All the above lead into the final, and perhaps most important, theme of the novel: that of the relationship between life, death, and the state in between these two, known by Van Helsing as "undeadness." Dracula is a creature of the undead. He sleeps during the day and lives at night; he is of incredible strength when awake, but must be invited into one's room in order to begin his "seduction." But the touchstone of Dracula's undeadness is his inability actually to die—his soul is trapped in a kind of prison, and must be released by the cutting off of Dracula's head, or the driving of a wooden stake through his heart. In this sense, to kill Dracula is to allow him to live—to free his soul from the prison of his body.
Other characters in the novel hover between these categories of living and dying. Harker's swoon, upon leaving Dracula's castle, nearly kills him, and he spends many months regaining his full health, only to find that Mina has been afflicted by Dracula's bite. Mina, then, is hypnotized by Van Helsing, later on, to provide information on Dracula's whereabouts. This "in-between" hypnotic state is a kind of undeadness. Lucy's sleepwalking, too, is an "in-between state," not waking and not sleeping, which allows Dracula to find her, bite her, and eventually make her a vampire. Both Harker and Van Helsing appear to go gray and age as the book progresses—they near death, physically, as they endanger their lives, and only once Dracula is fully killed do they regain their total health. Renfield is obsessed with the life-giving energies of the animals he eats—flies, spider, birds, cats—and these animals must die to give him life. Renfield wishes to gain the special knowledge of undeadness from Dracula, but is eventually killed by his would-be master.
Interestingly, undeadness seems to diametrically oppose the Christian notions of resurrection, or life after death. In the former, the soul is given immortal life in heaven, in nearness to God, once it has been released from the earthly body, which passes from living to dying. But in the case of undeadness, the living body seems almost to die, but maintains a kind of purgatorial state in which it feasts on the blood of the living, and the soul, trapped inside, cannot abide with God in heaven. The body becomes a parasite, eking out an existence stolen from the vital energy of others. The novel seems to argue that, in order to continue the normal biotic processes of living and dying, and the normal, moral, "Christian" processes of death and resurrection, undeadness must be eliminated. Souls must be allowed to rise to heaven. Thus Mina rejoices even when Dracula, the villain of the novel, has his soul released from his terrible body. In this way, even Dracula, the evil one, is saved.
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead ThemeTracker
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Quotes in Dracula
I saw around us a ring of wolves, with white teeth and lolling red tongues, with long, sinewy limbs and shaggy hair. They were a hundred times more terrible in the grim silence . . . then even when they howled.
Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will. Now go! go! I must awaken him, for there is work to be done.
At least God's mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At tis foot a man may sleep—as a man. Good-bye, all! Mina!
Early this morning a large dog, a half-bred mastiff belonging to a coal merchant . . . , was found dead in the roadway opposite to its master's yard, It had been fighting, and manifestly had had a savage opponent, for its throat was torn away, and its belly was slit open . . . .
I want you to do me a favor. Lucy is ill; that is, she has no special disease, but she looks awful . . . I told her I should ask you to see her . . . and she finally consented.
You were always a careful student, and your case-book was ever more full than the rest. You were only student then; now you are master, and I trust that good habit have not fail. Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.
How good they all are to me. I quite love that dear Dr. Van Helsing. I wonder why he was so anxious about these (garlic) flowers. He positively frightened me, he was so fierce. . . . There is peace in its smell; I feel sleep coming already . . . .
Once again we went through that ghastly operation. I have not the heart to go through with the details. Lucy had got a terrible shock and it told on her more than before, for though plenty of blood went into her veins, her body did not respond to the treatment as well as on the other occasions. . . .
Now that you are willing to understand, you have taken the first step to understand. You think then that those so small holes in the children's throats were made by the same that made the hole in Miss Lucy?
I suppose so.
Then you are wrong . . . . It is worse, far, far worse.
In God's name, Professor Van Helsing, what do you mean?
They were made by Miss Lucy!
Last night I slept, but did not dream. I must have slept soundly, for I was not waked by Jonathan coming to bed; but the sleep has not refreshed me, for to-day I feel terribly weak and spiritless.
The attendant came bursting into my room and told me that Renfield had somehow met with some accident. He had heard him yell; and when he went to him found him lying on his face on the floor, all covered with blood.
First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!
And now, my friends, we have a duty here to do. We must sterilize this earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a far distant land for such fell use. He has chosen this earth because it has been holy.
You think to baffle me, you—with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher's. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest; but I have more. My revenge is just begun!
He has so used your mind; and by it he has left us here in Varna, whilst the ship that carried him rushed through enveloping fog up to Galatz, where, doubtless, he has made preparation for escaping from us.
We are truly in the hands of God. He alone knows what may be, and I pray Him, with all the strength of my sad and humble soul, that He will watch over my beloved husband . . . .