Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Count Dracula’s mortal purpose maintaining the Christian dominance in Wallachia, and by extension the whole of Europe, has narrative successors in Van Helsing’s band. Additionally, Dracula studied alchemy, science, and all things occult or arcane during his prodigious natural life (321). Although his noble works in life are corrupted in death, the polymathic Van Helsing becomes a worthy replacement as “a most wonderful man” dedicated to what he perceives to be a God-given task (322).

Dracula and Van Helsing are alike in their shared sentiments of executing God’s will and their repeated uses of crusade imagery in conversation. In addition to defending his native Romania, Dracula travelled eastward to combat the Ottoman Empire in “Turkey-land” and Hungary (36). The location of Hungary – which is immediately adjacent to Romania – is of historic relevance as the medieval ‘Bulwark of Christianity’ on the frontier between the Christian and Ottoman nations controlling entry into mainland Europe. In the 19th century, Dracula’s Transylvanian stronghold exists on a similar frontier separating the peoples of the Occident and the ‘Orient’ with the British Isles replacing continental Europe as the practical capital of Christianity. Van Helsing sees his mission to destroy the nosferatu not as a personal obsession or a debt to Mina, but as a divine quest to protect European Christian ideals from a sinister, godless Eastern influence. These motives are surprisingly similar to those used by crusaders (including Dracula) to justify bloody military conquest in the name of self-preservation and divine right. Although the word “crusade” is never used, Van Helsing compares his band’s journey “towards the sunrise” to the “old knights of the cross” and their mission of slaying the undead to the redemption of souls through the death of Christ (341).

Ultimate redemption is interesting not only as a justification for murder, but also as the redemption or reclamation of a place, such as the attempted recapture of Jerusalem by early crusaders. This reclamation occurs through the sterilization of earth by the Host: first, the earth-boxes in London and finally Castle Dracul’s chapel (257). Much like crusaders hoping to reclaim previously Christian Jerusalem, Van Helsing’s band seeks to restore Christianity to Transylvania by destroying evil influence and retaking a symbolic point: a castle chapel in place of a fortress Temple. The fulfillment of this quest is made clear when the Harker family completes a celebratory (almost ritualistic) pilgrimage to Transylvania (402).

Would you please take a hint John

The poem “No, Thank you, John” by Christina Rosetti, shows the point of view of a woman who is refusing a man who continues to romantically pursue her. The narrator of the poem is very direct to this man John in saying that she is not interested in him at all. She says he may have a better chance with other women saying “I dare say Meg or Moll would take pity upon you if you’d ask: And pray you don’t remain single for my sake Who can’t perform that task”. In these lines, the woman not only begs him to try for other women, but also informs him that she cannot and will not return any of his romantic affection. This stanza really shows the woman’s tone toward John and gives the reader the energy that she is actually annoyed by the continued interest from John. She continues, saying “Let bygones be bygones: Don’t call me false, who owed not to be true: I’d rather answer “No” to fifty Johns Than answer “Yes” to you”. The point of view in this poem is very important because it allows the reader to get insight of the woman’s true thoughts. While this stanza seems pretty harsh, the message is very clear. She is NOT interested in John and never will be. The woman finishes off the poem with “Here’s friendship for you if you like; but love,- No, thank you, John”. I really enjoy the title of the poem being used in the final line of the poem and the effect of the line. If none of the other rejections sank in, that one has to. 

This poem is truly unique. The very direct rejection of a man is not something I have seen in poetry before, and it directly challenges the classic love poem. Usually a love poem shows the point of view of a man who is wounded and trying so very hard to persuade their love to want them back. “No, Thank you, John” is not only the opposite of that stereotypical love poem, but also allows for the woman to give her side and show that this type of resilient and stubborn man is not the victim, but rather an annoyance. This poem shows a woman who is so tired of being pursued by the same man and is running out of ways to say no. The importance of this poem is to show that it is not cute for a man to continue to try like this, and rather that this is straight up harassment. During this time period, this type of thinking was certainly not the standard – and even today, while it is more recognized, there are still many women who have to deal with this. This poem is important because it shows the man is not the victim in this scenario, but rather the aggressor. The final line shows the woman being very strong-minded, not only due to her ability to be immovable in her rejection, but also due to the way she was able to stay respectful in her final refusal – a subtle comment on societal gender roles and normities.

