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.

Fear of the Other

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.

Fashion, Color, and Love

One descriptor that is used frequently in the text that I often find strange is color. Typically reserved for conveying emotion through visuals and setting the mood in scenes, color in Bram Stoker’s Dracula appears to develop a deeper connection between the characters. One scene where color conveys a meaning deeper than just mood is when Arthur, Quincey, and Dr. Seward prepare to travel with Van Helsing to the tomb of the undead Mina on the night of September 29th (227). In his diary, Dr. Seward writes, “It was odd to notice that by common consent we had all put on black clothes. Of course, Arthur wore black, for he was in deep mourning, but the rest of us wore it by instinct.” (227). I would argue that although it may have felt instinctual for Dr. Seward and Quincey to wear black, they too were mourning just as deeply as Arthur was, as it was well known that all three of these men had proposed and confessed their love to Lucy earlier in the novel. Additionally, the Count, who is always described as, “…a tall old man, […] clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere,” has this deep spiritual connection with the undead Lucy and consistently dons black clothing (22). Although color could be describing the emotion these individuals feel, I would argue that color in this novel is actually portraying connections that these individuals have with each other. Whether it be for the love between two living souls or the love of blood and connection with others that are undead, there is, in my mind, no denying that individuals donning black in Stoker’s novel have a deep love connection with one other that may not be obvious at first glance.

Forbidden Fruit: The Sweetest of Them All

In Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market, we are presented with two beautiful and kind sisters, Laura and Lizzie. It is while Laura and Lizzie are tarrying away in the glen, that they hear the seductive and nearly irresistible cries of the strange and fearsome goblin men. Lizzie warns her sister about them, claiming that she and Laura “should not peep at goblin men” because “their evil gifts would harm us” (Rossetti, 2). However, despite her sister’s vehement warning, Laura decides to throw caution to the wind and takes a curious glance at the merchant goblin men who come bearing delicious and tempting-looking fruit. With this one stolen glance, she instantly becomes enamored by them and allows them to come near her, showering her with their ripe and juicy pieces of sweet, forbidden fruit. Laura is said to have sucked on the fruit “until her lips were sore” and she “knew not was it night or day” (Rossetti, 4).

After this encounter, Lizzie slowly sees changes in her sister. Gone is the maiden who was happy and fulfilled, pure and kind, and in her place is a tired and graying husk of a woman who no longer seems to have any will to live. This is due to the fact that Laura can no longer hear the cries of the goblin men or get a taste of the succulent fruit that they carry with them. It’s clear that Laura is suffering from a crippling addiction and she is “longing for the night” when she can see them and once again sink her teeth into the most coveted of fruits (Rossetti, 6). Knowing that her sister will wither away and die if she doesn’t do something, Lizzie goes in search of the goblins, hoping to secure an antidote for her. She sets aside her concerns for her own safety and simply focuses on what she must do to save the soul of her beloved sister.

When Lizzie eventually comes across the goblin men and tells them of her intentions to buy their fruit, they are at first very much excited and want her to have it. However, when they realize that she refuses to consume the fruit herself, they become angry and physically assault her. It is said that they “Held her hands and squeezed their fruits / Against her mouth to make her eat” (Rossetti, 12). With her every refusal, the goblins become angrier and angrier, worsening her punishment by landing harsher blows and spewing more malicious mockery. Finally, after an interminable amount of time, they recognize that she will not bend her will to meet their demands. So, they abandon her in the glen and she is left with a bruised and battered body, their juices dripping and staining her previously untouched skin. Instead of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by this horrible violation, Lizzie races home and is able to save Laura’s life, proving that those with loving and courageous hearts can overcome all sources of evil.

Throughout the text, the goblin men were said to be animal-like, almost as if they had not fully evolved. For instance, they were described as being both “cat-like and rat-like” and they had tails that they used to harm their victims (Rossetti, 10). They were also distinctly different from typical British men and essentially belonged to an entirely different species. I believe that they were portrayed as these primitive, ruthless creatures because they represented an unknown, foreign entity.

