Summary and Analysis Chapters 17-19



Dr. Seward's diary continues sometime later, and he details for us his first meeting with Mina Harker. Mina, he says, will travel with Seward to Seward's asylum, where she will stay as a guest. In her journal, Mina details the discussion which she and Seward had concerning Lucy's death. Mina agrees to type out Seward's diary, which has heretofore been kept on a phonograph. Seward is horror-struck that Mina may discover the true nature of Lucy's death, but Mina, through her persistence, convinces Seward to allow her to listen to the phonograph cylinders. Later, both Seward and Mina express their dismay at the stories which they read in each other's respective diaries.

The next day (September 30th), Jonathan arrives, and Seward expresses his admiration for Jonathan's courage. For the first time, Seward realizes that Count Dracula might be next door, at the estate at Carfax. Seward concludes his diary, noting that Renfield has been calm for several days. Seward assumes that Renfield's outbreak was due to Dracula's proximity.

Jonathan Harker discovers from his journey to Whitby that the "fifty cases of common earth" which arrived on Dracula's ship have been sent to the old chapel at Carfax. While Jonathan assumes that all fifty cases are still at Carfax, we later learn that Count Dracula has had them sent to various locations in and around London.

Mina is both pleased and inspired by the resolute, determined energy which she now sees in Jonathan; he now seems cured of his illness, full "of life and hope and determination." Later on the 30th, Arthur Holmwood — now referred to as Lord Godalming — and Quincey Morris arrive. Lord Godalming is still physically shaken by the deaths of his father, Mrs. Westenra, and Lucy. Unable to restrain himself any longer, he breaks down and cries like a baby on Mina's breast.

In Chapter 18, Dr. Seward notes that Mina Harker wishes to see Renfield. He takes her to Renfield's room, and Renfield, curiously, asks them to wait until he tidies things up. "His method of tidying was peculiar. He simply swallowed all the flies and spiders in the boxes . . ." Renfield is extremely polite to Mina and seems to respond in a most sane way to her inquiries. Van Helsing arrives and is pleased to discover that all the records — diaries, journals, etc. — are in order and that all those intimate with the Count now are to be presented with the facts surrounding the case.

Mina Harker, in her journal (September 30th), recalls in detail many of the things known about vampires, a subject which prior to this time she has been ignorant of. Van Helsing presents many conclusions about the nosferatu (or the "Un-Dead"): (1) They do not die; (2) can be as strong as twenty men; (3) can direct the elements — storms, fog, thunder, etc.; (4) can command the rat, the owl, the bat, the wolf, the fox, and the dog; (5) can grow large or become small at will; (6) can, at times, vanish and "become unknown"; and (7) can appear at will in different forms. The problem which the vampire's adversary must overcome is how to deal successfully with all of these obstacles. They all make a pact to work together in order to see how "the general powers arrayed against us can be controlled and to consider the limitations of the vampire." Van Helsing points out that the vampire has been known in all lands all over the world. From the world's information about vampires, it is known that: (1) the vampire cannot die due to the passing of time; (2) the vampire flourishes on the blood of human beings; (3) the vampire grows younger after feeding on blood; (4) its physical strength and vital faculties are refreshed by blood; (5) it cannot survive without blood; (6) it can survive for great lengths of time without any nourishment; (7) it throws no shadow; (8) it makes no reflection in a mirror; (9) it has the strength of many; (10) it can control wild packs of wolves and can become a wolf (as the Count did when his ship arrived at Whitby); (11) the vampire can transform itself into a bat; (12) it can appear in a mist, which it itself can create; (13) the vampire can travel on moonlight rays as elemental dust; (14) it can become so small and transparent that it can pass through the tiniest crevices; and (15) it can see perfectly in the dark. Its limitations are as follows: (1) it cannot enter a household unless it is summoned first; (2) its power ceases at daylight; (3) in whatever form it is in when daylight comes, it will remain in that form until sunset; (4) the vampire must always return to the unhallowed earth of its coffin, which restores its strength (this, of course, is the purpose of the fifty cases of earth); (5) garlic is abhorrent to a vampire; (6) the crucifix, holy water, and holy wafers (the host) are anathemas; (7) it is rendered inactive if a wild rose is placed over it; and (8) death occurs when a wooden stake is driven through the heart, the head cut off, and garlic stuffed in the mouth.

