Homoeroticism in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The evolution of time and the changes in socio-cultural faculties directly reflect on the type and the mainstream of culture within the literary and visual arts genre. Following the parade and proliferation of ‘feminism’ and ‘women empowerment’ in literature and popular media, a new type of theme evolved or branched out—homoeroticism—which had invaded the literary categories. Homoeroticism generally pertains to ‘homo’ or same-sex depiction of love and desire (Murray and Roscoe, 1997).
Perhaps one of the most famous and horrifying stories of the twentieth and the contemporary century is the Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
While the narrative is typically horrendous and strangely lulling to the reader, there is probably a deeper implication on the psychological responses, which hinges on ‘deviant behavior’ of the story’s main character Count Dracula. Strangely, the character Dracula is an atypical archetype of the “third” genre. In the subsequent paper, an analysis on the psychological behavior [and his erstwhile characteristics] of Bram Stoker’s Dracula will be conducted and correlate it to the possibility of ‘homoerotic’ inundations that normally defines ‘gay’ literature.
Additionally, the paper aims to define the ‘psychological state/conditioning/behavior of the author Bram Stoker by investigating given and known literatures/readings on his biography. Such undertaking can also possibly suggest the presence/absence of homoerotic front of the author.
II. The Third Gender and Queer Theory Modernity in the late 1960’s to the contemporary period explores the fundamentals and the notion and ideologies of heterosexuality which extends to thematic concepts in literature.
The tenets of gender is questioned and hereto put forth as social equity, an underlying idea of democratization, contests the precepts of gender and sexuality. What is biologically ‘straight’ is devolved with identity reconstruction and partiality towards sexual orientation. Accordingly, the new gender—the third gender—a referral to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and closets play ‘minority’ in the modern society. Homosexuals, in its simplest sense, are the non-heterosexuals. They have distinct preference for the same biological sexual orientation.
They are the basket term for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and closets. Faculties of psychosocial behavior explore the deviance and the non-normative sexual practice of homosexuals. It is acknowledged that gays are ‘psychosocial’ deviance, not a sickness but a social reality. The queer society, bearing some forms of behavior and principles, and language materializes in several literatures as some queer theorist claim. Thus there is manifestation and imposition of ‘third gender’ structures and labels from an external mainstream culture of the ‘homosexual’ minors into literature.
Here we explore the unconscious inclusion of pronounced homosexuality of the author Bram Stoker through the vampire Dracula. Bram Stoker’s vampiric Dracula is thus scrutinized using queer theory—process of discovering and exposing underlying meanings, distinctions, and relations of power in larger culture that others oversimplify. The capitalization of overt heterosexuality of the vampiric Dracula is examined overlaying the bounds of the character as simply being a ‘blood-sucking’ un-dead organism.
A major proponent of the queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and the Psychosocial Principle of Sigmund Freud will be utilized as a tool for understanding [the literature and] Dracula and explicate the vampire’s [methods] of homoeroticism.
III. A Background on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Eroticism Dracula is an epistolary novel—-consisting of a series of diary entries, telegrams, and letters from the characters, as well as fictional clippings from the Whitby and London newspapers and phonograph cylinders—originally published in 1897 and authored by Bram Stoker.
Its’ literary classification [/ genre] is extensive covering that of ‘vampire literature’, ‘horror fiction’, ‘gothic’ and ‘invasion literature’. The novel enjoyed the peak of its literary success in the twentieth century with the proliferation of television and media; several adaptations of the novel’s ‘vampire’ found in theater and film interpretations [Dracula (1931); The Horror of Dracula (1958); Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992); Nosferatu (1922)].
Modern accounts always of Dracula always universally agree that it exudes and distorts strong sexual energy: What has become clearer and clearer, particularly in the fin de siecle years of the twentieth century, is that the novel’s power has its source in the sexual implications of the blood exchange between the vampire and his victims… Dracula has embedded in it a very disturbing psychosexual allegory whose meaning I am not sure Stoker entirely understood: that there is a demonic force at work in the world whose intent is to eroticize women.
