Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There are two radically different types of female characters represented in Dracula.  One type represents everything that the ideal Victorian woman should be which essentially is virginal.  The other is the polar opposite, not virginal but also not sexually committed to anyone, which is frowned upon in Victorian times. This difference in female characters is especially interesting being Lucky starts to turn into the latter.

The brides of Dracula are described as beautiful women.  “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.” (Page 42).  These brides are the definition of vixens, sexually attractive to entice humans into letting the brides ‘kiss’ them, or bite them.

Mina and Lucy are displayed as proper virginal Victorian ladies.  Mina’s job even follows this description, as the note at the bottom on the page states “Mina is a working woman, but not, in the 1890s, and improper one.” (Page 55).  However, she differs from traditional Victorian women by the simple fact that she does work.  She even intends to help Jonathan by studying shorthand.  Lucy doesn’t have a job, and thus fits the traditional stereotype more than Mina does.  She talks extensively about the people she has met and how deeply she is in love.  

Lucy’s journey through this book is interesting, starting out as a woman who by all accounts seems well cared for and fits perfectly into the traditional Victorian role of women.  This starts to change, however, when her sickness begins.  She starts sleepwalking, and shortly after begins to have wounds on her neck.  Mina is the first to notice these wounds, saying “I must have pinched up a piece of loose skin and have transfixed it, for there are two little red points like pinpricks, and on the band of her nightdress was a drop of blood.” (Page 89).

As Lucy’s sickness continues, it becomes apparent how much blood she is losing.  The audience does not know this yet, but ever time her blood is lost (by Dracula taking it) she steps closer and closer to becoming her opposite.  The sucking of her blood can also be seen as a sexual act, thus making her not a ‘proper’ Victorian woman anymore.  The fact that she also receives transfusions from three different men also carries a sexual theme, as stated on Colleen’s blog.  This further disintegrates her character, as it implies that she has sex with all three men, making her more like Dracula’s brides than what she was previously.

This culminates in Lucy dying and actually turning into the vixen that her character has become, ending her journey. 


Duquaine said...

In this time period women were rarely working and the view was that they should be with a man that could take care of them and protect them. They were not supposed to be promiscuous, but rather involved with just one person. As you said, Lucy fits this view very nicely; she does not work and has been proposed to by several different men. Mina on the other hand is committed to Harker, but works hard and plans to try and help her soon to be husband. I think it was a bold statement that Bram Stoker had Mina be a woman ahead of her time, smart and capable of great work. It makes the story feel more real, rather than all the women in the story being the, as you say, “traditional Victorian women”(Lindsay Brown).
The way you mentioned that the blood Lucy was losing to The Count was representative of her losing herself and becoming her opposite was an excellent conclusion. It is true that every time she was visited by Dracula she became increasingly ill and less herself. Part of the reason she was becoming less herself was the blood loss and gain from two different people. Dracula was taking it from her and Van Helsing was breathing new life into her again by blood transfusions. This can be seen as a sexual act because she is giving her bodily fluids and her mind to The Count whenever he visits her.

Tom said...

I think you bring up some great points about Lucy and the “ideal Victorian woman.” Her transformation from human to vampire is symbolic of her transformation from chaste/virginal to corrupted/impure. As much as the men try to protect Lucy from the vampire (and her newfound sexuality), they are unable to.

In some ways, however, I think that Mina is different from the typical Victorian women. As you point out, Mina actually works a job, which is a great contrast to many Victorian women (especially those that we have examined in this class). Mina is obviously more educated than Lucy, it could be argued that she is more intelligent than Arthur, Quincey, and perhaps even Jonathan Harker. I like how you point out that Mina studies shorthand -- writing and record-keeping play a very important part in this novel. The fact that Mina is able to do something that the educated men are able to do says a great deal about her personality.

In contrast, I think it is interesting that Lucy and the brides are described as “beautiful” (42), yet Mina is generally described as “wholesome” and would make a great mother. The forms of attraction shown by the men differ when it comes to Lucy and Mina, as they are engrossed in Lucy’s beauty, rather than any of her personal traits.

cmose said...

I also did my blog on this question and I find the parallels between Dracula and Carmilla fascinating in this respect. I believe that it is very telling how Victorian men feel about this subject in Van Helsing's response to Lucy's transformation. He sees no other option than to kill Lucy because she is not longer the "ideal of a Victorian women" as you described it. Furthermore, your assessment that sucking blood can be seen as a sexual act and thus Lucy is no longer pure is a very interesting way of thinking about this act. Like in Carmilla, Stoker uses sucking blood as an erotic act that slowly distances the purest of characters from the Victorian ideal of femininity.

Emily Zettle said...

Victorian literature can be so obscure. I do wholeheartedly agree with you on your point about the transfusions and the multiple visits from Dracula changing her character drastically. She transforms in more ways than one, doesn't she? Both from a human into a vampire and also from a proper Lady to an improper woman. There is a great deal of sexual tension in the book, particularly focusing on blood. The idea behind it being erotic as a kind of exchange of fluids is a very interesting one, and I kind of want to delve further into the psychology of that notion. Nice ideas!

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