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Dracula
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Dracula

Top Ten Quotes

1. "I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The fair girl went on her knees, and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and 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 two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstacy and waited - waited with beating heart." (Chapter 3)

This is the most-discussed episode in the novel. At Count Dracula's castle, Jonathan Harker has a vision or dream (he is unsure which) in which he is seduced by three vampire women. The vampiric tradition of blood-sucking is symbolic of the exchange of bodily fluids during sex. For Stoker, writing in the sexually repressed Victorian age, vampirism is a convenient metaphor for sex and the closest he could get to writing about sex in a 'respectable' novel. The seduction incident is remarkable for the reversal of traditional gender roles: Harker is a passive victim, peeping out under his eyelashes like a coy young girl, while the vampire women are sexually aggressive predators. In Victorian Britain, a sexually aggressive woman was seen as a threat to the very fabric of society, so Stoker's characterisation of such women as death-dealing vampires is apt. Harker's longing for, and yet revulsion to the women illustrates the deeply ambiguous attitude of Victorian society towards the female sexual appetite.

2. "'Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me!'" (Chapter 3)

Count Dracula rescues Harker from the attempted seduction of the vampire women. The fact that the Count lays claim to Harker as belonging to him has been seen by critics as having homosexual undertones. However, this theme is not developed explicitly in the novel. The incident reverses the traditional gender role of romantic and Gothic fiction, in which the male hero rescues the female victim.

The Count's comment also foreshadows the later plot development in which the young men repeatedly give blood to Lucy, to replace the blood that the Count has taken from her. Because the Count indirectly drinks their lifeblood, it can be said that they 'belong' to him.

3. "Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?" (Chapter 5)

Lucy Westenra asks her friend Mina this question after she receives three marriage proposals in one day. The remark establishes Lucy's strong sexuality. Though she is at this point still a 'respectable' and chaste woman, her comment verges on the sexually promiscuous, by the rigid standards of Victorian England. It is no accident that Lucy is the first of the Count's English conquests: she is 'penetrated' by him before her marriage, with the implication that she cannot subsequently marry the noble young Holmwood. In fact, she dies, drained of lifeblood by the Count, before her marriage to Holmwood can take place.

4. "'A brave man's blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble.'" (Chapter 12)

Van Helsing asks Quincey Morris to donate his blood to save Lucy's life. Throughout the novel, there is a morally upstanding quality to the blood that the men donate to Lucy. In Chapter 10, Van Helsing comments that Holmwood is "so young and strong and of blood so pure that we need not defibrinate it." The pure and wholesome blood of these fine young men stands in contrast to the tainted, death-dealing blood of the Count, who "infects" his victims with the curse of vampirism.

5. "'She is one of God's women, fashioned by His own hand to show us men and other women that there is a heaven where we can enter, and that its light can be here on earth. So true, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist - and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish.'" (Chapter 14)

Van Helsing praises Mina, and in doing so, presents the Victorian ideal of womanhood. This is the feminine ideal that Count Dracula threatens to corrupt and destroy. It is so lofty an ideal that almost all women would fall short of it, as Lucy does.

6. "'I have learned not to think little of any one's belief, no matter how strange it may be. I have tried to keep an open mind.'" (Chapter 14)

Van Helsing identifies the one quality that has enabled him to gain the wisdom to counter the Count's evil: an open mind. It is the one quality that men such as Harker and Seward, whose narrowly rational viewpoint makes them deny the Count's alternative reality, manifestly lack. This lack, in turn, makes them vulnerable to the Count's attacks, since they cannot effectively oppose what they do not believe exists.

7. "You are clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain."

Van Helsing laments the narrow and prejudiced vision of Seward, the rational man of science who understands nothing about the ultimate cause of Lucy's death and the Un-dead Lucy's preying upon children. If Seward has no "data," he is unable to draw any conclusion and therefore unable to act. He does not believe in vampires because there is no proof, so he is vulnerable to the Count's evil. Van Helsing, in contrast, knows this territory because he has kept an open mind and has drawn upon a broad base of knowledge, from modern science to ancient lore.

8. ".Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it." (Chapter 16)

Arthur Holmwood kills the Un-dead vampire Lucy in the traditional way, by driving a stake through her heart. The four men present agree that Holmwood, Lucy's fianc´┐Ż while she lived, is the right person for the job. Holmwood's former role as bridegroom-to-be, and the heavy sexual symbolism of this scene combine to give it the flavor of a violent sexual 'deflowering.' The stake is a phallic symbol, and Holmwood drives it "deeper and deeper." Bodily fluids flow in the form of blood from Lucy's heart. Just as the sexual act would end in the fulfillment of a climax or 'little death,' this act ends in the fulfillment of Lucy's real death, and release from the Un-dead state. Just as vigorous sex would satiate the living Lucy's voracious sexual appetite, Holmwood's act of "mercy" will put an end to the Un-dead Lucy's voracious appetite for blood.

9. "'Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has man's brain - a brain that a man should have were he much gifted - and woman's heart.'" (Chapter 18)

Van Helsing pays Mina the ultimate compliment: he says that she has a "man's brain" and a "woman's heart," thereby embodying the highest qualities of both sexes. His compliment reflects the traditional Victorian stereotypes of men and women. It would be more in line with modern sensibilities to say that Mina embodies both the masculine principle of objective rationality and the feminine principles of empathy, love and compassion, which both men and women can express according to their individual psychological make-up. Mina does indeed possess the ability to feel strong emotion (feminine principle) but then to detach herself sufficiently to pursue a rational course of action (masculine principle). This is evident in Chapter 17, where she is moved by Seward's account of Lucy's death but insists that the information be shared among their friends, the better to oppose the Count - unlike Seward, who, overcome by emotion, was more inclined to keep it secret.

10. "'My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine - my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed.'" (Chapter 23)

The Count boasts of his great power to the men who are trying to destroy him. He has the benefit of being able to work over superhuman timescales, and of growing his empire by each of his victims infecting the next. He is a threat to the purity of women, whom he can possess by feeding on their blood. But that is not the limit of his power: through the women, he is also a threat to the men. As the women become vampires, they will feed off the men, and as the Count continues to feed off the women, he will indirectly be drinking the blood of the men.

Symbolically, of course, the Count is boasting about his sexual prowess. It is this that gives him power over both women (whom he can conquer) and the men (whom he emasculates).

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