The Treatment of Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula

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The Treatment of Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula

In reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, I find the treatment of the two main female characters-- Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker-- especially intriguing. These two women are two opposite archetypes created by a society of threatened men trying to protect themselves.

Lucy is the Medusa archetype. She is physically attractive, and wins the heart of any man who comes near her (e.g. Arthur, Quincey, Jack, and Van Helsing). Her chief quality is sensual beauty, but her sexual desire is repressed and not allowed to communicate. And yet both the spiritual side and the sexual side are in her, and when the long repressed sexuality finds a vent, it explodes and takes over completely. In other words, she is transformed into the completely voluptuous female vampire precisely because her sexual side of personality had been completely buried by her Victorian education. Her repressed self needs such expression that when Dracula came along, she went out to greet him, and then invited him into the house (by opening her window to the bat). He is her vent for sexual expression.

When Lucy becomes a vampire herself, John Seward describes her as follows:

She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth -- which made one shudder to see -- the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy's sweet purity (252; ch.16).

And for this voluptuous Lucy he has no pity: "the remnant of my love passed into hate and loathing; had she then to be killed, I could have done it with savage delight" (249; ch.16).

But why this attitude? I believe it is the aggressive sexuality that the vampire Lucy displays that ...

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...in excluding her from their undertakings, and include her again. However, now that she is infected with vampire blood and is capable of reading Dracula's mind, the men both fear and need her. They are forced to accept her in the public realm, but the quest is to eventually rid her of evil influence and restore her purity again, that is, to turn her back into the virtuous woman who will stay in the dominion of the home and not pose a threat to men.

The end of this novel is the restoration of a world as the Victorians know it: the vampire destroyed, the women rid of their evil sexual desires and kept out of the dangerous world outside their homes, and the men safe and free in a male-dominated world, playing their exclusive gallant, intelligent, and adventurous roles.

Text Cited

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Glennis Byron. Peterborough: Broadview, 1998.
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