Dracula

by: Bram Stoker

Chapters VIII–IX

Lucy begins a diary, in which she records bad dreams and recounts that something scratches at her window in the night. Concerned that Lucy has become pale and weak again, Arthur Holmwood writes to Dr. Seward, asking him to examine her. Seward does so, and reports that Lucy’s illness is beyond his experience. He sends for his former teacher, the celebrated Professor Van Helsing of Amsterdam, to examine the girl. Van Helsing arrives, observes Lucy, and then returns home briefly, asking to be kept abreast of Lucy’s condition by telegram. He tells Seward that he cannot ascertain the cause of Lucy’s illness, but concurs that much of her blood has been lost.

Renfield, meanwhile, resumes his habit of catching flies. However, when the doctor comes to see Renfield at sunset, he tosses out his flies, claiming that he is “sick of all that rubbish.” Lucy seems to show improvement for a few days, as Seward’s telegrams to Van Helsing relate. On September 6, however, there is a terrible change for the worse, and the doctor begs his old master to come immediately.

Analysis: Chapters VIII–IX

Dracula’s portrayal of women makes the novel seem like a fantasy of the Victorian male imagination. Women are primarily objects of delicate beauty who occasionally need to be rescued from danger—a task that, more than anything else, ends up bolstering the ego of their male saviors. Indeed, among the female characters in the novel, only Mina exercises any considerable strength or resourcefulness. The other women are primarily two-dimensional victims, pictures of perfection who are easy for Dracula to prey upon. Both Lucy and her mother are helplessly weak, and the latter is too delicate to bear even the suggestion that something is amiss with her daughter’s health.

Despite the profound political and social change that crossed England in the late nineteenth century, Stoker displays little interest in the advancement of women. Though Mina brightly—albeit briefly—considers one of the promises of feminism, the novel as a whole does not align itself with her cause. In reference to Lucy’s recent engagement, Mina writes,

Some of the ‘New Women’ writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the New Woman won’t condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself. And a nice job she will make of it, too!

While Mina herself approaches this kind of self-reliance—after all, it is her research that later leads Van Helsing’s band to the count’s castle—she never fully graduates into the new womanhood she describes here.

Given Stoker’s obsessive concern with female chastity and virtue, it is hard to imagine him granting his female characters the degree of sexual freedom necessary to become “New Women.” In fact, these chapters make the erotic nature of Dracula’s attacks even more obvious. Lucy’s wounds suggest a virgin’s first sexual encounter: she escapes into the night and is penetrated in a way that makes her bleed. After this initial encounter, Lucy hungers for more, attempting to steal out of the house and return to the graveyard.