During the Victorian Era, there was a strong desire to see the British Empire succeed and expand. Many British citizens felt that if foreigners came to England and shared their cultural beliefs and ideas with the general population, great harm would befall the country. This was because the Victorian Era was also known as the Age of Empire, and many British people felt that their way of life was superior to those living in other countries and cultures.

There was also this notion that if foreigners came and infiltrated England, they would taint pure British bloodlines by having children with the good women of British society. They would use their charm and means of seduction to take advantage of sweet, innocent girls, with the intention of tossing them aside at their earliest convenience. I think that it was because of this fear of the foreign that we see the goblin men being described as barbaric, wicked things that will lure in pure women and sully them with their archaic and evil ways.

Dracula and religion

“She saw, I suppose, the doubt in my face, for she put the rosary round my neck, and said, “For your mother’s sake,” and went out of the room. I am writing up this part of the diary whilst I am waiting for the coach, which is, of course, late; and the crucifix is still round my neck. Whether it is the old lady’s fear, or the many ghostly traditions of this place, or the crucifix itself, I do not know, but I am not feeling nearly as easy in my mind as usual.”

While this being a very very early on passage from the book it is something I wanted to talk about in a blog post while we were still focusing on this book. I found it very interesting that a large part of what was used to be religious against a vampire was a religious object. While there are other objects or foods such as garlic that are talked about later in the novel in terms of deterring vampires. However, something about there being a religious object used in detriment was just surprising to me. I also connected this as a theme to other types of monsters in stories as it seems there are always a few objects that are used to fight back against the monsters. I ask in this post though why is it that this un-dead vampire’s weakness is symbolism of religion? I also wondered why it came so early on in the novel, I feel in a lot of novels the way key facts like this are portrayed are through the novel characters uncover information and this would be something they discover mid way through. I thought it was extremely unusual for Stoker to write this information so early on in his book. I also connected this information to some extent to the devil, as a vampire being an un-dead monster, who is harmed by these religious symbolism made me think of how the devil is portrayed in Catholicism and the similarities between the Count and the Devil.

An (ill)Legitimate Take on Harker’s Paternity

In the novel’s final note, Harker clearly establishes that he, not Dracula, is Quincey’s father. Although his insisted paternity accounts for cultural anxiety about imperialism, when coupled with historical understandings of illegitimate offspring, it could also reflect cultural anxiety about marriage.

Quincey’s birth announcement makes clear that there is no chance Dracula is the father, as Harker emphasizes his “birthday is the same day as that on which Quincey Morris died” (402), well over 10 months of pregnancy. The culmination of the anti-Dracula crusade in Quincey’s birth is a halcyon ending to the battle against foreignness. As a male British subject who can continue Britain’s legacy, Quincey represents the resilience of Britain and thus its supposed natural and justified superiority. In this sense, Harker’s note seems to be about advancing pro-Britain, pro-imperialist, pro-xenophobic rhetoric and assuaging any questions pointing otherwise.

I want to examine Harker’s paternity claim in light of living vampires. Gerard claims that “The living vampire is in general the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons” (334), meaning that a second, lesser-known kind of vampire was understood to emerge from children born out of wedlock. Gerard uses language like “flawless pedigree” and “intrusion of a vampire into his family vault” (354) to refer to the precautions and attitudes espoused by Victorian families to avoid creating illegitimate offspring and ‘living vampires.’ Harker’s insisted paternity, then, can be analyzed not only through an imperialist lens, but also through a marital lens. Harker eliminates any questions about his paternity to extinguish the possibility that Quincey might be a living vampire, or the product of an illegitimate encounter between Dracula and Mina. Harker makes it clear that his family is consistent with the idyllic Victorian structure.

