Dracula

Summary

Chapters XII–XIV

Summary Chapters XII–XIV

Seward reports that Renfield has returned to his habit of catching flies and spiders. Van Helsing visits the young doctor and points out the newspaper accounts of the “Bloofer Lady,” taking care to note that the abducted children always reappear with wounds on their necks similar to those that appeared on Lucy’s neck. Seward is skeptical of any connection, but his mentor urges him to believe in the possibility of the supernatural—of occurrences that cannot be explained by reason. Van Helsing suddenly concludes that it must be Lucy who is responsible for the marks on the children’s necks.

Analysis: Chapters XII–XIV

In this section, we witness Lucy’s transformation into a super-natural creature. The description of her death immediately alerts us that she has crossed into the realm of the supernatural: the wounds on her neck disappear and all of her “loveliness [comes] back to her in death.” The clippings about the threatening “Bloofer Lady” make it clear that Lucy has indeed become a vampire. Dracula’s attack has transformed a model of English chastity and purity into an openly sexual predator. When Holmwood visits Lucy for the last time, her physical appeal startles him: “she looked her best, with all the soft lines matching the angelic beauty of her eyes.” Equally startling is the newfound forwardness with which she demands sexual satisfaction: “Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!” Dracula’s power has indeed topped one former example of the Victorian female ideal.

Lucy’s body also becomes a metaphorical battleground between the forces of good and evil, between the forces for liberation and repression of female sexuality. While Dracula fights for control of Lucy, through whom he believes he can access many Englishmen, Van Helsing’s crew pumps her full of brave men’s blood, which they believe is the “best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble.” This battle reflects the struggle of Victorian society to recognize and accept female sexuality. Victorian England prized women for their docility and domesticity, leaving them no room for open expression of sexual desire, even within the confines of marriage. Mina, though married, appears no less chaste than Lucy. This obsession with purity was pervasive: less than twenty years before the publication of Dracula, medical authorities still believed that a menstruating woman could spoil meat simply by touching it.

Van Helsing articulates these prejudices of the Victorian age as he praises Mina’s character, saying:

She is one of God’s women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist—and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish.”

Van Helsing’s statement implies that a woman who cannot manage this much truth, sweetness, nobility, and modesty has no place in Victorian society. Though Lucy possesses all of these in plenty, she also betrays a fatal flaw: her openness to sexual adventure. Recalling Van Helsing’s lesson in vampire lore, we know that Dracula is powerless to enter a home unless invited. The count thus would not have been able to access Lucy’s bedroom unless she invited him in. Though no character ever blames Lucy for her susceptibility to seduction—or even mentions it—we are aware that the young woman has fallen from grace. Victorian society firmly dictated that wantonness came at a high price, and in Dracula, Lucy pays dearly.