‘In Dracula, Lucy represents a 19th century ideal of femininity, whereas Mina embodies a more modern view of the role of women’.
To what extent do you agree?
Stoker’s presentation of the differences between Mina and Lucy provokes the debate about whether Lucy is intended to represent a traditional female role, with Mina being her modern counterpart. A typical depiction of life for a 19th century woman involved staying at home to look after their families; whereas, 20th century women secured greater independence and equality. While, at first glance, there’s greater evidence of these aspects of modern femininity in Mina, it’s worth noting that, despite acting autonomously and being respected by men, Mina’s actions in Dracula serve the purpose of aiding her husband’s struggle. Additionally, Lucy’s sexuality could be regarded as more modern, but, in succumbing to Dracula, she appears to lack the poise Mina possesses.
The nature of Mina and Lucy’s relationships with men differs greatly. Mina’s character incorporates the modern role of women; in many ways she appears equal to the men around her. “She has man’s brain - a brain that a man should have were he much gifted - and a woman’s heart”. This demonstrates the respect Mina acquires through her contributions in the fight against Dracula; however, Van Helsing’s comparison of Mina to a man shows that Victorian society was still strongly influenced by gender stereotypes: men were intelligent and women were caring. Mina’s acceptance into the male world is only down to her possession of ‘male’ characteristics, namely, intelligence. Perhaps this supports the idea that Mina does embody a more modern view of the role of women. This view may have been so modern that society hadn’t adjusted to it; therefore, to express the extent of her intelligence a comparison to a man is necessary.
Despite this, some aspects of Mina’s relationships with men remain traditional, such as the long quest to restore her purity. Arguably, the transition into a vampire is an extended metaphor for the loss of virginity and, therefore, ‘purity’. A feminist critic may see Stoker’s representations of women as weak but, unlike Mina, Stoker portrays the vampire women as sexual predators, which is similarly unflattering but undeniably contrasted. ‘There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive’. There‘s a juxtaposition in describing the vampiresses as ‘thrilling and repulsive’, linking to the idea of terror in the Gothic genre. Primarily, Jonathan’s feeling towards the vampiresses is excitement: their ‘voluptuousness’ is seductive. However, he knows he should be afraid of them so he’s simultaneously repelled. The importance of virginity in the 19th century is seen through Lucy’s transition into a ‘she-devil’ once Dracula takes her purity. More than a century later, this contrast between innocence and corruption in relation to women is still used in Vampire literature. Perhaps Stoker was a feminist pioneer in suggesting that women with sexual power are attractive, unlike the stereotypical Victorian desire for chastity. The ending, when Mina’s purity is restored, could be described as a victory in the fight for the traditional innocence of women, but a defeat in the battle of desire for sexual liberation that was beginning to be unveiled in both men and women.
Stoker presents women as capable of jeopardising the structure of the Victorian patriarchal society. Someone like Lucy, whose sexuality is regarded as unacceptable, is therefore perceived to be challenging gender categories more than Mina. He illustrates the taboo of female sexuality using symbols, demonstrating the fear of female sexual liberation through the vampiresses and the metaphor of Lucy becoming a vampire. Eszter Muskovits writes about humans undergoing this transformation. “They become hermaphrodites: male on the mouth and female on the neck”. This refers to the symbol of penetration in a vampire’s bite....
References: Sparknotes - Dracula
Oxford World’s Classics - Dracula by Bram Stoker
Critical Anthology - Feminism
Eszter Muskovits - The Split Concept of Womanhood in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
 In the Twilight saga, for example, Stephanie Meyer displays human women as plain as opposed to the female vampires, who are terrifyingly beautiful.
 The name given to Lizzie Hexham - A character renowned for self-sacrifice in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
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