In Dracula we see how that force transforms Lucy Westenra, a beautiful nineteen-year-old virgin, into a shameless slut (Wolf 1992). Strong ‘dammed’ sexual energy either repressed or expressed, agitation, fear, anxiety, and excitement are inundated in the Dracula. The ‘demonic’ and ‘psychosexual’ allegories of the Dracula suggest inversion, a repression behind the monstrosity, a Freudian analogy of desires and hetero/homosexuality.
III. Homoerotism and Dracula Homoerotism refers to the illustration of homosexual love and desire manifested through visual arts and literature.
Although, it is more of a modern concept, Sedgwick acknowledged the pre-existence of such ‘process’ in the Victorian Era that hinges on pathological explanation of the ‘homosexuals’ veering on the predisposition towards both depravity and paederasty (Kaylor 2006). Dracula contains several obvious and not-so-obvious hints on the homoerotism that probably characterizes the restrained movement of the homosexuals of the Late Victorian Era. A. Parodies of Sexual Excesses of Dracula The narrative of the story contains heavy sexual undertones and indulgences that encompass even that of the human characters of the story.
Jonathan Harker exhibits sybaritic tendencies towards the dark and desirous evil passions during his encounter with the Brides of Dracula: All three had brilliant white teeth, that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked and burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. Stokes brings insight to the darker passions that are discretely enjoyed in the Late Victorian Era. Sex is not a sacred act but an indulgence of the senses and brain.
The conscious aim is to explore sexuality in its most banal and radical sense. Through the Brides of Dracula, Stokes suggests the exploration of multiple sex partners. There is no limit to sexual freedom; it exceeds gender and number, even. Such decadence or feast is patterned from the Greek paedaristic tradition and is patterned throughout the cascade of the story. The excitement of the underlying sexual tones is unmistakable and obviously intentional given the pariah treatment for the ‘unconventional’ during the Victorian Period. The homoerotic desires will continually persist throughout the entirety of the gothic novel.
The eroticism for the narrative is strangely luring and animalistic. Dracula bades Harker into the world of secrecy, indulgence and delight, saying “Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring! … I am Dracula; and I bid you welcome. ” Control is mocked; Desire, satisfaction and all that suggests [sexual] indulgence are offered by Dracula. Beneath the civilized veneer of the aristocrat Dracula lay a perverted nature which implies the status of the homosexuals and the repressed sexuality of the stuffy Victorian Period.
Sexual harem, incestuous relationships, and men-to-men relations are discretely portrayed in the Bram Stoke’s Dracula albeit in a hyperbolic manner. The Brides of Dracula are not ‘legal’ brides but in actuality, family relations of Dracula who bear a striking and similar morphological features with him which suggests, on the long run, a degree of incestuous relationship enjoyed by them. Aside from sexual harem and a hint of incest, men-to-men relation has played an important element in the development of the sexual undertones of the Gothic novel.
Ambiguity in sexual preference and the flexibility of Dracula for sexual predisposition is implicit when he admonishes his Brides who want to ravish Harker, “This man belongs to me! ” Such possession and temperamental display of possessive attitude differs from his statement on—“Yes, I too can love. You yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will. ” Dracula psychosexual conditioning is not clear.
However, it is asserted that the ambiguity and the his sexual inversions may have been an indicator for the confusion and the psychological meanderings of a homosexuals presented in a strict and stuffy society. B. Effeminate Dracula Perhaps the most striking quality of Dracula is his striking and handsome appearance which deviates from the ‘ugly’ vampires of Eastern European folklore: [Dracula’s] face was a strong – a very strong – aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere.
His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor. The general effect of Dracula is a Byronic ideology of ‘handsome’ man.
