Dracula, the book by Bram Stoker, provides a clear depiction of the Victorian era’s prevalent thoughts, beliefs, and ideas, painting a vivid image of Bram Stoker’s generation’s culture. The issue of gender is central to the antiquated concepts depicted in Dracula. Each character’s arc clarifies their position in the plot and their function in society as a whole. Stoker presents all the gender fears of society through the main actors, Mina and Lucy, with their distinct behaviors toward men shaped by the male-dominated Victorian culture (Lasa, 2018). The three vampire sisters exemplify the opposite of Victorian norms for women. Through the primary characters, Mina and Lucy, with their different behaviors toward men created by the male-dominated Victorian society, Stoker illustrates all the gender-based anxieties of society.
Women were the foundation of Victorian society because they represented the superiority and domination of the masculine gender and ensured the preservation of excellent breeds by caring for children at home. Thus, females were important in defining the power of men by displaying symptoms of weakness and the desire to be protected since they were the absolute opposite of males (Generani, 2018). Victorian society attempted to safeguard such women since women who were eager to pursue their social and sexual independence began to emerge. Influential men in the Victorian era feared this sort of woman. As these women demanded greater equal rights with males, they grew increasingly oppressed. Liberated women lacked a secure position in the male-dominated Victorian society since they posed a threat to the existing social and economic order (Paxton, 2021). For the British economic and social system to function, it was necessary to have established social norms for men and women.
In the Victorian era, women were not given the same social roles as males. Keeping the home tidy, caring for her husband’s children, and instilling moral values and excellent manners in her own children were just a few women’s responsibilities. Women’s existence was predicated on their ability to carry out these responsibilities. As a sign of purity and morality, ladies were expected to be free of sexual passions, which were only needed for reproductive purposes (Sunthikhunakorn, 2018). It is Mina’s sexuality that makes her a full representation of the ideal woman in Dracula, whose sexuality does not exist prior to Dracula’s attack.
Even after her engagement with Jonathan Harker, Stoker makes no comments on marital relations or any other kind of sexual relations. On the surface, Mina depicts a capable mother who tends to her partner with boundless compassion and sympathy. Nonetheless, Mina is a hypocritical character who conceals her true sexually demanding nature. Instead of being motherly, the three gorgeous vampire women in Count Dracula’s castle are the opposite of what a Victorian lady should be (Viragh, 2013). Lucy stands between the Victorians’ opinion of sexually beautiful women and the ideal lady for marriage. She is a beautiful woman during the day, but at night she sleepwalks down the coast of Whitby, rendering herself unaware and susceptible to Dracula, who is charming.
Not only women’s sexual desires were controlled in Victorian times, but males were also required to refrain from sexual activity until marriage. However, Victorians felt that heterosexuality was inherent to men and that a man’s failure to suppress his sexual urges could be overlooked, but this was unacceptable for an unmarried woman (Podonsky, 20210). Homosexuality was forbidden and more of a scandal in this community in terms of the male gender (Podonsky, 20210). When examined from a psychosexual point of view, it is clear that Dracula engages in homosexual interactions both directly via Jonathan Harker’s bond with Count Dracula and indirectly via Lucy’s blood transfusions.
Males were insertive indicative of penetration, aggressiveness, and domination, but females remained receptive in Victorian culture, showing indifference, subordination, and passivity. In the male-dominant paradigm, the flexibility of gender roles posed a problem for males since being insertive and receptive signified, respectively, social superiority and social inferiority. Through control, the dominating males built a feeling of authority over women. The Count dominates women by taking their blood and altering their sexual behavior (Koç and Demir 2018). Dracula assaults women, however, in order to dominate the males of Britain, seize dominance of the capitalist system, and reinstate the old aristocratic norms. He confronts the Crew of Light by stating: “My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already. And through them, you and others shall yet be mine…” (Stoker, 1993). Dracula exposes his ambition to seize control of all of society and that women are his only instruments for achieving this goal.
