This brings us then closer to the psychoanalytic problem at the heart of Dracula: the real fear is not that some unslakable thirst will produce monsters, but that some master could command any one of us to fulfill some horrible drive that had been repressed with the greatest diligence….


…As Van Helsing puts it, if Dracula succeeds he will become “the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road must lead through death, not life.”  But unlike the Fathers who said No, Dracula demonstrates that there is something Real that will enable them to have full enjoyment.  And the horrifying command that Dracula brings is this: enjoy!


…In all passionate commitment to duty, we should hear the command “Enjoy!,” the directive to take pleasure precisely in renouncing conventional pleasure in the name of the higher law.  The odd overlap between Dracula and Van Helsing, then, arises from the function of the Father in both restraining and giving access to pleasure.  Behind the good Father of the Law is the horror of what Freud in Totem and Taboo calls “the primal father” and Slavoj Zizek calls the “anal father.”  The anal father, the monster who has no restraint and whose excessive enjoyment threatens everyone, is the still living, undead residue of the murdered primal father’s awful freedom.  Nina Schwartz argues that our “ambivalence…toward the anal father derives from [his] simultaneous calling forth both the possibility for enjoyment and the revulsion we have learned to feel toward such pleasure.”  The only possibility of overcoming that ambivalence is to mask the anal father with the face of the good Father of the Law.  Van Helsing, then, represents the Law, saving the men from their revolting desires, but paradoxically freeing them to act on the lingering demand of the anal father.  That is, Van Helsing tells the good men he leads that their enjoyment will come through renunciation, not indulgence; but in service to that renunciation, no extremity will be denied.


Dennis Foster, “’The little children can be bitten’: A Hunger for Dracula,” in Dracula: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, ed. Randisi & Riquelme (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002), pp. 483-99, here 494-5, 497-8



Passages from Freud, Totem and Taboo