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[Bela Lugosi as Dracula - 1931]Professor Van Helsing’s appropriation of Lucy’s and Mina’s texts symbolizes his success in asserting the conventional Victorian views about acceptable female sexual behaviour. Having read Harker’s description of the three female vampires at Dracula’s castle, Van Helsing recognizes the symptoms in Lucy, Dracula’s first victim in England. For example, he hears her appeal for a kiss from her future husband as the siren song of the sexually aggressive female, and saves Arthur from her deadly embrace. Once she is declared dead, he gathers every piece of her personal correspondence. Then, having read much of it, he asks Lucy’s fiance for permission to read the rest. The full weight of Dracula’s influence is not felt until after Lucy’s return from the dead as the “bloofer lady” when we are presented with the horror of unbridled female sexuality and the attendant perversion of motherhood. Lucy’s former sweetness and purity are replaced by “heartless cruelty ... and voluptuous wantonness.” When she attempts to seduce Arthur, Van Helsing’s intervention, this time with crucifix in hand, saves him from this sexual monstrosity.

Some feminist readings see Van Helsing’s appropriation of Lucy’s letters and diaries as his effort to counteract the influence of Dracula in her life. Earlier he had used blood transfusions in an effort to restore her to that feminine purity which the vampire’s nocturnal visits had threatened. Lucy was given the blood of “brave men” which, according to Van Helsing, is “the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble” (152). These transfusions encode a reassertion of the masculine prerogative of penetration: “You are a man and it is a man we want” (123), the professor says to Arthur as he rolls up his sleeve. The addition of good male blood will presumably help the angel within Lucy defeat the whore. The horror of Dracula to Van Helsing and his band is that he can transform their women into sexually ravenous beasts. Judith Weissman notes in her article “Women and Vampires: Dracula as a Victorian Novel” that “[Dracula] is the man whom all other men fear, the man who can, without any loss of freedom or power himself, seduce other men’s women and make them sexually insatiable with a performance that the others cannot match” (76). Thus he must be destroyed.

Four men are present at Lucy’s staking: her former suitors, her fiancé and Van Helsing. Significantly, the driving of the “mercy-bearing stake” is performed by Arthur, the cuckolded husband-to-be, who is supported by all of the brave men who had unsuccessfully infused the living Lucy with their blood. In order to correct her dangerous wanderings and her disregard for sexual constraint, Lucy’s body is violently penetrated by a mighty phallus, driven into her heart. From their point of view, this quartet of chivalric knights who have pledged themselves to an ideal of perfect womanhood are restoring Lucy to her former state of purity. The description of Lucy after Arthur has hammered home the stake bears this out: “There, in the coffin lay no longer the foul Thing that we had so dreaded and grown to hate ... but Lucy as we had seen her in her life, with her face of unequalled sweetness and purity” (221).

Dracula’s second victim, Mina, survives because she dedicates her talents to the male social agenda epitomized in the person of Van Helsing. Her secretarial skills include all of the necessary paper work (collecting, collating, and arranging the data in chronological order), but Van Helsing excludes her from the real task, the pursuit of Dracula. This decision, to which Mina acquiesces, has ironic and potentially tragic consequences; for while the vampire hunters are off hunting Dracula, the Count gains access to Mina’s bedroom.

Even though Mina has been one of the most important narrators up to this point, we are not given this experience directly from her point of view. Rather, her account is embedded in the narrative of Dr. Seward. It is as if, having shared Dracula’s blood, Mina must also share his textual exclusion. Her comment “I was bewildered, and, strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him” (295) could suggest at least a momentary wavering in her devotion to the anti-Dracula cause. However, she quickly regains her composure and declares herself "Unclean.” Unlike Lucy who was never concerned about her fallen state, Mina, who is “one of God’s women” may be "saved.” Her actions following her “baptism of blood” testify to her desire to regain her proper place in the patriarchal order of things. It is true the men eventually decide to share some confidences with Mina, leading some to suggest that any misogyny in the text is offset by Mina’s role as an important agent in the crusade against Dracula. Yet this is a consequence of Van Helsing’s plan to take advantage of her subconscious desire for Dracula. Mina has the same ambivalent response to Dracula that Lucy had -- a combination of repulsion and fascination -- but she also sympathizes with the vampire. She pleads with the others on Dracula’s behalf (233 and 317) but her comments are curtly dismissed by the men. In fact, Van Helsing is quick to remind her of her fallen state. Recognizing the hold that Dracula has over Mina, the professor excludes her out of fear that she will unwittingly inform Dracula about the vampire hunters’ plans.

Mina succeeds in expunging Dracula and his threat to the Victorian male. In retrospect, it is significant that Van Helsing’s major polemic about vampires -- the nature of their existence, their powers and limitations, and how they can be destroyed -- is embedded in her text. The implication is that the threat of vampirism is embedded in the body of the female, and that this threat that can be overcome only if the sinful female expels the legacy of Eve from her nature. After Mina does so, the text rewards her with the ultimate blessings of the Victorian woman: a loving husband and a child. Gender order is restored at the end with the image of Mina and her child whose “bundle of names links all our little band of men together” (389). Van Helsing has won, and the monster has been destroyed. In Dracula, the necessity of ridding the world of the monster is even greater than in Frankenstein, and dominates more of the textual space. By the end of both novels, the threats that the monsters pose have been overcome. But they live on in myth and in metaphor because the issues of so-called monstrosity that they address are still relevant as the twentieth century draws to a close.


Both Frankenstein and Dracula contain references to Coleridge’s famous Gothic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” It is not surprising to find allusions to the poem in Frankenstein, for Mary Shelley heard Coleridge read it when she was a child. However, there are numerous parallels: layers of narrative, compulsive telling of tales, Promethean journeys, images of ice and snow, the torture of isolation and the question of guilt. Direct allusions include a stanza from the poem (58). As he runs away from the Monster he has created, Victor Frankenstein recalls:

My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear; and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look about me:-

Like one who, on a lonely road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread. (59)

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