Harker’s paternity appears to be about reinforcing British superiority, but could also be about reinforcing traditional familial structures. Ending the novel with an assurance of the Harkers’ “flawless pedigree” leaves readers with a happy ending that just so happens to conform to Victorian marital and familial propriety. This propriety goes hand-in-hand with social expectations for sexuality, as the fear of illegitimacy would likely discourage embracing non-marital sexual desire. Xenophobia and family structure might also go hand-in-hand: perhaps Harker’s insisted paternity does not represent either imperialist or familial anxieties, but rather both/and. This dynamic supports our in-class analysis of blood’s symbolism on p. 187 as representing fears about both ethnicity and family, culminating in anxiety about ‘ruining whiteness’ through interracial relationships. In any event, I think a strong case can be made that Harker’s fierce claim to fatherhood illustrates not only a reference to imperialist politics, but also to Victorian notions of marital, familial, and sexual propriety — all conveniently framed behind the supernatural.

Mina’s Drastic Change

“Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has man’s brain, a brain that a man should have were he much gifted”


When first introduced, Mina is described in the novel to possess man like qualities. She is strong, brave, and described as having a man’s brain. These are stated as positive things and give the reader the perspective that she is an important character who is willing to step up to any challenge. However, this image of Mina changes throughout the story. After her run in with the Count, Mina is no longer the strong brave woman the book portrayed her as. Her descriptions take a turn as she is described as something purer and more childlike. There are lines that describe her to be sleeping like a child. On top of this, towards the end of the story, the book goes on to say that it is up to the men of the story to save Mina from the terrible darkness that is inside of her. Also, it is hinted at that because of the illness, Mina is too weak to venture into such dark places.

It seems after being infected by the Count; Mina has lost all the qualities that make her strong. Because of what she went through, she is portrayed as less than the men around her and needs the help of others to be saved. This is such a drastic change from the way she was portrayed earlier in the story. Now that she is a victim of Dracula, Mina has lost her man like qualities and is described as a helpless woman who needs to rely on others. Perhaps this is due to Victorians at this time not wanting to relate anything manly to someone who has become a victim. This change could have also been made to continue the trend of Dracula going after women in the story. It would be out of character for Dracula to go after someone possessing man like qualities. Because of this, after the incident, Mina is no longer described with these qualities.

Was Lucy killed or raped?

TW: sexual violence

While Lucy’s death is not only extremely brutal and bloody and clearly contains physical violence, we can also argue that she was gang-raped by a group of men. Dr. Seward, Quincey, Van Helsing, and Arthur stand around Lucy’s coffin planning to kill her. This scene seems like a brutal religious ritual because it includes “prayer” and Helsing claims that driving a stake through Lucy’s heart happens in God’s name (230).

Taking a closer look at it, however, we can clearly see hints at sexual violence and even rape. This especially struck me when watching the scene in the film but it also becomes very apparent in the novel. It is striking that Arthur, who wanted to marry Lucy and who felt sexual attraction to her, is the one to kill her. His sexual attraction to her is manifested in the scene in which he can barely resist kissing Lucy. The ritual consists of driving a stake through Lucy. The stake can clearly be read as a phallic symbol that violently has to enter Lucy’s body. Van Helsing functions as a mentor in this scene because he is more experienced than Arthur. He ensures Arthur that the act of violence towards Lucy will be worth it because he would “then rejoice more than [his] pain was great” (230). He proceeds by claiming that he will afterward feel as though he would “tread on air” (230). This emphasizes that Van Helsing is aware that this is an act of extreme violence but that Arthur’s body will reward him with great feelings if he proceeds. Van Helsing emphasizes that the other men are also there, in case Arthur gets nervous. Arthur then wants to know how to proceed as he, (an unmarried man) is not experienced in such manners. He pushes the “mercy-bearing stake” “deeper and deeper” into Lucy (230). Arthur seems to enjoy it because “high duty seemed to shine through [his face]” (230). Lastly, it is odd that Van Helsing tells Arthur to kiss Lucy’s dead mouth after the ritual which is usually an act of love. Additionally, Lucy’s mouth is stuffed with garlic before her head is chopped off (232). Stuffing a woman’s mouth can also be viewed as an act of sexual violence.

