Bram Stoker uses his words to express his feelings toward the roles of men and women. Throughout Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories the strong role of men is used to downplay the role of women. Stoker’s stories consistently work to put down the strong, independent women by praising the weak women who need a man to depend on. Stoker uses his words to not only to portray the female sex as weak and dependable, but to portray them as creatures and as an unbeautiful sex.
In his first short story of Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories, Stoker uses his words to characterize women as sexual and seductive. They are not only viewed as sexual and seductive but also as objects of fear and loathing: “In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my eyes were turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman, with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier” (Stoker 12). The female character in Dracula’s Guest is like an unnatural object of fear. She is a vampire whose seductive trance brings sex and death together in a horrific way.
Women are supposed to be seen as beautiful, gentle and soft creatures, but Stoker sees women as being dangerous. The female sexuality in Stokers’ stories are seen as disillusioning. “Tightly fitting white clothes, which showed off her extraordinary slim figure” (211). The character in The Lair of the White Worm uses her femininity to lure a man into marriage for financial help. However, she is also the white worm of the novel’s title, a disgusting prehistoric survival that preys on humans and animals. The white represents the innocence she puts off, that women use their so called “innocence” to get close to humans and animals. Because she is also the white worm of the novel’s title her femininity is really an overriding animality. Stoker makes it seem as if the female sexuality is a dangerous thing.
The beautiful, young women in Stoker’s stories are not the only females who are seen as dangerous. In The Burial of the Rats Stoker views an old lady as being dangerous:
I kept my eyes fixed through the darkness on the old woman. Pierre struck his light, and by its flash I saw the old woman raise from the ground beside her where it had mysteriously appeared, and then hide in the folds of her gown, a long sharp knife or dagger. It seemed to be like a butcher’s sharpening iron fined to a keen point … The old woman was watching me as a cat does a mouse; she had her right hand hidden in the folds of her gown, clutching … that long, cruel-looking dagger. Had she seen any disappointment in my face she would, I felt, have known that the moment had come, and would have sprung on me like a tigress, certain of taking me unprepared. (104)
Stoker compares an old woman to a tigress who would take him unprepared which only puts stronger emphasis that all types of women are dangerous. “Fear of women is never far from the surface of his novels” (Arata 214). Stephen Arata states in Fictions of loss in the Victorian fin de siï¿½cle that fear of women is in many of Stoker’s novels. Fear of women will always be part of Stoker’s stories.
Females are not only described as dangerous or disillusioning but also as followers, not independent. They should always be seen as a follower of the men not as a leader: “I will come, she answered simply; Edgar moved in the direction of the stair, she following close behind him” (Stoker 347). The female character is looked at as just in the background. She is following the male character as if it is her duty or as if she is his tail. “‘Where are you going?’ almost screamed Mary” (72). Once again, the female character is seen as she is dependable on the male character, asking where he is going. In The Secret of the Growing Gold Stoker makes it seem as women never leave the side of their husband. Stoker continues to portray women as a tail that follows the men:
He was disturbed by a noise at the door, and looking round, saw his wife standing in the doorway. In the desperation of the moment he took action … and lighting a match at the lamp, stooped down and burned away the hair that rose through the broken stone. Then rising nonchalantly as he could, he pretended surprise at seeing his wife beside him … He could not find himself alone in the hall for any length of time … Someone always interrupted him; and once, when he was coming out of the private doorway, he was met by his wife. (60)
Stoker makes sure that the reader realizes that the men should always be “ahead” or “above” the women and that women continue to be by their men. They are not by their men in a good way, but as if they are always wanting to know what they are doing. And as if the females are always wanting to be by the male’s side. This idea is opposite that of the new woman idea. The new women were women in the nineteenth century who started to change and become more independent. In her book The New Woman, Sally Ledger discusses Stokers views on the new woman: “Stoker interprets the New Women’s sexuality as a degenerate aberration which must be extinguished” (Ledger 100). She also states that “Stoker … wanted to terminate the career of sexualized New Women and to reinstate in her place a modernized version of the ‘angel of the house'” (106).