Beauty is not just a female concept but for the male Dracula as well with the perfection of his features which are highly popular during the Victorian times. The allusion of having ‘red’ lips and ‘long’ pointed nails are physical attributes or endowments of female genre. Additionally, Dracula’s innate effeminate characteristics extends to his housekeeping capacities—maintaining Jonathan Harker’s bed and readying of his meals. Dracula is representation of the ‘beautiful ‘morphological male, not necessarily masculine but neither does it approach the feminine standards.
C. Unmasking the Monstrosity of Dracula through Queer Theory As Sedwick puts it, to gain a better understanding of the third gender, it is necessary that a thorough study must be conducted that transcends the barriers the standard binary oppositions that limit understanding on sexuality. A careful examination of the psychological constructs of Dracula reveals the ‘heteroerotic’ chasm behinds his monstrosity and vampiric qualities. One of the major proponents behind a true understanding of individuality and motivation is Sigmund Freud.
Freud posits that unconscious portion of the mind, the submerged ‘thoughts’ as one puts it, is the major motivating force behind an individual’s actions and thoughts. What is essential is not the actual conscious thoughts but the unconscious thoughts. Could it be that behind the monstrosity of Dracula lay a barrage of confused emotions on gender position and preference, which, is poured into his ‘vampiric tendencies? Dracula is portrayed as an infernal monster by Dr. Van Helsing: The Nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil.
This vampire which is amongst us is of himself so strong in person as twenty men, he is of cunning more than mortal, for his cunning be the growth of ages, he have still the aids of necromancy, which is, as his etymology imply, the divination by the dead, and all the dead that he can come nigh to are for him at command, he is brute, and more than brute, he is devil in callous, and the heart of him is not, he can, within his range, direct the elements, the storm, the fog, the thunder, he can command all the meaner things, the rat, and the owl, and the bat, the moth, and the fox, and the wolf, he can grow and become small, and he can at times vanish and come unknown. The hyperbolic portrayal of the monstrous proportions of Dracula’s supernatural capacities denotes a deeper meaning behind the literaty texts.
An important venue to consider is the role of speech acts which is use as labels for the gay ‘lingo. ’ Beyond morphology and monstrous appearance and punctuated by speech acts and behavior, covers an ambiguity, a sexual inversion that characterizes the hidden and anonymous desires of the third gender minority in the Victorian Period. The dissolution of the boundaries of the self and the thorough subversion of the conventional Victorian gender codes, constrains the mobility of sexual desire of Dracula. Dracula exhibits erratic behavior and sexual excesses that denotes the male activity or supremacy of the old times. Dracula secretely covets Jonathan Harker during his address to his brides—He is mine!
Such statement defies the normative concept of heterosexual relations; Dracula, in this single statement of truth exposes once his secrets and his homosexual side. The repeating element of the story—Dracula is a highly sexed creature which spews the wickedness and vagaries on sexual enjoyment. The annotation of the Vampiric mouth is corollary to an orifice that denotes the hidden soul of the count: “There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive…I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth”. The eroticism of the vampiric mouth presents the dis-ambiguity between males and females. Dracula constantly victimizes local individual with no ‘gender preferences’ sinking his sharp teeth into an erogenous spot on the neck.
On the whole scale, such vampiric qualities reveal lurid representations on the binary subversion of gender. Woman is not just ‘receptors’ or ‘vessels’ [sunk with Dracula fangs] and neither are men simply the ‘penetrator’. The role of Draconian mouth extends beyond hyperbole into an equivocation of gender roles. Such is the power of the mouth! The Brides of Dracula have the equal capacity to ‘sink’ their sharp teeth, an allusion to females’ position in ‘sexual’ proclivities. The transfusion of blood and any bloodily fluids across humans is not just about sucking the life force but on the whole this pertains to the unity and social equity beyond gender categorization.
