The novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker is an important piece of gothic literature written to reflect on society’s views on female sexuality in the Victorian Era. Published in 1897, Stoker highlights the role of women in society as purely virgin and devoted to one man in their lives. The introduction of Dracula offsets the innocent side of women bringing forth seductive personalities which was deemed as taboo in the Victorian Era. However, female sexuality is deemed as dangerous in the eyes of males because females weren’t supposed to be in control of their sexuality. By including strong female figures with seductive desires in the book, Stoker challenges society’s views of subservient women. Each female character presented has a unique role throughout the story that further explores Stoker’s purpose.
In Dracula, Bram uses multiple first person point of views and a compilation of first person letters and statements to tell the perspective of each individual. The book opens with Jonathan Harker who is sent to Transylvania to conduct business with Count Dracula who wants to purchase an estate in England. Jonathan begins to discover that Dracula is a vampire with the intention of going after more people in England. Furthermore, a strange ship arrives at the port of Whitby, England where Lucy and her best friend Mina reside. The captain of the ship was found dead and tied to the wheel holding a crucifix. When they discovered his log, the captain had written about a strange man who stabbed the crew aboard the ship. Later, Mina finds Lucy at the churchyard where she normally sleepwalks with a figure crouched over her body who Mina originally believed was her imagination. Mina sees marks on Lucy’s neck which haven’t healed and notices her health slowly decreasing. Dr. Van Helsing monitored her health but grows suspicious that she has become a vampire which was later proven when she was found out of her coffin. The men began to hunt down Dracula but while they were out Dracula had come back to drink Mina’s blood while forcing her to drink his blood to create a connection between them. Jonathan and the other men use Mina to locate Dracula and arrive at his home before him. While at the house, Van Helsing puts the Communion Wafer in Dracula’s tomb to banish him from his home. The men then see the carriage holding Dracula in his wooden coffin and rush over, destroying him before sunset and releasing Mina from the curse.
The book revolves around the two seemingly vulnerable female in the book Lucy and her friend Mina. Mina Murray stands to represent the definition of the perfect Victorian woman and all the aspects Dracula wants to destroy while Lucy being the submissive but independent woman that transformed into a monster. In my opinion, the author achieved his intended goal of challenging Victorian ideals of how women were expected to act. Much like the ideals of the Victorian Era, in Dracula, sexual women are frowned upon while pure and chaste woman are deemed respectful and strong. Mina is a perfect example of the ideal women because throughout the story she remains faithful to Jonathan and hopes for his safe return. Mina’s character is not sexualized by the author because she is the depiction of the values during the Victorian Era. However, on the contrary, Stoker represents Dracula’s daughters as impure sexual females linked directly to evil. We see that the females are seen as evil predominantly because their hypersexual power tempted the men into evil. The power of women over men was heavily disfavored under the Victorian Era ideals. The power can be explored in the encounter Jonathan had with the three daughters in which he recounted the strong “burning desire” he had that they would kiss him. The women with these impure tendencies were outcasts of society because they threatened the perfect Victorian family which is perhaps why they were deemed evil. Through the portrayal of strong female characteres, Stoker shows the sharp contrast of the pure and impure females to comment on women of the Victorian Era.
According to the book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster comments that in Victorian and Modern interpretations of vampires there is always an “older figure representing corrupt, outworn values; a young, preferably virginal female; a stripping away of her youth, energy, virtue…”(pg.27). This idea can be seen in Dracula when Dracula bites into Mina’s neck and forces her to drink his blood. The blood itself has an underlying sexual symbol and her sucking his blood represents him strippin her innocence. The book was very well-written and thoroughly reflected the females in Victorian society while challenging the expectations of women. I enjoyed this book mainly because it explored the various perspectives and point of views throughout the novel which made the narration of the novel interesting. The idea Challenged by Stoker that women could not have any sexual desires and should tend to the needs of men because they can not control their “natural” instincts, helped me deeply understand the role of women in society during the Victorian Era.
In the book, Dracula, Bram Stoker challenges the traditional views of women by developing the female characters and depicting their distinct personalities to represent each of the type of women in the society. In a time where female sexuality was not explored in the fear they might overpower men, Bram stoker provides social commentary for women in the Victorian Era and the expected role women played in society. You must read this book to gain a deeper understanding of how Dracula has become the basis of Gothic Literature and how it directly reflected the Victorian Era and its strong beliefs.
- Byron, Glennis, and Bram Stoker. Dracula: Bram Stoker. Macmillan, 1897.
- Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: a Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.