For centuries, monsters have been used to portray many bad qualities, personalities, and versions of humans. Monsters are used to help us cope with our fears and worst nightmares in society. According to Patricia Donovan, who wrote an article titled “Monster Culture”, fear of monsters has brought many communities and cultures together in the past (1). Many monsters are created to teach society a lesson in a way that they will pay attention, fear. When it comes to the infamous Dracula, he can represent many societal problems. Such as, sex, sexuality, sexual liberation, and gender roles. Dracula disrupts gender roles by sometimes taking the role of a motherly figure to other vampires. Which is different than the Victorian societal normalities. Dracula also challenges sexuality, by having totally different standards compared to the Victorian-era expectations.
Bram Stoker’s infamous novel, “Dracula” is what brought Dracula into the limelight. The gothic horror novel was released in 1897, and it introduced Count Dracula. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s journey to move from Transylvania to England, so he can find new blood and spread the vampiric curse. Upon the release, “Dracula” wasn’t an immediate success. The gothic novel had a lot of mixed reactions, due to the vulgarity and the sexual themes throughout the novel. As many decades passed, the novel started to get praised for the literary themes and concepts. Modern day readers appreciated and understood the importance of the novel, whereas Victorian-era readers seen the novel as a good adventure book.
Sexuality has always been a prevalent part of society. It’s been a recent hot topic and there’s a lot of controversy that surrounds a person’s sexuality. Not that there should be, but the world has many different views on sexuality. Whether it’s stereotypes or assumptions, someone’s sexuality will always be questioned, even a terrifying monster known as Dracula. This all stems from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, that sparked the questioning of Dracula’s sexuality. Sexuality in Dracula is pretty complicated, ultimately pointing out the sexual repression of men and women during the Victorian-era. Women during the Victorian-era were expected to be pure until marriage and not show any sexualbehavior that was considered “promiscuous”.
In “Dracula”, Bram Stoker writes characters that come face to face with sexuality. Sexual repression is at the core of this theme. Both men and women are sexually repressed. As witnessed by Jonathan Harker’s thoughts and actions during his jail time at Dracula’s castle. His sexual repression is best described in the following quote: “I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck, she actually licked her lips like an animal…I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited–waited with beating heart.”(Stoker. Chapter 3, page 8).
To add onto the previous point abow, Jonathan Harker is about to be bitten by Dracula’s three “daughters”. The vampire women are highly sexualized and sensuous. They are free to act on their sexual desires, which is the exact opposite of men and women in Victorian-era society. When Jonathan is closing his eyes, it demonstrates that his inability to handle an open sexuality. But at the same time, he wants his desires to be met by stating that he was “waiting in ecstasy”. Jonathan wants the vampiric women to take advantage of him, since he views her sexual expressiveness as desirable. On the other hand, he’s feeling shame because her sexual expressiveness is seen as repulsive as well.
During the Victorian-era, women were very sexually repressed and weren’t allowed to be sexual beings. But in “Dracula”, when the women are turned into vampires their societal rules are different. Vampire women are allowed to express their sexualities and not be sexually repressed. When a character named Lucy, who’s a nineteen year old girl who’s described as beautiful and angelic. When Lucy is turned into a vampire, this following quote describes the sexual desire that Lucy is creating. “…her breast heaved softly…and then insensibly there came the strange change which I had noticed in the night… the mouth opened, and the pale gums, drawn back, made the teeth look longer and sharper than ever,,, and said in a soft voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips; ‘Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!’ (Stoker, Chap 18,4). This can be seen as a symbolic breaking out of Victorian-era sexuality, because when it comes to the gothic sexuality female vampires are allowed sexual freedom.
Whenever women get a chance to express their freedom, men will most of the time challenge or take it. When Lucy turns into a vampire and gets her sexual liberation, Arthur (her fiance) drives a wooden stake through her heart and kills her. In “Angel in the House, Devil in the City: Explorations of Gender in Dracula and Penny Dreadful”, Lauren Rocha writes, “The transformation of Lucy from a creature of purity and sweetness into an inhuman, unholy one exemplifies the threat of the vampire in the novel: that is, the corruption of women into sexual, uncontrollable beings” (2). Since this novel takes place during the Victorian-era , Arthur was strongly against the new sexually liberated vampire that Lucy has become. The following quote describes how even in gothic sexuality, the male will always have power over a women. “In order to restore Lucy ‘as a holy, and not an unholy, memory’,Arthur drives a stake through her heart. Arthur, Lucy’s fiancé, whom she has tried to seduce with her vampiric ways, is the proper character to kill her; in doing so, he restores the gender balance in which men dominate and control the desires of women” (Rocha, 2).
As a final point on sexuality in “Dracula”, Count Dracula is also allowed to have sexual liberation (of course). Since Dracula has three brides, it’s in no question that Dracula does have power over the females in this novel. Which is the same as current and Victorian-era societies. When Dracula’s sexual orientation comes into question, there’s no correct answer for it. It was never stated in Bram’s novel. A quote from “Productive Fear: Labor, Sexuality, and Mimicry in Bram Stoker’s Dracula” by Eric Kwan-Wai Yu, brings a scene between Dracula and Jonathan into the question about Dracula’s sexual orientation. “That ambiguous scene, juxtaposing Dracula’s claim that Harker ‘belongs’ to him with his alleged capacity for ‘love,’ hints that Dracula, like his brides, is a pervert hungry not only for blood but for sexual gratification” (Kwan-Wai Yu, 18). This is confirmation that Dracula breaks the sexuality normalities of the Victorian-era society.
