|This is my Dracula thing, make of it what you will
||[06 Oct 2004|08:07pm]
The Dracula story is often interpreted as using sexual metaphors. Write a comparative study of Bram Stoker’s novel in which you analyse the sexual implications.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a novel of manifold sexual implications. Stoker uses the median of Count Dracula to catalyse resistance in the moral characters, who promulgate his ideology, regarding the ‘New Woman,’ sexual liberalness and morally decadent behaviour. Fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, incest, homosexuality and rape are sexual devices employed by Stoker to disgust the reader, and in turn Dracula comments upon them through subversive language and characterisation. The fact that Dracula is not human- a vampire- and therefore dead, connotes his behaviours are malign and therefore, repulsive to humans. Stoker uses Dracula as a literary device to comment upon sexual behaviour. “Dracula’s threat is his polymorphousness, both literally, in the shapes he assumes, and symbolically in terms of the distinctions he upsets.” Dracula is engineered by Stoker to upset traditional sexual ideals, by being constructed as the antithesis to what sexuality was supposed to be in the Victorian era.
Masturbation is implied through insinuation, during the novel in many guises. One of the first things mentioned about the Count is that “there were hairs in the centre of his palm.” This is one of the earliest superstitions regarding masturbation. “On the bed beside the window lay Jonathon Harker, his face flushed, and breathing heavily, as though in a stupor.” Stoker’s choice of language implies Jonathon could be either masturbating or fantasising, or both, during the scene in which Dracula is forcibly taking Mina. Moreover, as Gelder states, “The ‘thin open wound’ on Dracula’s chest suggests a cut or slit similar to the vaginal orifice- a means of bringing Mina into contact with her own sexual cycle.” This gives credence to the argument that Stoker is using Dracula as a symbol to signify the act of masturbation for both sexes during this scene.
In the gothic genre, blood is synonymous with semen. As a drinker and propagator of blood, Count Dracula can therefore be seen as a purveyor of semen. It is also stated Dracula came to London to ‘spread his seed;’ which is a euphemism for semen. Also, Mina states, in her account of Dracula’s visit, “I must either suffocate or swallow some of the- Oh, my god, my god, what have I done.” This act can be read as fellatio; in turn the allusion is that the blood is semen. As Gelder states, “At the point of swallowing, Mina is unable to say the word ‘blood’- or rather, she allows the fluid at this moment to be appropriately unrepresented, making the space for it’s reading as semen.” The battle to save Lucy from the ‘vampiric seed’ of Dracula, further links blood to semen. The fluid of Dracula has a “shifting and amorous shape [that] is threatening because it has no singular or stable nature or identity. Meanings, identities, and proper family boundaries are utterly transgressed in the movements of vampiric desire and energy.” In opposition to this foreign, transgressive seed contaminating that which belongs to them, the ‘Crew of Light’ attempts to ‘save’ Lucy with regular transfusions of their moral, healthy and Western blood. This juxtaposition- using Lucy as the vessel- of Western, pure and mortal blood, to that of foreign, vampiric, maleficent blood, connotes the semen, and therefore the foreign ‘seed,’ is corrupting the West. Fear of the Eastern seed which defiled pure Britain was an immense fear in the era. Arthur’s observation that “with his blood inside Lucy’s body- she was truly his bride,” demonstrates the transfusions are in fact sexual. Lucy is being used as an ark to mix the bodily fluids of Arthur, Quincy, Van Helsing and Dr. Seward; which likens the blood to semen, as well as homosexuality. Through their transfusions of blood/semen, the ‘Crew of Light’ have collectively claimed and consummated a marriage with Lucy. Van Helsing makes this clear when he states, “Then this sweet maid is a polydandrist… [and] even I, who am faithful to this now no-wife, am bigamist.”
