Dracula: Competition and the Social Adulterer
Throughout Stoker’s Dracula, a central theme is evident, Competition. The term competition refers to a test of skill or ability. Most of the competitions in Dracula are those between Dracula and the “good” men. Stoker’s novel can be seen as a similar version of the “Primal Horde” theory in which Freud created. A primal horde is a group of people arranged around a single dominant male, who has total authority over the group and holds claim over the females. Though this theory is also connected with incest, I would like to re think the sexual competition that takes place in this novel in terms of interracial competition.
Though Dracula has his own women, he is interested in the women who belong to someone else. Dracula strives to be the single dominant male, by hoarding women around him and claiming them as his own. In this sense, Dracula can be seen as “the ultimate adulterer, whose purpose is nothing if it is not to turn good Englishwomen like Lucy and Mina away from their own kind and customs. ” (Stevenson) Stoker does an amazing job of illustrating vampire sexuality as a “doubled phenomenon”. (Stevenson) In this essay I will look at the dual interpretations between “feeding” and “sex” and how they intertwine.
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Stoker’s ability to illustrate the unfamiliar roles in which many in this novel take on proves to be helpful in understanding the relations between all the characters in the novel. In this essay I would like to argue that throughout Stoker’s novel there is a constant competition between good and evil. I believe Stoker set up Dracula like a competition between the band of men and Dracula. Who wins? When Dracula is described throughout the novel he is always seen as a foreign being, strange to the eye. “I knew him at once from the description of the others.
The waxen face; the high aquiline nose, on which the light fell in a thin, white line; the parted red lips, with the sharp white teeth showing between; and the red eyes that I had seemed to see in the sunset on the windows of St. Mary’s Church at Whitby. I knew, too, the red scar on his fore- head where Jonathan had struck him. (Stoker, 292-93) John Allen Stevenson brings up a great question in his critical essay about Dracula. “In what way are vampires another “race”? ” (Stevenson) Vampires can be seen as another race because they have human tendencies that differ from those of humans.
In Stevenson’s essay as well as mine, I use the word interracial to refer to the relationships between vampires and non- vampires. All the vampires in the novel described similarly. Stoker’s emphasis on red and white is used to describe the transition period and the completed vampirism. The three women that Jonathon Harker encounters in Dracula’s castle are also described as having “brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips” (Stoker, 46). Even more importantly, Lucy and Mina start to also have these similar features during the time that Dracula was visiting them.
Stoker uses color in this novel as a way to create racial classifications. Unlike humans, vampires are described as having pale skin, similar to a corpse and red voluptuous lips as if they are stained with blood. In Stevenson‘s essay he argues that the scar that both Mina and Dracula have function as a caste mark, a sign of membership in a group foreign to the men Mina belongs to. Jonathon describes Mina’s scar as the “red scar on my poor darling’s white fore- head” (Stoker, 321). Van Helsing gives this scar to Mina in attempts to protect her from further attack.
This can be seen as a way that they are marking Mina as a foreigner. To further understand the competition that occurs in the novel, we must look at Stoker’s description of the men that try to save Mina and Lucy as well as destroy the Count. Stevenson argues that Stoker describes the men in a moral rather than physical matter, using terms to describe them like good, brave, and strong. Their roles throughout the novel are to protect and destroy. Mina believes that it is the role of these brave men to do what is necessary to make sure the Count does not reach his goal. Think, dear, that there have been times when brave men have killed their wives and womenkind, to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. … It is men’s duty towards those whom they love, in such times of sore trial! ” (Stoker, 336) Mina believes that it would be the right thing to kill her if she falls prey to the Count. She tells this to Jonathon because she thinks that it is his obligation as a man to stop Dracula, even if it means killing her in the process. Moreover, these men have a very specific job in this novel, which is to keep the integrity of Lucy and Mina.
Stevenson brings up a great question, why are “wives and womenkind” a treasure better destroyed than lost to the “enemy”? (Stevenson) I believe that the men in this novel that are trying to stop the Count believe it is their duty to never let Lucy or Mina become the “enemy”. When Lucy transforms into a vampire, they know that they must kill her to keep her integrity and bring her to peace. “Arthur took the stake and the hammer, and when once his mind was set on action his hands never trembled nor even quivered. …Arthur placed the point over the heart, and as I looked I could see its dint in the white flesh.
