Lucy and her Reckless Freedom

In the book Dracula, Lucy Westenra is turned into a vampire. Lucy before her vampire days was truly a pure woman in the eyes of society. She had three marriage suitors who she wished to marry because she did not want to make any of them sad. She is the daughter of wealth and Dracula’s first English victim who falls under his spell of vampirism. When four men first see her form, she is described as “sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness” (225). In this description there is the obvious indicator of who she was before, sweet, caring, and pure. This vampirism turned her into the opposite of what she once was, pure turned impure. Using the word adamantine, there is the connotation that Lucy now has her own authority. She has made up her own mind and will not be persuaded. Instead of wanting to pick three men to marry, she instead now wants to likely destroy them all. Seeing her autonomy as a negative word, due to the way the setup of the sentence is with good to bad adjectives, there is the idea that men do not like a woman with their own autonomy. Not only this, but the men also see her as “heartless” and with “wantonness.” Wantonness means having a reckless sort of freedom which Lucy now possesses as she does not have the constrictions of time and mortality as the humans have. She also now does not have to be tied and married to a man. Instead, she can be free. The fact that the men in the story view this as reckless also goes to show that they are unsure if she can make her own choices correctly. Like the “new woman” we discussed in class, Lucy has total freedom and autonomy and the men in the story are intimidated by it. Lucy takes on this “new woman” form and through the eyes of men she is seen as evil. Not only this, but the element of purity is also mentioned a few times on page 225 when the men of the story are witnessing her new form in the graveyard. “The lips were crimson with fresh blood, and that the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death-robe” (225). Purity is mentioned as something that has become stained and taken away from her due to this vampire that lurks. It is even seen in her story that she is killing children and this is likely where the blood came from, an obvious pushback against the idea that all women should have children. The children that she killed are the source of the stain on her purity. To the men, she is a completely different woman and one they would likely not marry. The idea of purity in a woman goes far back in time, even in looking at medieval romances. In French medieval romances, there is the depiction of women as either Mary or Eve, pure or evil and tempting. In this vampire form, Lucy becomes Eve and continues this dichotomy of women as only one of two things in the eyes of men. “at that moment the remnant of my love passed into hate and loathing” (225). Through the writing of her character, Lucy goes from seeing herself as unworthy of men but being wanted by them, to realizing she does not need them and being hated by them. Lucy writes to Mina in the beginning part of the book “why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?” (67). This is a sharp contrast to her later on when she tries to lure Arthur to her vampire form, once again displaying this idea of a tempting woman. Lucy is a very interesting character to read as she changes from one extreme to the other, she displays the only view that men had of women during the Victorian era, either a “new woman” or their pure view of a woman who bends to the will of men. Women were pushed into one category and there was not much room to be in-between.

2 thoughts on “Lucy and her Reckless Freedom”

  1. Your analysis of Lucy’s transformation in Dracula is insightful, highlighting her shift from a traditional, pure woman to a powerful, autonomous figure. I really feel that this transformation reflects Victorian-era anxieties about changing gender roles, where the “New Woman” challenged traditional norms. Lucy’s change from desirable to evil symbolizes the dichotomous way society views women. This perception restricted women’s choices, reinforcing predefined roles. Additionally, Lucy’s transformation raises questions about sexuality and desire in the story. Lucy’s newfound sexual allure and her need for blood can be seen as a metaphor for repressed sexual desires breaking free from societal constraints. This transformation reflects the Victorian era’s paradoxical views on sexuality. On one hand, it was a time of sexual repression and strict moral codes, but on the other, it was marked by a fascination with the forbidden and the hidden. Lucy’s transformation embodies this tension, as she becomes both a symbol of seduction and horror.

  2. I completely agree with this analysis. I believe that Lucy is meant to be a commentary on the “New Woman” that was actively appearing during that time period in literature and other forms of media. I wonder if Lucy dying unmarried and a child killer is meant to warn against the dangers of conforming to “New Woman” beliefs and lifestyles or if she was just simply a martyr.

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