Protection of Purity and Traditional Values in Dracula
The continuous theme in Dracula is marriage and the gaining of status following it, starting with letters between Mina and Lucy. Their correspondence takes the reader back to the novel’s starting moment, giving us another angle into the lives of these characters, then tangled together with the main Gothic storyline through the plot’s development (McCrea 254). But even before these plotlines started to connect, Mina’s and Lucy’s journey in courting and marriage consciously mirrored Jonathan’s experience in Dracula’s castle. As remarked above, his life reflects the expected lifestyle of married Victorian women as Mina mentioned in her letters, but the similarity doesn’t end there. Lucy started with three men who seek her hand in marriage, mirrored by Jonathan being sexually pursued by the three vampire women. They’re both the object of desire for the other sex that’s superior to them in crucial aspects and both desire pleasures that were queer from Western’s society’s standard. But while Jonathan escaped the threat of vampirism thanks to Dracula (technically his fourth pursuer) saving him, Lucy’s four ‘saviors’ were unable to combat the transformation wrought by Dracula’s infectious Otherness. Going back to Mina’s assault where she was forced to drink Dracula’s blood, Jonathan acted (or not) as the voyeuristic party, whose wife was being taken by another man. His “face flushed and breathing heavily” (c.21) while watching, a striking semblance of Lucy’s “long, heavy gasps” after being bitten. The differing factor that decided these two’s fate lies in the act of consummation, acting as the seal for marriage in the Empire’s law. Harker retains his ‘virginity’ as he never exchanges bodily fluids with any vampires, therefore his blood is still pure from the Other’s contamination. But Lucy has been bitten several times: she’s heavily contaminated and must be punished becoming “a temptress, as beautiful and irresistible as Dracula’s wife” (Yu 9). She now poses a threat against the men in her life, against the purity of the English bloodline, and the traditional structure of heterosexual sex inside marriage.
Dracula’s power expands the undesirable parts of his victim’s personality to monstrous magnitude, which causes some kind of social ostracisation thus makes them more vulnerable to his next attack. Lucy’s initial desire for polygamy and Mina’s aptitude for working marks them as different versions of the New Woman, another anxiety against traditional Victorians’ values. Mina carries the outward signs of the New Woman, earning her own living being a schoolmistress and have out-of-the-house skills such as shorthand and typing, but inwardly she holds the traditional values of heterosexual marriage. Mina is entirely devoted to her future husband and only hope her expertise can be useful to him, without any desire to make a career on her own. Further in the story, her skills and extreme dedication to creating a chronological flow of information were of acute usefulness to keep the vampire-fighting crew up-to-date. Even Van Helsing had to comment on her work drive: “She has man’s brain, a brain that a man should have were he much gifted” (c.18) But this power only comes after her fusion with Dracula, meaning she’s also contaminated like Lucy. Instead of heightening her sexuality, Mina is made masculine in her drive of work that’s, turning her monstrous in the eyes of Western civilization.
Au contraire, Lucy’s outward appearance is the perfect picture of Victorian womanhood, young and vivacious with eyes only for romantic prospects. However, her inner inclination for polygamy aligns with the New Woman’s position in accepting and experiencing sexual freedom. Despite their mentioned deviancy, both these women are virtually flawless before their exposure to the Count. Dracula’s influence brings out what’s already inside these women that are unacceptable and unwomanly, and amplified it through mixing his Other blood with them, i.e. claiming their sexuality and turning them into one of his own. These two women who were the “epitome of Victorian womanhood” have the seeds for monstrosity along, and exposure to Dracula is their booster to being unhinged. Alongside with children and the mentally ill (including homosexuals), women were considered easily disturbed and vulnerable by Victorian society. Any exposure to unclean material can unbalance these groups, like being in contact with ‘primitive’ foreigners.
