Maybe Beauty Isn’t The Best Metric For Determining One’s Character

The ending of Dorian Gray is perhaps the most interesting close to a story we’ve engaged with this semester. I’d like to use this blog post to consider Dorian himself as the piece of art, rather than the portrait. This idea is mirrored in the final paragraph of the story, as the portrait re-claims its original youth at the conclusion of the story. It contains all of the “wonder” of Dorian’s “exquisite youth and beauty” (188). In addition to this, art has premance. Paintings look the same whether you view them ten minutes after their completion or twenty years later. This is the case for Dorian. 

If Dorian himself is the piece of art, given his position as the most beautiful man in England, he is also the best artwork in England. Thus, I would argue the novel is a cautionary tale about art for art’s sake. Wilde is suggesting that perhaps there should be substance to the beautiful rather than just existing because it can.

Dorian is assigned value, and is considered virtuous purely because of his beauty. His character is not taken into account. Lord Henry goes as far as suggesting he could not possibly be a murder because he is so beautiful. Yet, it is only when Dorian attempts to destroy the artwork, himself, not the ugly, evil portrait that he dies or rather realizes consequences for his actions. Thus, Wilde warns the reader about the hazards of his own philosophy. He considers potential negatives of assuming that beauty is all that matters. One might view the novel in a similar vein as “Stan” by Eminem. Both ponder, and give voice, to critiques of their philosophy or actions. In the case of Eminem, that the things he says in his music have real world consequences. For Oscar Wilde, that using beauty as the sole metric of measuring the worth or morality of a human being can also have negative consequences. 

Sherlock Holmes and Homosocial Desire

The way Watson describes Sherlock Holmes’ relationship with, and emotions towards Irene Adler is very interesting. Specifically, “It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind.” (Doyle, 1). These lines serve a dual purpose, first this passage reads as Watson attempting to rationalize Sherlock’s relationship with Irene Adler. He takes great lengths to explain that Holmes could not possibly be in love with Irene, and as such leaves the door open for a potential relationship between the two male protagonists.

Second, by stating that Holmes find loving generally “abhorrent” it excuses him from not only heterosexual, but also homosexual love. Thus, the author refutes any potential homosexuality between Watson and Holmes and also reenforces the strict rules in which men are allowed to have relationships with one another.

We might also consider that this description plays into Sherlock’s broader character as generally weird or odd. It is not that Sherlock feels love, or any kind of heterosexual attraction to Irene Adler, but rather that he admires her from a professional perspective. Plainly, he thinks she has game.

Not only does this passage work to reaffirm, and development the character of Sherlock Holmes as an emotionless and odd but brilliant detective. It also strongly insists on maintaining the traditional bonds of male relationships, and friendships. Holmes and Watson cannot be together because Sherlock does not have the capacity for sexual desire. Not, interestingly, because both the male protagonists are heterosexual, but because one of them finds love, and emotions generally, disgusting. This is perhaps the most fascinating way that traditional bonds of homosocial desire have been enforced in our reading thus far. Not, because it is natural order, as Dracula claims, but rather because Holmes is not capable of feeling love.

Homosocial Desire in Dracula

The last page of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is weird. There is no other way to describe the ending of this wild, interesting, and anxious piece of Victorian Literature. The goal of this blog post will be to analyze the “Note” in the context of Eve’s Sedgwick’s theory of homosocial desire.

Jonathan and Mina choose to name their son after not only Quincey but the rest of the group of men as well, “His bundle of names links all our little band together; but we call him Quincey” (Stoker, 402). This is the first many times in the final section of the novel were Stoker makes great effort to permanently link the group together. In more modern installments in the horror genre, Stephen King for example, it is enough that the group of hero’s are bonded by their shared experience as monster hunters. Yet, in this case that is not acceptable. Stoker goes to great lengths to link the men beyond their connection as destroyers of evil, and maintainers of the status-quo. Instead, the story must have links such as the name of Jonathan and Mina’s son.

These links serve two purposes in the novel: first it allows for the separation of acceptable homosocial bonds, and unacceptable homosexual or homoerotic bonds between the main male characters. The second being that they rely on each other to rationalize their experience. If just one of them had seen the actions Dracula or the Weird Sisters it would read as the ravings of a mad man, yet their combined telling provides legitimacy to the narrative.

This secondary reason is a main theme of the last page of the novel. The group revisits the scene of their final battle or crime, depending on your perspective, of the book seven years in the future. Jonathan, in his recounting, states that the castle and everything else is as it was on the date of their great triumph. His recounting reads as an attempt to convince not only the reader, but himself of what occurred there. The last paragraph of the novel further affirms their uncertainty about their experience:

“’We want no proofs; we ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men loved her so, that they did dare much for her sake’” (402).

First, Van Helsing excepts no one to believe their story because of how outlandish it is. Yet, the reader is also presented with interesting language about the cause of their journey. That the reason the men went to Transylvania is because of their love of Mina. Which in turn implies that their bond is formed out of concern for the safety, and future of a woman they love. Thus, Stoker presents further evidence that the only way men can comfortably interact with each other or have any kind of relationship in through women. A Woman must be the reason why the men are brought together. Thus, we see the breakdown between homosocial and homosexual desire in Stoker’s Dracula.

Lucy and Purity in “Dracula”

The goal of this blog post will be to analyze the similarities and differences between the description of Dracula and lucy’s mouths. Through this the reader will gain an understanding of how female character’s a sexualized and valued in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The reader is presented with several descriptions of Count Dracula’s mouth, and face. One of which comes in Chapter 21 while Renfield is describing his attack to Dr. Seward, “He was laughing with his red mouth; the sharp white teeth glinted in the moonlight when he turned back over the belt of trees, to where the dogs were barking.” (297). In these lines Stoker provides no specific of Dracula’s lips. He instead gives a broad description of healthy lips, and then goes into the aspects of the Count’s mouth which make him uncanny: the long white fangs. Rather than focus on the human aspects of Dracula, Stoker chooses instead to emphasize the features which make Dracula see odd and different to the rest of the characters in the novel.

Stoker’s descriptions of Lucy are full of sexual language regarding her mouth. On page 228 the author provides the following description:

“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 both cases Stoker puts heavy emphasis on the uncanny aspects of their mouths. He quickly mentions the long fangs and the lips that look almost too red in Dracula’s case, or the bloodstains in Lucy’s.  The major difference between the illustrations is the use of the word “voluptuous” which is inherently sexual in nature. Only the descriptions of Lucy contain this sexualized language. This, in turn, changes the emphasis of the physical depiction of Lucy from one which focuses solely on the uncanny to one which is sexually charged. This is further supported by Stoker’s use of the words “carnal” and “unspiritual.” The author emphasizes Lucy’s loss of purity, or virginity in her transition into vampirism and the uncanny. This creates an interesting disparity between Lucy and Dracula, the two named vampires in the novel thus far. Stoker and his character’s lament the loss of Lucy’s “sweet purity” whereas Dracula is simply evil incarnate. His description has nothing to do with his sexuality.

These depictions of Dracula and Lucy are given from the male perspective. Lucy’s by Dr. Seward, and Dracula’s by Renfield. Time and time again Mina and Lucy’s value as people, and to the men in the novel, is based upon their purity. Through this the reader gains insight into another aspect of what makes Dracula so terrifying: he robs his victims of what society deems the most valuable part of their identity. That is not to say that Mina and Lucy are only valued because of their purity, but rather this is a critical part of their identity. The implication is that Dracula, in turning them into vampires, is stealing for them their claims to being considered proper women.