Virtue & Vice: Gothic Storytelling
Prof. Tim Decker
26 October 2017
The way in which women are depicted in today’s society, and how they were viewed during the late 1800’s are definitive opponents to one another. In the Victorian society, women that were pure and chaste were favored. Women that were not pure and chaste were looked down upon and usually did not partake in societal events. Much like the ideas of Victorians, Bram Stoker depicts the sexual and unchaste women as evil, whereas the pure and chaste women are depicted as strong, heroic, and steadfast in relationships. In Dracula, the story outlines these characterizations of women during the Victorian Era, and how women evolved around this concept of the desired woman.
Women are defined on a continuum in Dracula. Mina is pure and chaste throughout the novel and embodies the ideal Victorian woman. Van Helsing says, 'She is one of God's women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven…so true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist - and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish.'
Mina represents this ideal in all respects. She is prudent, intelligent, caring, and understands her place in society. Mina is what the Victorians would consider a perfect wife, or wife-to-be, especially in regard to the first part of the novel. While Jonathan is missing, trapped in Count’s castle for months, Mina begins to grow despairingly worried about him . One instance in which we see this is in chapter six when Mina is writing in her journal. She writes, “No news from Jonathan. I am getting quite uneasy about him…” (72). Not only does this one of many occasions display that she worries for Jonathan and his safety, but during his long duration away from her, Mina remains faithful to Jonathan. It could have been just as easy for her to find another man when she thought hope may be gone for Jonathan’s safe return, but she remains faithful and does what she can to get Jonathan back. Also, when she and Jonathan are reunited once again, she takes care of him and remains at his side like a loyal fiance/wife. Stoker develops Mina as ideal so he can present what is considered as unacceptable behavior for women through the character development of Dracula's daughters, the 'weird sisters'. The three women serve as the opposite of Mina: impure, radical and evil. They embody the characteristics that a Victorian woman should not be in society. The women are referred to as 'monsters' by Jonathan. They seduce men, which the novel is clearly arguing against. A woman must be pursued by men in an appropriate manner and should not seek out a relationship independently. Aside from Victorians simply thinking the overly sexual and unchaste women in society are sinful and evil, they were also more than likely looked down upon because of the power they were able to exert over men. We see a case of this with the daughters of Dracula and...