“New Women” and Illegitimate children

Reading Dracula has surprisingly brought up many questions around religion, race, gender and much more. One article that added interesting context to Dracula was the excerpt from Emily Gerard titled Transylvanian Superstitions. In this article from Emily Gerard, she introduces the concept of the living vampire who is “the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons” and having a “flawless pedigree will not ensure anyone against the intrusion of a vampire into his family vault” because whoever the vampire feeds on is doomed to feed on other innocent people (Gerard, 332). This introduces the basis for how Dracula came to be which is being the “bastard” child of two other “bastards” and how he operates by “intrusion” on the purity of someone’s bloodline through sucking and feeding on his victim.

This context in useful in analyzing one of Dracula’s victims named Lucy. Lucy was killed by Dracula leading to the band of men “exorcising” her but her death and the violence at her grave, portrayed Lucy as contaminated by impurities spiritually and physically. The body of Lucy at the grave was described as a “foul Thing which had taken Lucy’s shape without her soul” and “a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth…the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy’s sweet purity” (page 221). Therefore, in this description Lucy’s body is shown as invaded by a “Thing” and became a devil because Dracula has feasted on her. From Gerard’s reading, it is understood that vampires are or become flaws within a bloodline. This description of Lucy upholds the notion of vampires being able to compromise the purity of a person spiritually and physically by reducing a person to a “carnal and unspiritual” entity in need of an exorcism. Ultimately, causing a “mockery” of even the most innocent and/or sweet person by taking complete possession of the body thus disrupting purity on every facet of a victim.

However, there are also undertones of misogyny during Lucy’s transformation and exorcism. Prior to becoming a vampire, Lucy experiences the blood transfusion using the blood multiple men and she also expresses the desire for multiple men. In the Journal of Mina, Lucy’s friend, she talks about the existence of “New Women” in relation to Lucy where women will “won’t condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself” (chapter 8). Mina expresses more modern ideas of marriage and companionship and Lucy’s actions have displayed the existence of the “New Women” that bends gender roles in marriage. While this may seem positive, Lucy’s untimely death which comes in the following chapters suggests the longevity of the “New Women” might not be the best. Meaning that by challenging traditional heterosexual marriage roles by taking charge in acts like proposing or being enticed by multiple men will lead to an “unspiritual” existence since Lucy’s soul was replaced by a vampire’s hunger and will.  In making Lucy the first victim, Stoker makes the “New Woman” comparable to that of a 2nd generation “bastard” because both are flaws within a bloodline or more accurately a disruption in the order of things.

4 thoughts on ““New Women” and Illegitimate children”

  1. The inherent impact on a victim’s purity that Dracula insights is a really well thought out and supported argument within your blog post. Incorporating broader ideas of femininity at the time as part of the discourse surrounding why Lucy’s death had to be the way it was sheds new light on the depth of meaning within the text. Specifically, your concept reminds me of the in class discussion we had about the ending and Mina’s baby. Purity is so central to the plot and the characters within it that Mina’s baby had to be born a whole year after the death of Dracula to prove that baby Quincy was in no way a vampire. Even any suspicion that Mina could be carrying a bastard child both alters her purity, and the overall purity of the group and safety of human kind within the universe of the novel. This ultimately draws a distinction between Lucy and Mina, and the purpose they serve to the plot of the novel, and in the end Mina is the only one corrupted by Dracula that remains pure in the eye of society reinforcing your point on the “New Woman”.

  2. This is a really good analysis of Lucy’s character and how Stoker interacts with the concept of the “New Woman.” It also reminds me of the discussion we had in class about how there isn’t much scholarship centering Lucy as a person, instead just arguing that she is nothing more than a two-dimensional plot device. I personally like the idea that Lucy does operate as a character, albeit a somewhat two-dimensional one, because the fact that she only attacks children, while Dracula and his friends attack adults and children, could contribute to some more analysis about whether Lucy was trying to save herself and potentially restore her purity. She might also have been trying to experience motherhood in the only way she could, knowing that she would never be able to have a child now that she’s essentially dead.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your analysis on how Lucy is considered “impure” not only because she has the blood of multiple men running through her veins, but also because she has the blood of Dracula running through her veins, an impure individual as he is, as you assume, an illegitimate child of two illegitimate children. I would slightly disagree with you when you talk about the misogyny vampire Lucy faced, for I think a more prominent point when talking about the “new woman” in relation to Lucy’s death is how vampirism made Lucy into a sexual, independent being — completely the opposite of the pure Lucy that attracted more than a handful of decent men.

  4. I have always focused on how Mina represents the New Woman, so it was super interesting to read your argument about how Lucy represents the dangers of the New Woman. You mentioned how Lucy’s blood transfusions were from the multiple different male characters, which I read as her being unable to represent a “New Woman” because she will always be connected to the men whose blood gave her life. In the first footnote of chapter eight, the “New Woman” is described as “‘progressive’ women who asserted their individuality and independence” (Stoker, 445). Therefore, I question if vampire-Lucy can truly represent a New Woman if she is not independent from the men who gave her blood.

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