Misogyny Kills

Time and time again Van Helsing and the other male characters in Dracula keep extremely important information from the women in their lives. The first example is John Seward arranging Van Helsing to attend to Lucy’s illness, while specifically not arousing “any suspicion in Mrs. Westerna.” While Seward and Van Helsing have good intentions by keeping the details of Lucy’s illness from her, since Mrs. Westerna’s heart being weak enough that “a shock to her would mean sudden death,” the lack of information spells disaster later in the book when Mrs. Westerna throws out the garlic flowers Van Helsing left in Lucy’s room. Without the garlic flowers that bar Dracula from entering, Lucy is vulnerable once more to blood loss via vampire, and perishes shortly after. Even further, the “shock” which kills Mrs. Westerna involves Dracula, with him commanding a wolf crash through the window.

Even after this negligence kills Mrs. Westerna and Lucy, Van Helsing seems ready to repeat the same experience with Mina. Van Helsing’s opinion that Mina may have “her heart… fail her in so much or many horrors,” is especially foolish since Mina was already involved in the investigation, having already read Jonathan’s diary and compiled all the documents pertaining to Dracula. She shows no signs of having had any more troubles of the heart than her male companions. Moreover, she has been and continues to be extremely useful on the logistics side of tracking down Dracula. By shutting Mina out of the Dracula investigation, the men are actively shooting themselves in the foot twofold– losing both such a logistical powerhouse, and leaving Mina vulnerable to Dracula’s attentions without her being able to recognize the signs of what is happening to her. 

From this evidence, I believe that this book has a great fear of women: specifically women with any form of power, and this reflects the anxieties of the time period where female gender norms were shifting and changing without men being able to control it. By keeping the women of Dracula uninformed, they stay controllable, though they are also able to be controlled by other men like Dracula himself. Only by becoming fully informed and empowered do women become monstrous.

2 thoughts on “Misogyny Kills”

  1. The theme you note here, the dismissal and fear of women through not telling them something, is present in the reverse in many of Christina Rossetti’s poems, where women are dismissed and feared through not listening to them. The most obvious connection is obviously No Thank You John, where John is at best not listening to her at all and at worst listening but continuing to keep going to wear her confidence down.
    That her confidence ends up with her labelled heartless is notable, as it matches the sentiment you point out in your last sentence: when women are confidant in Victorian literature, be it from increased power or increased knowledge, they are very close to becoming monstrous. The speaker is called heartless, and that is the worst she must experience in the poem; she is very lucky that John did not have any stakes on him.

  2. Dear Famine,

    My friend on the black horse it is always wonderful to read your work. I love your use of textual repetition to prove your point and I admire your examination of the use of power in the text.

    I feel as if you have made a fatal error in how you’ve structured your post. I wish that you had led with your conclusion. You don’t have a thesis argument and I didn’t begin to grasp your “so what?” until the very end of your post.

    If you took the first half of your conclusion, up until “to control it.”, and made that your opening paragraph I believe that you would’ve had an article fitting your talents.

    My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson, once told me that she hated the term “hook”, and that it made her feel like a fish, so I’ll use slightly different terminology. You’ve shifted into fifth gear from second. Cars don’t work that way and neither do I. You’re a better driver than that and you’re a better writer than that too.

    Yours until January 7th, 2074,
    Carmine “Red” Zingiber

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