After Mina is attacked by Dracula, Van Helsing brands her with a holy wafer. This while framed by him trying to do good, shows that it was viewed that unfaithful Victorian women were viewed to need to be marked so all could see that they had transgressed, even if not by their own fault. After she screams “she sank on her knees on the floor in an agony of abasement” (Stoker 316). Here we see how even after being assaulted the rest of society treats the woman almost worse for having such a thing happen. She is branded and is double hurt both by the physical branding and also the “abasement” it is after this that she truly loses herself and says, “I must bear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgement Day” (Stoker 316). The issue for her isn’t even the being part vampire it is “the mark”. Every time she starts feeling better, she sees the mark again and goes back to feeling terrible about herself. Even when she is in the foreign country, she has to keep her hat on, or people treat her like a horrid creature for having been assaulted. The assault by the men of Victorian society on her is almost framed through the book as more traumatic but simultaneously as a good thing by the men in her life. This shows just how badly the Victorian men viewed women who were sexually promiscuous even not by choice.
The duality of monstrous women in Lady Audley’s Secret
My lady crushed the letter fiercely in her hand, and flung it from her into the flames. “If he stood before me now, and I could kill him,” she muttered in a strange inward whisper, “I would do it – I would do it!” She snatched up the lamp and rushed into the adjoining room. She shut the door behind her. She could not endure any witness of her horrible despair – She could endure nothing; neither herself nor her surroundings.
Here we see lady Audley falling apart further as Robert pursues and seeks to uncover the truth. What is interesting is the range of emotions she shows. She is “fiercely” destroying the letter showing anger, but she is also subdued in that she is “muttering in a strange inward whisper”. Then she “rushed” to a different location. She is finally in “despair”. What is so interesting about these emotional words and quick emotional shifts is it shows the extent to which she has been pushed in her life. She has little control anymore because everything that has happened has been too much. The repeated usages of the word “endure” show that the issue is not that any single event has happened but the repeated burden of her own actions and those around her are too much and she has lost control, but she still wishes to keep up the appearance. It shows how the novel seeks to portray women who have suffered greatly as unable to cope with it. This weak portrayal is odd however as it is contrasted with her desire to kill and willingness to do anything to protect herself. It puts lady Audley and Victorian women on the whole in a simultaneous stance of both weakness and power. The emotional lack of control contrasts with the way the she carefully manipulates those around her and portrays women who defy Victorian norms in a very negative light.
What do Lucy and the Vampire women have in common? Desire. Nowhere is it more clear than when Lucy is about to die or the ladies attempt to drink Johnathan’s blood. What makes them monsters to the Victorian age is that these women control their own sexuality and express their own desire. As Lucy lays dying, she speaks in “a soft, voluptuous voice, such as [Seward] had never heard from her lips” (Stoker, 172). Up until this point this was “never heard from her.” She was not a monster and then immediately when she has begun to become a vampire, she starts expressing her desire and attempts to leverage it to get what she wants, saying “Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss Me!” (Stoker, 172). She openly tells him what she wants from him before the world, w hen even Mina and Johnathan, married, holding hands in public is considered in bad form, she tries to get him to kiss her before an audience. Her tone as “soft” and “voluptuous” implies a sensuality which is then seemed to be almost irresistible to Arthur. Similarly, it may be this feeling that women who express their desire are irresistible that is what makes them so scary to Victorian men. As “Arthur bent eagerly over to kiss her” just as Johnathan when faced with the vampire women, “Felt in [his] heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss [him] with those red lips” (Stoker, 45). In both cases the men desire and are depicted as powerless against the women, because of their own “desire” or eagerness. Johnathan even describes his own desire as “wicked”, showing how desire is viewed as bad, and it almost seems as though the typical expected outcome is for women to be the one to deny desire. Therefore, it is seen as monstrous when they do not, as the men seem incapable of it. In fact, the parallels between Dracula and Van Helsing are quite strong. Both grab the one attempting by the neck. Both with previously unimaginable fury for the individual witnessing and both hurl the offender across the room. Almost as though the only thing that can stop those enthralled and giving into desire is violence.
Dislike and love. Audley frames the two as opposites asking lucy first “Do you dislike me?” (16) Then asking her, “Is there anyone whom else you love?” (16) Audley frames the entire affair as an emotional one. He seeks from her to show some sort of emotional engagement with the matter of his proposal in either a positive or negative fashion. However, she seems to be unable to give him a clear stance on how she views him romantically. To her the issue cannot be separated from the material gains she would get from marrying him.
She does however show emotional investment in others way in regards to the issue. She gets upset that he wants her to not consider the value she would get. in addition, “she laughed aloud at his question” when asked about if she loves anyone (17). However Audley seems almost perturbed by these reactions. To him there is something fundamentally off about how she is reacting. There is a clam to her reactions regarding the emotions Audley seeks to be invested in, and a lack of calm in regards to emotions and feelings which to him are not relevant to the matter.
The differences here seem to almost be an establishing matter of who they are, fundamentally opposing one another. Going into the marriage it seems like a reasonable stance to question if they will ever truly be on the same page emotionally or just always opposed to one another. This opposition is made clearest when the marriage is framed as a “bargain” (17). It is a transaction. A deal in which both sides give something and get something. It is not the sort of endeavor they are diving into headfirst, but an almost mercantile interaction from which neither loses, nor fully wins. This seems to be a passage which will set up the dynamic between the two moving forward.