Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is set in England and various locations throughout Eastern Europe. Sexual identity among the main characters is a central theme in this classic horror story. It is the courage of one of the main characters that helps defeat the cunning, powerful, and immortal Dracula.
Lucy Westenra is victimized by Count Dracula based on her obvious attractiveness. But the blond beauty is also fragile, vulnerable, and helpless. In the eyes of Dracula she represents the perfect bride while in the eyes of Romantic Era society, Lucy represents a symbol of the traditional romantic heroine. Her beauty serves her well, as it permits her to choose from a large cache of eligible men.
Lucy confesses in a letter to her friend Mina Murray that on one given day she has broken the hearts of two of three young men who proposed marriage to her. She decides in favor of the illustrious Arthur Holmwood. Her acceptance of a marriage proposal from Arthur is clearly associated with his high social station, the approval of her mother, and most importantly, his wealth. “Although he loves me, he has not told me so in words,” (69) writes Lucy, suggesting that a man of Arthur’s ilk has alternatives if refused by her. Lucy knows she is sexually desirable, though not flirtatious; she feels empathy for the two men she turns away.
Mrs. Westenra, Lucy’s mother, is pleased with Lucy’s decision to marry Lord Arthur, as any mother would be pleased in knowing that her grandchildren will be bred in a fine, dignified, aristocratic environment. But Mrs. Westenra only hurts her daughter’s cause by removing the garlic flowers from around Lucy’s neck, allowing Dracula to feast on her life giving blood. Dracula is energized and revitalized with the youthful and precious nourishment.
Mina Murray is also victimized by Dracula, but for entirely different reasons. Mina seems to be an object of Dracula’s attraction as revenge for being hunted by her husband and friends. Mina is not sexually seductive, but she is seductive in an intellectual manner, as she is instrumental in hunting down the monster vampire with her use of hypnosis.
This “New Woman” is independent, resourceful and possesses various skills that allow her gainful employment as a school mistress. Mina believes in the institution of marriage and prepares for her union with Jonathan Harker by learning typing, shorthand, and keeping accurate journals and diaries. She does this because she wants to be useful to him in his profession as solicitor. She acts as his partner in business as well as a partner in marriage. As evidence of her identity, Mina in an unselfish act marries Jonathan as he lays on a sick bed stricken with “brain fever.” Lucy and Mina are friends. They care about each other and share good values, but that is where the comparisons seem to end. There are more contrasts than similarities between the two. Lucy has traditional romantic attitudes and fits into an old fashioned mold of what men think women are supposed to be. But her fragile beauty betrays her as she falls victim to the stalking Dracula.
Mina is the opposite of Lucy in her sexual identity. Mina is non traditional and unusual, in her ability to support herself socially and financially. She desires to be considered equal in status with the men around her, and she does this successfully. Men accept Mina, they trust her and rely on her to help destroy their mutual enemy Dracula. Dracula’s pursuit of Lucy and Mina concludes with mixed results for the villain. He is successful in draining the life out of Lucy and enlisting her into his family of undead. Mina, on the other hand, is spared an unthinkable death and an equally unthinkable afterlife. She proves to be the victor in this important conquest of good over evil. In effect, Mina helps save world from an epidemic that has the potential of spreading to the four corners of the earth, threatening the existence of mankind.