According to the schedule, as of today we’ve read through Chapter 12, and I’ll be discussing events from that chapter, so be warned if you’ve fallen behind.
The bulk of this section centers on Lucy, and the reactions of Mina, Dr Seward, and Van Helsing to her situation. What I want to focus on is an interesting change that occurs in Lucy, aside from the whole living-to-dead one: it seems like maybe there’s an upside to a relationship with Dracula.
We meet Lucy in Chapter 5, in the two letters she writes to Mina. As I touched on in my last post, the language Lucy uses is light-hearted, even approaching ditzy (“Do you ever try to read your own face? I do, and I can tell you it is not a bad study, and gives you more trouble than you can well fancy if you have never tried it.”). She’s wholly consumed in her attempts to fend off two of her three suitors. She bursts into tears when she must tell them she doesn’t love them, and cries “like a baby” when she gets the proposal she wants. She asks “My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?” Not exactly a candidate for the aforementioned New Woman. She’s girlish, immature, self-centered, and her sense of self is all wrapped up in her desire to be someone’s wife.
We next hear from Lucy in her own words in Chapter Nine. At this point we know something has happened to her, but we don’t know what. She was sleep-walking, there was maybe something creepy standing behind her on the cliffs, and she’s got some marks on her neck. She’ll get sick later, but for now, she feels better, healthier than she has in a while.
The change in Lucy in the Chapter Nine letter is pronounced. She starts: “Oceans of love and millions of kisses, and may you soon be in your own home with your husband.” Already we can tell she’s more outwardly focused, in tune with what Mina is going through. There’s a maturity in the language of this letter that we didn’t see previously. Perhaps the most telling indication of the change is this line: “Arthur says I am getting fat. By the way, I forgot to tell you that Arthur is here.” This is the same woman who wouldn’t stop talking about her suitors before, and now he’s mentioned almost in passing. What are we to make of the fact that Lucy now seems more pleasant, more well-adjusted, more like someone we’d actually want to be around?
Mina, meanwhile, is undergoing a change of her own. At first she’s terrified about not having heard from Jonathan in so long, but must deal with the fact at hand of Lucy’s strange behavior. Her diary moves back and forth between these two spheres, her worry for Jonathan and her concern for Lucy. Then Mina gets word from Jonathan, and rushes off to meet him. They get married, and almost immediately her concern for her friend drops to nothing.
Granted, Jonathan seems to be having a lengthy convalescence, for whatever reason. And Lucy seems much improved, although you would think Mina would question this—Lucy never remembered sleep-walking, why trust her just because she says she isn’t doing it anymore?
This passage in particular really struck me:
I wish I could run up to town for a day or two to see you, dear, but I dare not go yet, with so much on my shoulders; and Jonathan wants looking after still.
What’s on her shoulders? Wifely duties? Her hands were much more full with Lucy, but as soon as she gets married she can’t make time to check in with her friend? And look at the language Mina uses to describe Jonathan: “He has had some terrible shock, and I fear it might tax his poor brain if he were to try to recall it.” Those are her feelings about the guy she’s devoting herself to? This seems a far cry from the woman who risked propriety by running off under-clothed and shoeless to save her friend in the middle of the night.
On the one hand we have Lucy, changed from girlishness to maturity by her interaction with Dracula. On the other hand, marriage has transformed Mina from a strong, independent woman into someone’s wife. It’s hard to know what Stoker might have intended. Has Dracula—evil incarnate, after all—done Lucy a disservice in leading her astray from her former concerns? This would imply that Mina’s path, from New Woman to doting wife, is modeling the ideal behavior. Or are we to wonder if Lucy isn’t better off, having been released of her former concerns by Dracula, and if Mina would have maintained her sense of self and her integrity as a friend without her wifely devotion to Jonathan? Is Dracula one big STFU Marrieds?