Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the Representation of Gender
During the period between 1830 to 1901, the history of the United Kingdom had stepped into the Victorian Age, which was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign. In that period when the feminine is being discriminated, their life and their existence serve a ruthless purpose towards the society, especially masculinity. The option of their rest of life is limited, which is either live as unmarried virgins or get married with masculinity and serve their purpose as a husband’s wife or the children’s mother. In that society, marriage, for women, is the highest state that they can achieve, but at the same time, it was their end of life as well. Once they get married, their property and decision making is based on their husbands’, as “in law a husband and wife are one person, and the husband is that person”, and their tasks jump from domestic services to homemaking, as well as raising their child (grin.com, 2019). However, in the late Victorian Age, the roles of the feminine bring a huge change to society. The new representation of womanhood in this period, ‘New Woman’, the ones who were independent, more educated, stood up and denied the boundaries set by the society on sexuality, professional identity, political consciousness and hierarchy.
Bram Stoker, who is living within this era, was deeply influenced by the representation of the feminine on traditional Victorian women and the newborn new women as well. In addition, he also wants to show the masculine roles during that period as well. In the result, he wrote the novel Dracula and showed the representation of gender inside it. There are two major feminine characters created by Stoker inside the novel, which is Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra, and both of them show merely different aspects of femininity during that Victorian Era. Besides that, he also creates several characters who show different aspects of masculinity inside the novel, including Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula.
Mina Harker, which is the fiancée to Jonathan Harker, is a sensible young woman who works as a schoolmistress. She is innocent, polite and quiet, and she always does her best to please Jonathan whenever he needs (weebly.com). Mina is also a best friend of Lucy Westenra, who is also the first victim of Count Dracula in the entire story. Although being victimised by Dracula later in the story, Mina maintains her excellence such as chasteness, cleanliness and loyalty deep in her mind, which makes her the great heroine inside the novel. Being also an intelligent and adventurous lady, she leads Doctor Van Helsing along with the vampire hunters to Castle Dracula with her researches. Under the creation of Stoker, Mina represents a role as a New Woman for that era, as she has several personalities that are similar to this newborn woman and perfectly matches the ideal woman that Stoker was looking forward to.
First of all, Mina is a very intelligent, well-educated woman. Before her marriage with Jonathan, she earns her own income as a schoolteacher and is financially independent. It can be explained as she lost her parents in recent time and she may have no choice but to survive by gaining her own income. But even working as a full-timer, Mina also spends her time studying along with her fiancee Jonathan, who is working hard as well to achieve his target as a lawyer. In Mina’s opinion, she says that she has been “practising shorthand” in order to “keep up with Jonathan’s studies”. From the Victorian Era’s aspect, this kind of attitude totally turns the table on traditional Victorian woman behaviour, as they are mostly dependent to their husband on their living and they mostly are not well-educated, and as a result, they have no concept of being independent personally and financially.
Besides that, Mina can be seen as a mother figure inside the novel. She always praises her men for their good on their natural makeup and looks out of them as a mother figure. When both Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris mourn Lucy’s death, Mina acts her role to comfort them like a mother who holds a child in agony or fear. She also shows other motherhood personalities such as wisdom and kindness when she speaks out of Dracula’s pain and begs the men to be merciful, even bring the rest of men to tears when she begs them to kill her as she may be fully transforming into a vampire sooner, as it strikes right into their heart even they act as a masculinity (weebly.com, 2019). In that Victorian Era, these characteristics shouldn’t appear on a typical Victorian woman, as they mostly act like a baby to masculinity and always being emotional when they are facing sorrow. Mina stands up as a New Woman, who is strongly independent, mature and tries to make the others feeling better like masculinity do.