As Van Helsing concludes his lecture, Quincey Morris leaves the room, and a shot is heard outside. Morris explains that he saw a bat and fired at it.

On October 1st, early in the morning, Dr. Seward records that as they were about to leave the asylum, he received an urgent message from Renfield. The others ask if they may attend the meeting with Renfield, and they are astonished at the brilliance and lucidity of Renfield's plea to be released immediately. His scholarly logic and perfect elocution are that of a totally sane man. His request is denied.

In Chapter 19, in his journal, Jonathan Harker records that Seward believes Renfield's erratic behavior to be directly influenced by the immediate proximity of Count Dracula. Later, as they are about to enter Dracula's Carfax residence, Van Helsing distributes objects which will protect each of them from the vampire. The house, they discover, is musty, dusty, and malodorous. They immediately search out the chapel and, to their horror, they can find only twenty-nine of the original fifty boxes of earth. Suddenly, the chapel is filled by a mass of rats.

Towards noon, Seward records that Van Helsing is deeply fascinated by Renfield. On the same day, Mina feels strange to be left out of Jonathan's confidence, because she has no idea what happened last night, but she does remember that just before falling asleep, she heard unusual sounds and noises outside her window, and she felt as if she were in the grip of a strange lethargy. She thought that she saw a poor man "with some passionate entreaty on his part" who wanted inside. She put on her clothes, but she must have fallen asleep or gone into a trance, accompanied by strange dreams. When she awakened she noticed that the window of her bedroom was open, and she was certain that she closed it before she went to sleep.

Things became confused in her mind, but she recalls seeing two red eyes which alarmed her extremely.

On the second of October, she records that she slept but felt very weak that day and asked for an opiate to help her sleep. The chapter closes as Mina feels sleep coming upon her.


Chapter 17 is the first time in the novel when all of the protagonists are finally together. These six people — Mina, Jonathan, Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Lord Godalming (Arthur), and Quincey Morris — will confront the evil represented by Count Dracula. They must undertake the task by themselves since no authority or outsider would possibly believe their story. These six people, of course, have positive proof of the existence of vampires. In fact, Jonathan feels rejuvenated in health now that he is confronting the evil Count head-on. Stoker is dependent on the tradition that only a few people are privy to information which exposes them to the dangerous forces of the supernatural, thus isolating them from the general populace. This is a standard device of many a thriller and gothic romance.

Chapter 18 is a key chapter of the novel, because for the first time Stoker defines the vampire and its supernatural powers, strengths, and the means by which the vampire can be entrapped. In all subsequent stories concerning vampires or Dracula himself, Stoker's parameters have been used — the garlic, the crucifix, the wooden stake, the holy wafers, etc. This chapter, then, defines the very essence of what constitutes vampire literature. Other authors may vary or slightly redefine these parameters, but the more traditional material concerning vampires is presented here.

The later portions of Chapter 19 present us with the first clue, however slight, that Mina Harker is to become the vampire's next victim. It is not by accident that he chooses Mina as his next victim; she is the wife of Jonathan Harker, whom the vampire encountered in Transylvania, and she was the closest friend of his last victim, Lucy Westenra. It is interesting that we are made aware of the Count's visit by the impressionistic writing of Mina herself. For example, she records things in her journal which she does not fully understand or associate with vampirism, but the reader, through dramatic irony, is fully aware of what is transpiring. There is a curious ambiguity presented in this chapter, as to how the vampire gains entrance to Mina's room. Recall that Van Helsing stated that vampires cannot enter a place without first being invited. The reader, at this point, does not have any idea as to how the vampire entered the room, unless it was because of the actions of Mina herself.

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