The Morose Reality of the Feminine

Throughout the text of Stoker’s Dracula, one can gather that the cost of being a woman extends farther than the immediate concern of being a target of the vampire himself. We have spent the duration of this class discussing how the female identity severely incapacitates the possibilities a woman may have in her current society, and that the true power was found through the passive manipulation of men around her. We have seen this in Dracula, in Lucy’s power in having multiple lovers, but also in texts such as Lady Audley’s Secret, where Lady Audley was able to better her social status in marriage through her natural beauty. Dracula also highlights instances in which women must remember their place in the unfortunate reality of current society. As Jonathan and Mina speak over breakfast about killing Dracula, the page 334 finishes with Jonathan saying, “‘Because […] ‘he can live for centuries, and you are but a mortal woman. Time is now to be dreaded-since once he put that mark upon your throat.'” Aside from the literal interpretation of the text, which is that Mina is now in danger given that she has been bitten, this also is testimony to a larger theme of how a woman is never truly free from the male grasp. While Dracula can literally live for centuries, it also speaks to the fact that a name can live forever, as we have learned in My Last Duchess where the Duke proclaims his name has lived for hundreds of years. A woman’s name, and therefore her identity, is fleeting under the patriarchal rule, and will only last as long as her own life. Finally, the fact that Mina is not only physically “marked” by Dracula when he bit her, but also that she is marked with stigma further supports that the power a man has over a woman’s identity during this time will always be looming over any efforts a woman may make to escape it.

8 thoughts on “The Morose Reality of the Feminine”

  1. I agree with everything you mentioned in your blog post, and I wish to add that I see this pattern arise in the poem “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Lady of Shalott has creativity and a talent in weaving. However, all of her artistic talent is wasted when she dies after gazing upon Lancelot. The things she has potential in and can offer to the world are diminished to her face as Lancelot comments on her fairness in death. I believe this poem emphasizes that women were controlled by men, and anything they have that they can call their own becomes meaningless. Victorian women lose their names/identity to a husband (or to death, as you wrote), and here, the Lady of Shalott loses her creativity to Lancelot.

  2. Although Stevenson may not highlight the “morose reality of the feminine,” the controlling and timeless nature of a name extends to Mr. Hyde’s character. The controlling nature of a name is demonstrated by Mr. Hyde’s begrudging compliance after he is threatened by the potential “stink[ing] [of his name] from one end of London to the other” (Stevenson 3). The pervasiveness of these threats to Mr. Hyde is demonstrated by the dual sense of shock and “momentary fear” that come over him when Mr. Utterson later “touch[es] him on the shoulder” and identifies him by his name (8).

  3. I like how this post commented on the “reality of our current society”. I agree that, as we have discussed in class, these novels have the not-so-subtle undertones of women understanding their role in society and climbing the social ladder through marriage. However, I would argue that it isn’t just women who can’t ever seem to live up to societies’ standards. Individuals who can’t seem to uphold societal expectations, such as Mr. Hyde, would have been met with many of the same struggles. Reclusive individuals, especially those with physical or mental deformities, would not have been so readily accepted in Victorian society as is seen in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

  4. I agree with you and how women never truly feel free from a male’s grasp. This stood out to me because I also saw throughout Dracula that women were put down or not seen as strong. I also think that women were put down when shown power. As Lucy showed her power to the men when they found her eating a baby they immediately had to kill her because of how much power she has over everybody. Although Lucy became a monster, men were scared as women showed a little bit of power because they did not want to lose the reputation of showing off a pretty woman. I think this goes along with the sexuality in the novel because women were put aside throughout the victorian age because of the reputation women were supposed to follow.

  5. I have noticed this common theme involving women too, where women are intelligent and able-minded, but are still confined into the male-dominated society. I saw this especially in The Lady of Shalott, the woman was smart and loved weaving but was isolated in a tower where she couldn’t experience life for herself because of a curse that she has no idea the consequences of, and then when she finally looks, she dies. I think in a lot of these texts we see the want for liberation from women, but the society around them keep them in ‘their place.’

  6. I love your analysis and I think that you made really great connections between the different works that we read for this class. I also think that it is really interesting how the different works deal with the idea of double lives. Lucy from LAS wants to improve her status and Lucy from Dracula also seduces men and wants to lure them in. Both of them are portrayed as evil beings after in their new lives. Jekyll, on the other hand, has a completely different approach to his transition: He could not stand his bipolar mental state and therefore separated the two poles in a scientific way. What remains is a completely positive and a completely negative persona. The negative part, although it is evil, does not completely overshadow the positive persona. This is an interesting way to look at the difference in the perception of men and women in Victorian Literature.

  7. I agree that femininity is repeatedly correlated with weakness within the novel. Lucy and Mina seem so helpless because of their situations. It’s like they are passive bystanders to their own fates. Mina is a little more proactive and helps the men with compiling their statements and looking for things that could possibly help her. I do think this is solely because she has a “male brain.” Even so, she has the body of a woman, which makes her vulnerable. I find this similar to “The Lady of Shalott.” The Lady of Shalott literally just looks at a man and then dies. Her feminine nature made her unable to resist, and leads to her downfall.

  8. This is interesting as it relates to “Goblin Market” and how the women who have bought fruit from the golbins become entranced until otherwise saved. Just as this has the idea that Mina is in Dracula’s grasp until she dies unless otherwise saved, so too are the women in goblin market. I wonder though about the distinction that in the latter it is a woman that saves her as opposed to a group of men? Does that give a potential out for women or is it just a way to bring them back into the husband searching fold?

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