Dracula is a fascinating novel, telling of many of the conflicting ideals present in the fin de siècle – within it, Stoker’s indirect commentary on many issues such as foreign presence within England, the social place of a woman, religious ideology and the virtues of spreading technology are very present. As Dr. Seward’s diary describes the vampiric Lucy as he, Van Helsing, Arthur, and Quincey stand over her body to, in Van Helsing’s words, help her to “die in truth” (229), Stoker’s description of Lucy’s body lends itself to a deeper read relating to many of the topics he skirts around.
“She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth – which it made one shudder to see – the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy’s sweet purity” (228). In this passage, “sweet purity” can relate to many forms of purity, including religious and sexual – additionally, as the proper woman during this time was supposed to be above such base inclinations and revelatory expressions, and Lucy has succumbed to corruption in her transition to vampire. Such focus on her mouth as the means of feeding and transmitting her corruption to others also brings to mind sexual undertones – describing it to have “pointed teeth”, a “bloodstained… mouth” relates it to greed and unnatural hunger, animalistic and inhuman in nature. This connects Lucy again to religious corruption, as she cannot help but to become a gluttonous version of her former pure self; additionally, much like the vampire women Johnathan Harker witnessed at Dracula’s castle, her mouth is described as “voluptuous”, and her whole self as “carnal”. This “devilish mockery” of the former Lucy’s innocence and vivacity creates a sacrilegious departure from “sweet purity” and the goodness of the once-human woman. Van Helsing’s words on page 232: “No longer is she the devil’s Un-Dead. She is God’s true dead, whose soul is with Him!” illustrate quite clearly that those fallen to corruption – that of gluttony, lust, or a departure from Christianity altogether – now, according to the beliefs Stoker is reflecting of his time, belong to the devil.
Here, we are viewing Lucy corrupted: where before she was sweet and pure, now she is a carnal representation of sensuality, greedy desire, and a “devilish mockery” of Christian morality and the “ideal woman”. Where we see this in Lucy’s corrupted form, the opposite of this is now contrasted through Mina’s representation of an ideal woman, as she comforts Arthur maternally on pg. 244-45. She is continuously attributed as being “one of God’s women” by Van Helsing, and other similar praise-worthy descriptors: dear, sweet, kind; additionally, he later says that she is a woman with a “man’s brain… and woman’s heart” (250). Despite this and her considerable contributions in aiding their hunt for Dracula, she is excluded from any information regarding the men’s pursuits in deference towards her woman-ness.
During class, we discussed some of the deeper metaphors behind vampirism in Stoker’s novel. We talked about xenophobia, classism, and immigrants. In this passage, as it relates vampires to the idea of a foreign agent introducing corruption to the good people of England, we see that foreign equals bad things – indeed, it is equated to the devil. Stoker also equates the loss of purity with being corrupted at all, and adds a new level by linking it to an inherent absence of Christian values, as vampires are repelled by a cross.
Stoker takes a political stance on multiple levels. In this case the stance is most visible on the topics of women’s place in society and the disapproval of foreign influence on the English; additionally, Stoker is providing indirect commentary on the benefits of innovation. As the paragraph on page 228 continues, Van Helsing uses his scientific knowledge of doctoral procedures (i.e. science) to prevent Lucy’s continuing “Un-Death”. Although Stoker has married the innovation of the Industrial Revolution with superstition, his moral heroes use modern technology such as railways, medicine, typewriters, and telegrams to begin to coordinate their efforts to stop the foreign influence of the pre-Industrial era: see Dracula’s ship, letters instead of telegrams, etc.