Innocence, chastity, purity, and married life are just a few things that made up the ‘image’ of the nineteenth century Victorian woman. During this time, it was greatly looked down upon if a woman chose to stay single, as she would be pitied and dubbed a “whore”. Lucy Westenra is one of the main characters in the novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Lucy is a beautiful young lady whose innocence and virtuous being draws three suitors to her.
Although, this portrayed innocence is not the only thing that is drawing these men towards her. Lucy has a sexual appeal to her personality, much different than her best friend Mina Murray and the typical Victorian woman. This sense of sexual desire will eventually lead her right into the dangerous and evil arms of Count Dracula. The Count only has the ability to attack willing victims, which is why the sexually driven Victorian woman, Lucy Westenra is the first character to become victimized by Dracula’s deadly spell.
Count Dracula was an evil, lustful vampire who wanted nothing but power and control. He lived in an Eastern European country called, Transylvania. The Count preyed on any individual who would make him feel in control and powerful of the situation. This is why Lucy Westenra was targeted and made Dracula’s first victim. The first peculiar account Lucy and Mina experience was when they see a Russian ship wrecked near the shore and hear that the there was no life aboard and the captain had died holding a crucifix in his hands. Soon after the account, Lucy started mysteriously sleep walking many night in a row into the grave yard near her home. One night, Mina had awoken the Rowatt 3
find Lucy missing and not in her bed, she then found her outside with a creature with beaming red eyes hunched over her. Mina tried to save her friend but by the time she got over there, the creature was gone. In the morning Mina had found strange dots on Lucy’s neck and after struggling for weeks Lucy became deathly sick and started to change before everyone’s eyes.
Unknowingly, she was transforming into a super natural and dangerous form of herself while dead and lying in a cold grave. “Indeed, it is not only Lucy and Mina who are dramatically transformed in the draining, but Dracula himself, whose transformations are much more varied and complex than those of his victims.” (Pg. 238, Viragh) Count Dracula had stripped this woman of her innocence and virtue by changing her to an evil vampire just like him. Dracula now had control over Lucy but only because she was willing to let him control her.
In the nineteenth century, straying away from who a woman is supposed to be according to the Roman Catholic Church is heresy. A woman was never to be with more than one man, but was to be married and completely faithful to her partner. This century was ruled by “the belief that an individual’s sex and sexuality form the most basic core of their identity, potentiality, social/political standing, and freedom” (Pg. 1, Ridgway) Lucy Westenra had a completely different mindset as she expressed in a letter to her dear friend Mina. “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” (Pg. 66, Stoker) After Lucy states these words in her letter, she immediately admits to her thoughts and actions being heresy. Just because she confessed Rowatt 4
to this sin against the church and her beliefs does not simply alleviate Lucy’s sexual desire. This difference between Lucy and other nineteenth century virtuous women was not just a phase of rebellion, it was psychological. Lucy is fully aware that she is desired by many men and she lets that get into her head, essentially she is feeding off the attention. This vulnerability and openness is why Lucy Westenra is Count Dracula’s first and easiest target. The first time the Count starts to get into Lucy’s head is after her and Mina see the wrecked boat upon shore, containing the containers of dirt. These were Dracula’s sleeping quarters. This fact was not known by the women at the time, but soon after this event is when Lucy starts to sleep walk.
This sleep walking is not a coincidence but is psychologically connected to her sinful desires of lustfulness. Count Dracula only has the power the attack willing victims, which could only mean Lucy knew in her subconscious what she was doing by going out to the cemetery at nights. This spell Dracula puts on Lucy is the same spell he put on the three women who now life in Dracula Castle with him. These women were just as innocent and virtuous as Lucy was and are now sex crazed and evil just as the Count is. This “spell” was a way to undermine women so that Dracula would feel powerful and controlling over them.
In essence, Lucy Westenra was a seemingly virtuous nineteenth century Victorian woman who actually had underlying sexual desires. These desires made Lucy vulnerable to Count Dracula, who was consumed with gaining control over his victims. Because of her lustful manor, Lucy was drawn to the attack of Dracula and fell under his deep spell. From then on there was no turning back.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Viragh, Attila. “Can The Vampire Speak? Dracula As Discourse On Cultural Extinction.” English Literature In Transition, 1880-1920 56.2 (2013): 231-245. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Ridgway, Stephan. “Victorian Sexuality” in “Sexuality and Modernity” originally written as a lecture for Sociology at Sydney University, 1996. Isis Creations. Web. 12 Nov. 2010.