VAMPIRIC AFFINITIES: MINA HARKER AND THE PARADOX OF FEMININITY IN BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
|Charles E. Prescott a1 and Grace A. Giorgio a1|
a1 Southern Vermont College and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
AFTER MINA HARKER awakens from Count Dracula's vampiric embrace, she asks the men around her, but more pointedly herself, “What have I done to deserve such a fate, I who have tried to walk in meekness and righteousness all my days?” (285, ch. 21). As she recounts this perverse seduction in her own words, however, she contradicts her earlier disavowal: “strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him” (284). These conflicting statements capture the peculiar double bind with which Mina struggles throughout Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Many critics concentrate on Dracula himself and the men who do battle with him; interestingly, the novel also develops Mina's complex subjectivity through her unspoken but deep affinity with the vampire. Van Helsing's paranoid observation, “Madam Mina, our poor, dear Madam Mina, is changing” (319; ch. 24), epitomizes shifting cultural anxieties at the moment when a long-standing ideological conception of proper femininity comes under suspicious attack. Although nothing seems more natural to Mina than her desire to help her husband in the public sphere while maintaining an intimate friendship with Lucy Westenra in the private, these familiar roles become estranged by the new taxonomies of deviancy popularized during the late nineteenth century.