TW: sexual violence
While Lucy’s death is not only extremely brutal and bloody and clearly contains physical violence, we can also argue that she was gang-raped by a group of men. Dr. Seward, Quincey, Van Helsing, and Arthur stand around Lucy’s coffin planning to kill her. This scene seems like a brutal religious ritual because it includes “prayer” and Helsing claims that driving a stake through Lucy’s heart happens in God’s name (230).
Taking a closer look at it, however, we can clearly see hints at sexual violence and even rape. This especially struck me when watching the scene in the film but it also becomes very apparent in the novel. It is striking that Arthur, who wanted to marry Lucy and who felt sexual attraction to her, is the one to kill her. His sexual attraction to her is manifested in the scene in which he can barely resist kissing Lucy. The ritual consists of driving a stake through Lucy. The stake can clearly be read as a phallic symbol that violently has to enter Lucy’s body. Van Helsing functions as a mentor in this scene because he is more experienced than Arthur. He ensures Arthur that the act of violence towards Lucy will be worth it because he would “then rejoice more than [his] pain was great” (230). He proceeds by claiming that he will afterward feel as though he would “tread on air” (230). This emphasizes that Van Helsing is aware that this is an act of extreme violence but that Arthur’s body will reward him with great feelings if he proceeds. Van Helsing emphasizes that the other men are also there, in case Arthur gets nervous. Arthur then wants to know how to proceed as he, (an unmarried man) is not experienced in such manners. He pushes the “mercy-bearing stake” “deeper and deeper” into Lucy (230). Arthur seems to enjoy it because “high duty seemed to shine through [his face]” (230). Lastly, it is odd that Van Helsing tells Arthur to kiss Lucy’s dead mouth after the ritual which is usually an act of love. Additionally, Lucy’s mouth is stuffed with garlic before her head is chopped off (232). Stuffing a woman’s mouth can also be viewed as an act of sexual violence.
While it seems that the passage is about a brutal religious ritual, it becomes clear that there are more nuances to this scene and that sexuality cannot be excluded from the narrative. When analyzing this scene, it seems like an act of sexual violence performed by a group of four men on a young woman. This is especially illustrated by the phallic symbol violently being pushed into Lucy’s body and the description of the orgasmic feeling that Arthur will have after finishing the ritual.
2 thoughts on “Was Lucy killed or raped?”
I think that this is a very interesting close read of the passage involving Lucy’s death. I had not thought of the violence of her death scene as being interpeted as rape before and think you did a great job exploring that claim. I also like how you related the text to how it was portrayed in a film variation.
This was an incredibly successful close read of this passage. These ideas probably are aligned with the subliminal hatred of women during this time, paired with the need to dominate those who come in the way of Victorian, particularly Victorian men, ruling. This could have something to do with the fact that a woman was in power during this time.
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