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Gender Roles as a Prominent Topic in The Novel 'Dracula'

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Words: 1654 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Words: 1654|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

The novel Dracula was written by Bram Stoker, it is a novel about a world called Transylvania and this is where the Count and other vampires reside. The characters this paper will be exploring in more depth with respect to gender roles are Mina Murray Harker and Lucy Westenra. First, Mina was seen as a typical Victorian woman and tended to stick to her old values and customs however at times she seemed to also fit the description of the new woman. Lucy, on the other hand, shifted by realizing that she did want to get married, which was something the Victorian woman would do, and resisted the pressure to conform to society leading her to become a new woman. A common theme in Dracula for both of these women is the fact that they are willing to give up their happiness and wellbeing for others. This shows when Mina cares for Lucy when Lucy has the instance of sleepwalking. Stoker in the novel is often confusing about whether or not Mina or Lucy is a strict new woman or Victorian woman.

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There were two types of women in this novel. The first was the new woman, and the second was the Victorian woman. The new woman was often seen as independent and had greater freedoms. In an article by Carole A. Senf, it says “the new woman was often a professional woman who chose financial independence and personal fulfillment as alternatives to marriage and motherhood”. Gail Cunningham, another scholar additionally mentions that “ The crucial factor was inevitably sex”. She goes on to talk about how the new woman felt free to not only have sexual relationships but to initiate them. Llyod Fernando wrote, “ the new woman chose to explore many avenues opened up to her: education, careers, and other alternatives to women's traditional roles”. This shows the qualities and traits of what shaped what we call the new woman.

The Victorian woman is one that is content with staying home and taking care of the children and house while her husband goes off to work. She is often described as the “angel in the house” because she is seen as a haven from the outside world for her husband. The house of a Victorian woman is a refuge from the outside world and a safe place for her children. Victorian women do not work outside the home instead their job is to look after the house and people living there. Victorian women never initiated sex, the men would tell them when it was time. According to Nancy Landale and Avery Guest, the Victorian woman experienced “few sexual feelings of any kind”. In that same article, they talk about how Victorian women would only have sexual relationships if there was a need, for example, a child.

To start off we will discuss Mina. Mina was the typical Victorian woman that cared for people and always put others’ needs and comfort before hers. She was always worried about Jonathan, who later became her husband. Jonathan knew he could come to his loving wife and tell her whatever he needed to and she would help him. One of these instances in which Mina worries about Jonathan is when he is gone and Mina has not heard back from him via letter. She writes in her journal dated August 3, “Another week gone, and no news from Jonathan, not even to Mr. Hawkins, from whom I have heard. Oh, I do hope he’s not ill”. This shows that Mina was often thinking about Jonathan and making sure he was okay and comfortable. This also shows that Mina was concerned for Jonathan and wanted to make sure everything turned out okay in the end. Jonathan too at times was concerned for Mina. One particular instance is when Mina is sleeping and Jonathan notices how pale she is and writes “Poor dear, I have no doubt it frets her to be kept in the dark, and it may make her doubly anxious about me and the others”. The previous mentioned above prove that Jonathan was worried about the wellbeing of his sweetheart. However, at this point in time, he was not responding and Mina was worried.

Mina also exemplified the Victorian woman when caring for Lucy. Lucy would most nights end up sleepwalking and Mina took it upon herself to help Lucy back to bed. This happened often and Mina was often terribly tired once she finally got the chance to go to bed after making certain that everyone else was taken care of first. Later in Mina’s journal, she has some harsh feelings toward Lucy because of her sleepwalking tendencies. Mina mentions in her journal that she is “too agitated to speak”. She later explains this is because she cannot find Lucy and has no idea where she went or more importantly how she got out. Mina also did not want to cause any stress to Lucy’s mother who had been ill for quite some time now.