Dracula being a homosexual extremist ‘transfers’ blood when sucking; an equivocation of gender roles and a unwitting question of the association of the gay minority into the bilaterally determined society. Blood ties and acceptance. Blood. This is what ties humans together and the rejection of Dracula’s blood coupled with the fear and anxiety that characterizes the society during vampire hunts presents a parallelization of the misunderstood and an unaccepted presence of gay roles. The Dracula is a ‘monster’, and ‘a new order’ of humanity that is not understood by the old Victorian society. The monster presents un-comfort, distention, and somewhat weird and curiously entrancing but otherwise shunned away because it is not normal.
Heterosexual association of Dracula with ‘women’, his imminent victimization of them presents Dracula as not simply just the ‘un-choosey’ attacker; within the psychological premise, the deliberate choice of Dracula for women is a ‘displacement method’ for his unfulfilled sexual ambition with Jonathan Harker. Dracula’s desire with a male Harker and his victimization is always postponed by a series of events. In the end, to alleviate his sexual frustration for the male species, Dracula poured his frustrations in extreme proportions in the female genre. Dracula’s homoerotic desires is gratified by his three Brides; Dracula’s daughters offer masculine version for penetration with Harker as the recipient:
Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and the chin and seemed to fasten on my throat…I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of the two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with a beating heart. This is the final and most pronounced text wherein there is a direct representation of male ‘penetration’ vis-a-vis the female anatomy (from the mouth down anyway) and the referral to languor state ‘ecstasy’ prior to penetration. Harker anticipated the penetrated ‘waited—waited with a beating heart but the act was not bound to happen since Dracula barges in and shouts, “How dare you touch him, any of you?
How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back I tell you! This man belongs to me. ” The interruption suggests, more so the line, ‘This man belongs to me’, denotes homoeroticism on the part of Dracula, but such libidinous desires will never be realized its focal recipient Harker but instead will be displaced with other women. There are actually no male-to-male aggressions on the narrative but rather suggestive implications covered under sexual undertones and motivation inset under the Draco’s language. IV. Homoeroticism and Bram Stoker The publication of Dracula and the homoerotic themes scandalized under the narrative, created a question on the motivation of the author Bram Stoker.
It has been noted above that the horror story is a social commentary on the misunderstanding and the treatment of homosexuals as well as exploration on the ‘homoerotism’ of Dracula. Perhaps Dracula is merely an extension of the true author. We contend that the vividness of the character Dracula is either a representation of the closet Bram Stoker or if not his close friend and correspondent, the multi-sex oriented (bisexual, paederastic and homosexual [even metrosexual with current standards] Oscar Wilde. It must be realized that Stokes began writing the story one month after Oscar Wilde was legally cross-examined for sodomy. The ignorance of connection between the two was due to the absence of literature that would connote Wilde’s name.
Yet what is not apparently there may exist there by using using deliberate names to fulfill the gaps in communication. It is very possible that Dracula is Wilde; a horror allegory for a gay closet ‘trapped’ and ‘afraid’ during the trial. The Oscar Wilde trial is one of the most scandalous and expository nature of the Victorian underground in the nineteenth century. The trial commences the legal prosecution of the gays under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 which states the condemnation of homosexual acts not amounting to buggery. The crisis of the closet is untenable; whereas Stokes wanted to embraced the ideology of homosexuality, common fear for persecution of gays forced him to be discrete and displaced his ideas on Dracula.
Stoker has been many times associated with Withman and his open correspondent with him. His admires Whitman for ‘function[ing] as badges in homosexual recognition in England fin-de-siecle. ’ Stoker writes an insidious letter to Whitman: I would like to call you Comrade and to talk to you as men who are not poets do not often talk. I think that at first a man would be ashamed, for a man cannot in a moment break the habit of comparative reticence that has become a second nature to him, but I know I would not be long ashamed to be natural before you…. You have shaken off the shackles and your wings are free. I have the shackles on my soldiers and still—but I have no wings.
