There's a lot of talk in this novel about the ideal roles of men and women. Men are supposed to be strong, brave, and decisive, and women are supposed to be sweet, pure, and innocent. Of course, those roles get mixed up on occasion (as hard-and-fast gender roles tend to do). Sorting through what Dracula is really suggesting about ideals of masculinity and femininity is part of the fun of reading this novel.
Questions About Gender
- The "New Woman" Mina refers to (8.1) is a common term for any progressive woman who was physically (and sexually) independent. Is Mina a new woman? Why or why not? What passages in the novel would you use as evidence for your answer?
- Of all the men fighting Dracula, Jonathan Harker is the least stereotypically masculine, yet he's also the only married man. Why is this? What does this suggest about the role of marriage and gender dynamics?
- Van Helsing's biggest compliment for Mina is that she has a "man's brain" (18.22). Knowing what we know about the men in Dracula, how is this true? In what ways is it untrue?
- Although Mina is very maternal, Lucy is sexier. Which model of femininity is more valued by the men in Dracula? Which passages of the novel would you use to support your answer?
Chew on This
Despite Mina's maternal femininity, her "man's brain" and Jonathan's passivity serve to balance the power dynamic between them.
Mina represents a late Victorian ideal of femininity: She is intelligent, capable, and willing to enter the workplace, but only as an assistant to her husband.