The Crew of Light’s endeavor to cleanse Lucy’s vein of Dracula’s blood shows the length that the British society will go through to protect the pureness of its bloodline. Her body is a metaphorical battlefield between the heterosexual, traditional Western values against Dracula’s queer, exotic Eastern invasion, as her last name Western-a suggested. War and sex’s goal is one and the same in this: to guarantee the continuation of their race in the future. Whoever wins gains the right to reproduce (whether through forced or willing copulation) and the means to keep reproducing. The Crew of Light’s first attempt to save Lucy is assisted by Van Helsing’s knowledge, reminiscent of the binary between the advanced Occidental and primitive Oriental. To place their trust in technology is to trust in the supposed superiority of the West’s civilization. But by mixing their blood with Lucy they create a sort of polygamous marriage, admitted by Van Helsing himself: “Then this so sweet maid is a polyandrist, and me, with my poor wife dead to me, but alive by Church’s law, though no wits, all gone, even I, who am faithful husband to this now-no-wife, am bigamist.”(c.13) However, Helsing and all the men who transmitted their blood failed to consider the fact that their blood is also mixing with the other men, insinuating a queer circumstance, not unlike an orgy. In fact, it makes them more similar to the other they’re fighting against in term of marriage model. The crew’s failure to reclaim Lucy then symbolized their inferior sexual prowess to Dracula, who’s Lucy’s first husband by blood. Considering the vampire as a foreign threat to the British Empire, this defeat means it’s impossible to save a bloodline that has been made impure by foreign contaminants even with progressive knowledge. On the assumption that vampirism is a substitution for his own homosexual identity, Stoker could be showing how one’s natural desires cannot be suppressed or fix no matter how advanced the method is.
Either way, this failed ritual of war or sex signals the drives the men to kill Lucy for good. They attacked her when she’s most vulnerable: “The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam[…] Arthur[…] driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it.”(c.16) At first glance, Lucy’s final death scene appeared with extreme violence, her corpse shook in exaggerated pain while being mutilated heartlessly. Yet the actual signs she displayed shows an orgasm of highest pleasure, while she was penetrated repeatedly by her husband with a hard, phallic-shaped object. Again war and sex are presented as two sides on the same coin. The climax of the struggle is a battle and a rape where the land as Lucy’s sexuality is reclaimed by force. The brute strength given by the Other Dracula was inferior to Arthur’s; the phallic teeth of vampires are no match in size for an authentic English stake. If penetration by Dracula causes her to “[breathe] in long, heavy gasps, as though striving to get her lungs full at every breath”, then the excessive twisting of Lucy’s corpse proves the superior prowess of the Western man.
Dracula’s death corresponded to Lucy’s by cause of stabbing, where “the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife […] shear through the throat; whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.”(c.27) Although Stoker probably could not display the violent and erotic contortions of Dracula’s corpse-like Lucy’s in fear of crumbling to the same fate as Wilde’s, the subtext from being forcefully inserted with phallic objects by two men still comes through perfectly. It’s a reenacting of Lucy’s rape as an act of war, this time literally right in the enemy’s heart. Returning to Dracula’s declaration of keeping these men as his ‘jackals’ (c.23), it’s also a reversal scene of his threat where they’re vampirized and made into slaves. This finale fight not only re-established the superiority of Western land but also effectively end any chance of future invasion, as the enemy is no longer able to generate offsprings. The death of Dracula returns him to the original Orientalism mode for Eastern men: impotence, inclined to homosexuality, and naturally inferior.
Transgression of any kind brings disturbance to whatever regulations it inhabits, and queerness is not an exception. Ultimately the Crew of Light’s goal is to restore and protect the traditional institution of Western marriage, and through that reinvigorate the declining English race. But to achieve that they resort to methods that symbolized rape, polygamy, and homosexuality; all of those actions defy the marriage model that they all upheld and are morally corrupted under the eye of their law. By fighting Dracula and being in his proximity they’ve been infected by his Otherness. The source might be destroyed, but the contamination continues to spread out in bits and pieces. Let us remember that at the very end of Dracula, little Quincy Harker carries Mina’s, Jonathan’s and Dracula’s bloodline in his supposedly legitimate veins (Arata 643). Is it a warning of the other’s unstoppable spreading, or is it a continuous fear of the collapsing British nation even after all the evasions to subsidize its society?
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