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Sexuality in Bram Stocker's Dracula Most critics agree that Dracula is, as much as anything else, a novel that indulges

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Christina Monksfield 034497340 History Level 3 HST283 - The Social Construction of Sexuality 1780-1930 Tutor: Sue Bestwick Sexuality in Bram Stocker's Dracula Most critics agree that Dracula is, as much as anything else, a novel that indulges the Victorian male imagination, particularly regarding the topic of female sexuality. In Victorian England, women's sexual behaviour was dictated by society's extremely rigid expectations. A Victorian woman effectively had only two options: she was either a virgin-a model of purity and innocence-or else she was a wife and mother. If she was neither of these, she was considered a whore, and thus of no consequence to society. The transformation of Britain in to an Industrial nation had profound consequences for the way in which women were to be idealised. New kinds of work and a new kind of urban living prompted a change in the ways in which appropriate male and female roles were perceived. The manufacturers and professional men worked long hours in the pursuit of the capital which would enable them to live pleasantly as gentlemen of leisure, and at the end of the day were thankful to return home, or as Ruskin put it "to the shelter"1, maintained by women to ensure their husbands returned home to a pleasant environment. The notion of separate spheres - woman in the private sphere of the home or hearth; man in the public sphere of business, politics and sociability - came to influence the choices and experiences of middle class women. In the Industrial era, the ideology of separate spheres had been widely dispersed. In popular advice literature and domestic novels, as well as in advertisements in magazines and newspapers, domesticity was popularised as female domain. "Lay writers of domesticity, often religiously inspired, played an important part in establishing the social codes which informed middle class propriety for many generations"2.Stoker's Dracula is another window through which we can see the Victorian Society. ...read more.


I must hide it from Jonathon, for if he knew I had been crying twice in one morning"16. More importantly, Stocker depicts the second type in Lucy. Lucy is transformed from a conventional figure of the West's ideal woman, characterised by her 'sweetness' and 'purity', in to a figure whose 'heartless cruelty' and 'volumptuous wantonness' cannote the brutal promiscuity of the world depicted by nineteenth century natural history. With this change, Stoker situates Lucy within the many unmarried, pregnant women who begin to people the Anglo-American novels of the century. These figures, which include Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth and Thomas Hardy's Tess, reject hierarchy and gender polarities and suggest a world which is not natural.17 Stoker therefore rejects 'the New Woman' as not being natural. Upon further analyzing the roles played by both women, critics have stated that Lucy Westenra is one of the "suddenly sexual women" in the narrative18 and taking into account Mina Harker as the Good Woman who embodies aspects of Mother, Sister, and Child, Griffin argues that "Stoker's gothic is quintessentially Victorian: the worst horror it can imagine is not Dracula at all but the released, transforming sexuality of the Good Woman"19 This indulgence is however only a brief glimpse into feminist virtues and in no way can justify Dracula as a feminist work however could it be said that it is a basis for development had been subtlety laid down by Stoker. "Depicting parts of the novel that would deem influential to a feminist reader it would seem that when Dracula lands in England he sets his eyes (or fangs) on the beautiful Lucy Westenra, we can understand from this that the impending battle between good and evil will hinge upon female sexuality"20. "Both Lucy and Mina are less like real people than two dimensional embodiments of virtues that have, over the ages, been coded as female"21. Both women are chaste, pure, innocent of the world's evils, and devoted to their men. ...read more.


It is also clear that the separation of the sexes did mean that the female domain was the home, whilst the male domain was the public. Upon exploration of this sexuality it would seem that a sexually aggressive female would spur a conventional Victorian male to loose all dignity and control. At the time of Stoker's Dracula this quality in a woman would be unacceptable however not totally unappreciated by the male imagination. "Dracula has many scenes that seem to revel in sexual language and sensual description; these pleasures are of course sublimated to a Victorian sense of morality" 31. Sexual energy, in Stoker's view, has great potential for evil, but part of the novel's trick is that Stoker is allowed to express this sexual energy without the repercussions of doing just that. In other words writing a novel that implicitly conflates sin with sexuality in a moralizing way, Stoker is also given free reign to write incredibly lurid and sensual scenes. This is his deceptive means of representing a society with feminist equality and any female who breaks the boundaries of desire will inevitably become part of the undead in order to restore innocence and decorum. However his allowance to portray woman as sexual in the first place and his generous portrayal of Mina throughout the novel spark a light for feminist readers and in turn start the development of the feminist era. The contrasting female characters of the novel not only reflect values of the time, but also, in the case of the female vampires, feelings which were present, but which were frowned upon, such as temptation and lust. They embody the value in the name of which the men fight (Miss Mina's purity, goodness, virtue: she is the embodiment of pure human virtue); women are also the site of human vulnerability; the medium through which Dracula touches them and they can reach Dracula. Ideas of feminism are contrasted with ideas of power, making the novel one which reflected (in the Victorian era) what was, and what was feared. ...read more.

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