HOWARD JACKSON says Lucy Westenra is one of Bram Stoker’s most unforgettable characters
An episode of The Twilight Zone called ‘The Chaser’ was broadcast during the first series in the 60s. The story is simple. A man is besotted with a beautiful woman who treats him with contempt. The man is given a magic potion that will make the woman submissive and adore him constantly. The man gives the woman the potion and it works. He becomes bored, though, with neverending devotion. He returns to the man who gave him the magic potion, and obtains another. This will extinguish her love but it must be used immediately. The man returns to the woman but spills the potion when she tells him he is to be a father. He is condemned to be adored forever.
In the Twilight Zone episode, the two women are one, changed by a potion. In ‘Dracula’, the novel published by Bram Stoker in 1897, the women are changed by the vampire bite. The episode of Twilight Zone reverses the vampire myth. When faced with female perfection for the rest of his life the man wants the cruel vamp. As Stoker understood and the Twilight Zone episode made clear, man is forever tantalised by the choice between the Madonna and the whore. Both expose male inadequacy. The Madonna shames and the whore emasculates.
No wonder that forthright Lucy Westenra haunts the tormented male imagination.
Two vampire books have just been released. Although different, one is a collection of stories and the other contains serious academic analysis, Lucy Westenra features in both. ‘Telegraph For Garlic’ and ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ both offer revisionist accounts of Lucy. Condemned by Stoker to death, the woman lives on. Some claim she has merit, and others imagine her as indestructible. We should not think of her as an inevitable victim or an empty headed flirt. Francis Ford Coppola when he made his film ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ was less complicated. In his movie, Lucy was a promiscuous tease and Mina was the perfect woman destined to redeem Dracula, the alienated and misunderstood outsider. Coppola wanted a porn star to play Lucy Westenra. He has denied the allegation but the rumour is that Coppola began an affair with the porn star during ‘Apocalypse Now’ and that it continued during his vampire movie. What a pity, if he had wanted symmetry, he could have had the porn star play Lucy and his wife could have been Mina.
But there is something apart from mutual friendship that unites Lucy and Mina. Both women have ‘mate appeal’. Mina integrates easily into the gang that hunts Dracula, ‘the Circle Of Light’, and Lucy has three suitors. Every man in the book apart from Jonathan Harker proposes to Lucy and he is only excluded because he is away in Transylvania being tormented by three female vampires in the Castle of Dracula. If the real love story in the book is between Van Helsing and Mina, we still wonder what would have had happened if Jonathan had met Lucy before Mina. We cannot forget her.
HOWARD JACKSON is the author of Treat Me Nice Elvis, his music and the Frankenstein Creature. He is also one of the contributors to Frankenstein Galvanized which is edited by Claire Bazin, and Dracula’s Midnight Snacks, from The Spooky Isles. Treat Me Nice and Frankenstein Galvanized are published by Red Rattle Books, which can be followed on Twitter here.