Although Victorian males were also repressed over their sexual appetites, it was primarily the woman’s duty to abstain from sex in order to preserve society from the atrocious implications of intercourse. Lucy, the first victim of Dracula, is a naive, young, and attractive woman who is engaged to Arthur Holmwood. She also has Quincey Morris and Dr. Seward as suitors. When Morris and Seward express their desire to wed her, she declines their proposals, stating that they must remain friends. She dislikes the concept of monogamy, stating, “Why cannot they let a woman marry three men, or as many as desire her, and spare us all this trouble?” (Stoker, 1993) She likes the thrill of being pursued by many men simultaneously. She tells Mina, “I know, Mina, you will think I am a bad flirt, but I could not help but feel a sense of elation that Morris was number two for the day” (Stocker, 1993). Contrast to Mina, Lucy is much more open about her sexuality; nonetheless, she is conscious that she is constrained by the culture in which she lives.
Shortly after Lucy and Mina’s meeting in Whitby, Dracula arrives in England by boat to the Whitby coast. Lucy’s nighttime sleepwalking, induced by Dracula’s hypnosis, signifies her dissatisfaction with being a respectable British woman who is denied sexual liberty. Dracula infects and transforms her into a vampire after a lengthy procedure in which the Crew of Light attempts to rescue her from the darkness, undermining their system.
As she is open about her sexual desires, the patriarchal society destroys her. The reason for her downfall is that Lucy’s desire for multiple men is unconventional. British society associates her lascivious, instinctual desire with that of exotic foreigners, especially dark-skinned women from distant lands (Cristin, 2012). She becomes sexually promiscuous after transforming into a vampire. Her immorality prevents her from being a pure Victorian lady. Men stab her in the heart to ensure that she will never threaten the system again. She exhibits signs of immorality in England and asserts power via eroticism.
Lucy undergoes a transformation whereby her beautiful feminine nature transforms into adamantine, heartless brutality, and her innocence into sensual wantonness following Dracula’s procreation. However, the ‘new’ Lucy is not a consequence of a shift but rather the surfacing of her suppressed emotions. Thus, Stoker depicts a lady whose adherence to the ideals of traditional society is shallow. She fundamentally rejects the mothering and marriage duties of women. Therefore, this explains why Stoker has Lucy suck the blood of children instead of a mom who gives her kid life via her blood in the womb (Conroy, 2019). “During the day, Lucy never acknowledges her discontent with the constraints put on women, but at night, when she wanders about Whitby in her slumber and finally encounters Dracula, her discontent becomes apparent” (Conroy, 2019). Notably, Lucy is not a woman who discusses men in the same manner as Mina. As her sincerity does not conform to the hypocritical Victorian society’s standards, the men deem her a danger that must be eradicated. Due to the fact that she has finalized her transition into a vampire, which liberates her from society’s harsh expectations, her salvation from evil is only achievable via death (Kovač, 2015). Advocates of the male archetype eliminate the ‘sexually’ dominating Lucy in order to reaffirm and safeguard this system in which men were engaged.
However, Lucy’s extinction reveals not just the Victorian men’s desperation to regain their power but also their suppressed sexuality. Even while Victorian males disapproved of sexually active women, they never hesitated to engage in socially unacceptable actions in the shadows. Due to the forbidden nature of sexual behavior, silence was necessary. However, during the Victorian era, oppression resulted in perversity (Hunn, 2020). The ineffectiveness of the bourgeoisie’s oppression resulted in the need for concealment on the issue.
It was primarily on the surface that sexual suppression produced perfect members of society. Men in this culture lead two lives; they were respectable businessmen and family men during the day, but transgressive men who frequented brothels or engaged in homosexual activities at night or in their private lives. The incidence of sexually transmitted illnesses, particularly gonorrhea, and syphilis, grew due to this dishonesty. To avoid illness and preserve morality, it was important to restrict sexual contact to the confines of marriage and to a single partner. However, immoral conduct occurs at the moment when Lucy is killed. It is a rape-like scenario with a gay ritual and a cruel group-sex description in which the female is submissive (Pikula 2012). The head of the masculine group, Dr. Van Helsing, concludes that the stake must be driven completely into her heart in order for her to rediscover peace.
