Victorian society praised conformity in their ridged ideas of gender roles. In this passage of Dracula by Bram Stoker, Andrew Holmwood arrives just in time to provide his fiancée, Lucy Westenra with blood that she needs to recover from her latest encounter with what the audience can only assume to be Dracula. The men who accompany the scene, Drs. Seward and Van Helsing worship his sacrifice of blood for Lucy’s revival. In this text, the over-glorification of the man’s position in a woman’s life is evidenced by Van Helsing’s coercion based the premise that he “can do more than any that love, and your courage is your best help” (Stoker 115). Though the science of blood transfusion was still in its more experimental stages, Van Helsing’s argument that his courage would be the most important asset of the blood is interesting. The interaction between the lovers upholds the rigidly structured gender roles of society based on the theoretical premise that a woman needs a male rescuer, and in a more severe sense that Lucy’s imminent peril can be solved by a man’s life-giving substance in order to be revived into her formerly youthful and vibrant self. There is a gradient of involvement at play in this passage in that Van Helsing is suggesting that the slightest gift of a man’s courage would be enough to save his fiancée from the horrible tortures that lie in death.
The melodrama of this haunting scene depicts Andrew as a valiant champion of love. At the mere suggestion that he provide aid, he proclaims enthusiasm: “‘My life is hers and I would give the last drop of blood in my body for her…If you knew how gladly I would die for her you would understand-” (Stoker 116). The result of Van Helsing’s diminishment of his sacrifice and amplification of his youthful merit cause a dramatic, desperate response. Andrew’s masculinity is the asset which makes this sacrifice worthy because, ultimately, Lucy is to become his property, so he would naturally see her as a part of himself. This raises questions about autonomy and the construction of gender roles around masculinity as a saving entity within a Victorian setting. In this display of passion comparable to Shakespeare’s Romeo’s passionate ballads, Andrew proclaims his duty to Lucy as a man, fittingly exemplifying the supremely Victorian virtue of melodrama manifested by his glorified masculinity.
3 thoughts on ““It is the East and Lucy is the Sun””
I agree that Andrew’s donation of blood is a way of demonstrating how a man’s role in Victorian society is to save a damsel in distress via masculinity. Your post reminded of the book’s later insertion that in having Andrew’s blood inside her, Lucy has practically married him. I want to add to your point and assert that blood could also symbolize semen rather than just a “life-giving substance”. A traditional marriage is consummated by the couple, and the fact that Andrew’s donation is seen as finalizing their marriage suggests a form of consummation, aka the exchange of bodily fluids. Arguably, semen is the ultimate masculine bodily fluid. As you stated, Andrew is able to simultaneously make Lucy his property in this way and save her, emphasizing the Victorian era’s rigid power dynamic between men and women.
This is a very interesting way to look at the blood donation scene as I initially did not think of this as the progress of consummating their marriage at all. Now that you mention the exchange of bodily fluids and Andrew’s possession of Lucy according to the Victorian power dynamic, it got me thinking about Dracula and the three female vampires. I would assume that these women turned into vampires the way Mina did, by being preyed upon. With their blood in his body, would that mean that these women have become Dracula’s properties? Would this relationship be similar to the one that Andrew and Lucy have?
One thing that is particularly of note in all the scenes of blood donation is that despite there being numerous female servants in the house they are never asked to donate. In fact, it is often portrayed as though none but a man even can. It is interesting as when seemingly donating blood is a metaphor for sex and love it is assumed it cannot be done between two women. I wonder if this relates to fears at the time about women being able to break away as a sort of resistance to women’s liberation.
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