Gender and Sexuality in Dracula

Carmilla was an interesting novella, on in which I had not yet read. I agree with Maureen and liked her observation of the difference between this work and Strokers. It was interesting to see how Mina Harker awoke from Count Dracula’s embrace, and then asks the men around her, “What have I done to deserve such a fate, I who have tried to walk in meekness and righteousness all my days?” (285). More interestingly, she asks herself the same question, which introduced a more personalized point of view in terms of narrative technique.

Furthermore, Harker frequently reflects on the perversity of seduction, which illustrated a contradictory standpoint in the narrator’s stance, “strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him” (284). I personally enjoyed the conflicting statements made because of the realistic perspective of self-doubt on the psychological level. Although several critics tend to solely focus on Dracula, as well as the men who do battle with him, readers should also note and examine Mina’s complex development, but more importantly, her interest and love for the vampire, which she never overtly said. I would like to focus on this because of the questions Mina poses to readers about our society, changes, ideologies, and production.

When Van Helsing became hyper-concerned about Mina, “Madam Mina, our poor, dear Madam Mina, is changing” (319) it illustrates a cultural shift in terms of how feminity is seen and addressed, something that was an up and coming concern during this time in history. Despite Mina’s natural longing to provide for her husband publicly, but continuing an intimate connection with Lucy in privacy, it reiterates how roles were realistically taken on by women at that time; essentially, this focuses on cultural shifts towards gender roles during the 19th century.

In terms of Carmilla, Luara’s recalls her memories, which was how the story was told. She corresponded with the doctor, telling him about her recollections. It was an interesting narrative technique to have the story be told by the narrator’s memory, as opposed to having the story be told through current events and happenings. I think that the author did this in order to illustrate the Laura has more understanding of her life events, and how they impacted her. This is an interesting strategy, in my opinion, and it made me think about the psychoanalytic aspect of this work, because it made me wonder how many subconscious and unconscious recollections were being made, and if this narrative technique was what made this possible.

Although some may contest that one’s memory is not an accurate base to go off of, Laura was able to tell her story in deep and precise detail, which alludes to the fact that they had a great impact in her life. It is a subjective work, though because Laur only told the stories she wanted to. Carmilla also addressed sexuality and gender. Laura’s ability embrace and accept her feelings for Carmilla, which she even described as “adoration” reflects a certain level of sexual freedom, though she was skeptical, which traces back to Dracula in terms of the narrator’s contradictory statements and emotions.

I believe the author did this as an attempt to show the complication and gray areas of gender and sexuality. Both pieces challenged the gender and social norms but supported certain ideals, which was a prominent question and issue being addressed during the time of publications.