The passage I picked out was on page 394 when Van Helsing comes across Dracula’s iconic three women. It starts by saying “she was so fair to look on, so radiantly beautiful […] made my head whirl with new emotion.”
This passage illustrates the presence of sexuality and power. In particular, the power men hold in society versus that of women. As shown in the passage when Helsing says “she was so fair to look on, so radiantly beautiful […]” (394), just shows that it seems as though women hold no power except in their beauty and are free to sexualized. Not only this, Van Helsing almost justifies his behavior towards these women as being “the very instinct of man in me” (394). Helsing is saying that he’s allowed to feel these things because of her beauty and his manly instincts.
This instinct of man seems to be present throughout the entirety of the novel. In Dracula, men seem to be unable to control themselves around women. Van Helsing is portrayed as a character who is on a mission. There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping him from destroying vampires, even Lucy’s beauty didn’t get to him, but in this passage, he is unable to control himself saying that their beauty “calls some of my sex to love and to protect” (394), furthering the emphasis that when women are beautiful is when they become important in society and are “lovable” by men.
This passage could also be about what role women are destined to play in society and how standards of beauty play a role in women’s power, which unfortunately still is present today. In the Victorian Era, as echoed by this passage about “radiant beauty” (394), it is obvious that women only seem important when they are beautiful. This is also seen in Lady Audley’s Secret, because Lady Audley is beautiful, she’s able to almost “beat the system” and get away with lying and marries into a rich successful family solely because she is beautiful. Additionally, Jonathan has a moment with these same ladies when he is also unable to control himself because of their beauty even though he knows the danger (46). These examples further exemplify the fact that if women are beautiful, they’re able to accomplish more and hold more power because men, as shown in these two novels, only seem to regard women for their beauty rather than who they are as a person and what they can do.
Dracula has proven in the first part of the book to have a way of transfixing his “victims”. Not only this, but Dracula also accomplishes this “controlling” through permeating their subconscious and the harm or pain that is caused by him is forgotten about by his victims, in particular Lucy. Dracula’s ability to transfix his victims and the repetition of “tiny pin-pricks” “cannot leave a scar” in this passage shows that he’s able to slip in and out of people minds without much knowledge or recognition from them. What is particularly interesting about this subconscious work of Dracula is that while it isn’t noticed or thought about by Lucy (or any other victim) it is certainly noticed and worried about by the “conscious” characters (like Mina), which further emphasizes the point that Dracula transfixes his victim. This is shown when Mina says, “I must have pinched up a piece of loose skin and have transfixed it, (103)”. This use of the word transfixed has a very different connotation in my mind than it seems to have here and coupled with the fact that Mina didn’t cause this injury (even though initially she’s convinced she did and apologizes profusely to Lucy) just goes to show that Dracula clearly has a way of subtly (or not so subtly in some cases) controlling his victims. Not only this, but the idea that it goes unnoticed or is “not even felt” by his victims is also intriguing. The fact that a supernatural figure, like Dracula is trying to stay unnoticed but is still somehow becoming discovered, is something I think will be pertinent throughout the rest of the novel. In the passage the size of Lucy’s neck wounds is mentioned multiple times, describing the wounds as, “pin-pricks, tiny, and drops” (103). This language is showing that Dracula’s “transfixiation” is so small it’s not easily recognized or is simply forgotten despite the fact that when Lucy regains consciousness, these wounds are still very apparent and as Mina describes “might have been serious” (103), despite being what she thought was a pinprick. Lucy’s wounds and condition are only noticed by Mina and Lucy’s doctors even when they are apparent. This is curious because you would think that a wound that isn’t healing would be at least painful enough to notice it, yet only the people to notice and be concerned are those who have not been controlled in any way by Dracula, furthering the point that his control over his victims alters their conscious behaviors.
“I have no doubt you have been anxious, Lady Audley,” Robert said, after a pause, fixing my lady’s eyes as they wandered furtively to his face. “There is no one to whom my uncle’s life can be of more value than to you. Your happiness, your prosperity, your safety depends alike upon his existence” (217).
This passage takes place as Robert, Alicia and Lady Audley are all sitting around Sir Michael as he is sick with his cold. What Robert says here seems nice and genuine, however at second glance it appears like Robert is trying to hint to Lady Audley that he knows something she doesn’t want to be found out. The last of the passage that states, “Your happiness, your prosperity, your safety depends alike upon his existence” (217) seems to be hinting towards the power Michael has to protect Lady Audley from all her hidden secrets. The use of the word “safety” in this passage, as well as the fact that it is italicized jumps out at me right away because it’s not really a word that is usually associated with happiness and prosperity, especially when it’s tied to a husband’s life. This idea of her safety resting in the hands of Michael has an interesting connotation when you think of the book as a whole. After this passage, in later chapters there is what appears to be an underlying fear stemming from Lady Audley regarding her position at Audley Court. More specifically when Lady Audley is talking to Michael about Robert in Chapter 9 and additionally when Robert wants to talk to Michael about Lady Audley at the end of Chapter 8, it is apparent that everything goes through Michael and he won’t believe much without evidence that backs it up. To me, the book is constantly circulating around her and her dodginess to talk about her past. This passage has a greater meaning to the rest of book because to me it implies that Robert knows something about Lady Audley that could put her in some sort of harm as a result if Michael was not in the way. As Robert has discovered more about what he thinks is Lady Audley’s past, it seems as though this safety that allows her to hide herself behind a title stems from Michael and that, like this passage says, if he were to die, her safety would be gone along with her happiness. This idea comes to fruition when Lady Audley is trying to convince Michael that Robert is mad so that she will be protected and defended by Michael from whatever Robert says about her.
“He walked straight out of the house, this foolish old man, because there was some strong emotion at work in his heart – neither joy nor triumph […] He carried the corpse of that hope which had died at the sound of Lucy’s words” (17).
Throughout this passage there is a lot of emphasis on emotion. One part that stands out to me is the repetition of death, more specifically the word “corpse”. Especially in the last sentence it says, “He carried the corpse of hope which had died at the sound of Lucy’s words” (17). Not only is he saying that his hope for this marriage was already gone, but that it had also died at the sound of his future wife’s voice. This line is significant especially when he should be feeling happy. I think it has a lot to say about his feelings towards Lucy, and how those feelings may be present throughout the rest of the novel. This repetition of corpse has something to say about who he is as a person. He’s about to start a new beginning in his life and is describing it as more of an ending where essentially all hope is dead. It may be a stretch, but I get the idea that this passage has a much greater meaning than his feelings about a new marriage. I think this is showing how this relationship will continue because he is disappointed by the outcome that he originally wanted. The prospect of marrying Lucy was so grand that it seemed as if he never thought it would happen. Now that it is, all he is feeling is disappointment and heartache. What jumps out at me the most about this idea of death, is that later on in Chapter 5, when Phoebe and Luke sneak into her room, in this box filled with jewels, there’s what they presume is a baby’s hair among a chest of jewels and gold. Clearly something had to have happened, maybe the loss of a child, that could indicate disappointment and loss in their lives. This passage may be hinting towards death and disappointment that will fill their marriage and their lives throughout the novel.