Marginalization is an Experience

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Marginalization is an experience that has affected many people across the world. From one’s religion, to the color of their skin, to their gender, humans have been marginalized and oppressed over centuries for their god-given qualities. Gender marginalization has also made its appearance as a key theme across many genres of literature, however varies significantly in relation to the historical context and composition of a novel. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), a gothic, epistolary novel that centers around Count Dracula’s imprisonment of a realtor named Jonathan Harker in Transylvania, incorporates female roles that idealize extensive themes of marginalization of women in Victorian society.

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Through the female roles Mina, Lucy, and the three vampire sisters portray, Bram Stoker demonstrates the appraisal women in the Victorian Era received when they met standards imposed on them by the patriarchal society, in contrast to the oppression they experienced in defiance of these ideals and their sexual freedom. Mina is a representation of the ideal Victorian woman, whereas Lucy and the three sisters represent the “fallen woman” in society and were oppressed for their unconventional sexual behavior. Mina Murray embodies an image of the exemplary Victorian woman. According to Lynn Abrams from BBC UK, the ideal Victorian woman was one whose “life revolved around the domestic sphere of the home and the family” and who had “evident constant devotion to her husband” (Abrams 2). Woman in the Victorian Era were suppressed to inferiority in society and Gonzalez !1 were manipulated to believe that their whole existence was centered around their devotion to their family, especially their husbands, and maintaining a home. Failure to comply with these societal ideals would result in their oppression and depiction as an unsustainable woman.

Throughout the novel, Bram Stoker characterizes Mina to have traits of the ideal Victorian woman, “ ‘I have been working very hard lately, because I want to keep up with Jonathan’s studies, and I have been practicing shorthand very assiduously. When we are married I shall be able to be useful to Jonathan,’ ”(Stoker 83). Mina is portrayed as a very loyal, smart, and educated woman, however, she is only to use her skills to benefit and be her husband. Her commitment to her husband demonstrates her compliance with feminine Victorian ideals. She is not studying for leisure, but because she feels a commitment to do so in order to be suitable enough to attend to her husband and be “useful” to him. Although she is fully capable of being independent, she chooses to go by societal ideals and devotes herself to a life of dependence of and servitude for her husband. Mina is praised as the pure and perfect woman throughout the entirety of Dracula in context to the Victorian Era, but she still becomes subject to gender marginalization and oppression in Victorian society by conforming to male superiority.

Contrary to Mina, Lucy does not display the purity and characteristics of the ideal Victorian woman. Although Lucy was modest and supported her husband, her transformation into a vampire liberates her and she feels free to act on her sexuality. After Lucy is found by the search party of males following her disappearance and transformation, she calls out to Arthur in a seductive manner, “with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said, ‘Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me’… The thing in the coffin writhed, and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips… Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his Gonzalez !2 untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake” (Stoker 329- 335). Arthur is having a sexual experience with Lucy as he is killing her, but this sexual experience is only allowed in Lucy’s death and in her most monstrous form, accurately portraying how grotesquely Victorian society viewed female sexuality.

Vampire Lucy was too sexually aggressive and in 19th century Britain sexuality was repressed and looked down upon. Furthermore, as Arthur drives the knife through Lucy’s body, Stoker displays him a more positive and valiant light, representing the marginalization of sexual Victorian women and Victorian societies ease to dispose of such women. Critics, such as Caroline Senf, also suggest that patriarchal Victorian society sought out to destroy women who evidently displayed sexuality. Senf claims that Arthur’s murder of Lucy “resembles nothing so much as the combined group rape and murder of an unconscious woman” (Senf 167). Lucy’s “rape-like” murder portrays the marginalization of women who augmented their sexuality due to the Victorian anxiety that woman would become more defiant towards male superiority once they felt free to express their desires. Lucy ultimately dies and it is evident that her sexual change is the leading cause of her downfall and many other Victorian women with similar identities. Similar to Lucy, the three vampire sisters also represent the “fallen women” in Victorian society due to their sexual and seductive behavior.

Upon Jonathan Harker‘s arrival to Dracula’s castle, he encounters Dracula’s three vampire sisters and they are given their initial description as sexual beings, “All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips” (Stoker 58). The three sisters are portrayed beautifully and therefore Gonzalez !3 represent the body and the dream that exists only of the imagination of Victorian men. They symbolize the opposite of what an ideal Victorian woman should be, voluptuous and sexually aggressive, thus making them a promise of sexual gratification and a curse. However, the sexual characterization of the three sisters threatens to weaken the foundation of a patriarchal society by interfering with the ability of men to reason and keep their sexual desires under control. Furthermore, we are given a broader depiction of the three sisters in the eyes of Victorian society through Harker as he comes into physical contact with the, “There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal…I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited–waited with beating heart” (Stoker 59-60).

Harker is both intrigued and disgusted by their sexuality. He finds them “repulsive,” yet keeps wishing for sexual gratification from them and therefore sees them as a threat to his composure and dominance. Harker then begins to compare the three sisters to Mina, the ideal Victorian woman, “I am alone in the castle with those horrible women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!” (Stoker 82). His description of them as “monsters,” “horrible women,” and “devils” in contrast to Mina furthermore demonstrates the marginalization of Victorian woman who demonstrated unconventional qualities, such as sexuality. The three brides refuse to adhere to gender roles by being sexual, which makes them both equally terrifying monsters in the eyes of Victorian society. These women, although beautiful, posses the wrong kind of beauty and therefore deserve some kind of punishment.

In their case it is marginalization, and like Lucy, ultimately death. Through Dracula, Bram Stoker demonstrates how Victorian women who expressed sexual desires were oppressed and punished by society. Mina, who demonstrated to to be a clear Gonzalez !4 depiction of the ideal Victorian women, still demonstrated to be subject to some level of marginalization by submitting herself to male dominance. On the other hand, Lucy and the Three Sisters demonstrated a freedom in sexuality that characterized them as monstrous beings in the eyes of Victorian society and that was considered punishable by death. While Lucy and the Three Sister are murdered, the lives of the surviving characters remain unchanged and they fail to come to a realization that their commitment to societal ideals disguises their own violence and sexuality.

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Marginalization is an Experience. (2021, Mar 16). Retrieved from