Mina who had helped Lucy and wanted to make sure not to cause any more stress to her mother than she already had also had an immense impact on the actual capture of the Count. In an article written by Carol A. Senf, it states that Mina not only was able to escape the fate of women in this story but also has a major part in defeating the Count. She also goes on to say that “Stoker’s treatment of women in Dracula does not stem from hatred but simply the fact of the new woman”. This helps to understand the novel because at times the reader may feel as if Stoker is putting Mina down by making her take care of everyone and having her be the “angel of the house.” Although this may be the way this idea is portrayed Stoker means that in a way Mina is still the typical Victorian woman. Senf, in her article also implies that Mina knew what the new woman was. Some believe she had no choice but to stick to her values as a Victorian Woman. This is false because in the novel itself it says “ I believe we should have shocked the new woman with our appetites” . She knew what the new woman was like and being the caring person that she is she decided that she should conform to society. Stephanie Demetrakopoulos, mentions in her article that “Mina has a mans’ brain”. This is the complete opposite of Lucy who is described as a “feminine simple-minded woman”. Mina is often portrayed as a strong woman and very self-sufficient which is a common new woman trait and Mina is a new woman in some ways. She has a job and an education which a Victorian woman could only dream of. She also knows that she should be treated right but also that once when she gets married it is her duty to make sure Jonathan has a haven from the world while raising her children in a fruitful environment.

Now moving on to Lucy. Lucy exemplifies the New Woman in Dracula extremely well. First, let’s define the new woman. The new woman was the idea that women were going to get more freedom and the idea of feminism emerged. Lucy was never really the Victorian woman, she needed to rely on others rather than them relying on her. One occasion where her new woman qualities are shining through is when she is told that she is not allowed to marry three men at the same time. In the article written by Carole A. Senf, it says that “the desire for three husbands was a common feeling and action of the new woman”. Senf, also says that the mention of wanting multiple husbands also means Lucy could be feeling sad or angry and she sees this as her way to rebel. Lucy wants and desires sexual freedom which is also a characteristic of the new woman. Senf also suggests that Lucy changed throughout the novel, starting out as a sweet, tender woman and towards the end of the novel even her three potential suitors want her done and gone. Lucy is also not an aware character, she often lets life slide right by or is more carefree in general, while Mina pays careful attention and reacts appropriately for the situation.

Mina and Lucy have their differences in this novel. Mina is the common Victorian woman while Lucy blossoms as the new woman. Mina is very down to earth and goes through life thinking of others’ feelings. Lucy lives in almost like a fantasy land and has her own ideas about how women should live. Mina does, however, rebel according to Victorian women’s standards and get an education. She talked about in the novel how she wanted an education so she could write and help Jonathan with his business. She mentions in the novel that she wants to become Jonathan’s assistant but that would mean educating herself and learning how to write a stenograph. This act of getting an education was something a Victorian woman would rarely do. Lucy, on the other hand, was a complicated new woman. She expected people especially Mina to take care of her and went out and explored.

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All in all, Bram Stoker had some fun with gender roles in Dracula. He tried to trick you into thinking Mina was a Victorian woman but then he would throw a curveball and have her get an education. He liked to make you think that Mina was the common Victorian woman but she also sometimes was the new woman. MIna also had a child making her part of the new woman phenomenon. Lucy was mainly the new woman and had few desires of the Victorian woman such as getting married. Therefore Bram Stoker was clever when writing the novel and consistently makes his readers stop and re-read so that they get the right idea. 

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Gender Roles as a Prominent Topic in the Novel ‘Dracula’. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-as-a-prominent-topic-in-the-novel-dracula/
“Gender Roles as a Prominent Topic in the Novel ‘Dracula’.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-as-a-prominent-topic-in-the-novel-dracula/
Gender Roles as a Prominent Topic in the Novel ‘Dracula’. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-as-a-prominent-topic-in-the-novel-dracula/> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Gender Roles as a Prominent Topic in the Novel ‘Dracula’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-roles-as-a-prominent-topic-in-the-novel-dracula/
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