Friday, December 23, 2011

A Weird Epiphany About Bram Stoker's Dracula

Once a year or so I grab an old classic and read it. This is quite a lot of fun as not only does it force me outside of my usual reading circles, but it can teach me about how novelists wrote during other eras and even give cool insights on the time periods and the people themselves. 

Several years ago, I decided to read Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was a lot of fun comparing the book to all the Dracula movies I'd seen over the years, looking at what the films kept from the book and what they didn't.

But what amazed me most of all when I read it was how strong Mina was. She wasn't anywhere near the helpless female needing rescue that is normally her role in the movies. Even while slowly being subverted by Dracula, she was the one giving the men ideas and information and trying to figure out how to bring him down.

Earlier this week I had an epiphany about that. One that actually flows somewhat contrary to the articles I found online about the novel's themes and what Stoker tried to convey through the work.

Figured I'd go ahead and try to throw it out here for anyone else who's read Bram Stoker's Dracula novel. (This is somewhat visible in most of the movies too, but since they normally use Mina as window dressing, it won't be as noticeable. Definitely obvious (at least to me!) in the novel.) Hopefully you can chime in and share your thoughts or just tell me if I'm nuts or not. :P (It has been a while.)

Some stuff I saw stated that Bram Stoker was using the novel as a warning to people not to lose the old ways to the technological revolution going on at the time the novel was written, and they cited Dr. Van Helsing and many of the things he says as proof of it. The argument went so far as to say the novel was showing that modern women were a bad thing and that the promiscuous fantasies of the male readers was where it was at.

But when you look at Mina and her HUGE role in the novel, both in making the men aware of what was going on and several times pushing them to action or figuring out solutions for them, I can't quite buy that.

Instead, I would suggest that Mr. Stoker actually looked down on many of the old social expectations for women, especially all the antiquated ones. That the old and possibly even current Victorian values thrust on women were sucking the life out of them, turning them into soulless automatons who lived purely to satisfy their masters or their raging appetites. That education and intelligence should be fostered in women, as they too had much of value to impart.

Mina, an educated and strong minded woman, was actually able to fight against Dracula's manipulations, struggling against the role he would assign to her as a subservient plaything. Using her intelligence and strength of will to save those around her from the male chauvinist vampire pig! (Was that too much? lol)

What do you all think? Was Dracula a warning of the encroaching modern world and the powers it was giving to women, or actually a celebration of the freedom and benefits of letting them be more than the weaker gender?


  1. What an interesting question! I've never read the book, but I really must!

  2. It's really rather different than what you expect. Done in diary entries and letters. And Dracula can walk in daylight!