Yesterday I tried to provide a little context for Dracula. Today let’s talk about sex. There are only five female characters in the book. Three of them are Dracula’s vampire women at his castle. They only make a couple brief appearances, most notably when Jonathan Harker disobeys Dracula and falls asleep in a room other than his own. Harker wakes up to the three vampire women discussing who gets a piece of him first. They are pretty and voluptuous and oh so desirable. Harker wants them and fears them at the same time. Lucky for him Dracula shows up and saves him.
They make another appearance towards the end of the book when Van Helsing enters the castle with the express purpose of killing them. It is still daylight outside and so they are sleeping in their coffins. He gazes on their sleeping forms, noting how beautiful they are, and is momentarily transfixed with longing for them. But Van Helsing being the manly man he is, he shakes it off and stakes them each through the heart and then cuts off their heads.
The women we are most interested in are Lucy and Mina. Lucy and Mina are friends but where Lucy is an upper class lady, Mina must work for a living. Lucy is the pure and proper Victorian lady. She is beautiful and blond, is lively but in a proper way. In one day she is proposed to by three different men, Quincey, an American from Texas, Dr. Seward, a gentleman who runs the mental institution, and Arthur who before the book is over becomes Lord Godalming. Arthur is, of course, the best match and happens to be the one who Lucy is in love with and rightly accepts him. Unfortunately for the pair, Dracula gets between them.
Lucy of course becomes a vampire. It is a long and drawn out process of changing not like in the movies. Her fiance, her two rejectees, and Van Helsing who arrives to help Dr. Seward with the vampire problem, all love her and do their best to save her. It begins with a blood transfusion from her fiance. But Arthur’s blood, the best and purest, not only because he is her fiance but also because of his aristocratic standing, is rightfully the first donor. But it is not enough. Dracula keeps finding a way to get to Lucy and she ends up receiving transfusions from all the other men as well. But Van Helsing doesn’t want Arthur to know so he won’t be jealous about the exchange of bodily fluids.
When Lucy becomes a vampire her sexuality is unleashed. Her blond hair turns dark, her lips are bright red, and she is suddenly voluptuous. She feeds off babies and small children and horrifies the men when they come to confront her by throwing the toddler she was holding in her arms at the time down onto the ground. Vampire Lucy is now unclean, carnal and unspiritual. Dr. Seward who loved her so now hates and loathes her and longs to kill her. But the kill is Arthur’s right. They return to Lucy’s tomb when it is still daylight and she is in her coffin. Arthur is to stake her through the heart. When he drives in the stake Lucy’s body “shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions” but Arthur kept on:
He looked like a figure of Thor as his trembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake
All this while the other men watch and urge him on. When the work is done Lucy returns to her pure, blond self. Arthur has redeemed her from the taint of Dracula. But Lucy is never blamed for her infidelity. She sleepwalks and Dracula claimed her while she was sleeping, therefore she did not willing give herself to him and she can be forgiven.
Mina with her man’s brain and woman’s heart, who makes sly remarks disparaging the “New Woman,” making sure that we all know despite her knowledge of shorthand and her typing skills she learned them all to help her husband Jonathan the lawyer. Mina is the one who puts together Dracula’s story from the various letters and diaries of the men. Mina’s work and her smarts are what allow the men to make a plan to kill Dracula. But they cut Mina out of it, tell her that she must be protected from what has now become men’s work.
But the men keeping her in the dark leave her unprotected and while they are running around town Dracula is visiting Mina. Mina doesn’t have the sleepwalking excuse that Lucy had. She knows what is going on, knows why she is getting pale and feeling week but she doesn’t say anything. The men notice she is different but don’t connect it with Dracula. Not until Mina is caught in the act of sucking Dracula’s blood from a scratch he made on his chest while her husband is entranced in bed beside her does she fess up to what had been going on. Van Helsing tries to cleanse Mina by touching The Host to her forehead but she is so unclean that it burns her and leaves a red scar that she carries for almost the rest of the book. Call it her Scarlet Letter.
As Mina begins to change and she and the men chase Dracula to Transylvania, they use Mina and her connection with Dracula to find out where he is. Van Helsing is able to hypnotize her just before dawn and she can sense what Dracula is sensing, shut up in his box that is being shipped to his castle.
In the end Dracula is killed (or is he?) and Mina is released from her sins. The scar disappears, she can have proper relations with her husband again and very soon she has a child, a boy, who is named after all five men linking them all together.
An interesting thing to note is that Dracula only ever propagates through women. Not once does he bite a man, not even Jonathan at the beginning of the novel when he is essentially held captive in Dracula’s castle. The critic Stephen D. Arata suggest this reveals
an affinity, or even an identity, between vampiric sexuality and female sexuality. Both are represented as primitive and voracious, and both threaten patriarchal hegemony.
Dracula being from the East is also a threat. It is a sort of reverse colonization. This foreigner is taking the beautiful women and making them his own. As if the sexuality weren’t enough, Dracula is the cause of xenophobia as well.
I’ve gone on enough in spite of there being more that could be said. On a side note, don’t be offended if you leave a comment and it gets swept up into moderation. Any mention of sex tends to get caught up in the filters. I’ll keep an eye on the filters and make sure all legitimate comments get published. I also read this for the R.I.P. Challenge.