Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Motherhood in Dracula

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mina Harker, Lucy Graham and Dracula are given roles in which they act as mothers. Mina Harker acts as a mother to Arthur after he loses his wife, and feels strongly about the idea that women have a matriarchal instinct as shown the quotation “We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked; I felt this big, sorrowing man’s head resting on me, as through it were that of the baby that some day may lie on my bosom” (Stoker, 245). Van Helsing believes that Mina has the intelligence of a man and the heart of a woman, and that this is a good combination. Mina acts as the perfect caretaker for many of the characters within the novel, including her husband after he returns from Transylvania ill. Despite believing in the idea of the “new woman” in the beginning of the novel and defying the gender stereotypes of the time period, Mina returns to stasis and becomes an example of the ideal Victorian woman as she settles down and becomes a mother.
Lucy Graham, originally presented as the ideal Victorian woman who would have loved to enjoy married life with her husband, opposes this stereotype. When she becomes a vampire, she takes life from children instead of nurturing them, as found in this quotation “With a careless motion, she flung to the ground, callous as a devil, the child that up to now she had clutched strenuously to her breast, growling over it as a dog growls over a bone. The child gave a sharp cry, and lay there moaning” (Stoker, 226). Once turned into a vampire, Lucy rejects the role of a mother entirely. As well, in becoming a vampire, Lucy received blood transfusions from multiple men which was described as something similar to bigamy, as Arthur believed that he felt truly married to Lucy after he gave his blood to her. For Lucy, becoming a vampire meant rejecting the roles of the Victorian wife and mother.
As well, when Dracula interacts with Mina Harker, he takes on the role of the mother, forcing her to drink his blood from his chest as found in the quotation “With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast…” (Stoker, 300). Dracula has repeatedly shown signs of femininity throughout the novel, such as his fascination with Jonathan and that he expresses emotion by telling the women in his home that he is capable of love, further connecting him to the theme of female sexuality. When placed in roles suggesting motherhood, vampires such as Lucy, the three vampire women in Dracula’s home, and Dracula himself demonstrate horrific behavior. Vampires appear to be representative of the idea of women expressing their sexuality during the Victorian era, which was something, according to the novel, was meant to be feared. Vampires reject monogamy, chastity, and motherhood, and are thought to be impure and dangerous to society, much like the idea of the Victorian woman doing these things.

1 Comment

  1. Have you thought about the idea of duality in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. After reading “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” I noticed the duality of both Count Dracula and Lucy. Count Dracula is the most powerful character in the whole novel. He strikes fear in Victorian readers with his power to corrupt and control their women and kill grown men with ease, but at the same time he is so feminine. Like you noticed here he is described as a mother, and he also acts as servant in his own castle. Lucy was originally characterized as the ideal Victorian woman, she had everything a man could want in a wife, but Lucy had two sides of herself. The other side was far too promiscuous for Victorian culture and it allowed her to be tempted by Dracula. I just found it interesting that a theme so pivotal to the plot of one book could be connected to easily to another.

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