Major Themes of the Gothic: Woman as Helpless, Man as Savior

I have been re-reading portions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula of late—one of my favorite reads, and one in which I continually find new and interesting things that I had not seen before.  Yesterday, as I was reading an interesting excerpt from Dr. Seward’s diary, I ran across I rather strong reinforcing of one of the major themes of Traditional Gothic literature: the man as savior concept that is prevalent in many iterations of The Gothic, even up to the contemporary.  Women, or so the theme suggests, in order to realize their fullest potential and—more importantly—to be perceived as valuable in the society as a whole must cleave to and respect the wishes men, to allow men to protect and speak for them.  I might have said that it is a distinctly Victorian value, but it would be a lie.  Even in modern Gothic, such as the movies, Let Me In, or Underworld, we find that the woman—even a strong and vibrant woman like Selene—are dependent on their men to save and lead them to salvation in the end.

Anyway, here is the great quote as Dr. Seward writes of the wise patriarch Van Helsing instructing Lucy in the finer points of femininity and virture.  Van Helsing says to her after she questions the placing of garlic around her room (obviously in order to protect the helpless woman, as all brave patriarchs must do):

“We must obey, and silence is a part of obedience; and obedience is to bring you strong and well into loving arms that wait for you…”

How clearly it sums up the themes of Victorian literature, and in particular Gothic Literature.  And of course, Lucy later loses the garlic—through the mindless act of another woman (her aging mother—another Gothic theme that we may discuss at a later time).

By failing to adhere to the Father figure’s instructions, Lucy is—predictably—doomed.  Without the protection offered by the patriarch, another man—a man with ill intent—is free to soil her and thereby destroy her.

Goodbye for now.  I’ll keep the lantern Lit.

  3 comments for “Major Themes of the Gothic: Woman as Helpless, Man as Savior

  1. November 28, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Love your posting and blog, I too am a huge Gothic/Victorian lit fan and also just finished reading Dracula again. It’s interesting how women are still so defined by men even in the modern/enlightened era in which we live. Keep up the good work with your blog, I will surely be back to read more 🙂


  2. December 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you…sorry for the late response…Been out. I love both Gothic (obviosly) and Victorian Lit…would love to link your blog….


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