A Feminist Interpretation of Bram Stoker's Dracula

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In his Literary Theory: The Basics, H. Bertens classifies stereotypes of women in literature into a number of categories; dangerous seductress, self-sacrificing angel, dissatisfied shrew, and defenseless lamb, completely incapable of self-sufficiency, or self-control, and dependent on male intervention. Bertens concludes that the primary objective of these women – or “constructions” – is to serve a “not-so-hidden purpose: the continued cultural and social domination of males”. One such novel that came under feminist scrutiny for these particular reasons was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although this perlustration didn’t occur until 70 years after Stoker originally penned his masterpiece. However, during the mid-1960s, the rise of the feminist movement prompted many to re-analyze classic literature from new perspectives. Of course, some have disputed these claims, insisting that the women in Dracula, though few and far between, stray far from the stereotypes and purposes that Bertens so clearly outlines.

Count Dracula’s wives are the first women to be properly described in the narrative, and they seem to fall straightforwardly enough into Bertens’ “dangerous seductress” category, for Jonathan defines them almost purely on their sexuality. Everything from their “voluptuous lips” to their “honey-sweet breath” seems dedicated to portraying Jonathan’s “burning desire” towards them, and Stoker’s choice of language in Jonathan’s narrative clearly depicts the fervent salaciousness with which Jonathan perceives them. This objectification of Dracula’s wives continues throughout the novel right up until their deaths, where they continue to be described as “exquisitely beautiful”. The deaths themselves seem to be quite systematic and mechanica...

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...ollowing the traditional role of pure, virtuous angel. Stoker does allow for some alternative interpretation to reveal potentially hidden meanings throughout the narrative that imply the contrary, but these aren’t enough to dissuade from the popular opinion that Dracula is an example of sexist literature. However, Stoker’s contemporaries would hardly have been of the same opinion. What modern audiences would see as women being dominated by men and forced into traditional roles, audiences in the 1890s would perceive as the natural hierarchy of society, and the natural position of women. Therefore, even though the women in Dracula do indeed conform with Bertens’ stereotypes and conclusions, Stoker probably saw this as normal, and probably didn’t understand the gravity or seriousness with which these sort of things would be looked upon with in a hundred years time.

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