It can also be argued that incestuous desire is commented upon in Dracula. In the scene involving the three vampire women, a Freudian reading places the golden-haired and sapphire-eyed vampire woman as Jonathon’s mother. Jonathon feels he recognises her; “I seemed somehow to know her face… but I could not recollect at the moment how or where.” This recognition of the seductive and sexually aggressive vampire, though she still remains in a sexually submissive position, connotes that Jonathon desires his mother; the Oedipal complex. The lines, “some longing and at the same time a deadly fear,” and “I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire” imply Jonathon knows it’s morally wrong to feel such desire, but he wants it regardless. Jonathon is usurping the father figure (Dracula) to consummate an incestuous relationship with the mother, (the blonde, blue-eyed vampire woman). Jonathon states that, “the Counts warning came into my mind but I took a pleasure in disobeying it.” This sentence firstly playfully places Jonathon as the giddy son, about to do his father wrong by taking that which belongs to him, and secondly places Dracula in an authoritive, patriarchal position which gives credibility to the Oedipal paradigm. This reading is given further credence by the Count resembling a father figure, who, upon discovering this incestuous relationship becomes the figure of morality, and stops it.
As there are two main vampires in this scene, both the mother and father roles are filled. “The vampire may return as the father, evoking fear, or as the mother in which case desire is evoked.” However, as Gelder states, “both emotional attitudes may be projected simultaneously onto the vampire who then represents father and mother together.” Essentially, Jonathon is about to commit a homosexual act, however incestuously undertoned, with Dracula; who has previously been placed in a dominant, patriarchal and therefore male role. Surreptitiously, through the medium of the vampire woman, Jonathon and Dracula are acting out homosexual fantasies, through the sharing of blood, which in the gothic genre represents semen. Dracula’s admonition that “This man belongs to me!” and his gentle declaration, “Yes, I too can love,” said in a “soft whisper” while gazing at Jonathon “attentively,” connotes homosexual desire. Furthermore, Dracula is placed as masculine, by the aggressive first statement, and as feminine through the affectionate second statement; both of which further connote homosexuality. In this context, Jonathon’s casual, almost comically relieved, statement that “the habit of entering accurately must help to soothe me,” serves to reassert traditional beliefs in the immorality of homosexuality and, as it preempts the homosexual scene by several pages, warns the reader of the coming risqué scene. Gelder states that “Dracula is the catalyst which awakens women’s desire.” However, in this instance Dracula is awakening men’s desire. This places Dracula in the role of sexual liberator for repressed homoerotic tendencies, and Jonathon as the sexually liberated male.
The three vampire women are the most sexually blatant in Dracula, as they attempt to seduce, which is sexual, as well as feast upon Jonathon, which is animalistic. By linking sex and animalistic behavior through, “there was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal,” Stoker is alienating female liberal sex and placing those who partake in it firmly as ‘the other.’ He is also inadvertently commenting upon a male fear of female sexuality. As Botting states, “the female vampires in Dracula display the effects of desire and horror attendant on the dangerous doubleness of sexuality.” The most obvious evidence is the fact that the women who enjoy sex are, or become, vampires; they are dead. Lucy becomes a vampire due to her lust, and is “presented as a ‘Thing’ just before the band of men symbolically subject her to phallic law by driving a stake through her heart and decapitating her,” in a scene which can be polysemically read as heterosexual sex, the male interpretation of the female orgasm or the gang-rape and murder of a woman. This distinction between dead women who have sex for pleasure, and live women who have sex to procreate, is intended to create a deliberate and fundamental disgust in the reader for sexually liberated women, through synonymy with death and decay. This is symbolically shown by Lucy taking life from children, rather than giving it to them. The three vampire women are destroyed by Van Helsing (an old man) for their vampirism, and Lucy is ‘saved’ by Arthur (an aristocrat); thus traditionalism morally punishes sexually liberal females.
