The 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker we get a look into Victorian England at a time when women were becoming independent and free. The roles of women during this period were changing with women venturing into the job markets. Stoker in his novel attempts to capture this fear of women emerging as dominant players in Victorian society. The female characters in this novel each one of them represents a different aspect of the views of women during this period. While the patriarchal society was clinging to traditional values, the Victorian society was moving towards female empowerment, and the female characters in this novel Mina Murray, and Lucy Westenra each represent an aspect of females in the Victorian society. The following paper will give my views on the changing role of women and the anxiety and fears of the Victorian society towards the changing roles of women based on an analysis of the female characters in Bram Stoker's novel.
The Character Mina Murray
Stoker in the novel represents women in two different ways; the first is as sexual beings and the second as simple and pure beings. In the Novel the character, Mina portrays the new role of women in Victorian society. Mina is intelligent and is well educated; this shows the changing role of women because they now have access to education opportunities. Mina is the fiancee to Jonathan, and she displays the best traits acceptable to women during this period, she is faithful to him. Her faithfulness is evident in the sixth chapter when she is writing in her diary and expresses her concerns over the absence of her fiancee. From these words "no news from Jonathan. I am getting quite uneasy about him" (Stoker), we can see that she is worried about Jonathan. By using Mina as the ideal example of a faithful yet independent the author shows us the perfect character of women during the Victorian period.
The character Mina Murray, the heroine of the story, is entirely different from the other main female characters in the novel. Mina and Lucy are best friends, but their behavior is opposite, this is due to their different upbringings. Mina is an ideal Victorian woman and a representation of female empowerment. The character Mina is the best representation of the changing roles of women during the Victorian period, for example, she has a career as a teacher, and she is soon bound to have a new job as Jonathan's secretary. These two things link her to the changing roles of women, her writings form part of the novel, and this shows how women were becoming more intelligent and not just being submissive wives. By refusing to involve Mina in the treatment of Lucy, Van Helsing is showing the fear men had towards the empowerment of women.
The Character Lucy
The character Lucy is not an ideal Victorian woman and as such creates fear in men because she is sexually aware of herself. Lucy in the novel has three suitors, and she considers herself to be a "horrid flirt" (Stoker). By having three suitors, the character of Lucy represents the type of women Victorian men do not prefer, this is seen from the question Lucy asks Mina "Why can't they let a girl marry three men or as many as want her?"(Stoker). From her choice of suitor, it is clear that Lucy does not represent the new role of women, which is towards empowerment. Lucy does not resist Dracula and becomes an easy victim to him, which leads to him attacking her and eventually her death.
The changing role of women is evident in the transformation of Lucy into a vampire. The changing roles of women during the Victorian period meant that more women were venturing into the job markets; this had the effect of making them choose when to have children. By being, independent women were able to control their fate more strongly than was previously possible. When Lucy transforms into a vampire, her role as a mother is inverted, and she preys on children, this is analogous to her denying the traditional role of women being mothers.
The changing role of women and the fear it sparks in men is evident after Lucy turns into a vampire. Women gained more control of their sexuality during the Victorian era since they gained financial freedom; this meant they no longer had to rely on men. The freedom gave women the ability to express their sexuality just like men. In the novel Dracula, the character Lucy becomes overtly sexual after her transformation into a vampire. The male community during this period despised women who were sexually conscious. The words of the character John Seward after he sees Lucy as a vampire can attest to it he says "my love passed into hate and loathing; had she then to be killed, I could have done it with savage delight" (Stoker).
From the above discussion, it is clear that men during the Victorian era were afraid of the changing roles of women. Women were becoming more independent, and this brought changes to the dominant patriarchal society. In the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, the depiction of the two main female characters is an attribute to these fears. Mina is an ideal woman pure and chaste; she represents women with careers, a sign of women independence. Lucy on the other represents all that men of the era hated during that period, and that is why the author uses her to show what is wrong with women during this era.
Stocker, B. (1987). Dracula. London, UK: Archibald Constable and Company.
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