Lucy Westenra’s Transformation in ‘Dracula’

Lucy and Mina are the two main female characters in the Gothic novel ‘Dracula,’ and both have very different roles. Mina is dark haired, Lucy is fair haired, Mina is the brains, Lucy is the progressive thinker, in terms of relationships and sex. Together they are ‘woman,’ and individually form two sides of the same coin. Both fall victim to Dracula, but for Lucy this is fatal. Before her death however, Lucy is described as a highly sexualised and voracious female vampire. She’s an example of the ‘sexy vampire’ trope, and becomes a creature that is antithetical to the idealized image of woman and mother.

We already know that Lucy is confronting Victorian sexual codes when the reader realises that she is universally desired. She has three suitors, in the forms of Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood and Dr John Seward.[1] She confesses that if she could, she would marry all three, but settles for Arthur. This seems like innocent girl-talk with her best mate Mina, but to Victorian readers, Lucy saying that she wants to marry three men is basically the same thing as saying that she wants to have sex with the three men. For Victorians, this is hugely scandalous, and so from very early on in the book, everyone is under the impression that Lucy has an untapped sexual desire, waiting to break free. Cue Dracula.

Dracula basically rocks up, takes advantage and enhances Lucy’s tendency to sleep walk, and begins feeding from her. Mina notices that her friend is getting ill, and at this point, Van Helsing is called in. Long story short, she gets weaker and weaker, and receives blood transfusions from all three of her suitors.[2] Dracula keeps draining her, creating a slightly nauseating flow of blood between the five of them. It’s worth noting that Victorians believed that, during sex, the couples’ blood would become intermingled. Based on this ridiculous fact, the Victorians would have believed that these five characters… well you can guess the rest. Lucy becomes increasingly ‘bloodless,’ and eventually dies.[3]

Alarm bells ring early on though, in the run up to the funeral, Quincey, Arthur, Seward and Van Helsing notice that Lucy’s coffin is frequently empty.[4] When she’s inside, however, and they do catch a glimpse of her, Seward notes that:

‘There lay Lucy, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before her funeral. She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever; and I could not believe that she was dead. The lips were red, nay redder than before; and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom.’[5]

So… Lucy looks better dead than alive? Strange. She’s highly sexualised and basically becomes the perfect example of Victorian female beauty in her death. Her lips are red, her skin pale, her cheeks rosy. Serious Snow White vibes here. She’s also laid to rest in her coffin in her wedding dress. White obviously signifies purity, and the contrast of this with the red of her lips is an obvious reference to the Madonna-Whore complex. Lucy also becomes a tad more demanding in death, commanding Arthur:

‘Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!’[6]

Lucy has all of the men’s blood inside her, so all men respond to her call. She’s less innocent here and has more agency when acting on her sexual desires. Her sexual desires are heightened in her vampiric state. She tries to be a femme fatale here, but it doesn’t quite work as Arthur, although tempted, doesn’t submit. Lucy’s actions and character here play to the dichotomies of pain and pleasure, danger and attraction. Stoker does a good job of encapsulating all of these big ideas into one character, making sure the reader knows that Lucy is not one set ‘thing.’

Stoker then goes on to add the ‘anti-mother’ to the list. Back in the day, women were expected to be subservient, and bear children. Lucy directly subverts the ideal of the perfect mother, as she is seen to be feeding off the blood of a ‘fair-haired’ child.[7] Lucy’s ‘sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness.’[8] Again Stoker notes Lucy’s new, overt sexuality here, but the ‘heartless cruelty’ here is worth noting. She’s carrying a baby and drinking its blood. That’s not something mothers do. Carolyn Dever argues that mothers in the Gothic narrative are ‘constructed as an emblem of safety.’[9] In this case, Lucy isn’t. Usually mothers protect their children in the Gothic novel from other forces that would harm them, but Lucy’s not quite up for that. She is the force that harms the child.

Her death climaxes a lot of these themes, especially that of her sexuality. The driving of a stake through her heart by her beloved Arthur works as some kind of strange, sexual release. The blood that spurts from her body is a reference to Arthur taking her virginity. But, as she is not conscious when he drives the stake in, it’s also a reference to rape. Lucy’s death acts as a punishment for her, by Victorian standards, unnatural sexual desires. In this weird, sex act Lucy’s soul is saved as she is no longer a vampire. Lucy’s portrayal in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula,’ 1992, by Sadie Frost is probably the most iconic and accurate to the book.

Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula,’ 1992

And that’s pretty much it for Lucy. Here lies a thoroughly modern woman gone too soon, punished and criticised by the Victorian sexual codes and patriarchal society that she found herself stuck in. Lucy dies about halfway through the novel, so even though she isn’t around for long, she is important. Her death spurs on the others, particularly Mina, to hunt Dracula down and kill him.

Thanks for reading!

[1] Bram Stoker, Dracula (London: Penguin Clothbound Classics, 2011), p. 64.

[2] Ibid., p. 131.

[3] Ibid., p. 121.

[4] Ibid., p. 210.

[5] Ibid., p. 213.

[6] Ibid., p. 226.

[7] Ibid., p. 225.

[8] Ibid., p. 225.

[9] Ruth Bienstock Anolik, ‘The Missing Mother: The Meanings of Maternal Absence in the Gothic Mode’, Modern Language Studies, Vol. 33, No. ½, (2003), p. 27.

Published by harpalkhambay

I am an English Literature and History graduate, and wanted a space to explore topics within those fields that interest me.

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