Stoker continues to put down women by considering them to be weaker than men. “Old Fellow, women are superstitious- far more than we men are; and, also, they are blessed- or cursed- with a nervous system to which we are strangers” (Stoker 68). Women are viewed as cursed because they get nervous easily, unlike men. By women being viewed as weak they are also viewed as fearful:
He sprang forward, but too late to catch her as she fell fainting on the floor … After a little while Mary recovered from her swoon, but only to fall into strong hysterics, in which she laughed and wept and raved and cried, ‘Keep him from me,’ … and many other words of entreaty and of fear. (69)
The female character falling to the floor shows that she is weak. The female crying and being fearful only makes all females look as if they are as weak as she. Stoker does not only put down the stronger women to praise the weaker ones. He also puts down the stronger women to make the men seem as if they are the strong ones: “Joshua draw his thumb across the edge of his knife in an unconscious sort of way. At the action Mary turned pale and almost fainted” (71). The male character touching the knife with no thought or fear shows that he is stronger and not fearful. The woman character turning pale and almost fainting at the gesture the man is doing shows that she is weak and cannot handle what the man can handle. “When Mary saw him come out of the room with the weapon in his hand she screamed in an agony of fright” (72). Stoker continues to make the females seem as if they are full of fear, unlike the males. “Joshua ran toward her, and seeing her falling, threw down the knife and tried to catch her” (73). The male character running to catch the female, the female is once again shown as being weak, while the male character is seen as the hero. Stoker downplays the strong women and praises the strong men. He makes known that men are stronger and less dependent compared to women:
Then he lent his great strength, and with a steady, sturdy pull, dragged him out of the hungry quicksand and placed him safe upon the rock. Hardly giving him time to draw breath, he pulled and pushed him- never letting him go for an instant- over the roc into the firm sand beyond it, and finally deposited him, still shaking from the magnitude of his danger, high up on the beach. (138)
The male character is being described as strong and sturdy. He is dragging another man and doing things without stopping. This only shows that there is no equality in his stories and in her book The Lure of the Vampire, Milly Williamson agrees: “He was good for his time, but he was very male chauvinistic, there was no equality and that was what I don’t like about him … it’s all very male-dominated” (Williamson 61). Williamson realizes that Stoker does make the men seem as if they are more dominant than the women and that the females and males are unequal. This male domination and inequality is described by Angelique Richardson in her book The new woman in fiction and in fact as a revenge on the New Woman:
Stoker, working with romance or neo-Gothic genres, intended to reclaim … the English novel … for male readers, produce texts of multi-layered complexity in their figurings of power relations between women and men which are frequently interpreted by female critics as masculinist revenge on the New Women. (Richardson 94)
Stoker characterizes women so that they seem as if they are not beautiful creatures, but the total opposite. He describes the image of a vagina to make the vagina and women seem as if they are monstrous:
It was like nothing that Adam had ever met with. He compared it with all the noxious experiences he ever had- the drainage of war hospitals, of slaughter-houses, the refuse of dissecting rooms. None of these were like it, though it had something of them all, with, added, the sourness of chemical waste and the poisonous effluvium of the bilge of a water-logged ship whereon a multitude of rats had been drowned. (Stoker 266)
Stoker is describing the image of a monstrous vagina, making it seem as if being a women or having that feature as a woman is also monstrous. Stoker compares seeing this vagina to “all the noxious experiences.” He compares this vagina to being worse than things that no one would like to see such as “the drainage of war hospitals, of slaughter houses, and the refuse of dissecting rooms.” In her book Impossible Impurities, Jennifer DeVere Brody describes that the lady with the monstrous vagina “combines characteristics not only of the primeval monster, but also of the ‘new’ woman” (Brody 171). This explains the bold description of her vagina and how it is disgusting. Her vagina is viewed as disgusting and worse than places like war hospitals because she has characteristics of the new woman, which is disapproved by Stoker.
Women are supposed to be seen as people not objects. In one of Stoker’s short stories, The Coming of Abel Behenna Stoker makes women seem as if they are nothing but objects. As if they are nothing but things to be claimed:
‘You have a year. Make the most of it! And be sure you’re in time to claim your wife! Be back to have your banns up in time to be married on the 11th April. If you’re not, I tell you I shall have my banns up, and you may get back too late.’ … ‘I mustn’t be too hard or get angry to-night! Come, Eric! We played and fought together. I won fairly. I played fairly all the game of our wooing!’ (Stoker 81)
Two men are playing a game to get a woman but women are not prizes, they are people. Stoker makes it seem as if women are so easy that all you have to do is play a game to get them. Stoker makes this woman seem so much like a prize that the two men are going to share her.
Stoker does not know the truth about women and who they are which is why they are seemed to be downplayed all the time. He does not understand women, he only cares about them looking as if they are weak and portraying them as unbeautiful creatures. The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker and Leslie Klinger concludes:
Each of Stokers’ novels are all romances, depicting the traditional rituals of mating, the common conflicts, and the happy outcomes prevalent in the eighteenth-century novels of sentiment. On the whole, the heroines are beautiful but in need of rescue; the heroes are broad shouldered, noble of countenance and strong but lacking in their understanding of women. (Stoker and Klinger xl)
Each of his stories have great characters, “traditional rituals of mating, common conflicts and … happy outcomes.” Stoker’s stories are great because of this, but both he and the characters in his stories do not understand women, which is what they need.
All of Stoker’s works continue to put down the strong women. Not only do they put down women but, the role that they play. His works also put down their sexuality. Stoker continues to favor the male sexuality and the roles that the males play. In his novels, he makes sure to make the men seem as if they are strong and independent, unlike the women. Stoker does not appreciate the new women; he would rather see a dependent, weak woman in his novels. Bram Stoker is a brilliant writer, but that does not change the fact that he is a bit male chauvinistic.