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Femininity of Lucy and Mina in Novel Dracula

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‘In Dracula, Lucy represents a 19th century ideal of femininity, whereas Mina embodies a more modern view of the role of women’. To what extent do you agree? Stoker’s presentation of the differences between Mina and Lucy provokes the debate about whether Lucy is intended to represent a traditional female role, with Mina being her modern counterpart. A typical depiction of life for a 19th century woman involved staying at home to look after their families; whereas, 20th century women secured greater independence and equality.

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While, at first glance, there’s greater evidence of these aspects of modern femininity in Mina, it’s worth noting that, despite acting autonomously and being respected by men, Mina’s actions in Dracula serve the purpose of aiding her husband’s struggle. Additionally, Lucy’s sexuality could be regarded as more modern, but, in succumbing to Dracula, she appears to lack the poise Mina possesses. The nature of Mina and Lucy’s relationships with men differs greatly.

Mina’s character incorporates the modern role of women; in many ways she appears equal to the men around her. She has man’s brain – a brain that a man should have were he much gifted – and a woman’s heart”. This demonstrates the respect Mina acquires through her contributions in the fight against Dracula; however, Van Helsing’s comparison of Mina to a man shows that Victorian society was still strongly influenced by gender stereotypes: men were intelligent and women were caring. Mina’s acceptance into the male world is only down to her possession of ‘male’ characteristics, namely, intelligence. Perhaps this supports the idea that Mina does embody a more modern view of the role of women.

This view may have been so modern that society hadn’t adjusted to it; therefore, to express the extent of her intelligence a comparison to a man is necessary. Despite this, some aspects of Mina’s relationships with men remain traditional, such as the long quest to restore her purity. Arguably, the transition into a vampire is an extended metaphor for the loss of virginity and, therefore, ‘purity’. A feminist critic may see Stoker’s representations of women as weak but, unlike Mina, Stoker portrays the vampire women as sexual predators, which is similarly unflattering but undeniably contrasted. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive’. There‘s a juxtaposition in describing the vampiresses as ‘thrilling and repulsive’, linking to the idea of terror in the Gothic genre. Primarily, Jonathan’s feeling towards the vampiresses is excitement: their ‘voluptuousness’ is seductive. However, he knows he should be afraid of them so he’s simultaneously repelled. The importance of virginity in the 19th century is seen through Lucy’s transition into a ‘she-devil’ once Dracula takes her purity.

More than a century later, this contrast between innocence and corruption in relation to women is still used in Vampire literature. [1] Perhaps Stoker was a feminist pioneer in suggesting that women with sexual power are attractive, unlike the stereotypical Victorian desire for chastity. The ending, when Mina’s purity is restored, could be described as a victory in the fight for the traditional innocence of women, but a defeat in the battle of desire for sexual liberation that was beginning to be unveiled in both men and women.

Stoker presents women as capable of jeopardising the structure of the Victorian patriarchal society. Someone like Lucy, whose sexuality is regarded as unacceptable, is therefore perceived to be challenging gender categories more than Mina. He illustrates the taboo of female sexuality using symbols, demonstrating the fear of female sexual liberation through the vampiresses and the metaphor of Lucy becoming a vampire. Eszter Muskovits writes about humans undergoing this transformation. “They become hermaphrodites: male on the mouth and female on the neck”.

This refers to the symbol of penetration in a vampire’s bite. “Due to this sexual ambiguity, the distance between male and female sexuality is narrowed”. Muskovits is suggesting that the fear of vampires stems from the terror that the gap between gender roles is narrowing, having the potential to uproot society. Perhaps in the 21st century these symbols are unnecessary, as female sexuality is no longer such a taboo. Furthermore, the public sphere is now more equally gender-balanced, with women in equivalent positions of power to men.

If feminist critics are right and the domestic sphere is merely an extension of the public sphere, then sexuality may have become more balanced in private relationships; something Lucy seemed to be striving for. In some ways Stoker characterises Lucy as more modern than Mina. An example of this is their different reasons for marriage. It seems Mina’s idea of marriage is very traditional, she strives to support Jonathan in everything he does, never expressing sexual desire, whereas Lucy is flirtatious: “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her? This quotation demonstrates Lucy’s predisposition to temptation, foreshadowing her fate and her rejection of Victorian morals with this tendency towards polygamy. It’s no coincidence that all three men who propose to Lucy give her blood. In a way, she doesn’t have to choose between the men: although she marries Arthur, she can be satisfied that all these men desire her and make sacrifices for her. This contrasts to Mina, who’s self-sacrificing, as was expected of 19th century women.

