Finally, thank you to Bram Stoker and Joseph Sheridan LeFanu for writing Dracula and Carmilla. In a story, as conflicts and problems arise, the role of each individual character becomes crucial. In both Bram Stokers Dracula and Joseph Sheridan LeFanus Carmilla, all of the characters lives, personalities and motives create two stories that read alongside one another. As the authors reveal their characters they must decide how they are going to get the reader to interpret the character the way they want them to.
The author must consider how the character looks, what they think and feel, and what other characters think or say about them. It can be argued that the most important aspect of characters is the way they interact with each other. Their interactions can either create conflict or resolution. Most of the characters in Dracula can be compared and deemed equal to a character in Carmilla; Dracula and Carmilla, Lucy and Laura, Van Helsing and the General. On the other hand, there are characters in Dracula that have no equal in Carmilla and vice versa. These are the characters that define each story and make it unique from the other.
In his novel Dracula Stoker adds a character, which we are lead to believe, is not important and has little significance to the overall plot. Renfields words and actions are simply shrugged off by the reader because they are so erratic and hard to understand. As a patient in the mental asylum of Dr. John Seward, Renfield eats various kinds of living creatures that he feels fill him with life. As a reader it became evident that Renfield had some kind of connection to vampires in the story but it was not completely clear as to how or why. The first glimpse we get of Renfield is in Dr.
Sewards diary entry when he states that Renfield has Sanguine temperament; great physical strength; morbidly excitable; periods of gloom ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out (Stoker 69). In our class discussion of Renfield, Anthony did not see the significance of Renfields character. However, if we look closely at Renfield in the story, in contrast to Carmilla, we might propose that he has no equal in Carmilla and therefore brings a new aspect to the plot of Dracula. His character is the only one, besides Jonathan Harker, that has met and knows how to defeat The Count.
While Van Helsing and the other four men struggle to find a cure for Lucy, Renfield immediately breaks loose from the spell of Dracula when he wants to. This proves that he has the strength and manpower of five men. In Dracula, Stoker makes light of social norms through the character of Mina. On one hand, Mina was described as being as intelligent as a male with the characteristics of a mother. The men in this novel seem to feel comfortable breaking down emotionally in front of Mina, just like a child, proving that Mina has the characteristics of a mother.
Upon meeting Mina, Van Helsing says Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina! She has mans brain a brain that a man should have were he gifted and womans heart (Stoker 250). But on the other hand, the men did not tell her what was going on in attempt to protect her. In the same speech Van Helsing also says, ¦after tonight she must not have to do with this so terrible affair. It is not a good that she run a risk so great. We men are determined nay, are we not pledged? to destroy this monster; but it is not part for a woman (Stoker 250).
By doing so they were actually putting her directly in the way of danger. As the men rush in to find Mina one night they are surprised to see Dracula had beat them to her, With his left hand he held both Mrs. Harkers hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom (Stoker 300). In response to this passage Mara Model wrote, I believe that when Stoker read in Carmilla the unnecessary need for men, he wanted to prove a point, and see what it would be like if he made the Count have a female quality.
If Laura could penetrate like a man, then Dracula could breastfeed like a woman. To me, it was a way to show the ridiculousness of the idea LeFanu wrote about (3). I completely agree with Mara as I also believe that Dracula is mocking the motherly characteristic that Mina possesses by making her drink his blood from his bosom like a nursing child would drink milk from their mothers bosom. By having a character mock the idea of the switching of gender roles, Stoker indirectly mocks LaFanus Carmilla.
While it is true that Stoker wanted to point out the power and control that men were supposed to have over women, it does not necessarily mean that they were completely successful in doing so. Mara Model concludes that Mina ¦was once a strong, independent woman, but after her attack, as Ive written before, becomes needy (4). While I do agree that after being attacked by Dracula she was not her normal self, but I also believe that she gained all, if not more than, her intelligence and strength back. By giving birth to a child Mina proves that she has moved on and that her life has not been altered or deterred because of one monster.
In Carmilla, Laura did not have the strength and will power to move on with her life, even after the death of Carmilla. Personally I believe that an immense amount of strength and courage was needed by Mina to continue her life with Jonathan. Even though Mina witnessed just as much as any of the men, she was able to move forward with her life without many of the side effects that some of the men possessed. Although it might be objected that Dracula is the heterosexual form of Carmilla, I believe that these characters both mirror each other.
Although Dracula is a stereotypical vampire while Carmilla is more against the grain, both are static characters and have the same motives. Both vampires prey on victims who are generally lonely, vulnerable, young and female. Carmilla preys on Laura because she is an only child, longing for a friend. The Count preys on Lucy because she is promiscuous, senseless and also longing for her friend. These characteristics make it easier for the vampires to keep them under their spell and control. Another commonality between Dracula and Carmilla is the way they intertwine evil and sexual desire.
The biting of the neck, the piercing of the stake, and the seductive traits are the acts that are both evil and sexual at the same time. One of the main themes in Dracula is gender roles. The three men who all wished to marry Lucy, Dr. John Seward and Van Helsing were all characters who Stoker used to demonstrate this theme. As each man gave his blood to help their love, Lucy, they were also contributing to the homosexuality in Dracula. After each blood transfusion, Dracula attacked Lucy and drank the blood that was given to her from the men; therefore he was actually consuming their blood, not Lucys.
This challenges the power of the male and relates to Carmilla and the homosexuality that LeFanu uses in his attempt to defy all social norms. Not only is sexual orientation a shared aim in both stories but they both also question the power of man. When the blood transfusions do not work the men in the story have to find a way to redeem themselves. By killing Dracula they restore their roles in society as the strong males. This restoration of gender roles is also made apparent in Carmilla when it is not Laura who kills Carmilla in the end, but the men that are trying to protect her.
By carefully choosing each of their characters, Stoker and LaFanu both create narratives that contrast and agree with one another. As the authors introduce the characters that will inhabit their stories they must consider how each character will look, act and be perceived by other characters and the audience. By giving the reader the ability to see each characters story, I believe that Stoker was more successful at creating a more detailed plot than LeFanu. Each characters perspective added a new outlook onto the story and allowed for more storylines to intertwine.