Dracula: Sexism and Feminism
Bram Stoker’s, Dracula portrays women that are in a vampiric state as more powerful than regular human women. Stoker shows how the women are subordinate by detailing the three sisters, Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. In this novel their desires and lust are demonstrated from chapter to chapter. Stoker presents the New Woman and the Victorian Woman. Stoker also demonstrates and tells why the Victorian Woman would be the ideal woman for everyone. Sexism and feminism are described in Lucy and Mina in two different ways. One would be the ideal way that Stoker sees and the other is the new way that most women adapted to.
Jeffery Cohen’s Monster Theory and Dracula relates to Thesis five: “The Monster Policies the borders of the Possible”. In this thesis Cohen demonstrates that curiosity is punished and certain people whom decide to step outside boundaries that are given to them accept the risk of being attacked by the monster or becoming a monster themselves. Where Cohen’s Thesis.
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Lucy Westenra is portrayed as the “New Woman” who has uncontrollable sexuality and desires that in the end would make her become an evil woman. The New Woman was more independent, free and was more adapt to opportunities that were available to women. Women in the Victorian times were expected to be pure, meek, submissive and a mother. Lucy was portrayed as a “New Woman” because she acted out on her feelings and what she really wanted. Lucy dated and was proposed to by three different men. And she never understood why she couldn’t accept all three. What harm would that have brought to be engaged or married to all three men? Lucy’s character displays her as an innocent and very vulnerable. But the question arises as why Lucy? In England, why did Dracula choose Lucy as his first victim. The answer arising is due to Lucy’s sexiness. She portrays a sexy and voluptuous side to her and this is something that attracted Dracula towards her as a woman. She is also easier for Dracula to influence and control when she sleepwalks than when she is awake. Lucy being the New Woman shows that she is not controllable and not the regular person or woman than Mina is. Lucy has a mind of her own and makes her own decisions. She reacts on feelings and desires sometimes without putting thought to the process.
The female protagonist is portrayed, Mina Murray is the ideal Victorian woman.
“She is one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist, and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish.” (Stoker, Chapter 14).
In this statement Stoker describes Mina as one that was made from God’s own hand and all her characteristics are noble and humble. There is no wrong found in her. Someone so pure and perfect made by God himself.
Mina describes in a letter to Lucy on May 9 her desire to be with Jonathan and how she could be useful to him. In response to Mina Lucy explains how she is in love and happy about being engaged she also shares with Mina that she misses the time that they shared. It goes on to say that Lucy explains to Mina that there should be no secrets kept from her husband or at least that is how she felt.
“A woman ought to tell her husband everything. Don’t you think so, dear? And I must be fair. Men like women, certainly their wives, to be quite as fair as they are. And women, I am afraid, are not always quite as fair as they should be” (Stoker, Chapter 5).
In this Stoker reveals that Mina offers her friend Lucy advice that nothing should be kept from your husband because Mina being the Victoria Woman and well respected is very submissive to her husband and gives Lucy this same advice. In Mina’s eyes sharing everything or detail with your husband is something that should be common and done in a relationship.
Within this Victorian era, women did not have freedom, desires and they lacked their own identity. Through the letters it shows that Lucy and Mina are friends, but they have different ideas of being a woman. In Dracula, the Victorian woman was described as the ideal woman every woman should have been like. Stoker differentiates the difference between the two women by painting a picture that all Victorian women were pure, clean, righteous, catered to their men in every way possible. In this description Stoker is describing Mina and then goes to describe Lucy in a different manner. Lucy was shown to be a woman that was promiscuous, curious and to have sexual desires with no control of them.
“When Lucy, I call the things that was before us Lucy because it bore her shape, saw us she drew back with an angry snarl, such as a cat gives when taken unawares, then her eyes ranged over us. Lucy’s eyes in form and colour, but Lucy’s eyes unclean and full of hell and fire, instead of the pure, gentle orbs we knew”(Stoker, Chapter 16).
Women were barred from doing the same things that men could do and were made to stay at home and do “woman duties”. With the New Woman as described in Dracula this would be an era that women such as Lucy did not allow men to dictate how they went about everyday life. Lucy acted on her desires and fulfilled the cravings that she lusted.
Mina’s monstrous feminine side is shown when Dracula puts her under his spell and begins her transformation. Dracula comes into the home of Mina and Jonathan and forces her to drink blood directly from an open wound on his chest. Helsing, Seward, Morris and Godalming approaches the home and notices what is going on and runs Dracula away with a crucifx and Sacred Wafer. Mina lets out a scream, Jonathan wakes up and sees the state that Mina is in. Over a few days Mina begins to transform by being more sleepy, pale in the face, and feeling lethargic and ill. The only thing that does not or has not changed at this time is the sharpening of her teeth. Helsing sets out to find Dracula in the daytime and places a crucifix on Mina’s forehead as a sign of protection and it is too late for she is already deemed as monstrous. Mina screams out because her flesh begins to burn. Mina still shows compassion for Dracula. Mina begins to hear things that were associated with Dracula and the men uses this in their conquest to find Dracula.
Lucy is attacked more than once by Dracula. Dracula attacks her when she is sleepwalking multiple times. Dracula does this in hopes of being invited into the home. Once Lucy is bitten by Dracula she becomes ill and disoriented she begins to display a monstrous side to her. After several blood transfusion Dr. Seward would return to Lucy the next day to find that all the garlic that he had laid in the room and around Lucy had been removed and he would have to rid of the evil again himself. Lucy’s mother removed all the garlic and wild rose in the thought that the smell was too much for Lucy to handle. Lucy begins to gain strength again after a couple of days of Dr. Seward’s remedy.
The three women when they encounter Jonathan begins to lust him and want him. They begin to react on their desires and feelings that eventually upsets Dracula.
One said, “Go on! You are first, and we shall follow. Yours is the right to begin.”
The other added, “He is young and strong. There are kisses for us all.” (Stoker, Chapter 3)
Dracula’s response to the actions states that once he gives an order that it should be carried out. Dracula was very upset that the women disobeyed him. This showed that they were not submissive to him and his wishes. They showed no obedience to him and what he ordered them to not do. Dracula questioned them about going against his orders and warns them if anyone interferes then they will have to deal with him. Which brings about the question from the women.
“You yourself never loved. You never love!” (Stoker, Chapter 3.)
The women felt that because Dracula had such fury and anger towards them from trying to embrace Jonathan that he never felt or knew what true love was. The three women showed that they could not hold their feelings back and that if it had not been for Dracula then they would have bitten Jonathan and he would too become a vampire. Dracula shows control over the women by ordering them to stop and wait until he says that they can kiss him all over is the term that they used. The women do listen to Dracula but have their questions answered when Dracula informs them that they can have him once he is done with him.
“Yes, I too can love. You yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will. Now go! Go! I must awaken him, for there is work to be done.” (Stoker, Chapter 3)
All the women in Dracula, shows some type or form of sexism and monstrous feminism. Lucy is punished for her promiscuity and was not viewed politically correct for a Victorian woman. Dracula goes after Lucy because he feels that she is no longer pure. Lucy shows this when she is outside her own tomb she is described as “unclean and full of hell fire”. (Stoker, Chapter 9) Due to Lucy’s sexual experience with Dracula she became undead and her death was the result of this. Lucy was used in Dracula to show that because of her actions and feelings and the fact that she allowed it to overcome her it brought out the worst in her.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”. Monster theory. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Pg4-25.
Lund, Giulanna. “Topic 4- Sexism, Monstrous Feminine”. Discussion 6 – Vampires. 12 January 2019. Houston, TX. Online Lecture
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897 edition. Iphone Books.