Female Characters As Representatives Of Victorian Era In The Novel Dracula

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Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker, is set in the Victorian Era and follows the story of the vampire Count Dracula and his battle with a determined group of adversaries. Stoker’s novel reflects the fears and anxieties of the late-Victorian society, where the change or disruption of traditional Victorian values and anything that did not stay true to society’s norms were greatly feared. The conservative Victorian society and its values are challenged in Dracula through the idea of the “New Woman” and the traditional views of sexuality. Stoker introduces these ideas through the female characters, Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra.

Stoker’s use of Mina as a character and her features provide an insight into the fears and anxieties of the Victorian era, where her representation as the intelligent New Woman provides threats to the conservative and patriarchal society. Mina is portrayed by Stoker as the New Woman. A new woman was one that was categorised as someone who was rational, intelligent, and financially independent. Mina represents features of the New Woman through her autonomy and the fact that she has “a professional job, writes in shorthand, and is responsible for collating the recovered texts that materially form the novel.” (Boyd 2014, p.2). Her intelligence and wit are what helps the men win the battle with Dracula. Even the men of the novel acknowledge her cleverness, where Van Helsing describes Mina. ‘Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has a man’s brain – a brain that a man should have were he much gifted – and a woman’s heart.” (Stoker 250). The use of repetition of the words “man” and “brain” puts emphasis on these words to convey the meaning of the sentence. He highlights her intelligence and compares her to a man, and even infers that she is better than the average man, further emphasising her New Woman features. The juxtaposition of the “man’s brain” and the “woman’s heart” puts emphasis on the fact that Mina is both intelligent and caring, and it shows how Van Helsing considers her to be very good. This also highlights the threats that a woman like Mina poses as. The conservative Victorian society is not open to change, where they fear anything that is outside of their social norms. Mina’s portrayal as the new woman poses a threat to the patriarchal society and the conservative views on gender roles. Where males were meant to be the dominant ones, and females weaker and inferior, Mina breaks through these gender stereotypes. The disruption in their traditional views and values make the Victorian society uncomfortable and anxious, as they are not accepting of changes.

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Lucy Westenra represents the New Woman and challenges the traditional views of sexuality, reflecting the fears and anxieties which the Victorian society has. By juxtaposing her with Mina, Stoker highlights the difference between the ideal Victorian woman and the New Woman. Mina is effectively an ideal Victorian woman. She is simultaneously both the traditional Victorian woman and the New Woman where she has features of both. Mina is presented as a good, wholesome, chaste, and pure woman, where she is rarely seen in a sexualised light. The features of the traditional Victorian woman would include being domestic and one dominated by care, where Mina often shows her maternalism. This can be seen in the novel when Mina recounts herself comforting Arthur and Quincy, who are mourning Lucy’s death: “We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked.” (Stoker 245). Stoker’s diction and the use of the inclusive pronouns “we” and “us” creates a generalisation of all women. She demonstrates her motherly figure and generalises about all women that they have motherly traits. It displays her support of the traditional views of gender roles. It shows how Mina is depicted as the ideal woman, as she fits with the criteria of a traditional woman. Mina’s portrayal as the ideal Victorian woman is also reflected in the plot of the novel. Mina had been attacked by Dracula and was therefore beginning to become a vampire. However, she is saved from vampirism due to her portrayal as the ideal traditional Victorian woman. On the other hand, Lucy is depicted as the New Woman, where they were categorised as “a sexually independent woman assertive in decision-making.” (Clippard 2017, p.3). Through her freedom and sexual independence, Lucy was portrayed as the New Woman. Dracula biting Lucy and her transition into becoming a vampire was symbolic of the rise in sexual appetite. Once she becomes a vampire, her desire for sexual independence is heavily brought out, as seen when the vampire Lucy calls out to Arthur: ‘come to me, Arthur… My arms are hungry for you.’ (Stoker 226). The use of overtly sexual connotations highlights her sexuality and her lust for him. Stoker’s choice to use the command “come to me” shows how Lucy is pursuing Arthur, instead of the traditional stereotypes of man pursuing the woman, further emphasising how Lucy is the New Woman. Additionally, the denotation of “hungry” suggests danger, where Lucy was literally going to “eat” Arthur, highlighting the fear that the Victorian society, especially men, had of these New Women with sexual appetites. The fear of Lucy’s representation of the New Woman is also reflected in the plot. In contrast to Mina, Lucy’s end was not desirable where she is unable to be saved from vampirism and is killed by the ones she loved. The killing of Lucy also symbolises the killing of sexual appeal and the return to purity, as sex was a threat to man. By juxtaposing Mina and Lucy, Stoker reflects the fears and anxieties of the sexually independent New Woman.

The Victorian era was conservative and did not like change, where they were opposed to the notion of the “New Woman”. Stoker employs the characters of Mina and Lucy to portray the two aspects of the New Woman, where Mina was intelligent, and Lucy was sexual. Dracula reflects the fears and anxieties that the new woman presents to the Victorian society through these characters.

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Female Characters As Representatives Of Victorian Era In The Novel Dracula. (2021, September 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/female-characters-as-representatives-of-victorian-era-in-the-novel-dracula/
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Female Characters As Representatives Of Victorian Era In The Novel Dracula [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 09 [cited 2022 May 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/female-characters-as-representatives-of-victorian-era-in-the-novel-dracula/
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