An excerpt and a Question from Stoker’s novel Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker was one of those books I had never really intended to read; the title convinced me that it was probably just another vampire/fantasy novel, not very different from the plethora of other such books except in the fact that it was first published in 1847. One of my housemates, who loves literature as much as I do, handed it to me and told me I should read it, that it was a revolutionary work for its time, introducing the subject of vampires into the world of novels and also being written in a style never used before. So, I am reading Dracula, and I am putting away a few of my previous doubts and misgivings. 

One of the characters, Dr. John Seward, who runs an insane asylum, writes an interesting excerpt in his “diary”, which I wanted to include here: 

“It is something like the way Dame Nature gathers round  a foreign body an envelope of some insensitive tissue which can protect from evil that which it would otherwise harm by contact. If this be an ordered selfishness, then we should pause before we condemn anyone for the vice of egoism, for there may be deeper roots for its causes than we have knowledge of.” 

An interesting thought. 

We are all selfish in some way. I know a lot of selfish people, the greatest of whom would be myself. Does our egoism have deeper roots than we realize, as Stoker’s character would suggest? 

In this excerpt, the character Dr. Seward is comparing a different kind of selfishness to that which we normally think of; while I initially imagined self-centered egotism, I believe that at the core of Dr. Seward’s observation is the desire for survival or self-preservation. He attributes this to a sort of selfishness and then adds that “…we should pause before we condemn anyone for the vice of egoism…” 

The instinct for self-preservation and the inclination to egotism probably have the same roots; it seems that the first is tied with our unique humanity and its safety, while the other is desire. Both might be impulses. Both might come from the heart. But there does seem to be a difference. 

Is it worth pausing, then, before we accuse someone else of egotism?


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