Dracula converts the society’s conventions into grotesque elements. Religion is deformed by Count Dracula and used to transform women into a demonic-being. This status of fear makes ordinary people to defeat the enemy that comes from the outside, giving the fact that the Count is a foreigner. People are anxious because their society values are changing and transforming their ‘angel in the house’ into ‘The new Women’. Dracula makes his feminine subjects be sexually aggressive challenging the normal convictions. Only with a good Christianity reinforcing patriarchy this contagious behavior that considers a threat can be solved.
The Victorian era is placed on a transition period between traditional ideas towards a new lifestyle. This creates a status of fear and anxieties towards this changes that are portrayed on Bram Stoker’s novel. Science and superstition is confronted on this book, as well as the fear of immigration and sexuality related to women. Women are changing their role on patriarchy: they are now more individual and free, challenging taboos and traditional convections.
Victorians had to live between two worlds: the old world that was losing the track and the new world that was emerging with strength. The gothic novel is created because of the changes in culture representing the exaggeration of cultural uncivilization. Dracula is a gothic novel that shows the fears and anxieties of this social period. This novel illustrates superstitions towards scientific rationality.
The main force that controls society is religion. Patriarchy is reinforced with the ideals of religion. Women were supposed to marry and carry a family, and this did not include sexual satisfaction. ‘The New Women’ fought for their rights of being more independent and having more concerns about sexual needs. This was shocking for a patriarchal society and caused them some sort of fear of losing their domestic order. Stoker introduced this polemic on his novel through two characters embodying the two different types of women that got along on same edge.
Two women are the center of Dracula: Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray embodying female identity. Lucy demonstrates childlike type of womanhood with an active unconscious sexuality splitting the character into two: the virgin Lucy and the sexualized vampire. Mina is a more complex identity being the perfect Victorian prototype of women as so as having individual skills such as a big intelligence. However, Mina is always loyally to her husband being a perfect housewife.
In one scene, Jonathan, kept in the Castle of Dracula, finding himself attracted to three mysterious female vampires. “I am alone in the castle with those awful women,” “Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is naught in common. They are devils of the pit!” . The changeableness of womanhood in Dracula represents a nervousness over women’s aptitude to be both erotic and virginal at once. Lucy is virgin during the day and a vampire at night; Mina has “a man’s brain and a woman’s heart” , and the women who seduce Jonathan in the castle are undeniably female.
Tabitha Sparks points out the psychological change that Lucy goes through after her transformation in her article named Medical Gothic and the Return of the Contagious Diseases Acts in Stoker and Machen:
Lucy’s affliction marks her transformation from virginal girl to sexually compromised woman and resembles venereal disease in the illicit nature of its transmission and its progressively degenerative effect on her health. Before her first transfusion, Lucy is given a narcotic, but not told of the proceedings: Van Helsing says to her “cheerily,” “Now, little miss, here is your medicine. Drink it off, like a good child” (122). In contrast, Lucy’s ailing mother is conscious of her own illness, a heart condition. Stoker thus demarcates a symbolic difference between Mrs. Westenra’s respectable illness and Lucy’s indecent and clandestine ‘venereal disease.’ When Lucy has received more transfusions. Van Helsing pledges that he “will tell her all when she is well” , but she dies before he has the chance.
Victorian literature creates the vampire figure as a sexual predator that converted angelical women into a sexually wild ‘femme fatal’. Dracula shows the Count’s intention of possessing Mina, a woman who is the perfect “angel in the house”. We get to know a perfect Victorian woman, Mina, who spends her honeymoon taking care of her sick husband and her friend Lucy. However, she is in danger because the Count shows his intentions of changing the women as he points to Professor Van Helsing and his followers in the chapter 23 saying “Your girls that you all love are mine already”. Dracula is a menace for all women on Victorian society, but Mina has very strong convictions towards female role, so she is able to persist those tainted ideas. On the other hand, Lucy, who is more open-minded, is not so lucky to be safe on Dracula’s aims. Mina finally accepts her place on a patriarchal society meanwhile Lucy does not fit on that role. As a result, Mina is finally saved meanwhile Lucy is punished.
Initially, Mina is one of the second characters, but right after she is bitten she becomes the center of the novel. By being the focus of the novel, she is carried out by different types of masculine figures: a doctor, a scientist, an American capitalist, a member of the English gentry, her husband and a real estate agent. In contrast with conventional women, Mina is full of information that she uses to help to solve the problem. Scientist Van Helsingr claims that she “has a men’s brain (…) and a women’s heart” (p.302).
Lucy can reflect ‘The New Woman’ concept which is attached with independence on gender by taking advantage of the employment opportunities on women. Nevertheless, Lucy has a moral weakness: on one occasion she receives three marriage proposals and she must decline two, on this moment she claims not to be allowed to marry more than one man. This weakness lead Dracula to enter on her personality by blood transfusions. Lucy becomes one no-dead being a new vampire waking up from her coffin at night to attack undefended children, as an irony towards the feminine maternity. This idea of killing children is an extreme way of showing the fear that Victorians had towards the freedom of woman of deciding to not to become a mother.
Lucy is killed with a stick in her heart and, even though this stick is related with a phallic symbol and she seems to find pleasure on it, it is a demonstration of patriarchy’s power. Arthur, his fiancé, must show his “punish” towards the New Woman for enjoying sex. Since Lucy has become a vampire she is no longer the angel in the house under Victorian ideals. Lucy is repulsive even for her partner because she is not a pure woman but a threat for men.
When Van Helsing kills the three vampire women, he is, in fact, raping them. This scene shows male’s dominance over women. The third rape shown is when Dracula abuses Mina, which represents an attack on Victorian values because Dracula is the foreign unknown. This also represents the Victorian’s fear to reproduce with people from other races because of a belief of transmission of blood diseases. The fourth rape takes place between Jonathan and other three women, when he fears and desires these women. Jonathan feels scared towards the sexual liberty and knowledge of the pleasure on these women. Homosexuality is also shown in this same chapter, Dracula intervenes on the scene claiming that Jonathan belongs to him.
Many Christian ideas are shown on Dracula’s novel. Dracula itself seems to project the perversion of various Christians ideals and symbols and Van Helsing uses various Christians symbols to defeat the danger. Stroker is showing the idea of using religion to prevail the devil.
Blood’s significance is related as a vital fluid for human and vampires. Humans are infected of vampirism throughout the blood and vampires use blood as the only way of nourishment. Blood also corrupts Christianity: on the catholic communion, the children take bread as the body of Christ and wine as the blood of Christ. This also represents the Christ sacrifice by crucifixion by entering on total spiritual union with him. Vampires consume human blood giving them fortification because of a damage on demonic sense. If the communion gives a set of union between the human and God, vampires are monstrously on union between them and human by drinking their loud.
Sexuality on vampirism is depicted in many instances of the novel, Jonathan itself shows his sexual desires towards the women vaporized even though he is on a marriage compromise. The women become vampire are shown as lover’s predators. Also, this transfusion of blood symbolizes sexual desire and sexual diseases. For vampires it also means reproduction.
To conclude, the vampire is “a sign of the times” because it evoked by specific cultural anxieties. This creature is increasingly reconstructing the world in its own image. Vampires re-enact human paradigms of colonialism, to the human point of view, vampires turn colonization to the colonizers. This threat of reverse colonization is externalized to a threat of nation. These nations are threat because they have vulnerability on their identities. The novel presents a utopia where women can behave with total sexual freedom. We get in touch with some women character who, after being vampirized, can intimidate men with their liberty. So, we can say that Dracula offers a utopia to the women he gets under his world.