While it seems that the passage is about a brutal religious ritual, it becomes clear that there are more nuances to this scene and that sexuality cannot be excluded from the narrative. When analyzing this scene, it seems like an act of sexual violence performed by a group of four men on a young woman. This is especially illustrated by the phallic symbol violently being pushed into Lucy’s body and the description of the orgasmic feeling that Arthur will have after finishing the ritual.




Scene of Lucy’s Death (Youtube)

Who Invited Dracula Into My Good Christian Marriage?

Victorian culture centered around the adherence to social customs of restraint, decency and honor, and violation of these terms resulted in severe consequences.  Bram Stoker’s Dracula raises questions regarding social and religious anxieties about what happens when traditional institutions fail.  While Stoker’s honorable quartet contemplates the finishing of the beast of their conquest, Mina Harker examines the implications of her own vampiric experience.  Mina voices her concerns: “I am not worthy…I am unclean to His eyes, and shall be until He may deign to let me stand forth in His sight as one of those who have not incurred his wrath” (Stoker 344).  Mina wrestles with her right to exist not only in a man’s presence, but in the sight of God himself.  Throughout the rest of the novel, the interactions between Dracula and the women of his objectification are laced with undertones of sexual assault, a highly ignored topic of Victorian consciousness.  The men blame Dracula for this sin, yet Mina blames herself.  She worries for her own purity and cleanliness because it is so valuable for the only offices afforded to her as a woman in the time period: a wife and mother.  As a wife, Mina fears for the sacred bond of holy matrimony that binds her to Johnathan and therefore to society.  God is originally at the center of the holy ties which bind man and woman together in marriage, (the basis of Victorian society) and Dracula’s infiltration of this sacred establishment amplifies Victorian concerns about the breakdown of traditional institutions.   

If the audience takes Mina to be a paradigm of chaste Victorian woman, the anxiety which Dracula’s violation causes her is justified because it challenges her entire existence.  Moreover, because of Victorian attitudes toward religion were in such turmoil at the time, the challenge to the favor of God is particularly interesting.  Not only would Dracula’s intrusion into sacred bonds challenge the institution of marriage, but it also confronts the issue of personal salvation.  Mina directly addresses this concern in her exclamations, but it also holds truth toward the ideas of the era.  Dracula raises the question of whether progress is the will of God, or if deviating from social constructions founded on heavenly principles is actually a violation of His mandate, making humans unworthy of his favor.  These constructions of evil challenge traditional truths of faith and institution, exemplifying Victorian anxieties in the era. 

The Remembrance of Mr. Morris

Throughout Dracula, we see that there is a big overarching concept of religion and Christianity as well as the themes of good and evil. There is an emphasis on crucifixion and rosaries in the novel, where crucifixions are a way to rid vampires.  This can be seen when Jonathan goes to meet with Dracula and later has to use a crucifix that the was given to protect himself from the Count, and or evil.  This can show that using the power of religion through crucification can be used to turn away any evil.  Another imagery is Blood, where blood can be seen as to heal oneself and rebirth.  This is also why Dracula is seen as evil, because in order to gain youthfulness and power, his thirst for blood simply takes away one’s life.  Dracula repeats, “blood is life” multiple times, thus giving him sustenance, power, and strength. 

At the very end of Dracula, the passage shows them at the Counts coffin, where Jonathan cuts off his head and Mr. Morris stabs him in the heart.  As they finally kill Dracula, they have successfully succeeded over evil and save Mina.  In doing so, Mr. Morris gets injured helping Mina, where he then sacrifices his life, “It was worth this to die!” (401). This whole passage gives a good look at religion in Dracula, where the “men sank on their knees and a deep and earnest ‘Amen’ Broke from all,” (401), as the mark on her forehead leaves. Self sacrificing is found when one puts their own life on the line in order to save others and thus Mr. Morris died a “gallant gentleman,” (401).