If you are going to read this letter any further I should tell you that I am not prepared to give up all else so far as words go. The ‘love letter’ address to Whitman suggests the fight for gay freedom of movement vis-a-vis his literary writings. The metaphysical connection between the two men is demonstrated in the letters. Gays are not simply gays because of their sexual quirks or fancies but more on their emotional predisposition. As Stokes further asserted, “How sweet a thing it is for a strong healthy man with a woman’s eye and a child’s wishes to feel that he can speak so to a man who can be if he wishes a father, and brother and wife to his soul. ”
Stokes believed that he is different from the normative ‘kind’ of human species. It is not known if Stoker’s presumed gayness resulted from the classical Oedipus imbalance or is a genetically determined trait. However it is clear that he identifies himself to be a different kind, those who practiced sodomy and has distinct preference for young males. While it is true that he is a proud member of the third class, tradition and fear of experiencing societal pariah urges him towards complacency and discretion. Stoker cannot openly write his intellectual positions on the assertion of third gender roles in the Victorian society and their so-called coming out.
Stokes later became a member of the organization of gays with Whitman as a ‘special’ comrade. Oscar Wilde’s trial prove to be the turning point of decisions for his literary career. The infusion of homoeroticism within Dracula is so discretely hidden that, for a common reader, Dracula is nothing but bat-like demon. Within the realms of persecution, Dracula is perhaps the safest route for gay literary ideology and at the same time, avoiding inspection from the anti-homosexual Victorian law enforcers. Wilde’s trial forces the author Bram Stoker to secrecy. Irving also enjoys a strong emotional discourse with Irving, a gay poet: In those moments of our mutual emotion he too had found a friend. Soul had looked into soul!
From that hour began the friendship as profound, as close, as lasting can be between two men…And the sight of his picture before me, with those loving words, the record of a time of deep emotion and full understanding of us both, each for a time of deep emotion and full understanding of us both, each for the other, unmans me once again as I write. The souls of the two distinguished individuals commune; it borders beyond physical adoration. They understand each other’s needs and ambitions depicting mutuality among men—a mirror of homosexuality that is very misleading and the parameters rather abstract. Stoker’s love for Irving is open, honest and metaphysical; there were no records to the consummation of their love but Stoker, many times, admitted to the alluding most profound male relationship of all time. Note that in Dracula, there is no consummation between the vampire Dracula and the human Jonathan Harker.
Perhaps Stoker wants to project the essential element of third gender relations which hinges on emotional and intellectual connections. That is perhaps, why, Stoker condemns the vulgar representation of the third gender of Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde, during his trial, exposing the darker sides of the third sex legion. He commented, “Vices so flaggitous, so opposed to nature, even in its lowest and crudest forms that the poignancy of moral disgust is lost in the horror. ” Stoker argues that some gay literature are censorious and exploits and denigrates the essentials of gayhood. Stoker always asserts discretion even in his letters and literary works.
Such discretion fed under rigidity of censorship allowed him to explore the subtextual tools in implicating homoeroticism within his Dracula story. Wilde was Stoker’s primary rival but whether he sympathizes with his enemy’s crimes is another story. One thing is certain: the Oscar Wilde trial forced Bram Stoker to methodically used discretion in several of his correspondence. V. Conclusion The paper discussed the homoeroticism in Dracula and the psycho social ideologies that lay basic foundation to the horrorific nature of the epistolary literature. Beyond horror, the Freudian theory of subconscious explained the motives of the antagonist Dracula. Sedwick’s principle on exceeding structured binary opposition to categorized the atypical Dracula.
In understanding Dracula and its’ author Bram Stoker, subtextual language and discrete elements embedded within the horror story and the correspondence of Stoker to some of his friends reveal insights in the subversive gay literature. Homoeroticism of Dracula reveals the culture of third gender during the late Victorian period. Dracula, a homosexual closet beyond the hyperbolic monster demonstrates effeminate morphology and behavior. More so his strange attraction to Jonathan Harker. Displacement behavior explained his opinion on sexual gratification. Dracula, is perhaps, Wilde, a representation of the archenemy of Bram Stokes during his collegiate years.
It is the literary by-product of the censorious laws of old England which was heightened during Wilde’s trial.
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