Mina: Perfectly Dressed with Care

Mina’s characterization of being a proper Victorian wife is best exemplified in her focus of keeping up appearances at all hours of the day and night. This anxiety is unwittingly present at all times in Mina’s narrative. While staying with Lucy and Mrs. Westenra in Whitby, her concern for herself and Lucy’s reputation was evident during Lucy’s sleepwalking episodes. On page 100, Mina expects Lucy to adhere to the social standard of being appropriately dressed both in and out of doors: “As I was leaving the room it struck me that the clothes she wore might give me some clue to her dreaming intention. Dressing-gown would mean house; dress, outside”. She justified this hypothesis due to the fact that she herself had taken the time to get dressed, and that any rational woman, awake or asleep, must have also taken these steps.

Mina, however, was horrified and embarrassed when she finds that Lucy went outside dressed only in her nightgown, and states that she was, “filled with anxiety about Lucy, not only for her health, lest she should suffer from the exposure, but for her reputation in case our story should get wind” (pg 103). Mina is afraid that Lucy is potentially involving her in a scandal, and is all the more resolved to improve Lucy’s health.

Mina’s care of Lucy is also indicative of the trope of ideal Victorian women to be “pure, selflessly motivated by the desire to serve others rather than fulfill her own needs” (1061). In contrast, Lucy does not fit this description, as she is unable to care for anyone, and especially not herself. Mina is also extremely devoted to Jonathan, even before he officially became her husband.

In the first inclusion of one of her journal entries, she writes in reference to the goal of learning to write shorthand, “When we are married I shall be able to be useful to Jonathan” (62). She also delights in being his nursemaid when he returns mentally damaged to England. “I am busy, I need not tell you, arranging things and housekeeping…. I wish I could run up to town for a day or two to see you, dear, but I dare not go yet, with so much on my shoulders; and Jonathan wants looking after still” (165). Caring specifically for husbands is echoed in The Longman Anthology as women were expected to “soothe the savage beast her husband might become as he fought in the jungle of free trade” (1061), especially when considering that Jonathan visited Dracula on business and in hopes of it helping to further his career.

There is an element of Mina that almost seems to rejoice that Jonathan is not completely mentally sound, as she delights in him being dependent on her, and enjoys being needed, “The poor dear was evidently terrified at something – very greatly terrified, I do believe that if he had not had me to lean on and to support him he would have sunk down” (184). As stated in The Longman’s Anthology on page 1061, “Only in their much vaunted ‘femininity’ did women have an edge, as nurturers of children and men’s better instincts” and Mina clearly revels in the role of being a caregiver.  

4 thoughts on “Mina: Perfectly Dressed with Care”

  1. I love comparing Mina and Lucy because I think the novel plays up the tension between the women and begs us to compare their perspectives on wifely duties and expectations.

    Mina only seems to have eyes for Jonathan, and desires to marry him for love, “I do believe the dear soul thought I might be jealous lest my poor dear should have fallen in love with any other girl… I felt a thrill of joy through me when I knew that no other woman was a cause of trouble” (115).

    Lucy seems to view marriage as a form of protection and security, not something that requires genuine affections, “I suppose that we women are such cowards that we think a man will save us from fears, and we marry him” (66). To Lucy, marriage is a convenience and not much more.

    While she does not seem to want to subscribe to the power she has in refusing two men of her hand, Lucy still encourages the continuation of the status quo by willing to marry for the benefits and not the emotions. Mina by contrast wants to marry because she is in love. Her way to subscribing to the status quo comes from her not assuming a “manly” role and rejecting suitors, though this is really due to the fact that it seems no other man has come to call on her.

  2. I love that you wrote about Mina as she is both my favorite and least-favorite character in the book. I had completely forgotten about the anxiety Mina felt when she went to retrieve Lucy and Lucy was dressed in her sleepwear. This moment is so indicative of the pressure put on women to look and act a certain way. Additionally, I think it is significant that Lucy, the woman who is characterized as the freer spirited woman, does not actually have control over her dress in this moment as she is asleep. Yet Mina completely overlooks this fact and judges Lucy anyways. Additionally, Mina so quickly acquiesces to the men’s request for her to sit out of the search for Dracula, stating she “could say nothing, save to accept their chivalrous care of me” (258). It’s not that Mina felt she couldn’t say anything, as she clearly has the capabilities to help with the search. Rather, she felt she shouldn’t say anything due to the expectations of women decided upon by society. I wish so much that Mina had fought the men in this moment, and I find myself so frustrated by her. However, there is something about her I find so intriguing.

  3. I think it’s really interesting that you connect Mina’s role as caretaker/worrier about social cues for women to the idea of feminity in the Victorian Age. I wonder to what extent that was changing as women were developing some more masculine roles and independence/fighting for suffrage. I think it would also juxtapose with the roles of the vampire women. Those women were powerful, and althogh Mina also likes when Jonathan depends on her power, Mina likes to be the submissive wife that foils the feminity of the vampire ladies.

  4. Great job picking out the anxieties that concern Mina throughout the story, as I too was very interested in Mina and her highly held self-concept. The one part of the story in which we really see this explemified is in the scene you bring up in which Mina is concerned for Lucy going out in nothing more than her nightdress. Fear of ruining her image seem to be very held highly in Mina’s eyes. This can also connect to how careful Mina is about helping the men out, as she may fear them looking down on her if she doesn’t fight for her high quality in not just beauty but in academic standards as well.

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