Imagine a dark, isolated room, where there is barely a connection with the outside world. In the shadows, a despicable master is taunting and controlling a mind without the person knowing. In all the craziness in the world, madness often starts from being alone, too alone. Madness is found within a person’s thoughts, it could be their own or by someone else’s control. As seen in Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula, we see a man by the name of Renfield to be considered as one of the most unusual and mad characters in the novel. Renfield is a fifty-nine year old deranged man kept in Dr. Seward’s institution. He’s described as potentially dangerous and a man with sanguine temperament. However, his madness is displayed as a hidden sanity in the novel.
Madness is one of the main themes found in Dracula. The Count himself is the source of all the craziness found in the novel. The characters in the novel all suffer from paranoia and have a difficult time in sorting the reality and insanity happening around them. However, the majority of the novel’s madness falls upon Renfield. Renfield is more than just a victim of Dracula’s control, he serves as a loyal minion to the Count himself. Renfield has been like a bird with an injured wing, helpless and treated like an alien.
Refield is separated from the outside world and in a room that resembles a desolate wasteland. He is a patient of Dr. Seward in his asylum where he is observed for his odd behavior of consuming insects and animals that depend on other living creatures. For example, he eats flies, spiders, and sparrows and acts as if they are a source of power and life to him. Renfield’s actions serve more than examples of strange behavior, but a parallel to Dracula’s obsession to absorb life and to regain more control. Dracula is a blood-thirsty monster who’s one goal is to plant insanity into the lives of those with natural and sane lives. He targets every character that he crosses paths with. Renfield’s madness is shown in the journals of Harker and foreshadow Dracula’s ultimate power and desire for blood that advances throughout the novel. Renfield’s psychiatric behavior depicts all the hidden secrets of Dracula. He’s not just a mere servant, but an innocent reflection of Dracula.
Through every act of madness, there will always be acts of sanity. Mina is Renfield’s key to redemption. The readers are able to see this in Mina’s vampirism transformation. When Mina is excluded from a Dracula hunting adventure, they leave her alone with Renfield, with intentions to protect her. Little did they know, they left her in a vulnerable state. Dracula was easily able to reach her. In the process of Dracula potentially harming her, Renfield finally realizes Dracula as an atrocious master and risks his own life for Mina’s life. In that moment the readers sympathize him, justifying his abnormal behavior.
Because there is sanity in insanity, we all hold madness in ourselves. Stoker demonstrates this in his novel through his character, Renfield. A once-thought demented man was actually a man who’s life was never under his own control. He was a secret component to Dracula’s experiment. Despite this, we learn that in the midst of a cruel and mad world, there will always be sanity in the background, whether it be through a saving grace or in the pure realization to the secret evil in the world.
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