Pestilence in Dracula

Essay by RharpUniversity, Bachelor's October 2014

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Riley Harper 10094236

Film 305

Dr. Leeder


Pest's and Pestilence in Dracula

Throughout the twentieth century the film industry underwent a revolution in

technological advancements, furthermore, western culture underwent many changes as well that

greatly influenced film, the way it was produced and the content it contained. This paper will

discuss the differing convention, being the presence of rats and degradation, in the three films

Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931) and Horror of Dracula (1958) and the social commentary

provided by these conventions. The fact of the matter is throughout the 36 years separating these

films, significant world wide events occurred that would undoubtedly shape a semantic approach

to horror. A new genre, the Horror Genre, was slowly constructed and developed with each film

influencing the trajectory of the genre as a whole, through the semantics and syntax contained

within each film. The presence of these conventions within film illustrate how a "semantic

approach thus stresses the genre's building blocks, while the syntactic view privileges the

structures into which they are arranged." (Altman 10) Therefore with the presence rats and

degradation being the a part of the semantic elements that make up the genre throughout the

three films this provides a social commentary on not only consumer culture, but the culture of

where they were produced as well. Despite the fact that throughout Bram Stokers entire novel

rats are only mentioned thirteen times the presence of rats in Vampire lore and films have large

implications. Rats in particular have two immediate connotations affiliated with them,

antisemitism and the plague. Dracula in the 1890's text is, a clear product of longstading anti-

Semitic stereotypes (hooked nose, treasure-seeker) (Housley 154). Furthermore "Dracula is also

a traditional social polluter who is often accompanied by rats, a longstading symbol of the

plague."(154) Thus rendering...