Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dracula and the Fear of Women

There are many elements in Dracula that play on the culmination of the Romantic and Victorian era. When reading through the first chapters, one can see fears and moments of the 19th century finalizing in this novel. Not all these themes are new, in fact, Dracula seems too invoke now classic Gothic tropes, along with using tactics from other popular literature before it. Consider Frankenstein, a monster made of other parts, made at a time when Mary Shelly and Lord Byron witnessed galvanization. It is no far stretch too say that Frankenstein is made up other parts of humans in a way to demonstrate man looking to remove one undeniably necessary trait of women; birth.  Dracula as well is looking too sap something from women. It’s what he is trying too sap and who these women are that is important.

The style of the book is quite inspired by popular literature at the time. Much if it is written as letters back and forth, starting with notes from a man named Jonathon Harker eventually moving onto the two main characters of study for the novel, Lucy Westenra and Mina Murry. Their flat characters, unchanging in demeanor, show that Dracula, as a general commentary, is noting the act of men trying to dominate women, primarily with the theme of sexuality through blood sucking. Or, as Dr. John Seward might call it, a sort of zoophagous behavior. 

During the suffrage movement there were handbooks being created that would dictate how a woman could be a governess of her home. This involved being an ‘angel of the household’; she was a moral compass for the private life.  Consider that through the 19th century there were many reformations upon parliament and society. This was needed for women more than anything, and the eventual education boom is welcomed upon historical view. But this does not just mean it is one sided; in chapter 10, Dr. Seward offers his ‘lifeblood’ to Lucy, saying; “No man knows till he experiences it, what it is like to feel his own life-blood drawn away from the woman he loves.”

This passage is especially interesting as it touches on something not seen in British literature often; fear of women due to their power. Some cultures would tattoo and chisel their bodies, not just for decoration, but to protect their pores so they did not lose their essence from being with a female. These discoveries date too the time of Captain Cook, which predates Dracula. It is possible this could be inspired by the art discovered in Polynesia at the time, as the locals would initially tell of the meaning of their work. 

It is with these issues in mind that I continue reading Dracula, which is a first for me. I do find it somewhat progressive in that regards; despite it mashing up many popular elements, it still brings forth a necessary critique while being entertaining. It is also striking how these similarities can be found across multiple authors of the period.

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