The Oedipal Father
Here we bring together our first four themes, discovering that they may, indeed, be splittings and displacements for us of even deeper levels of psychic emotions and configurations. To some degree all of these Draculas are powerful and even God-like figures who threaten the other characters with violent sex and death. The conflation of these qualities suggests something implicit in the novel's count but a little more explicit in the visual images of older men violating younger women in the hidden recesses of their bedrooms in these films. We feel this oedipal resonance most strongly from the image of Bela Lugosi leaning over the throat of Helen Chandler, and Christopher Lee penetrating into the bedrooms of his female victims, in Fisher's and Franco's films, but we feel this level of recognition from all these films. I am referring to Dracula as the oedipal father, sexually desired by both male and female children, but I also wish to suggest that these bedroom scenes of erotic violence are suggestive of the child's fantasies about the primal scene, the imagined sexual violation brought upon the mother by the monstrous and powerful father.
We can take our oedipal reading a little further and see the issue of the son's feared punishment of castration for desiring the mother as relevant to the treatment of both Harker and Renfield—we especially remember the character of Harker in Fischer's film, who first receives two puncture marks on the side of the neck, two bleeding holes, and who is then dispatched by a stake through the heart. If we are willing to see these oedipal configurations in the basic myth, if we are willing to see Dracula as the fearsome oedipal father, then the reading of the story as a version of Freud's theory about the primal horde and the sons' slaying of the father to possess (or repossess) the mother as described in Totem and Taboo (141–46) have a certain validity (see Richardson, 428–29), as long as we remember that much in these films deals with the father's control over and intimidation of the young people and that normally only one of the younger generation, along with Van Helsing, is involved in the destruction of Dracula. Coppola's film, however, captures something of the excitement and deeper resonances of the novel as the three young men go in pursuit of Dracula and ultimately overwhelm the gypsy caravan to attack him. Only when the young are banded together under the leadership of Van Helsing, the good father, can the young men slay the evil father and claim the mother, in the
guise of Mina. We can see both Dracula and Van Helsing, for children of both sexes, as manifestations of the child's sense of the bad and good aspects of a single figure, as the splitting of the original father into two separate figures at war with one another. However, in Murnau's Nosferatu Van Helsing and the adult figures are seen as ineffectual, and in Herzog's remake of that film they are totally inept before the force of death that Dracula represents and that even the heroine's sacrifice cannot abet.