Victorian civilization required men to be dominant and women to be submissive. The civilization entailed acting sexually aggressively and initiating sexual contact. Lucy’s cry to Arthur at the cemetery, “Come to me, Arthur, leave these people and come to me,” reveals her sexual supremacy. My arms are craving you; come, and we will both relax. “Come, my hubby!” (Stoker, 1993). In response to this appeal, Arthur seems to be enchanted, indicating his desire to be controlled, which is a feminine characteristic since it implies softness and weakness. In current conventions of intercourse, women have become more emancipated, and it is no longer considered inappropriate to act predominately toward men in sexual and social matters, particularly in Western societies (Connelly, 2018). In contrast, Victorian women were expected to act submissively in order to maintain men’s supremacy.
Mina is Dracula’s intended victim since she represents the infallible element of Victorian society. She is a corrective and logical figure who does not acknowledge any other man’s affection except for her spouse, Jonathan Harker. In contrast, Lucy finds it challenging to reject her suitors out of concern for losing them. Lucy is a businesslike, emotional figure who does just how powerful men anticipate.
Mina is frequently considered the modern woman capable of doing male tasks, an idea that Stoker and other Victorian-era traditional men did not approve of. She is able to use modern devices, thereby making the Crew of Light’s mission simpler. According to Dr. Van Helsing, she is “one of God’s ladies fashioned by His own hand to teach us men and other women that there is a paradise where we may enter, and that its light can shine on earth” (Stoker, 1993). Since Mina is a representation of a perfect lady, Dr. Van Helsing, like a typical controlling parent or male character of the period, tells every man in the group of her positive characteristics at every possible chance.
Mina, however, exemplifies how repressed women were throughout Stoker’s time period. Mina’s oppression is so severe that she exhibits evidence of androgyny, which indicates that her gender is amorphous since she exhibits neither the precise features of one gender nor those of the other. Although Stoker makes many references to Lucy’s feminine attractiveness, he does not describe her physical appearance. Mina’s lack of femininity is intentional since she is intended to be what the bourgeoisie desires: devoid of sexual characteristics and motherly. Van Helsing’s description of Mina as possessing a “woman’s heart and a man’s intellect” indicates that she has dual personality features of both genders (Winstead, 2020). The men surrounding her, led by Van Helsing, make every effort to safeguard her from Dracula. Ironically, the supposedly powerful female character Mina also falls victim to Dracula (Winstead, 2020). Thus, this renders Mina a hypocritical figure which illustrates the Victorian era’s hypocrisy. She craves Dracula to escape the solitary confinement Victorian society has imposed upon her.
Her vampirism socially liberates Mina since her outward sexuality signifies that she has her own needs and ideas, which cannot be suppressed by a culture that favors men. Dracula attacks Mina when she is overwhelmed by the oppression to the extent that she can no longer withstand it. Thus, this assault is somehow a gift in disguise, as it gives her the capacity to reveal herself sexually. Mina’s encounter with vampirism is a gradual act of defiance against her social environment. Even though Mina is returned to the symbolic realm by the Crew of Light and receives redemption when Dracula is destroyed, her purity cannot be restored after she is bitten by the Count since the merging of blood is irreversible.
In conclusion, Dracula addresses Victorian hypocrisy and anxieties concerning gender roles and sexuality. Stoker manages to subvert sexual taboos and gender roles by portraying Mina and the crew members of Light as the normative ethical representatives of the Victorian bourgeois society and by using Dracula as a victim who uncovers the latent sexual desires present in human nature but is suppressed by fabricated morality. Sexual contact in Dracula is not addressed for the sake of sexuality but rather because of its references to risks to the male gender. Even though Dracula is ultimately destroyed, what remains clear is Jonathan’s seduction by three luscious female vampires, Lucy’s stabbing by Arthur, and Mina’s sexual assault by Dracula.
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