This essay will discuss the representation of the mother figure and women in general in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It will also be examining Sigmund Freud’s theory on desire as well as other theorists.
Dracula by Bram Stocker is to most, a famous renowned horror novel. The novel received critical and popular acclaim when published and inspired other writers as well as resulting in film adaptations.
The novel presents many themes and the most important is the portrayal of women. At the time of this novel being written, traditional roles of women were shifting, and society was gathering a large feminist movement. As a result, to the changes, stoker uses his novel to put forth his opinions on the subject.
Many interpreted Dracula to be a candid gothic horror novel but never examined themes such as sexual repression which in my opinion is an important theme in the novel. Some argued that the change in Lucy and Mina Dracula’s female victims from innocent and naïve women to sexually assertive women was to be mirroring the Victorian societal shifts in attitudes towards women’s sexuality at the time. The homosexual features in the relationship of Dracula and Harker is also highlighted. The blood drinking can be seen as a symbol for sexual relations and the use of the stake that ultimately kills Lucy is seen as a phallic symbol. Some have leaned towards viewing Dracula from a Freudian psychosexual perspective; nevertheless, the novel has been read from a feminist and religious aspect.
Psychoanalysis allows us to explore women’s sexual natures and how it is expressed through dreams and language as an example. He believed that examining the unconscious would uncover desires that have been repressed.
Sigmund Freud’s theories on sexuality let us recognise how women were sexual beings before meeting Dracula. Freud argued that women are sexual beings, starting at early childhood. To define psychoanalysis ”Psycho-analysis is the name of a procedure for the investigation of mental process which are almost inaccessible in any other way, of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and of a collection psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new discipline.” (Laplanche and Pontalis, p367)
Psychoanalysis definition is always developing and repeatedly redefined (example) but the fundamental factor in psychoanalysis is the analysis of the unconscious and the role of sexuality in male and females. The individual cannot access the unconscious and as a result manifests in other methods such as dreams.
When feelings of desire are repressed, they are expressed through the unconscious such as a dream. As to why feelings of desire and fear are repressed is that when someone wants to please those feelings, the possibility of satisfying the feelings could in fact lead to unwanted results, leading it become less enjoyable. Thus, repressing the desires during consciousness as that is the time we are aware of our actions and the societal outcomes that could come out of it.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, dreams turn into reality that releases the characters own repressed desires due to Dracula’s influence. It also discovers the concept that women are more sexual than men and desire more than being a nurturer.
Gender roles during the Victorian era consisted of women being maternal, kind and nurturing. Stoker portrayed characters to express the typical gender roles, together with the new and emerging features of the ‘new woman’ movement. Mina and Lucy are the main characters that we see this portrayal. Mina expressed the sense of a mother ”We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother- spirit is involved (stoker 233). What Mina says here is that all women, in some way have nurturing natures.
We see Mina take use of her nurturing instincts when she takes care of Johnathan and Lucy. Women in Victorian society had many expectations on them such as to be submit to their husbands. Van Helsing defined Mina as ”One of gods women…so true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist. (Stoker 193) ”woman ought to tell her husband everything…don’t you think so, dear? (Stoker 65). This shows us how women depended on men and their husbands.
Women were to be seen as pure and virgins and were not viewed in a sexual way, they were not sexual objects. We see this in Lucy; she is portrayed to be promiscuous for a woman in Victorian times. She is seen complaining about her love life to Mina in a letter ”why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (Stoker 64). Lucy advocates for polygamy here which shows how promiscuous she is.
Mina, however demonstrates the ‘new woman’ features. She is portrayed as having a ‘man’s brain with a woman’s heart (stoker 238). Again, this shows just how heavily men were seen in society to be the leader and more intelligent than woman. Stoker portrayed Mina to be a smart woman and dr Seward mentioned ”a man would be gifted to have such a brain as hers (stoker 238).