Watch out for the Sexually Liberated

“ ‘Come, Sister. Come to us. Come! Come!’ In fear I turned to my poor Madam Mina, and my heart with gladness leapt like a flame; for oh! The terror in her sweet eyes, the repulsion, the horror, told a story to my heart that was all of hope. God be thanked she was not, yet, of them.” This is the passage where Mina is with Van Helsing and she is ill and the three women are trying to get her to ‘come with them.’

I think that through this interaction Bram Stoker is expressing the fear in the Victorian era of sexually free women. The way Mina’s reaction is described shows the complete fear that was felt that she would become ‘one of them.’ Stoker uses the juxtaposition of her ‘sweet’ eyes and then the words following being ‘repulsion’ and ‘horror’ while describing her looking at the three women to contrast this pure woman, Mina, and the repulsive, horrifying women that are trying to get her to ‘come to the dark side.’ I think that Stoker is playing on the idea in this time that sexual freedom was somehow contagious, and someone could ‘catch’ this terrible ‘disease.’ In this time sex wasn’t seen as anything pleasurable for a woman, the purpose of sex was to get pregnant, and there wasn’t any conversation about anything other than a heterosexual relationship. So, women who were sexually liberated were considered to have something wrong with them, and that thing that made them abnormal could be passed on to others if the pure soul was left unattended. Mina in this scene is vulnerable and continuing to get closer to becoming a vampire and ‘dying’ and Van Helsing is protecting her with multiple holy contraptions to try and save her from these villains. The three women are trying to entice Mina to go, and the reason Mina is saved is because of the holy circle that is protecting her.

Technology? hmm idk…

Bram Stoker utilizes technology throughout Dracula to demonstrate fears of the Victorian era. Technology helps the group during their conquest. Stroker makes sure to demonstrate the helpfulness of technology throughout the novel, like when Mina walks into Dr. Seward recording his day in his phonograph. Mina, unable to contain her excitement, “blurts out” that it “beats even shorthand” (235). When introduced to a new piece of technology, Mina can hardly contain herself, as a lot of her duty within the team has been about transcribing, this new technology allows for an easier way of life. This small interaction serves as a way to calm the reader about technology, demonstrating ways that it can improve quality of life. 

Technology is also seen as a life saver to Mina once again. Mina mentions how grateful she is for her “Traveller’s’ typewriter…” and how she would have “felt quite astray doing the if I had to write with a pen” (372). Mina has gained such comfort through the new technology, that the old pen and paper method would leave her feeling “astray.” Technology has influenced the characters’ daily lives so much they are now lost without it. The phonograph and traveller’s typewriter allow for the group to have an easier time transcribing their findings better. This has positive externalities: their (more accurate) findings can be published for more to see, helping people learn about Dracula and the supernatural, giving them warning signs, and preventions. However, it also demonstrates the fears that plagued the Victorian era within technology: the loss of the old self. 

Stoker capitalizes on this fear of the loss of self through technology with the failure to save Lucy through blood transfusion. Stroker makes sure to be abundantly clear in the science of the “transfusion of blood” (132). The explicit nature of the description serves to show the advancement of technology in the new era, it also works to show how even with all this new medical technology Lucy still ended up “as a devil” and blazing “with unholy light” (225). Lucy lost herself and purity even with technology. She serves as a cautionary tale for the Victorian reader: technology can destroy you. Technology is used to support the group, helping them keep track of their findings and communicate, however it comes at the cost of the self; although technology may have the intent to help, it often does more harm as it destroys the peoples purity and past self.

Burn the witch!

Throughout the novels and short stories we’ve read, a trend I’ve noticed is how many of the female characters seem to lack complexity. Victorian gender roles heavily influence this characterization. It’s no secret that there was a ton of gender inequality during this era. Dracula reflects this inequality through its portrayals of different female characters.

