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Unseen Forces: Lesbian Relationships in Stoker's Dracula and Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula

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Unseen Forces: Lesbian Relationships in Stoker's Dracula and Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula

Though it appears on the surface to be an engaging horror story about a blood-sucking Transylvanian man, upon diving deeper into Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, one can find issues of female sexuality, homoeroticism, and gender roles. Many read Dracula as an entertaining story full of scary castles, seductive vampires, and mysterious forces, yet at the same time, they are being bombarded with descriptions of sex, images of rape, and homosexual relationships. In Francis Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stoker’s presentation of homoeroticism is taken, reworked, and presented in a different, stronger light. Coppola does much in the area of emphasizing a homoerotic relationship between Mina Harker and Lucy Westerna: a relationship Bram Stoker only hinted at in his novel Dracula, but one that is needed to maintain the disturbing quality of the story for present day viewers. In this essay I will argue that Stoker portrays a sexual relationship between the women in the novel and the scenes in Coppola’s film adaptation accentuate the relationship. I will then explain what the director’s purpose was in presenting the homoerotic relationship in the manner he did.

In the novel Dracula, Stoker presents Mina and Lucy as having a sister-like relationship, yet their affection and manner towards each other suggests a deeper attraction. This implication of a deeper relationship is noticeable in letters the two write, expressing their fondness for one another. One letter from Lucy to Mina opens with the words “oceans of love and millions of kisses” (Stoker 101). This very affectionate manner of speaking, though common in Victorian times between women, is still arguably very romantic in its nature. Lovers would easily write letters beginning in this manner, and ending in, “…from your loving Lucy” (Stoker 101), just as is the case in this note.

But since the greeting and farewell of letters is not enough to warrant a claim to a gay relationship, we must look closer at the body of the letters in order to find more references. In another letter to Mina, where she states her feelings for Arthur Holmwood, an aristocrat, Lucy writes:

I wish we [Lucy and Mina] were by the fire, undressing, as we used to sit, and I would try to tell you what I feel. I am afraid to stop [writing], or I should tear up the letter, for I do so want to tell you all. Let me hear from you at once, and tell me all that you think about it. (Stoker 57)

Though Lucy states in this letter that she is in love with another man, it implies that she, as Mina’s illicit lover, is begging her to accept her choice of a legitimate, socially acceptable partner. Lucy expresses her apprehension in Mina’s response though phrases such as “I am afraid to stop writing” and “for I do so want to tell you all.” The italicized words stress how important Mina’s response is to her and the urgency of her voice is apparent in her word choice. Because Lucy loves Mina too, she feels she must have her approval and quickly. By remembering past times they spent alone together before bedtime, Lucy speaks to their closeness; and by addressing her anxiety in writing this letter to Mina, as well as the urgency of the awaited response, she makes it obvious that there is some underlying, deeper intention than merely wanting to know how her friend feels.

In another letter from Mina to Lucy, while wishing her congratulations on her engagement, Mina mentions that Jonathan doesn’t send his best, only his “respectful duty”:

Jonathan asks me to send his ‘respectful duty,’ but I do not think that is good enough from the junior partner of the important firm of Hawkins & Harker; and so, as you love me, and he loves me, and I love you with all the moods and tenses of the verb, I send you simply his love instead. (Stoker 141)

By having to put words in Jonathan’s mouth, Mina shows that her husband does not harbor even remotely the same feelings as his wife does for Lucy; a feeling that can be described as jealousy. Mina is forced to make giant leaps from Jonathan’s love for her, to Mina’s love to Lucy, ending with Mina declaring her unending love for Lucy. Mina claims she loves Lucy “with all the moods and tenses of the verb,” implying that she does not love her like a sister or friend, but as a lover and confidant. Because Jonathan only sends his “respectful duty,” the reader can see that he realizes the women’s relationship is a little too close and is envious of Mina’s attention towards Lucy. This envy shows itself in the resentment Jonathan harbors towards Miss Westerna.

The homosexual relationship that is hinted at in the novel is made clear in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but only in scenes that are not in the book. This fact takes the legitimacy, for many, out of the proof of a lesbian relationship, but as Jeffery Chown points out, “Coppola clearly believes that fidelity

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