Blood is an interesting object in Dracula. For the Count, it is simply his means of living. Without it, Dracula cannot be Dracula. We talked about blood in class and how it can be perceived as a symbol of life or love or a religious symbol. But I want to explore it as something that is a little more controversial. I think that blood is used to symbolize male power and dominance. Blood is so valued in this novel, just like power. Dracula, a man, needs blood to live as stated before. He is portrayed as a dominant and feared figure throughout the whole novel, which reinforces male dominance as well.
“I tried to kill him for the purpose of strengthening my vital powers by the assimilation with my own body of his life through the medium of his blood.” Renfield, also a man, says this in the novel trying to assert himself and make himself more powerful. This quote is very typical of a man, in any time period. Men are constantly seeking out more power and more wealth however they can get it, whether that is having more land or being on a high political platform. Men often talk about continuing on their “bloodline” in the Victorian Era. This is a theme we’ve seen before in “My Last Duchess” where the narrator speaks so highly of his “900 years old name.”
So why does this matter? Gender roles in the Victorian Era do seem to be shifting, so it might make sense for Stoker, a man, to want to keep his role as a man the same. So he slips in this metaphor of the meaning of blood to make sure that he is doing what he can to keep things the way they are in the time of progressive change. We’ve often seen authors take progressive stances in their novels, but then make their audience feel a little better after just rocking their whole world. In Lady Audley’s Secret, Lucy was a main plot driver, but Braddon didn’t want to give her too much power because that would just shock the world into an apocalypse. I think that is what Stoker is trying to get at here with this symbol of blood.
Dracula thus far has been a captivating read. There is so much suspense and mystery that goes on throughout the text. One thing that I have noticed while making my way through the novel is that women have a significant role in the story like no other book we have read so far, even Lady Audley’s Secret. This seems unusual for a 19th century Victorian era novel, especially when an Irish-Catholic male is the one writing it and putting these new details out there. Dracula, a male character, even is depicted as having female qualities. He is described to have red lips and an emotional state of mind. “I too can love,” is a statement Dracula makes that shows his emotional side. An interesting letter to read in this novel full of letters is when Lucy writes to Mina about her proposals. “My dear, it never rains but it pours. How true the old proverbs are. Here am I, who shall be twenty in September, and yet I never had a proposal till to-day, not a real proposal, and to-day I have had three. Just fancy! THREE proposals in one day! Isn’t it awful! I feel sorry, really and truly sorry, for two of the poor fellows.” She is surprised to have received three marriage proposals in one day. There is plenty of repetition of “three proposals” that tells us that we should pay attention to this. Having three proposals gives some kind of power to Lucy, who is a woman. She has the power to make her life the way she wants it by picking who she marries. This concept is new to the Victorian era. We see Lucy Graham get a proposal from a Michael Audley in Lady Audley’s Secret and she takes it right away. Now Lucy (from Dracula) has three different proposals, which gives her the power to control her own destiny, rather than have one man decide it for her like the rest of the Victorian era dwellers.
I’ve always found myself being especially drawn in by intense description. Adjectives and adverbs and similes all give me a great picture in my head when I am reading a text. In my last post I talked about the description in of the mansion in Lady Audley’s Secret. In this post I want to talk about the description of the hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles on page 149. There is a categorical cluster of words that has to do with fire. Smoldering, flickering flame, hellish, I think are all used on purpose. Conan-Doyle wants us to visually see what Watson and Holmes are seeing. The best way to do that is to give us an ungodly amount of adjectives. So what? What’s different about this description as opposed to the mansion description is that Watson is trying to bring us to Holmes’s level. I think that this is a common theme throughout the book because Watson, the narrator, wants us to know that Holmes is a god amongst men and we can’t understand what is going on. So the way for us to know what is going on is through extensive adjectives and explanations, because we couldn’t possibly understand what the great Sherlock Holmes is experiencing. Sure the passage might be giving the description of the dog, but really I think that this passage is just Watson belittling the audience because he doesn’t believe that we are intelligent enough to know what’s going on.
One of the passages that I can’t seem to get out of my head is the description of the mansion on page 8. The first thing that I noticed was that it was a paragraph-long sentence. Braddon thought that it was necessary to take up this much room on a page in one sentence describing this place. Definitely something to be noted. This led me to believe that this is a critical point in the book, and not just because it was describing the main setting of the story. When I read this passage I felt like Braddon was trying to let us in on a secret. A phrase that caught my eye was, “…a house in which you incontinently lost yourself if ever you were so rash as to go about it alone.” (Braddon 8). In this phrase, I got the sense that there was just something different about the mansion. But then I thought, maybe she wasn’t talking about the mansion. Maybe she was foreshadowing about an incident later to be explained, where someone wandered the house alone and something happened to them. In this incredible amount of detail, she uses mysterious words like, “incontinently,” “rash,” and “chambers.” I brought up “chambers” because it sounds more mysterious and secretive than, “room.” All these words lead me to believe that this place is just plain creepy! No wonder it is the setting for a mystery novel. In a sense, this passage sets up the entire novel. It sets the tone for a mysterious, secretive, and sensational story.