Then he struck with all his might. The Thing in the coffin writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it. ” (Stoker, 223) This is the scene when Lucy is killed.
This is one of the scenes in which I believe Stoker tries to show the men’s duty to kill Lucy to keep her integrity. Arthur who is Lucy’s fiance is left with the responsibility of putting a stake through her heart. They must kill her in this way to free her soul. The way Stoker describes Arthur as having no reaction to killing the woman he loves shows that his duty is to be brave and to not show any fear or sadness because these are the things that have to be done to stop Dracula. Lucy is described as “deviant” in need of sexual control. (Eltis) This scene contains insinuations of penetration and sexuality.
Until this moment in the novel, Dracula is the only being that has penetrated Lucy. Now Arthur has his first chance to be “intimate”. In this scene the stake can be seen as representing Arthur’s penis. The way Stoker describes Lucy’s movements and noises insinuate orgasm. This moment represents the consecration of their union, implying that Arthur bring Lucy back to a position of monogamy. This again ties back to the idea of competition. Arthur takes back what he thinks is rightfully his (Lucy) from Dracula. Jennifer Wicke argues that the sexual iolation in this scene is undoubtedly punishment for Lucy’s sexuality as a vampire. Without a doubt Dracula displays resentment and opposition towards female sexuality. Pure women were considered “good” and those who were sexual beings were described as “voluptuous” monsters. (Stevenson) Vampire sexuality in this novel is a metaphorical connection between “feeding” and the actual act of sex. Stevenson suggests that vampire sexuality is a phenomenon in which gender roles are switched. I agree with this argument because men are feminized during the act of being penetrated by fangs.
The roles of women are also odd because some women in this novel consume infants instead of mothering them. Women like Lucy and the three women in the Counts castle also take on a “masculine” trait of aggressive sexuality. (Carter) These roles are not traditional to the time they were in. Since vampires procreate differently than that of humans the act of feeding is essentially described the exact same way sex between two humans would be described. The way Stoker describes feedings throughout the novel is very intimate. But why is the act of feeding and the act of sex described in the same way in this novel?
Stevenson argues that although their act of reproduction is strange, it is very much similar to the sexuality that humans possess. I think it is very important to point out that one of the major differences between vampire sexuality and human sexuality is that with vampires, the act of feeding and procreating are the same, “satisfying two needs simultaneously” (Stevenson) The scene when Dracula is in Jonathon and Mina’s room is a great example of the intimacy in feeding as well as the sexual innuendo. “On the bed beside the window lay Jonathon Harker, his face flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor.
Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw we all recognised the Count- in every way, even to the scar on his forehead. With his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker’s hands, keeping them way with her arms at full tension; this right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast which was shown by his torn-open dress.
The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink. ” (Stoker, 283) Stoker sets the scene by again describing the Count as looking peculiar also pointing out the scar on his forehead as a mark of his true identity as a foreigner. But why “feed” Mina like a child? Feeding here refers to the act of being the motherly. In this scene Mina becomes his offspring. The act of Mina becoming the Count’s offspring brings back the point of an “incestuous relationship”.
Foster argues Dracula, as the mother figure, teaches the women he assaults to be sexually aggressive rather than just destroying them. Why wouldn’t he just destroy his victims? In this scene the Count treats Mina like his child when he forces her to drink the blood from his bosom, but also engages in a sexual act with her. Many critics believe that this scene describes the act of fellatio. In this scene blood can be seen as a symbol of semen, and the act of exchanging fluids. This idea is tied to Freud’s primal horde theory because Dracula strives to maintain control of the female, and being the only dominant male to claim her.
It is suggested that Dracula is in an early stage of development where the desire for sex and the desire for nourishment are undifferentiated. (Riquelme, 477) On the other hand, the way he moves and the power he holds over people make me think differently. Eric Kwan-Wai Yu argues that the mobility and power that Dracula holds is something that is very frightening about this story. His swift movements give him a great advantage though he is smart about his decisions; he is also very brave by taking chances like when he entering the room with Jonathon and Mina.