As a representative of the New Woman under the creation of Bram Stoker, Mina acts as an important role inside the novel. As fiancee to Jonathan, Mina always does her best in order to help him alongside. She works as a schoolmistress who dutifully studied newfangled machines like a typewriter and learns shorthand writing so that she can be useful to her husband when needed. These actions make herself a bailment to Jonathan, as we can see that he always write letters to her and tell her his emotions and shows his worries on her while being inside the Dracula Castle. Besides that, because of Mina, Dr Van Helsing and the vampire hunters are able to locate Dracula and in order to defeat him according to her researches. In overall, Mina’s presence in the novel is irreplaceable as without her, the whole story plot may be different and her personalities as a New Woman will not be able to represent as Stoker wanted to.
However, despite being a role to show the spirit being a New Woman, Mina is also being considered as a typical Victorian Woman, which makes her a contradictory character in the novel. When she is being attacked and victimised by Count Dracula, her personality as a mother figure, however, changes to a child who wants being taken care of by masculinity. She clings to Jonathan like a child who clings to her mother, and her role makes a huge reversal when she is being frightened. Besides that, her sexuality is hardly noticed throughout the story and she is constantly described as pure and free of impure desires. Even after a wafer scar forms in front of her forehead, Dracula is being killed and the mark vanishes and she once again represents purity. At the end of the novel, Mina acts her role as a pious wife and mother, which represents a perfect Victorian Woman.
Besides Mina, there’s another feminine character who represents another aspect of femininity during that Victorian Era. She is Lucy Westenra, a 19-year-old girl who is living with her mother in London, beautiful and angelic, and is only interested in choosing a husband. Unlike Mina who behaves like a Victorian Lady by hiding her sexuality, Lucy portrays as a person driven by sexual openness and flirting, tempting nature. She has the physical beauty of all her pursuers and she likes to get the attention from other men, because it helps Lucy claiming to be better than other women during that era. As every Victorian woman is not allowed to express their sexual desires due to maintaining their purity, Lucy’s feelings are being trapped inside her mind. In order to freely expresses her sexuality, she manages to do it through sleepwalking, as it was being mentioned in the novel(ukessays.com, 2019).
This is the first time that Dracula bites her while she’s unconscious, and it seems Stoker wants to hint the readers that it will lead the femininity to punishment if they behave like that in expressing their inner feelings on sexuality. After Lucy’s blood is being drained out by Dracula and finally becomes a vampire, her bottled-up sexual desires and fervour are truly being shown to the readers and the characters in the novel, as it can be obviously determined by her first appearance as vampire and trying to seduce Arthur for a kiss. On the other hand, Mina, as the opposite aspect of femininity, chooses to behave like an ordinary Victorian Woman and tries her best to help her husband whenever he needs her. In fact, Mina’s sexuality were never being mentioned throughout the story(ukessays.com, 2019).
Under two feminine characters who represent merely different aspects of femininity in Victorian Era, Stoker decides different endings for both of them. As for Mina, who although being cursed by Count Dracula and transform into a half-vampire, she turns back to a normal lady after Dracula was being killed and the curse was being banished. She finally becomes a dutiful wife to Jonathan they live happily in the ending. However, as for Lucy, who behaves like the Weird Sisters, who is also another feminine character inside the story, on their sexuality and urges on sexual desires, is being killed by her fiancée Arthur along with Dr Van Helsing and the other vampire hunters. As it was being mentioned inside the novel, her chest is being stabbed by a wooden stake, her head is being cut off and her mouth is stuffed with garlic, which leads her to death (study.com, 2019). Under Stoker’s writing, the killing method of vampires inside the novel is quite brutal, and it symbolized that how hard the punishment is if the Victorian women behave like a person with full of sexual desires. We can see that both of the feminine characters face different ending, and Stoker has a reason to do that. This is because inside Stoker’s mind, he states Mina as an ideal Victorian Woman who also carries the spirit of New Woman to the society and the femininity that all the masculinity are looking forward to, while Lucy as a woman who is filled with sexual desires is considered as a threat to masculinity and should be destroyed. Her death returns her to a harmless state, fixing her purity, and shows the masculinity that the world and the femininity are behaving like what they should be.