All of Lucy’s suitors display tremendous devotion towards her throughout the novel, illustrating the shift in gender equality that emerged at the turn of the century. Feminist critics have focused on the similarities between the domestic and public spheres. They’ve concluded that the relationship between a man and woman taking place in the domestic sphere, such as Mina’s support for Jonathan, is simply an extension of the public sphere, where Victorian politics were entirely androcentric. This suggests that Mina and Jonathan’s relationship is the more typically 19th century of the two couples.

Once Lucy becomes a vampire, Stoker uses her to subvert the idea of motherhood: ‘It has the same tiny wound in the throat… It too… had the common story to tell of being lured away by the ‘bloofer lady’’. ‘Bloofer lady’ is thought to be a further corruption of ‘boofer (beautiful) lady’[2]. This is ironic as children are linking Lucy to Lizzie while Lucy’s drinking their blood, portraying her as anything but self-sacrificing. Additionally, if ‘bloofer’ means beautiful, then Lucy’s being sexualized again and the reader is reminded that she’s more sexually aware than a traditional Victorian woman.

Perhaps Stoker used Lucy to contradict the view that all women should be mothers. It’s a retaliation against children, who take from women. However, drinking the blood of a child is a perverse subversion of breastfeeding and contrasts dramatically with the end of the novel, which has biblical allusions: Mina with her newborn baby and Mary with Jesus. This different approach to motherhood portrays Mina as more traditional than Lucy. Stoker’s varied use of form is significant in deciphering the differences between Mina and Lucy. The narrative perspective shifts in the forms of diaries, journals and letters.

Lucy keeps a diary, Mina keeps a journal. There’s little difference in what defines the two, but a diary seems juvenile and a journal more serious. It could be argued that the different forms echo the ideas in the domestic and public spheres. A journal is public, Mina uses it in a businesslike manner, emulating the reserved nature of Victorian women. It’s a documentation of useful information, including conversations, demonstrating her desire to be helpful. She’s acutely aware of what’s required of women in the public sphere and reproduces these ideals in her journal.

In contrast, Lucy’s diary is Romantic with frequent examples of figurative language: ‘… long spells of oblivion, and the rising back to life as a diver coming up through a great press of water’. Perhaps this simile alludes to Lucy’s freedom as a woman. It’s worth considering that the ‘great press of water’ is a metaphor for the constraints on feminine freedom. Lucy writes about her feelings with a gushing tone: ‘But, oh, Mina, I love him; I love him; I love him! ’ The repetition shows Lucy’s excitability and may appear childlike. In contrast, Mina refers to Jonathan in a motherly way. How proud I am to see my Jonathan rising to the height of his advancement… ’ Later, she calls him ‘Poor dear’ and ‘Poor fellow’. Mina’s relationship with Jonathan is full of stereotypically 19th century feminine feeling, including a subservience towards the man, whether husband or father. Stoker refrains from forcing the reader to settle on a conclusion of which character, Mina or Lucy, presents traditional femininity, and which embodies a more modern view of the role of women. At first glance, Lucy’s the damsel in distress, characteristic of females in the Gothic genre.

However, after deeper analysis, she seems a rather more complex character, manifesting desire for things that were shameful in the 19th century, whereas Mina is approved of. Surely someone so easily respected is unlikely to be presenting a challenge to contemporary society, as it’s in human nature to fear change. Mina’s many qualities, while appearing modern, are used in a way typical of 19th century women, to support her husband rather than to further herself. In contrast, Lucy’s use of her own sexuality embodies more strikingly a modern view of the role of women.

Word Count: 1498 References: Sparknotes – Dracula Oxford World’s Classics – Dracula by Bram Stoker Critical Anthology – Feminism Eszter Muskovits – The Split Concept of Womanhood in Bram Stoker’s Dracula Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens ———————– [1] In the Twilight saga, for example, Stephanie Meyer displays human women as plain as opposed to the female vampires, who are terrifyingly beautiful. [2] The name given to Lizzie Hexham – A character renowned for self-sacrifice in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Cite this Femininity of Lucy and Mina in Novel Dracula

Femininity of Lucy and Mina in Novel Dracula. (2016, Oct 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/femininity-of-lucy-and-mina-in-novel-dracula/

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