The traditional women were willing to play the roles that the society gave them. They did not live for themselves. At the end of the 19th century, women who lived in the Victoria Era(1837-1901) gradually realized the unequal status of men and women. They started to involve in activities including “ bicycle riding, bloomers, badminton” (Senf 34). They wanted to have education and treated in the society equally to men, for which they fought actively. Under the motivation of his mom, who was heavily involved in “New Women” movement, Bram Stoker discusses the different roles in different genders in the gothic novel Dracula (1897) in both male and female’s perspective, shows the fear of a man toward the New Women, reflects the social mainstream point of view to the Victorian era tradition, and expresses the standpoint of the New Woman. However, he also expresses his ambivalence toward “ New Woman” with two female characters – Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra. The former is a very conventional woman who always listens to male, and thinks that men have the ability to take care of women, while the latter has challenged the views and had advocated equal rights for woman. By comparing both male’s perspective and female’s perspective, Stocker successfully argues the “role of women and the place they occupied in society” (Humphrey), the prominent concern in the Victorian Era.
In the traditional perspective, men are always dominant than women. In the gothic novel Dracula, Van Helsing is the perfect men to defend the traditional perspective as others describe him as a “arbitrary man”, and “ he knows what he is talking about better than anyone else”(Stocker 97). He learns a lot of knowledge and can use it better than others. He describes man as women’s life-saver: “ A brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble. You’re a man and no mistake…but God sends us men when we want them” (Stoker 128). Van Helsing holds the traditional view that a man is dominant for a reason. They are brave enough to appear to help women to find solutions for all the difficulties they face. Van Helsing believed that women are born to be protected, so men were made better from God for a reason. Women were considered physically weaker, so while husbands were working publicly everyday, women stay home and handle everything in the family in addition to support their husbands. By showing the perspective from Van Helsing, Stoker shows men’s dominance in the traditional society is inflexible and ineradicable.
Harker compares Mina with the brides of Dracula with the intention of comparing the conventional woman and the New Woman in his journal. He thinks that Mina is a women that fits in the traditional view of female but these brides are “awful women” and there is “nought in common”, they are “devils of the Pit”(Stoker 45). In Harker’s journal, he illustrates his fear of Dracula’s brides. The characteristics shown in the brides show the power and dangerousness in woman and this is what the females are fighting for in Victorian Era. From calling them as awful woman, Stocker compares them with Mina, which he thinks is an example of a female traditionally. Mina is a woman who sticks to the tradition, relies to and be loyal to the male. Harker thinks that when facing difficulties, women always recede and ask male for solutions. Mina has the perspective that men can tolerate women’s weaknesses and that is why they are dominant, and she thinks that the New Women cannot handle everything by appropriately. When Mina and Lucy take a long walk, they are so hungry that their appetites will shock the New Woman. But Mina insists with the belief men can tolerate that. She thinks that with men, women have nothing worry about. The traditional view of women was challenged as never before. The “New Women”, who is “free-spirited and independent, educated and uninterested in marriage and children”(Buzwell), also drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes openly, poses a major threat to male dominance. Stoked compares the awful women with Mina who holds a traditional perspective on women’s role to show male’s fear and ignorance and the demand in changing the conventional view on women’s role in the society.
Lucy is an interesting character that who shows her dissatisfaction with the traditional role given to her by the society as a woman. In the poem ‘The Angel in The House'(1854), Patmore describes the traditional view on sex as ‘a general rule a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself. She submits to her husband, but only to please him and, but for the desire of maternity, would far rather be relieved from his attention'(Buzwell). Traditionally, a female is not allowed to openly accept sex. It is only allowed in the desire of pleasing their husbands or maternity. Lucy, in contrast, has shows her greedy on sex openly.
In Lucy’s first letter to Mina, it shows her tenderly love from this Victorian upper-class girl, to Arthur Holmwood. In subsequent letters, Lucy repeatedly stresses why are men so noble? Why are woman so worthless in front of men?(Stoker 50).At that time, she was still championing male superiority. Meanwhile, she also criticizes what the conventional women think: “I suppose that are women are such cowards that we think a man will save us from tears” (Stoker 49). But Lucy’s words revealed her rebellion in the heart. She thinks that if men can marry three woman, then “ Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as they want?” (Stoker 50). Lucy questions polygamy for male and indicates that woman should have to same ability. Stocker is making the implication that Lucy is comfortable with three men sexually. Lucy is still torn in the conventional role of woman, but clearly, she advocates the view of New Women. By showing the change in mind in Lucy, Stocker gives support to the New Woman while heavily criticizing the conventional role of woman given by the society. Stoker narrates that men are most vulnerable about how New Women are abandoning the tradition and daring to express their sexuality openly.
Through sharing the different perspective from male and female and the difference perspective between a New Woman and a traditional one, Stoker shows his conflicted mind toward this new movement.Traditionally, men are superior to women, and women are attached to men. It is also a great honor for a woman to gain the respect of a man as Mina did. Women should faithfully play the traditional female role to ensure that men exercise absolute control over them. To be a New Woman, such roles need to be eliminated. Women should fight for their rights, which threatened the dominance of men. Stoker’s novel details men’s fear of women’s publicly opened to sexuality. Lucy accepted sex to multiple male openly is the proof of change and the fear of men because of the challenge of their dominance.