Any man during this period would never put a spell on another man to make him lustful towards himself. The Count is a monster driven by his bloodlust and hunger, and he does not discriminate the gender of his prey. Which could possibly mean that Dracula can be “asexual”. Asexual is a sexuality that makes an individual attracted to someone without sexual feeling; meaning Dracula’s bloodlust makes him attracted to anyone. ALthough, Dracula does indicate to his three brides that he has had a past love, Bram Stoker leaves no details about his past love and there’s no future reference made to Dracula’s past love made again.
Not only does Dracula break the roles of sexuality, he also breaks Victorian-era gender roles. Along with Dracula, the novel itself and its characters really challenged Victorian-era gender roles and was a bold statement during the time. Traditional gender roles are exemplified in the novel, “Dracula”. Men are seen as brave and heroic, whereas women are described as motherly and emotional. However, there’s also different gender roles when it comes to the vampires. For example, Van Helsing says that, “A brave man’s blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble” when asking Quincy Morris to give blood to Lucy after she has been turned into a vampire. Helsing is expecting Quincy to be strong and protect Lucy during her time of need. Bram Stoker is highlighting Quincy as a strong hero, while labeling Lucy as a maiden in need.
To add on too the traditional gender roles in the novel, Van Helsing compliments Mina by saying, “Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has man’s brain – a brain that a man should have were he much gifted – and woman’s heart” (Stoker Chap 18, 22). Helsing’s statement confirms that men are viewed as the intellectuals, while women are emotional and nurturing to men. Mina possesses both of the qualities of the genders, but these stereotypes are withholding a society of men and women that are unable to express themselves freely.
For an example on Victorian-era women, Mina is seen as pure and an ideal women during this time period. Mina is the embodiment of what a women was expected to be during the Victorian-era. She is prudent, intelligent, caring, beautiful, and knows her place in society. Van Helsing says, “She is one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven…so true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist – and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish”, (Stoker, Chapter 14, Page 1). Bram Stoker writes Mina as an ideal Victorian woman, so he can present the “unacceptable behavior” of Dracula’s daughters. The three women serve as the complete opposite of the gender roles that were present during the Victorian-era. They’re impure, radical, and evil. Everything that Mina, the perfect Victorian woman, is not.
In contrast from Mina, the “weird sisters” are the women that disrupt the gender roles of the Victorian-era. The woman often participate in the act of seducing men, which the novel is clearly arguing against. During this time, women were expected to be the ones pursued by men and shouldn’t seek a relationship independently. Men were the ones with all the power. They had the freedom to do what they wanted, when they wanted to do it. Men had sexual freedom, and were allowed to have multiple partners if they wished. The sisters are referred to as “monsters” by Jonathan, and commit despicable evil acts throughout the novel. On the scale of what defines appropriate female behavior, Lucy falls in the middle. Lucy behaves as a proper Victorian woman should and shows signs of purity, but at the same time, Lucy’s statements hint that she may be more progressive than other women in society. For example, Lucy says, “Men like women, certainly their wives, to be quite as fair as they are; and women, I am afraid are not always quite as fair as they should be” (Stoker, Chapter 5, Page 1). She is aware that women do not fit the expectations of society and may be more aggressive than their male counterparts. This maybe Lucy’s way of showing her desire to break free from the patriarchal society of the Victorian-era. Later, Lucy transforms into a vampire, which allows her to experience the sexuality that has been so heavily repressed by the Victorian-era society.
In contrast from the female gender roles in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, there’s the Victorian-era male role. In the novel, there’s a group of men called “The Crew of Light”. This group consists of five men; Jonathan, Dr. Seward, Dr. Van Helsing, Arthur, and Quincey. These are the five men that are set out to fight against Dracula. During the second half of the book, Jonathan joins the men to fight against Dracula; In doing so, Jonathan seems to gain a lot of the traditional traits of masculinity. Men during the Victorian-era are known for their bravery, intelligence, honesty, activity, and repression of emotion. All of the men are financially stable enough to have their lives surround around the hunt for Dracula. When it comes to who’s the leader of the group, Quincey is a notable contender. Quincey is described by Stoker as a “moral Viking”, and is depicted as the most masculine of all.
Despite the importance of masculinity that falls into the gender role of males in the VIctorian-era society, there are contradictions. In the novel, it seems that the Crew of Light must always aim for the “moral” high ground when they do unlawful activities. These unlawful activities include breaking into houses, breaking into crypts, and desecrating bodies. The men in the Crew of Light also have many emotional fits and can behave hysterically at times. Quincey is the only member from the crew to die. This suggests that an excess of masculinity may be less desirable in the long run compared to Jonathan’s more obvious blends of both masculinity and femininity.
To add onto the male gender role, Dracula takes on the role of the “nurturing mother” in With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his 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…”the vampiric society. When Dracula interacts with Mina, Dracula takes on the role of the mother. In the following quote, Dracula forces Mina to drink blood from his chest, “ (Stoker, Chapter 21, Page 1). Throughout the novel, Dracula has showed many signs of breaking the male gender role by showing femininity. Such as, Dracula’s fascination with Jonathan and he expresses that he’s capable of giving love. Which, further connects him to the traits f the female gender role. When Dracula is placed into the “motherhood” role, Dracula is breaking the role of a traditional male during the Victorian-era.
In Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, there’s many gender and sexuality breaking characters and incidents. During the Victorian-era women were very repressed, while the men always had the power. In the vampire society, women had the chance to have sexual liberation, as well as a little more freedom than the normal Victorian women. Males had to deal with toxic masculinity and always having to fit into the masculine role. No emotions were allowed from men, and they weren’t allowed to experience love, since they were seen as only something a woman was capable of. Stoker’s novel has a lot of relevance to today’s society, as we still have many gender roles in our society. Sexuality is still a big discussion and a lot of these Victorian-era traditions and qualities are still held to our society till this day.