Early in the novel, Johnathan Harker is almost killed by three female vampires. He details the experience in his journal: “The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal” (Stoker, 42).

The women here are very openly sexualized, seeming to seduce Harker into some sort of trance in which he cannot retaliate. Even though he is promised to Mina, he simply cannot resist their advances. The dichotomy of “thrilling and repulsive” suggests that he both desires and detests them. Harker also directly compares the woman to an animal, depicting the women as less than human because of their sensual nature.

This passage reminds me of a published disquisition from 1486 known as the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches). This text spends a lot of time emphasizing why women are more likely to commit heresy (not abiding by the Church’s values/ beliefs). In one section, it suggests that “From women’s natural physical weakness, there is a mind prone to error, and a disposition susceptible to change and collaboration with evil to achieve the object of her lust” (O’Leary, J., Monash University).

Though more discrete and under the guise of benevolent sexism, I believe Bram Stoker employed many of the same ideas in Dracula. He paints women as inherently weak and easily corrupted, reinforcing the idea that men need to control (or in his words, “protect”) women for their own sakes. To him, femininity is inferior to masculinity. He further proves this by making the male characters fawn over Mina, who “…has a man’s brain, a brain that a man should have were he much gifted, and a woman’s heart” (Stoker, 27). The only acceptable woman is one who serves men and abides by social norms. Still, she cannot be too feminine/ embrace her femininity, as that would give her too much power. A classic double bind. #LucyDeservedBetter

P.S. If anyone would like to read the journal article on the Malleus Maleficarum I mentioned, here is the link:


An Echo for Love

In Christina Rossetti’s poem, Echo, the title alone attributes a variety of complementary meanings that enhance the poem’s meaning.

First, in exploring the intimate poem, it is concluded that the speaker dreams of a lover she has lost to death. Initially, the most striking things about the poem are that it is a lyrical piece and has many instances of alliteration. Together, these two literary tools offer a sense of strong emotions and suggest that the love that the speaker is talking about means a great deal to her. For instance, the speaker talks about “sunlight on a stream…soft rounded cheeks…how sweet, too sweet, too bittersweet.” (28, 1-7) The speaker’s use of alliteration in the first stanza creates the imagery of euphoric love that, at times, is too hard to remember and live without.

Additionally, the speaker uses anaphora to create a sense of longing. She says phrases such as “Come back to me in tears…come to me in dreams…come back to me.” (28, 5-18). This repetition creates desperation for the love of her life who is forever in all parts of her memory. The longing is so strong that the speaker uses exclamatory words such as “O” to convey the yearning in the first two stanzas.

Moreover, it is very apparent that there is the imagery of the divine and spirits. The speaker says that her love is in “paradise”, which can be translated to mean heaven, which also stands as a metaphor for death. In addition, the mentioning of words such as “soul”, “breath” and “pulse” are all spiritual descriptors that create the imagery for her only contact to be with her love in spirit, as he no longer exists in the flesh to breathe and have his loving heartbeat next to her.

Now, understanding the longing, the repetitive dreams, and the presence of spiritual references, the title offers so much more. In one instance, Echo quite literally means an echo. Her desire for him to come back to her is nothing more than an echo, something that will never change. In another instance, the title is a metaphor for the dreams that the speaker will continue to have, but there is nothing she can do to get any more comfort from her lover than to dream up sweet memories of him. Lastly, the title Echo may stand as a reference to the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, where Echo is rejected by Narcissus and left to long for his love. This relates to the speaker’s soul which is situated in a state of eternal longing. Usually, the titles of poems tend to be referenced in the poem itself, however, this title is almost a part of the story. It is multidimensional and offers much meaning to the various messages the speaker relays throughout the poem.


In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there seems to be an on-going theme regarding a women’s sexuality. The first instance of this can be seen when Jonathon wakes up to find three women talking about kissing him and attempting to seduce him. While Jonathon does characterize them as “beautiful” he also calls them “the devils of pit.” Which insinuates that women who are sexual beings and have embraced their sexuality are devilish and unnatural.

