The Blood Is The Life: Female Vampires, Sexuality, and Disgust in Dracula
Haverford College. Department of English
Place of Publication
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Focusing on the female vampires in Bram Stoker's Dracula, I investigate the male characters' responses to these women, connecting the vampires to the emerging figure of the New Woman in 1890s London. I argue that the men in the novel react with fascination and curiosity towards the vampires early on, but by the end of the novel, they have been repulsed enough to violently slay the vampires and reclaim their control and sense of self-control. The men are drawn to the freedom of an unrestrained and active sexual appetite offered by vampirism, their fantasies of breaking free from social constraints and fully satisfying their desires reflected in their attraction to the vampires. On the other hand, the men feel disgust, and disgust can draw characters towards something new with a strong sense of curiosity, or it can have a more aggressive response that rejects it. By highlighting the use of the female vampires as monster figures, drastically changed and bastardized female forms that gain sexual control and power over the males, I show how essential they are in presenting Stoker's novel as a metaphoric warning about the dangers of the rapidly ascending New Woman figure. The male characters' encounters with the brides of Dracula and vampire Lucy reveal that the men are attracted to aspects of the New Woman in a number of ways, but they need to violently put a stop to such feelings in order to prevent further challenges to their self-control, to preserve the patriarchal balance in society, and to "save" the females from this hypersexual and unbecoming state.