The threat is not so much focused on inversion, as on total unity and on the possibility that the male may be ‘unsexed’ and penetrated on two levels, the physical one and the figurative one. The latter sees the emasculation of the good, brave men at the hand of the usurper from the foreign land. This is precisely what lies at the core of the book: Dracula’s abilities in the land of the living are so all-encompassing and authoritative because they are profoundly related to the most basic laws that govern human interactions. In other words, what makes him so potent is the same quality that weakens all other men: his sexual aura. As Judith Weissman noted in ‘Dracula as a Victorian novel’:
The difference between the sexuality of Dracula and the women vampires is […] the key to the psychological meaning of the book. For him, sex is power; for them it is desire. He is the man whom all other men fear, the man who can, without loss of freedom or power himself, seduce other men’s women and make them sexually insatiable with a sexual performance that the others cannot match. (Carter, 1988: 76)
The desire of the females, be these the three vampires who attempt the seduction of Jonathan, or Lucy, who fends off three suitors only to be gang-raped by all of them with an impressive phallic instrument (Showalter, 1989: 181) is juxtaposed to power and command. This is proven by the authority with which Dracula spells out that Jonathan should not be touched because he belongs to him, and by the humiliation of Mina and her emasculated husband as an entire group of men has to fight for her honour and the purity of her body. As Maurice Hindle writes with reference to Lucy’s blood transfusions, ‘What they fail to appreciate is that Dracula represents not so much a spectral desire as a spectral power. This power haunting the novel’s pages eludes and outfaces the capacities of its men as surely as Harker’s shovel is deflected by Dracula’s paralysing glance, as persistently as Stoker’s language is forced to evade that which he has guessed’ (2003: xxxiii).
In fact, when the three female vampires, Dracula’s concubines, try to seduce Jonathan, the Count intervenes forcefully: ‘How dare you touch him, any of you? How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me’ (2003: 46). Similar references to possession had already appeared in Carmilla, when the vampire attempts to seduce Laura: ‘Darling, darling […] I live in you; and you would die for me, I love you so’ (Ryan, 1995: 98). More interesting still is Le Fanu’s treatment of the pervasive and uncanny sense of attraction and repulsion as epitomised by Laura’s words: ‘Now the truth is, I felt rather unaccountably towards the beautiful stranger. I did feel, as she said, “drawn towards her”, but there was also something of repulsion. In this ambiguous feeling, however, the sense of attraction immensely prevailed’ (Ryan, 1995: 87). In Dracula, as in Carmilla, the incessant tension that aspires and retreats, in cycles, is one whose ultimate aim is to fuse the male and the female into a total aberration.
Next week for Part III
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