Decorative Initial T

his connection between sexuality and morality clearly reflects contemporary concerns about the social threats posed by women's emancipation, and occurs throughout the nineteenth century. Jane Eyre appeared in 1847 but as early as 1814 the risqué elements of Lovers' Vows threatened the peace of Mansfield Park, and in 1897 Bertha Mason was reincarnated in Bram Stoker's horror fantasy Dracula.

During Jonathan Harker's stay at Castle Dracula he awakens to find himself surrounded by three young and beautiful women. The reader is painfully aware that these are vampires whose attentions imperil Harker's soul, but his damnation, like Rochester's is aided by his inability to resist sexual enticements;

I lay quiet, … in an agony of delightful anticipation. The fair girl advanced and bent over me till I could feel the movement of her breath on me … The girl went on her knees and bent over me simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive … I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited …

Harker is saved by the timely intervention of the Count who, re-enacting Rochester's role when Mason is bitten by Bertha, confines them again to their locked quarters.

Lucy Westenra initially seems an unlikely descendant of Bertha Mason. Frequently described as "sweet," she is quiet, pretty, and well bred, with a good moral education. Three men fall in love with her and propose marriage, and although she must refuse two of them it is done with genuine regret at the necessity of hurting them and none of the flirtation common to Blanche Ingram or Mary Crawford. Lucy is attacked by Dracula whose effect on her appears to be sexual; she is heard tossing and moaning and discovered breathless and flushed. Her inability to resist means that, despite the efforts of her would be rescuers, she is easy prey for Dracula on his return, and dies.

Once Lucy becomes a vampire herself she poses a serious moral threat — the loss of Heaven — but it is portrayed in sexual not religious tones; "the purity [was turned] to voluptuous wantonness." Lucy wears a long white shroud resembling both a wedding dress and an angel's gown and carries a child upon whom she has been preying. She attempts to seduce her fiancé into joining her; and he "under a spell" almost does so. In losing her soul Lucy has become a travesty of wife, mother and Angel, endangering any respectable man falling within her sphere of influence; the archetypal establishment view of the New Woman.

Last modified 25 November 2004