Later on in the story, we learn more about Mina and Lucy, the other two main women in the story. Mina and Lucy are both charactered as more “normal” women compared to the three vampires, however their gender also impedes people’s judgments about them. Most notably Is the moment when Mina writes about how peaceful Lucy looks while she is sleeping. She also takes the time to make fun of the New Women, claiming in Chapter 8 that “Some of the New Women writers will someday start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting.” Mina is essentially making fun of the progressive women and insinuating that women need to be docile and needy, especially when it comes to men.

Reading this book at first, the insinuations and highlights may not be obvious. But digging in deeper, the theme and issues within the story are obvious. These two moments are just a few of many genders related issues at play within Dracula. These moments show us that women who are perceived as sexual, who may not be married, however they are comfortable with their own sexuality, are considered devils and from the pits of hell in Victorian culture. This theme also shows that progressive women were considered outsiders in Victorian culture and even other women played into the idea that women need to be docile and follow men.

Temptation at the Goblin Market

The poem, “The Goblin Market,” alludes to the temptation of sexual desire and the consequences that follow if one were to succumb to it. The fruits that the goblins are selling represent the sexual desire and temptation that Laura eventually gives into when she consumes the fruit. The stanza “she sucked and sucked and sucked the more fruits which that unknown orchard bore… then flung the empty rinds away” (p. 4) emphasizes that Laura consumed as much fruit as she could, fully giving into the temptation until she was completely satisfied. Shortly after this stanza it is mentioned how a previous woman, Jeanie, succumbed to her temptations that later lead to her demise which is represented in the lines that say “she pined and pined away; sought them by night and day, found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey; then fell with the first snow” (p.5). This is similar to what we have noted in Dracula. Lucy is tortured by Dracula throughout with sexual temptation and when she “succumbs” to the power of Dracula and the temptations he is providing; it leads to her demise within the novel. Both pieces display a fear of sexuality and how it was viewed negatively during the time period they were written. These pieces provide the message for women that sexual desire has temporary pleasure while the consequences lead to a lifetime of pain and suffering. Sexual encounters have been mentioned in many of the pieces we have read, however, in these two recent works it has become very apparent and appears to be a strong theme throughout gothic literature. I am curious to see if this theme continues throughout other pieces we will read in the future.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Show Me My Narrative Foil

Dracula is mired in juxtaposition: Dracula and Van Helsing, Jonathan and Harker, Mina and Lucy, Lucy and the three vampire women. Stoker uses these comparisons to convey who or what is “good” or “right” in the world.

As we have thoroughly discussed in class, Dracula is obviously the bad, terrible, not good side of imperialism: the consequences. He is conniving, evil, and preys on society’s most vulnerable (women, obviously); worst of all, he’s a foreigner. He brings Jonathan to his castle to help him practice English until he is “content if [he is] like the rest”, AKA until nobody can tell he is not from England. Dracula is a personification of the perceived threat of reverse colonization.

Van Helsing, on the other hand, is kind, wise, and of a far more acceptable old age than Dracula. His goal is to kill Dracula and prevent from inserting himself into British life. He saves Lucy’s soul and helps our merry band of Englishmen (plus one American and one woman) enact revenge on her tormentor. He comes to England on an invitation from Dr. Seward (Stoker 122). Despite not saying everything at the beginning, Van Helsing is very honest in his intentions and actions. Because of his opposition to Dracula, Van Helsing is the “right” kind of foreigner: He helps protect England, maybe even improve it by sharing his knowledge of vampires.

Keeping in mind Stoker’s origins in mind, I think the addition of Van Helsing to Dracula’s imperialism metaphor adds another layer by implying that it is okay for foreigners to land on British soil as long as they do it legitimately. Illegal immigrants like Dracula will snatch up available real estate property, assault good British women, and create a threat to British children. However, invited foreigners are allowed and welcome, especially if they help root out their illegal counterparts. This helps balance Stoker’s status as an Irishman living in England with the obvious xenophobia in Dracula because he himself was a contributing member of British society.

The Patriarchy Strikes Again

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.