Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Patricia Matthew

Committee Member

Laura Nicosia

Subject(s)

Monsters in literature, Gender identity in literature, Bram Stoker (1847-1912)--Dracula, Bram Stoker (1847-1912)--Criticism and interpretation

Abstract

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) has elicited a range of different interpretations from critics over the years. Readings range from covering issues of race and colonization to science and religion, and everything in between. These interpretations all feature different anxieties relevant to fin de siecle culture, a title given to the period of transition at the end of the nineteenth century wrought with anxiety and conspiracy about what might come next. One of the sources of this unease stemmed from the rapid change in what constituted women's social roles, as well as developing definitions of gender and sexuality. This socio-cultural concern is highlighted in the characters who Stoker chooses to portray as monsters: five women, and a foreigner man who exists outside of the strict gender stereotypes of Victorian England. To destroy these monsters, patriarchal order must be restored by any means necessary.

Lucy Westenra, beloved companion of several of the novel’s most important characters, transforms into a monstrous femme fatale as a result of Dracula’s virile bite. Framed loosely as a castration narrative, she is rightfully eliminated by Arthur Holmwood, he who would have been her betrothed in life. Driven through her chest is the wooden stake, an image of the phallus meant to restore her intended into the dominant role. Stepping into the realm of the Female Gothic, the three vampire women who haunt Dracula’s castle invert the paradigm on the helpless Jonathan Harker. Jonathan navigates his stay at Castle Dracula through the lens of the brave – yet frightened - heroine in a tale reminiscent of that of the tyrannical Bluebeard.

Mina Harker and Count Dracula, the final two subjects, exist as equals in a space outside of strict gender roles. To Stoker and his fellow late Victorians, this makes them the most monstrous creatures in the whole novel. Their presentation of masculine and feminine traits is constantly changing within the novel. This transition is only righted when Dracula is staked as a proxy for Mina at the end of the novel. Only then is she allowed to settle into her intended role as beloved wife to Jonathan and nurturing mother to their son, Quincy, by the novel’s close.

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