Subverted 19th Century Traditional Social Mores and Norms in Dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula remains one of the more recognizable novels of its genre despite being published in 1897. A classic horror story which has been retold and produced over and over again since its original publication, Dracula was especially disturbing when it originally was released because of how Stoker attacks Victorian era social mores and norms throughout the entire novel. Stoker subverts traditional 19th Century social mores and norms in Dracula through the portrayal of sexually aggressive and assertive females, Jonathan and Mina’s relationship, and the inverse of Maternity.
One of the first examples of Stoker’s subverting of traditional social mores and norms in his novel is Dracula’s Wives. Our first encounter with the “weird sisters” comes when they approach Jonathan Harker at the Count’s mansion. Christopher Craft described the scene in his reflection as so “Immobilized by the competing imperatives of ‘wicked desire’ and ‘deadly fear,’ Harker awaits an erotic fulfillment that entails both the dissolution of the boundaries of the self and the thorough subversion of conventional Victorian gender codes,” (Stoker, Auerbach, and Skal 444). Craft is correct that this is a clear subversion of conventional Victorian gender norms. Both Jonathan and the Dracula’s Wives represent a total reversal of what would have been considered normal or appropriate in the 19th Century. Dracula’s Wives are the aggressors in this sexual scene while Jonathan is the passive or cautious sexual partner. His anticipation of the bite from one of the weird sisters is similar to that of a virgin woman waiting for her partner to penetrate her for the first time. The weird sisters represent the total opposite of what a proper Victorian woman is supposed to resemble. They are sexually aggressive and assertive instead of passive and prude. Another female character that occasionally reveals what would be...
Cited: Stoker, B., Auerbach, N., & Skal, D. J. (1997). Dracula: authoritative text, contexts, reviews and reactions, dramatic and film variations, criticism. New York: W.W. Norton.
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