The Deaths of Dracula and Voldemort

(Spoiler Alert! If you don't yet know the end of the Harry Potter story and don't want to know yet, then stop reading!) -- In J.K. Rowling's final book in a series of seven increasingly massive tomes --Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Voldemort dies six pages from the end of the last chapter: "Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward. Tom Riddle (Voldemort's alter ego) hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy's shell."

Voldemort, the personification of evil throughout the Potter series, the embodiment of malevolence who sought unrestricted dominance through the exploitation, oppression, and misuse of others, in the end dies very quickly and simply. He attempts to use his evil powers to kill Potter, and instead is killed himself. All the world of wizardry rejoices. The sun rises over Hogwarts. and the Great Hall blazes with light and life. Everybody lives happily ever after. Finis.

In the 19th century Victorian masterpiece novel Dracula, by Bram Stoker, the Transylvanian Count Dracula also appears as the very  personification of evil, sucking the blood of his victims, destroying their lives and recreating them as the Undead who share his immortality, his taste for blood, and his revulsion at everything that is good, holy, and true. Dracula dies two pages from the end of the novel, as recounted by  Mina Harker, the principal female hero: "Dracula was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew too well. As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph. But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan‚Äôs great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat; whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris‚Äôs bowie knife plunged into the heart. It was like a miracle; but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumpled into dust and passed from our sight. I shall be glad as long as I live that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there.‚Äù

Two villains, equally and totally evil, both possessing red eyes.  Each, at an earlier point in the story, had been simply a man who made some poor choices, and each then ended badly. Voldemort is simply evil, and is beyond sympathy or compassion. Voldemort cannot be saved. Dracula, however, was a human soul trapped within evil, and when he is finally killed, his soul is freed to be with God. Dracula, therefore, is saved from evil through his own death, which accounts for the fleeting smile on his face at the end.

As humans possessing the spark of the divine, we recognize Dracula as one of our own, and his contradictoriness matches our own: he contains all the potential for war and for peace, for love and for hate, for fear and for hope, for revulsion and compassion. By contrast, Voldemort simply leaves us cold. He is one-dimensional. He is a figure from the nightmare of a child, and loses his terror for us when we grow up. Dracula is more permanently terrifying as well as more attractive. He erupts from the nightmares of maturity. His will to power and his need for liberation are both recognizably human. In the end, Dracula is a sympathetic character who lives on in our imaginations long after our memory of Voldemort has crumbled into dust.