Femininity, Feminism, and Religion in Count Dracula

Dracula is seen to some as been able to manipulate people into doing his wishes and trying to wreak vengeance for having a god that has forgotten him. He is a strong but lustful character that nobody can face without being able to spook the person. He is able to lure Jonathan Harker into looking to buy him a house in England so that he may trap him, so that he may get to make Jonathan’s fiancé— Mina his bride. Dracula tries to invoke his actions by getting close to the loved one of Mina and tries to get close to the hostile Mina when her friend Lucy has been transitioned into a vampire. Dracula then tries to get Mina to take a slip of blood from his chest so that she could take his form but in the novel Mina resist— in the movie Mina wanted to leave her old life so that she can care and love for Dracula. Dracula is stopped by Van Helsing and his “force” and Mina is heartbroken by this.

The late 1800s also known to some as the Victorian era was a time where many conservative beliefs began to be saturated with new ideas and lifestyles. In the novel “Dracula” by the author, Brum Stoker, illustrates a representation of certain societal norms occurring during this time and vividly portrays many themes for the reader to connect to as they progress in the book. In the movie Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, the perspectives of some characters are switched in the movie .In Coppela’s interpretation of Dracula, he highlights the perspective that Dracula once had on the church, and how the transition of him losing his wife made him how he is, and how Coppela makes Mina seem more like a weak feminine model than how she was looked upon in the novel.

In the beginning of the movie, it showed how much Dracula was dedicated to the cross before the war, and how he was willing to do anything for Christ. Things suddenly hit a drastic change whenever he fought in a Romanian war and came home to find his wife who had died from experiencing too much grief that Dracula was killed in action. This had made him to turn his back on Christ, and as shown in the movie he started to resent everything that was affiliated with the cross— and for doing that god had put a curse on him and turned him into a “undead” creature. Throughout the novel and the book Dracula had been scared of touching stuff that have related to Christ as he known that it would destroy his form. In the novel, Mina had been put under Dracula’s curse and with the communion wafer Van Helsing — it stopped Dracula from having future vampiric encounters with Mina. (Sanders).

Since Dracula had resisted from coming near Mina when Van Helsing placed the communion on him, it shows that every time that a reference is made to the cross in the book and the novel, Dracula is still embarrassed, unhappy that the ultimate price for him to betraying god and the cross is for him to become an undead creature. Dracula is classified by most as undead because he lacks the being sane as compared to other characters in the book and in the movie. In chapter 3, Johnathan Harker says, “What manner of man is this or what manner of creature is in the semblance of a man” (Stoker 3). Many Characters in the book and in the movie don’t know the true form of the creature Dracula— and have questioned his humanity since the beginning of the book— with only Van Helsing knowing what exactly Dracula is, and only refers to him as “undead”. In Chapter 4 of the novel, Harker clarifies that— “At least god’s mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high…” (Stoker 4). Harker’s comparison can be broken down as how the monsters are referred to as vampires, and how god is always on the good aspects of things, and how the vampires are the main conflict— making them appear to provoke fear and peril to the reader.

Furthermore, femininity plays a big role in the novel, and in the movie. The book displayed Mina Harker as a hard-working able woman in the Victorian Era— who was dedicated to her husband— who had always stood by her side, and how she wanted to make herself useful to Jonathan. In Chapter 14 of the novel, Van Helsing praises Mina by saying that she’s “ one of god’s women, fashioned by his own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. 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 14).

Van Helsing thinks that Mina is one of a kind for women in the Victorian Era as she is very keen, and she listens to her husband a lot for things, and she always confides in him. Mina represents the feminine ideal— which most men fear— she is intelligent, but she could always be very demanding but kind to people that she meets. Mina has remarkable skills that only most women of her era can only wish of being able to do like being able to write in shorthand. In the Novel many references have been made to the letters that Mina writes to her husband Jonathan— who she has great worry for. In an article by Anne Mcwhir, Mcwhir classifies Mina as being “hard worker who had teached others to please others” (Mcwhir). Mina has always had a passion for becoming a good shorthand writer in the novel, and would not let the idea of her being a woman stop her from achieving her goals of becoming one that is good at the art. She had even been complimented by Van Helsing for having g even better shorthand than him and being really gifted and talented at doing the art for a woman. Also, Charles E. Prescott, a scholar, describes Mina as the “new women” (Prescott). The New Women is described as someone who has a special kind of trait that most women don’t specific have— which could be shown as Mina.

Mina in the novel has been represented as a positive character throughout the entire novel. While Lucy in the Novel can be described as an average Victorian Woman. In the novel, Stoker wanted a firm grasp of the novel having masculinity according to Elizabeth Signorotti. (Signorotti). Brum Stoker wanted to announce that the dominant character was Van Helsing because of his vast known of vampires and his experience of learning. The likely reason to adding Mina to the plot as an intelligent woman who even resists the grasp of Dracula compared to the movie was to show that females in the Novel were generally weak but Mina was not because of her progression of helping to bring down Dracula by working together with the men. Carol. A Senf, a scholar describes Stoker as a feminist, and states “ This novel clearly falls into two parts, each half centered around a different type of woman” (Senf). She explains that the entire novel is about the fight to control women. Mina Harker is not a woman or the Victorian Era, but she is one who is to be always protected which is shown in the book, and she is someone who has credible honor as a woman.

Next, the two themes in the novel, Religion, and Feminism are both shown in Coppolla’s Dracula movie. Christianity is shown in the movie by how Dracula skews away from the cross after seeing that his first wife has died made him to curse out Christ for the bad doing of this— which made him to become an unbeliever of his word. With the nuns giving Harker a crucifix proves that they may been some supernatural thing which might occur to Harker that Dracula is most certainly undead. Also, Coppolla uses feminism in the novel by not portray how women are unloyal to their husband as shown by the character who portrayed Mina in the movie— who went under Johnathan’s back to always meet with Dracula, and soon after fell upon his “curse” and wanted to embody it. Coppola shows the feminine model in the movie as weak, and how they are under full control of the ideals of the men in the movie. What was also shown was Mina’s lust for Dracula in the Movie— as she didn’t have a second thought of kissing Dracula and was completely drawn to his eyes— forgetting every memory of her husband Jonathan. Coppela does this to add an interesting perspective to Bram Stokers Dracula Novel— in order to have more surrounding conflict towards Mina so that it can eliminate the strong and feminine role that she has had in the book.

References

  1. McWhir, A. (1987). Pollution and Redemption in ‘Dracula’. Modern Language Studies, 17(3), 31-40. doi:10.2307/3194732
  2. Prescott, C., & Giorgio, G. (2005). Vampiric Affinities: Mina Harker and the Paradox of Femininity in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. Victorian Literature and Culture,33(2), 487-515. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25058725
  3. Sanders, E. (2015). AN UP-TO-DATE RELIGION: THE CHALLENGES AND CONSTRUCTIONS OF BELIEF IN ‘DRACULA’. Religion & Literature, 47(3), 77-98. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/26377443
  4. Senf, C. (5). ‘Dracula’: Stoker’s Response to the New Woman. Victorian Studies, 26(1), 33–49. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/3827492
  5. SIGNOROTTI, E. (1996). Repossessing the Body: Transgressive Desire in ‘Carmilla’ and ‘Dracula’. Criticism, 38(4), 607-632. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/23118160.