Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Borrowed Fire: Idea for a novel: The New Lucy Westenra

This week in Dracula, we are forced to rescind some of the feminist props we gave Stoker for his depiction of Mina Harker. I'm not up for an exhaustive analysis, as usual, so I'll just opine here that the man was ambivalent about what Mina calls the New Woman. With Lucy's transformation into a vampire (a new woman indeed), Stoker outlines his concerns about the prospect, i.e. previously docile and manageable females will run amok, start making the first move on their husbands, and prefer to feed on children rather than having it the other way around.

Here the ad-hoc band of vampire hunters, led by Van Helsing, encounters the New Lucy:

There was a long spell of silence, big, aching, void, and then from the Professor a keen "S-s-s-s!" He pointed, and far down the avenue of yews we saw a white figure advance, a dim white figure, which held something dark at its breast. The figure stopped, and at the moment a ray of moonlight fell upon the masses of driving clouds, and showed in startling prominence a dark-haired woman, dressed in the cerements of the grave. We could not see the face, for it was bent down over what we saw to be a fair-haired child. There was a pause and a sharp little cry, such as a child gives in sleep, or a dog as it lies before the fire and dreams. We were starting forward, but the Professor's warning hand, seen by us as he stood behind a yew tree, kept us back. And then as we looked the white figure moved forwards again. It was now near enough for us to see clearly, and the moonlight still held. My own heart grew cold as ice, and I could hear the gasp of Arthur, as we recognized the features of Lucy Westenra. Lucy Westenra, but yet how changed. The sweetness was turned to adamantine, heartless cruelty, and the purity to voluptuous wantonness.

Van Helsing stepped out, and obedient to his gesture, we all advanced too. The four of us ranged in a line before the door of the tomb. Van Helsing raised his lantern and drew the slide. By the concentrated light that fell on Lucy's face we could see that the lips were crimson with fresh blood, and that the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death-robe.

We shuddered with horror. I could see by the tremulous light that even Van Helsing's iron nerve had failed. Arthur was next to me, and if I had not seized his arm and held him up, he would have fallen.

When Lucy, I call the thing that was before us Lucy because it bore her shape, saw us she drew back with an angry snarl, such as a cat gives when taken unawares, then her eyes ranged over us. Lucy's eyes in form and colour, but Lucy's eyes unclean and full of hell fire, instead of the pure, gentle orbs we knew. At that moment the remnant of my love passed into hate and loathing. Had she then to be killed, I could have done it with savage delight. As she looked, her eyes blazed with unholy light, and the face became wreathed with a voluptuous smile. Oh, God, how it made me shudder to see it! With a careless motion, she flung to the ground, callous as a devil, the child that up to now she had clutched strenuously to her breast, growling over it as a dog growls over a bone. The child gave a sharp cry, and lay there moaning. There was a cold-bloodedness in the act which wrung a groan from Arthur. When she advanced to him with outstretched arms and a wanton smile he fell back and hid his face in his hands.

She still advanced, however, and with a languorous, voluptuous grace, said, "Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!"

Not too subtle, is Stoker. Purity ---> Voluptuous wantonness. Maternal instinct ---> Callousness. And those hungry arms! This thing must be staked and beheaded asap, or there's no telling how far the infection will spread! Womanhood as we know it will be destroyed, as women start expressing...their own desires. Is Dracula evil because he unleashes those desires? Is he spreading the plague of feminism throughout Britain?

Mina's been given a heroic afterlife, at least in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. So I propose a similar retelling of Lucy's life--before, during, or after Dracula gets her. This retelling might show she wasn't quite as pure as everyone thought, and/or she rather likes the changes that the count wrought. A quick, probably inconclusive Google search shows this hasn't been done yet. Or not done famously, at any rate.

Because I'm off on another ghoulish tangent with my murder novel, I may not get to this for awhile. So I'll throw the idea out there, and if you write the story before me--well, best of luck with it.

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