However, Lucy Westenra, who is being seen as a woman who abandoned her role for being a traditional Victorian Woman, holds some personality as a Victorian Woman as well. As we look through the novel, we can see that Lucy has similar qualities as Mina, such as she has similar innocence that Mina possesses. She has three men yearning for her affections due to her pure qualities, which is similar to a typical Victorian Woman. Besides, as we know that Mina considered Lucy as her best friend, it can be unscrambled as Lucy being an ideal Victorian Woman because Mina would not keep female company who will challenge and contaminate her pure and innocent being. From this point, we can see that Lucy represents similar characteristics of Victorian Woman as Mina considers her a suitable friend with a similar trait (the-artifice.com, 2019).
Besides representing the feminine role in the novel, Bram Stoker also represents the masculinity in Dracula as well. Jonathan Harker, which is Mina’s fiancée, was created by Stoker in order to represent the masculinity during that Victorian Era. From the letter that Jonathan wrote to Mina, we can see that Jonathan risks his death to find a way out from Dracula Castle and get himself to Mina. Despite his difficult situation, he concerns Mina a lot more than himself and this kind of heroic action shows him a man of distinction for that Victorian Era. After his escape from Dracula Castle, the remarks from Dr Stewart, and even his wife Mina shows us that the characters inside the story consider him as a man with heroic masculine nature. There are also several masculine characters inside the novel that share similar personalities with Jonathan as well (prezi.com, 2019). Like Arthur, Quincey and Dr Stewart, which are the suitors of Lucy, they both are carrying attracting personalities that are admired by Lucy, as a Victorian Woman in that era. Some of them are calm and gentlemen, while some of them are young and adventurous (prezi.com, 2019). These personalities completely reflect the image of an ideal masculine during that era, and also the aesthetic standard of the Victorian Women.
If masculinity during that era should be considered as those being who serves a purpose to protect and shield the femininity, then Count Dracula, which is another main character of the novel which uses his name as the title, can be representing another aspect of masculinity which is hidden in the society. During that era, masculinity should behave manly and femininity should behave like a woman who depends on the man. A woman who acts as masculinity or a man who behaves sissy or girly would be considered as the ‘unwanted’ in society. So in the result, those men who are into homosexuality will hide their feelings and pretend as normal masculinity. When Jonathan was being seduced by the Weird Sisters back in the Castle, Count Dracula was the one who yelled at the sisters, “This man belongs to me!” and forced the Sisters to stay away from Jonathan(journals.openedition.org, 2019). This kind of action may be seen as Jonathan being prey only to Dracula, but it also indicates Dracula being attracted by Jonathan due to his homosexuality. Examining the plot of the novel, we can see that Stoker may be trying to represent the sense of homosexuality carried by some of the people, but hiding it from society.
In conclusion, being such a successful novel due to its attracting genre and the term ‘vampire’ and being widely applied to the industries nowadays, Bram Stoker creates Dracula in order to represent the gender of Victorian society during those times. He creates two major feminine characters, Mina and Lucy, in order to represent an ideal Victorian Woman and a woman who abandoned her purity and makes herself against the Victorian rules in order to achieve sexual freedom. At the same time, Stoker expresses the aspects of New Woman to show the transformation of the mindset of the women during that era and shows his agreement by bringing up the personalities on Mina inside the novel and this can be shown from the ending that Stoker created for Mina, as she survived and returned back to normal in the end. Jumping from a feminine role to masculine role inside the novel, we can see that Bram Stoker represents the masculinity as heroic and serves a purpose to protect a lady and gives them comfort and a sense of security. At the same time, Stoker also reveals the inversion of the gender roles deep inside the society, including the masculinity who shows their sense of homosexuality towards the others but hides their feelings from the public due to the rules set on both genders based on their behaviour during that Victorian Era. Bram Stoker’s Dracula serves not only for inspiration for the upcoming industries but also a proof of the evolution of mindset of society from a traditional state to a more rational and revolutionary state, which gives birth to New Woman and strengthens the sense of feminism until present days.
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