Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Anxieties of Sexuality in Dracula

Dracula is, on the surface, a story about scary blood-sucking creatures of the night. But there are many moments in the novel where we see sexual connotations attached to certain characters, as well as to things such as blood. Lucy is a character who displays many of these sexual themes in various ways. Even early on in the novel, we can see hints at Lucy’s open sexuality: “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men or as many as want her and save all this trouble?” (Stoker 96). Lucy is clearly unhappy with the social norm of monogamy, wishing to be with all of her suitors at once. The word “want” is also important here, implying a more sexual tone. This portrayal of Lucy seems to play into one of the main societal fears during the Victorian era: the so-called “New Woman.” This was a term referring to women who were becoming more independent, breaking free of societal constraints. One of these constraints was the idea that women must be virgins, unless they had a husband and were planning to become a mother.

Some saw female sexual freedom as immoral, and fears mounted about rampant female sexuality. Greg Buzwell writes in his article about Dracula and Victorian anxieties, “Those who took a hostile attitude towards the New Woman saw her either as a mannish intellectual or, going to the opposite extreme, an over-sexed vamp.” The novel establishes Lucy as a more “modern” woman in terms of sexuality, and then later we see her descend into vampirism, which seems to be a metaphor for her supposed sexual immorality. This immorality is then corrected when Arthur, Lucy’s fiancé (and thus only suitable lover by Victorian standards) penetrates her with the stake, again providing us with a clear sexual image. It seems Stoker used the sexual anxieties of the time to his advantage – he gave the Victorian reader a sense of satisfaction by presenting this sexual, immoral woman, and then putting her in her place.

1 Comment

  1. I think you present a really interesting perspective on how the “sexual woman” is tamed by the male characters in Dracula. Because of the relatively sexless aspect of his marriage, it is widely thought that Bram Stoker was a closeted homosexual who took out his frustrations in his writing. This may point out why he touches on this topic so aggressively in Dracula. It is also an interesting idea if the demonized Lucy represents his negative thoughts on homosexuality; both share a dangerous and risky connotation that promotes destruction. However, because male-male relationships are a topic far more taboo than the idea of an empowered woman, it is easier to present Stoker’s anxieties in a different form.

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