Dracula Chapter 3 – Background

In this chapter, there are two iconic (famous) scenes that many people imagine when they think of Dracula.

On page 29, Jonathan Harker sees Dracula climbing down the walls of the castle face-down:

“What I saw was the Count’s head coming out from the window [….] my very feelings turned to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to drawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow; but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality [uneven section] move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves long a wall.”

At this point in the story, Jonathan Harker is faced with proof that Dracula is not human.

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The other famous scene from this chapter is Jonathan Harker’s midnight encounter with the three beautiful vampire women. This is definitely the most suggestive part of the entire novel, and Victorian readers would have clutched their pearls and grabbed their smelling salts upon reading it.

In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, for, though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me, and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together. Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where. 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 some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. They whispered together, and then they all three laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on. One said:—

“Go on! You are first, and we shall follow; yours is the right to begin.” The other added:—

“He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.” I lay quiet, looking out under my eyelashes in an agony of delightful anticipation. The fair girl advanced and bent over me till I could feel the movement of her breath upon me. Sweet it was in one sense, honey-sweet, and sent the same tingling through the nerves as her voice, but with a bitter underlying the sweet, a bitter offensiveness, as one smells in blood.

I was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply 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 about to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer—nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super-sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.

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After meeting the vampire women, Harker says, “of all the foul things that lurk in this place the Count is the least dreadful to me” (30). In other words, he find the vampire women MORE terrifying and repulsive than Dracula himself.

Why is that? Well, we’ll talk about it a little more in class, but one thing that is a little difficult for a 21st-century reader to appreciate is how different the position of women was in Victorian society. (At least, the position of white, middle- and upper-class women – if you didn’t fit into those categories, you had a whole different set of problems.)

The ideal Victorian woman lived for her man. He went off into the world and made money, and she was responsible for maintaining a beautiful, peaceful home.

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The Victorian attitude towards women was a weird paradox in which, because women were SO revered as perfect, angelic creatures, they were confined and restricted in the name of protection. They couldn’t vote because it was assumed that a woman’s husband would vote in her interests. They couldn’t own property because it was assumed that a woman’s husband would manage her finances for her.

And above all else, Victorian women were supposed to be pure – free from physical, romantic desire. (The story goes that when Queen Victoria’s daughter asked her mother what to expect on her wedding night, the Queen said, “Close your eyes and think of England.”)

It’s hard to imagine women more contrary to the Victorian ideal of femininity than the vampire women from Dracula.

(And in case you can’t get enough of double-x vampires, here are some other famous female bloodsuckers.)

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