In Bram Stoker’s Dracula there are a few constant themes one could follow. Whether it be about female sexual expression, the influence of the church or even the importance of being a part of what is accepted, Stoker continues these threads throughout the work. Focusing more on the need to fit in, Dracula himself admits to Harker that things are not the same in Transylvania as they are in England. This early quote stuck in the mind the entire way through the piece as a way to inform the English mentality. “We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” (Chapter 2, page 28) This self-admission from Dracula about Harker not fitting in when he is in Transylvania connects on the flip side to Dracula not being welcome or fitting in when he goes to England. Further down the line Harker himself makes claims about Dracula being someone whom he is worried about helping get to England. That fear is not simply due to the dangers Dracula imposes but about the contamination an outsider from Eastern Europe would bring to England. As a character had Dracula been from the United States or a neighboring country like Scotland there never would have been any initial fear like Harker had or doubt like Dracula expressed. This becomes important when talking about the time period considering the road that England is about to go down with the first World War beginning to brew. A piece like this could cause a drastic change in the way that people in England were viewing those from other countries especially in an uncertain time like war time. I am also personally unsure about what was occurring in terms of immigration at the time in England, but this piece could have a serious impact on that view considering the destruction and fear this eastern European being was able to cause.
When one thinks about Dracula their first thought is about vampires and the horror the characters experience as a result. One of the most important factors that emerges, however, is the role of women. Women are given a clear guideline as to what is good and bad when it comes to their sexual expression. Mina and Lucy are, I would say, shown in a positive light and manner as two major female characters of the work. They also show good virtue and reserve when it comes to their sexual expression. That is unlike the demonic women that given Harker a massive dilemma. The dilemma comes from those women playing on a sort of male fantasy. The monstrous creatures, as the reader is aware, are described as “voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal” This is one description that shows both the type of internal conflict one of the main characters must face which comes down to the appealing sexuality as a trap. These devilish women are meant to show that women during this time are expected and should be reserved. Women who are so openly sexual are dangerous to Victorian society and to men themselves. There is also this interesting contrast between Mina and Lucy versus those voluptuous women as polar opposites where one represents a type of Victorian ideal, whereas the others show the exact villainous opposite. This novel may be less about the horror or the gothic and more about the role of women in Victorian society than it may seem. As the story continues the threat of over sexuality, instead of just becoming a vampire victim, to these pristine models of the Victorian woman becomes a further proof of that focus.
“if folks hadn’t been so precious stingy, I might have had a public in a thrivin’ market…” (139)
I am more drawn to this page than simply this quote, but to say that this one line is interesting and revealing would be a gross understatement. Luke, in the room with both Phoebe and Robert, gives up a very important clue. A few things can be taken from this scene and the first is that Luke knows something worth a high price. Luke also feels that his price should have been higher. Another is that Phoebe is far more protective of this payoff than Luke. Robert then asks “What, indeed, is a hundred pounds to a man possessed of the power which you hold, or rather which your wife holds, over the person in question. Phoebe proceeds to look ghostly as Robert appears to have her at checkmate. What does he do? He goes to bed.
Why is that important? First is the trend that has developed which has defined Robert now as the barrister that always seems to have an upper hand and then just taps out. He does the very same thing when Lady Audley fainted after hearing Roberts evidence (123). While her fainting and having a “ghastly ashen grey” look is even more incriminating, the two instances show that Robert is intelligent enough to get these main figures to all but say they know something. If one looks at how methodical and knowledgeable Robert is about the data, he has collected there is very little reason to believe he cannot connect it. It then makes sense that Robert is waiting for one of these characters who knows the secret to give the firsthand admission. Either that or he is waiting for Lady Audley to reveal it herself as she seems to have become increasingly active around her interactions with Robert.
Lady Audley’s Secret wastes little time in bringing this story to focus on secrecy. When the narrator is describing Lime-tree walk they are careful to include every detail about the place. One of those details was “that it seemed a chosen place for secret meetings or for stolen interviews.” (9) This place, which is “scarcely twenty paces from the house” (9), is an opening into the thread of secrecy this piece follows. In this moment the deceitful actions are outside the home still. That all changes when Luke and Phoebe are going to take a look at Lady Audley’s jewelry.
The first action of deception was attempted by Luke. “Why, one of those diamond things would set us up for life, Phoebe.” (34) Despite that proclamation she is not willing to steal. That attitude changes quickly when Luke discovers the secret box. Now Lady Audley had something to hide and Phoebe was now willing to steal it. It is still something that will get Luke “the public-house” (34). These items labeled as more desirable than diamonds by Phoebe were a baby’s shoe and a lock of hair. Despite the initial reluctance to steal, Phoebe now is more than will steal and has confidence in the value of what she is taking. The question then is why? Lady Audley appears to be hiding a secret life and a hidden past that I think could be related to George Talboys or Robert Audley. The relation there is because of the quick transition from this secret of Lady Audley, possibly a hidden son or daughter, quickly transitioning on the next few pages to talking about both Robert Audley and George Talboys. It cannot be a coincidence that these two characters would be introduced immediately following the opening of Lady Audley’s past. I am not quite sure whether the relation would be knowledge of the secret or being father of the hidden child. Nonetheless there is a connection between these two very closely position characters and event.