to studying “rare plants and

butterflies” (49). Hereby, Stapleton constitutes a complementarity to Holmes, in that he possesses

specialist knowledge in addition to Holmes’s eclectic expertise.

Lastly, the doppelgänger in Dracula provides a stark contrast to his alter ego in regards to sexuality.

Count Dracula is a transgressive sexual being, in that he is promiscuous, polygynous and bisexual and

awakens forbidden and latent sexual desires in others. He cohabitates with three women in Castle

Dracula, suggesting he may be in multiple de facto relationships simultaneously. Furthermore, he

demonstrates homo-erotic desires, in that he states “I too can love” after looking at Jonathan Harker’s

faces “attentively” (Stoker 46). So the women troika is forbidden to approach him, as Dracula explicitly

states: “This man belongs to me!” (Ibid.). Although Harker “sank down unconscious” overcome by the

“horror” (47), it is unclear whether he is horrified by either the women’s cannibalistic appetite for a

“half-smothered child”, or Dracula’s homo-erotic advances. As such, it remains ambiguous whether

Dracula awakens any forbidden desires in Harker and in doing so corrupt his socially-acceptable

monogamous heterosexuality. Nonetheless, in Britain, Dracula significantly disrupts the domestic

sphere, in that he beguiles married women only. For instance, he seduces Lucy, whose transgressive

promiscuity is under “very imperfect control” (Spencer 210) in that she wishes “a girl [could] marry

three men, or as many as want her” (Stoker 67). The two jilted suitors, Quincy Morris and John Seward,

both of hegemonic British ancestry, respectfully retreat and hereby protect Lucy’s virtue. Contrarily,

Dracula, the outsider from Eastern Europe, readily seduces Lucy and so cuckolds Lord Godalming. In

doing so, he transgresses moral standards and disrupts domestic stability. However, this is no isolated

incident, in that he further threatens Harker, Morris, Seward and Godalming, and by extension all

respectful middle class men, by stating that “your girls that you all love are mine already; and through

them you and others shall be mine yet” (326). In sum, Dracula illustrates the seductive, transgressive

“other”, who poses a threat to British male pride and the virtue of “the angel in the house”, an already

beleaguered social stereotype (Spencer 206). By contrast, Van Helsing represents the paragon of

morality, in that he coordinates the demise of Dracula and his seraglio, including Lucy. In doing so, he

eradicates an unwanted alien species as well as infectious social phenomenon, in that Dracula’s

hedonistic sexuality will readily spread to the wider community. As Spencer (218) states, sexuality

defines the individual but simultaneously threatens the collective. By eradicating vampirism from

British soil, Van Helsing re-establishes social stability and so constitutes a binary opposite to his

doppelgänger Dracula.

Similarly, the doubles in The Hound of the Baskervilles provide a comparable contrast, in that Sherlock

Holmes defends patriarchal social institutions whereas John Stapleton poses a threat. Sherlock Holmes

constitutes the epitome of Victorian masculinity: the cold scientific rationalist but also the dedicated

artist; the accomplished professional but also the gifted tyro; a respectful conservative but also a

bohemian “other” (Bragg 4). His super-hero masculinity is symbolised in the image of Holmes standing

on the “jagged pinnacle of a granite tor” (Doyle, The Hound 68) “with his legs a little separated, his

arms folded, his head bowed” (69) looking down upon the “enormous wilderness” (69) like a monarch

surveying his dominions. His superior masculinity is further established by demonstrations of superior

reasoning powers which surpass even those of Dr Watson. For instance, Holmes determines Dr

Mortimer’s identity from obscure clues on his walking stick left behind in Baker Street. Contrarily, his

double is described as relatively effeminate as a “small, slim, clean-shaven, prim-faced man” (46).

Nonetheless, this effeminised man constitutes a threat to the domestic sphere, in that he forces his

wife Beryl Garcia to pose as his sister so as to deceive Sir Henry Stapleton and usurp Baskerville Hall.

Stapleton further abuses his power as the family patriarch through violence, in that he imprisons

Garcia both in London’s Mexborough Private Hotel as well as at home in Merripit House. He uses

violence as he distrusted her and feared losing his malicious influence over her (112). In sum, the

Stapleton doppelgänger provides a tripartite function. Firstly, he embodies the male “losing control”

(qtd. in Kestner 81) in that he uses violence to maintain power. Secondly, he represents Victorian

aristocratic anxieties of being supplanted (Ibid.), in that he applies his wit and wiles to displace the

rightful inheritor Sir Henry Baskerville. Thirdly, he provides a contrast to Sherlock Holmes, in that he

applies his intellect to subvert rather than support social institutions and in doing so “critiques own

discourses” (Ibid.) on patriarchy and their sustainability in Victorian society.

In conclusion, Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles support Živković’s (122) notion that the

aesthetic significance of doppelgängers is to function as a likeness and complementarity to their alter

ego. Count Dracula and John Stapleton demonstrate remarkable similarities to their alter egos Van

Helsing and Sherlock Holmes. All four characters represent formidable men, in that they are intelligent

and well-educated. However, the contrasts between the doppelgängers and their alter egos appear

most revealing about Victorian socio-cultural standards. Dracula demonstrates that Victorian society

feared foreign, atavistic influences that unleash latent transgressive sexual desires in both men and

women and hereby destabilise the domestic and social sphere. The Hound of the Baskervilles

demonstrates that Victorians experienced social anxieties over the legitimacy of inheritance and

patriarchal power, in that both social institutions are threatened by criminal, atavistic impulses. In

sum, the cultural significance of the doppelgänger is to unveil what society fears most.

Works Cited

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