The Women in “Dracula”: A Feminist Perspective

Research Abstract (Revised)

Within the novel Dracula, by Bram Stoker, there are two main female characters: Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra. Though Mina and Lucy play significant roles, Stoker portrays them as a means to present the ideal Victorian woman — with Mina fulfilling this idea. Mina Murray, a heroine and an intelligent woman, however, represents purity and is subjected to the traditional values of a woman’s role in society. Lucy, on the other hand, is essentially portrayed as the opposite — with her purity expressed through her physical characteristics. Through the characterization of Mina and Lucy, Stoker negatively responds to the “New Woman” — a feminist movement that emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century — by fueling the idea of patriarchy and the ideal, pure woman.

Feminism, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is the “advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex”. Feminism is about liberation, individuality, and sexual freedom — allowing women to not be confined by traditional social roles and beliefs. For my research, I will analyze Dracula as well as explore Stoker’s negative depiction of women and their agency through the feminist lens of today.

Stoker portrays the male characters as glorious heroes and brave men. Meanwhile, the female characters are either described as a blessing to their husbands or as aggressive and sexual women. The ideal Victorian woman is pure, good, intelligent, and supportive of their partner (Mina) — rather than depicted as powerful and sexual (Lucy). As a result of analyzing Dracula under this lens, many questions arise for my research. What is the “New Woman” movement? What is Stoker’s opinion on it, expressed through his writing? How does it influence the characters of Dracula, particularly Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra? How do the male characters fuel Stoker’s response to the ideal woman? How are the female characters empowered or disempowered throughout the novel? How does Stoker define purity through his characters? How does Mina or Lucy express agency? Does their agency exist? Further, I want to explore the similarities and differences between the feminist ideas of the nineteenth century and the feminist ideas of today.

To answer these questions, I will use the novel as my main source. Furthermore, I will utilize scholarly sources (predominantly, journals and articles) to research the “New Woman” movement, the Victorian era, and how other researchers have contributed to this topic. With my research, I will record a podcast — drawing from the structure of a research essay and a literary analysis. Additionally, I may incorporate images/videos and passages/quotes from Dracula and the scholarly sources within my podcast.

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Fionna Chuang

Fionna Chuang

she/her || UCSC || Twitter: @artsyfifi