Dracula: Use of Renfield as a Tracking Device

Dracula, written by Bram Stoker in 1897, is a novel that has influenced generations of thrilling gothic novels and horror movies alike. The vampire Count Dracula is not the first of his kind in literary history but he is without a doubt the most famous. Most novels written about vampires after 1897 can trace some of its roots to Dracula. One of the unique characteristics about the novel is the point of view in which the novel is written. The story is told through letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles accounting for the characters interactions with Count Dracula.

One of the most telling characters in the novel is not represented through his own point of view, but by others interactions with him. Renfield is a mental patient of the asylum where one of the main characters, Dr. Seward, works. The reader is never privy to Renfield’s inner thoughts as they are the other characters, but it is through Renfield that the reader can track the movements of Count Dracula. Evidence of Count Dracula’s presence in England begins with Renfield’s manic behavior. On June 5th, Dr. Seward observes Renfield catching flies.

Next he observes Renfield attracting spiders and feeding them the flies. Within a month of noting this odd behavior, Dr. Seward watches as Renfield eats a fly. “I scolded him for it, but he argued quietly that it was very good and very wholesome; that it was life, strong life, and gave life to him” (Stoker 67). This consumption of a living organism is an important connection between Renfield and Dracula, as vampires need human blood to sustain life. This zoophagous behavior, as Dr. Seward calls it, becomes more and more intense as Count Dracula’s presence in England continues.

By July 20th, Renfield graduated from consuming small insects to eating an entire colony of sparrows raw. As the main characters become aware of Dracula’s intentions in England, Renfield’s behavior becomes more erratic. Throughout the novel Renfield experienced great mood swings that in hindsight Dr. Seward related to the movements of Dracula “His moods have so followed the doings of the Count, that the coming destruction of the monster may be carried to him in some subtle way” (255). Around the same time of Dr. Seward’s realization, Renfield has a realization himself.

On September 30th, Renfield calls on Dr. Seward to release him immediately. During this scene Renfield appears to be perfectly sane and explains to Dr. Seward that he must go home at once “I take to witness that I am as sane as at least the majority of men who are in full possession of their liberties” (227). Conclusions can be drawn from this section of the novel that Renfield is beginning to realize the danger he is in by interacting with Count Dracula. In this realization, Renfield knows that his involvement has gone to far and that he must get away.

The only way to escape Count Dracula is to leave the asylum, which Dr. Seward wouldn’t allow unless Renfield was cured of his insanity. Dr. Seward becomes aware of the danger Renfield is in too late. The Count in covering his tracks murders Renfield, and with his dying breaths Renfield shares his relationship with Dracula to Dr. Seward. This is proof that the life and death of Renfield in the novel follows the movements of the Count on his mission to dominate England. Renfield can be described as one of the minor characters of the novel as the reader is not privy to his point of view.

However, Renfield plays a very important role in the story. Through other characters observations of Renfield’s behavior a picture emerges of the Count’s movements throughout the novel. As Renfield’s behavior becomes more erratic, the Count is working through his plans to dominate England. When the Count’s plans are nearing completion, Renfield realizes the danger he is in and the danger the Count poses on others, and knows the only way to escape is through his own sanity. In the end Renfield’s character plays the role of a tracking device of the movements of the title character Count Dracula.