Reed Books: Dracula


Jess Reed, Staff Writer

Dracula by Bram Stoker is not only a classic of the genre, but a window into the world of Victorian literature, and societal views towards feminism and sex at the time.

When Dracula was published in 1897, a societal division was occurring. The younger generation of the time, and the wave of Victorian authors that came with it, had started incorporating previously taboo topics, like women’s rights and homosexuality, into popular media, which frightened the older generations. One critic of this newfound sexual liberation in society was Bram Stoker. Stoker, despite being raised by a feminist mother, believed that civilization as a whole depended on traditional gender roles, and that breaking these would only lead to chaos. He was an avid supporter of censorship, and regarded sexual impulses as inherently evil – the sign of the Devil in a person.

But this hatred of sexual freedom did not come from a place of holiness, chastity, or good in Stoker. This was Stoker’s way of lashing out, as his own repressed sexuality haunted him. It is widely theorized that Stoker had an affair with Oscar Wilde, another author of the time, who was open about his own sexuality. Once Wilde was arrested for sodomy, Stoker wrote adamantly about how disgusted he was by homosexuality. This internalized homophobia reveals itself in Dracula – the main villain being a seductive, hedonistic monster who sucks his victims necks and can only be warded off with symbols of Christianity. In painting Count Dracula in this light, Stoker is absolving himself of any guilt, claiming that men who are seduced by homosexual men are not actually at fault.

Stoker’s views on feminism are also obvious in his treatment of the few female characters of the novel. The “good” women, the ones on the protagonist’s side, are innocent, chaste virgins, who are dedicated to religion and submissive to the men in their lives. On the other hand, the female vampires are sexual creatures, who take power over men and reject Christianity. This harmful view of women is, unfortunately, still present in modern society – now, there is a name for it: “slut-shaming”. By glorifying women who reject sex and sexual impulses and demeaning the ones who accept them, women’s sexual freedom and control of their own bodies is taken away for the pleasure of men, under the pretense of not wanting to sexualize or objectify them.

Overall, Dracula is a fascinating book, not only in its surprisingly well held up writing, but also in that it shows the internal struggle of the author. Stoker’s fear of his own sexuality, mixed with his rejection of his own feminine side and the shaming of sexually liberated women, manifests itself in the creation of a horrifying monster that is still popular today.