In one of the condensed sexual scenes in the novel, Mina is implicated in immoral sexual acts. Jonathon is said to be “in a stupor such as we know a vampire can produce,” but as Weissman notes, Van Helsing “does not say which vampire produced this stupor;” as Mina is in the process of becoming a vampire. A conclusion is that Jonathon and Mina have just had sex, and after exhausting Jonathon to the point of an unconscious stupor, Mina is still not satisfied. When the Count enters and aggressively takes her, Mina was at first “bewildered, and [then] strangely enough… did not want to hinder him.” This implies Mina desired the sexual advances of Dracula. It can also be argued that Dracula takes on a fatherly role in this scene, which is the explanation to Mina’s acquiesce. He chastises her throughout in a slightly patronising manner, and wishes to punish her for transgressions against him; “But as yet you are to be punished for what you have done.” This likens the scene, and the Dracula/Mina interrelationship to the Elektra complex; the female version of the Oedipus complex. As Modleski states, “The young girls ‘Oedipal wish’ [is] to have the father completely to herself.” Mina is shocked by Dracula, then recognises him as a father figure, and in turn desires his attention, accepting it through sexual advances. Further evidence of the sexual implications in this scene, is the fellatio/cunnilingus dichotomy. “The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk.” The act of Mina extracting blood, related to semen, through an orifice in Dracula’s chest, connotes fellatio; due to the fluid, and cunnilingus; due to the shape of the orifice. The obvious differences between these separate sexual acts, but the collapsing of both into one, merge the sexes into the embodiment of feminine and masculine- the hermaphroditical Dracula; and uses him as a metaphor to comment upon both sexual acts. Stoker’s intentions can be seen in the different interpretations of the scene. That Dracula “gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down,” connotes a traditionally aggressive, masculine definition of sex. In opposition to this, the Count “tenderly and lovingly stroked the ruffled hair,” which implies a traditionally gentle, feminine perception of sex.
Enjoying a sex-like act with Count Dracula, Mina has become less pure, shown by her wearing a white dress which connotes virginity. The fact that “Her white night dress was smeared with blood,” is evidence she has lost her virginity, or purity, in the sex act. Losing her purity in the eyes of God, Mina has become unclean. As a symbol of this, Mina was accidentally disfigured by Van Helsing with a piece of the sacred wafer. The mark upon her forehead links her to Dracula, through the scar Jonathon gave him when he struck him in Dracula’s tomb with a shovel. Evidence of a further connotation of the mark, is found in Mina’s exclamation of, “Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted Flesh! I must bear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgment Day!” Dracula and Mina have been marked by shame upon their foreheads, an image which alludes to the biblical mark of Cain. “And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” The mark places Dracula and Mina as Cain through a sexual act removed from marriage and therefore removed from God; shown by Dracula’s statement that Mina is “Now to me flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin.” Therefore, the position of a resurrected Abel is taken by Jonathon, who in an intrinsically biblical set of events, kills Dracula, his brother in the eyes of God, who as Cain killed him; “but, on that instant came the sweep and flash of Jonathon’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat.” The mark of Cain places the bearer as a “fugitive and vagabond of the earth,” which relates to much of what is said of Dracula, but furthermore “whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken upon him sevenfold.” It is put forward that Jonathon has the right to kill Dracula due to evil enacted upon his wife (which can be shown as his property in the Victorian sense of marriage); through Dracula’s forced sexual encounter and her subsequent metaphorical de-flowering. Through the medium of sexually transgressive behaviour, the ultimate authority is given to Jonathon by Stoker; the authority of God-sanctioned revenge for a biblical evil. This retribution is sanctioned by the utter immorality of sexually explicit acts. Therefore, the connotation that lends the most credence to the Abel/Cain paradigm being used as a median to emphasise punishment for sexual immorality, is Jonathon’s retribution of evil done upon him,-both in present day times and in biblical pre-history- when he slays Count Dracula.
Count Dracula is the embodiment of what was deemed to be depraved sexual behaviour in Victorian times. Dracula is implicated in homosexuality, masturbation, both female and male oral sex, incest and rape. However, he does not take on a life of his own as a character because he is constantly being used as the median to discuss sexual immorality. “In the face of the voluptuous and violent sexuality loosed by the decadently licentious vampire, a vigorous sense of patriarchal, bourgeois, and family values is restored.” The novel is a forum to discuss sexual acts, shown to be immoral by the utter carnal lasciviousness of the vampire, the Undead –a median for depravity, and provide an ultimate, God-sanctioned verdict to suppress them, by the moral living.