In the middle of the story, Dracula sneers at the “Crew of Light” headed by Van Helsing to fight him back. (Yu) “Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine—my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed” (Stoker, 267). The Count declares the fate of all the people around him stating that once the girls are his, the men will also be his to feed on when necessary. The men in this novel play the role of hero continuously throughout Dracula. They feel it is their job to save Mina and Lucy from becoming “foreign”.
However, I would like to point out that Jonathon felt a desire to engage in sexual activity with the three women from the castle. So why do they feel that they should repress Mina and Lucy’s sexuality if they themselves can admit to enjoying it? Stevenson suggests that the men fear the “superior sexual potency in the competition”. I concur with this argument and think that both Dracula and all of the men trying to destroy Dracula are much the same. They all see women as possessions, which intern leads to the competition we see throughout Dracula. The men in this novel fear the “New Woman”.
Eltis suggests that unlike most critics, that Lucy is more reminiscent of a traditional Victorian woman. I believe that Lucy is nothing like the traditional Victorian woman. Mina is more like the traditional Victorian woman, while Lucy takes on a non-traditional role as a sexual being complaining “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? ” (Stoker, 80) This is a key reason why Mina was saved and Lucy was not. Lucy’s sexual appetite and desire to be the more dominant person in a relationship threatened the men’s position of power.
When it is discovered that Lucy has succumbed to the temptation of consumption, Lucy is described differently than ever before. “I call the thing that was before us Lucy because it bore her shape- saw us she drew back with an angry snarl, such as a cat gives when taken unawares; then her eyes ranged over us. Lucy’s eyes in form and colour; but Lucy’s eyes unclean and full of hell-fire instead of the pure, gentle, orbs we knew. At that moment the remnant of my love passed into hate and loathing; has she then to be killed, I could have done it with savage delight.
As she looked, her eyes blazed with unholy light, and the face became wreathed with a voluptuous smile. …When she advanced to him with outstretched arms and a wanton smile, he fell back and hid his face in his hands. She still advanced, however, and with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said: “Come to me, Arthur. Leave these other and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come! ””(Stoker, 219) This is the moment when Arthur realized that he would have to kill Lucy to redeem her purity. Because the women in this novel are described as objects, this becomes pivotal moment where the good vs. evil come into play. The good men have realized that they have lost one to evil, Lucy. She is described as if she is no longer pure. She is perceived now as a monster capable of such horrible things. She is no longer seen as a “new Victorian woman”, but instead she is seen as a repulsive animal. In this scene Lucy even tells Arthur to follow her into a new life of being a vampire; defying everything that “good” stands for. Competition is one of the biggest themes throughout Stoker’s Dracula. . We see that though Dracula has his own women, he is interested in the women who belong to someone else.
Dracula’s desire to be the single dominant male by claiming Lucy and Mina makes him “the ultimate adulterer, whose purpose is nothing if it is not to turn good Englishwomen like Lucy and Mina away from their own kind and customs. ”(Stevenson) At the beginning of this essay I asked, who won; good or evil? I believe that neither won. Dracula was killed which most would take as the demise of evil, however, the “good” men are really no different in that they as well as Dracula desire power over the women in this novel. Competition over women and manhood is a constant.
Craft, Christopher. “‘Kiss Me with Those Red Lips’: Gender Inversion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics. Ed Margaret L Carter. Ann Arbor: UMI Research P, 1988. Eltis, Sos. A Gender Studies Perspective, Corruption of the Blood and Degeneration of the Race: Dracula and Policing the Borders of Gender. Bedford St. Martins, 2002. Print. Foster, Dennis. A Psychoanalytic Perspective, The Little Children Can Be Bitten: A Hunger for Dracula. Bedford St. Martins, 2002. Print. Stevenson, John Allen. “A Vampire in the Mirror: The Sexuality of Dracula.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 103.2 (1988): 139-49. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 16 May 2012. Stoker, Bram. Dracula: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Bedford St. Martins, 2002. Print. ‘Vampiric Typewriting: ‘Dracula’ and its Media’ by Jennifer Wicke, ELH vol.59, 1992. Yu, Eric Kwan-Wai. “Productive Fear: Labor, Sexuality, and Mimicry in Bram Stokers Dracula.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48.2 (2006): 145-70. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 16 May 2012.