Dracula & Stoker: Birds of a Feather?

The juxtaposition of Dracula’s tender love for Jonathan with his aggressive control over the female vampires simultaneously questions and reinforces Victorian notions of sexuality and gender roles. Stoker pushes against heteronormativity while maintaining the subordination of women, potentially suggesting an expression of his own homosexuality within a patriarchal society. Dracula vehemently scolds the female vampires’ advances on Jonathan, marked by a cluster of violent words including “fury,” “strong,” “power,” “rage,” “wrath,” “hurled,” “beating,” and “beware.” (p. 46). These threatening descriptions boldly contrast with the cluster of caring words surrounding Dracula’s feelings towards Jonathan, such as “love,” “attentively,” “soft,” and “passion” (p. 46). Thus, Stoker creates a binary between Dracula’s love for Jonathan and his animosity towards the female vampires, both rejecting and supporting Victorian gender roles. Dracula’s obstruction of romantic/sexual encounters between Jonathan and the female vampires and his affirmation that he is capable of love after “looking at [Jonathan’s] face attentively” (p. 46), defies Victorian propriety about sexuality by suggesting homoerotic attraction. However, Dracula’s use of physical force to control the females, exemplified when “with a fierce sweep of his arm, he hurled the woman away from him, and then motioned to the others, as if he were beating them back…” (p. 46), seems like a step backwards, and detracts from prior progressive ideas of sexuality by conforming to age-old practices of female oppression.

By exploring new paths of sexuality while perpetuating patriarchal values, Stoker may be projecting himself onto Dracula, expressing his own homosexuality while reinforcing his masculine power. After Dracula tells the female vampires, “I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past,” he immediately follows with the question “Is it not so?” (p. 46). This might be risky, but I think that under the assumption that Dracula is a projection of Stoker’s sexuality, Dracula (and Stoker) may be insinuating that they’ve previously been with women, but now question their sexuality. This interpretation puts Dracula’s prey on Lucy in tension, and makes me wonder if Dracula is using Lucy to force a rekindled love for women, perhaps paralleling some aspect of Stoker’s personal life. Alternatively, Stoker may be implying bisexuality. In any case, Dracula’s contrasting treatment of love towards Jonathan and aggression towards the female vampires produces a simultaneous challenging of and conformance to Victorian gender roles, while also raising questions about Stoker’s own sexuality. 

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