Dracula Summary and Analysis
by Bram Stoker
Summary Chapter 1
Chapter I is taken from the May 3rd and May 4th entries in Jonathan Harker's journal. Harker is on a business trip in Eastern Europe, making his way across one of the most isolated regions of Europe. He is going to meet with a noble of Transylvania, Count Dracula. The heading to his journal entry tells us that Jonathan is writing in Bistritz, in what is now Romania. Two days ago, he was in Munich. One day ago, he was in Vienna. As he has moved farther east, the country has become wilder and less modern. Jonathan Harker records his observations of the people and the countryside, their costume and customs. He has been instructed to stay at an old fashioned hotel in Bistritz before setting out for the final leg of the journey to Dracula's castle. At Bistritz, a letter from Dracula is waiting for him. Jonathan is to rest before setting out the next day for the Borgo Pass, where the Count's coach will be waiting for him.
The landlord and his wife are visibly distressed by Jonathan's intentions to go to Dracula's castle. Although they cannot understand each other's languages and must communicate in German, the innkeeper passively tries to stop Jonathan by pretending not to understand his requests for a carriage to the Borgo Pass. The landlord's wife more aggressively tries to dissuade Jonathan, warning him that tomorrow is St. George's Day, and at midnight on St. George's Eve evil is at its strongest. When he insists that he must go, she gives him a crucifixJonathan accepts the gift, even though, as an English Protestant, he considers crucifixes idolatrous.
Before Jonathan leaves, he notices that a number of the peasants are watching him with apprehension. Although he cannot understand much of their language, he can make out the words for devil, Satan, werewolf, and vampire. The peasants make motions at him to protect him from the evil eye. On the carriage ride, his fellow passengers, on learning where he is going, treat him with the same kind of concerned sympathy, giving him gifts and protecting him with charms. The ride is in wild and beautiful country. The carriage driver arrives at the Borgo Pass an hour early, and in bad German he then tries to convince Jonathan that Dracula's coachman might not come tonight, and Jonathan should come with the rest of them to Bukovina. At that moment, a fearsome-looking coachman arrives on a vehicle pulled by coal-black horses. One of the passengers whispers, "for He rebukes the carriage driver, and brings Jonathan onto the coach. The final part of the trip is terrifying. The moon is bright but is occasionally obscured by clouds, and strange blue fires and wolves appear along the way. On several occasions, the driver leaves the coach, at which point the wolves come closer and closer to the vehicle. Whenever the driver returns, the wolves fleethe final time this phenomenon occurs, it seems that the wolves flee on the driver's command. The chapter ends with Dracula's castle coming into view, its crumbling battlements cutting a jagged line against the night sky.
Analysis Chapter 1
Dracula is an epistolary novel; this form allows Stoker to juxtapose the rational world of the English Victorian observer with the supernatural world of Count Dracula. English men and women of Stoker's time had a strong tradition of observation and letter writing; educated English people used journals and letters to set down artful and detailed observations of their world and lives. The nineteenth century was also a time in England that glorified the blossoming of science and reason. It was the century of Charles Darwin and a period of increasing industrialization and urbanization. London was the greatest and most modern city in the world, and England, in part through science and technology, had conquered much of the world. One of the novel's themes is the clash between the world of the supernatural and unknown with the scientific and rational world of Victorian England. Jonathan Harker is the model of a modern English businessman. His journal entries provide detailed descriptions of peasants he sees and dishes he eats. He notes the quaint superstitions of the Eastern Europeans, and subsumes all he observes to a framework of science and reason. Although he has ominous dreams at the hotel, he blames the nightmares on his dinner of the evening before. When the coachman's body seems to become translucent, Harker blames the phenomenon on a trick of the eyes. His description of the coachmanincredibly strong, and with eyes that at times seem to glow redis without comment. It is as if Jonathan is too modern and "rational" to recognize what the reader realizes very quicklyeven when the wolves seem to obey the command of the coachman, Harker does not remark on the event beyond saying that it happened. He becomes uneasy and fearful, but he lacks the framework to reach conclusions about what he is seeing.
As Jonathan travels towards his goal, he writes: "The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East." Another theme is the contrast/clash between the modern West and the superstitious East. Here, we see that for all of their backwardness (Jonathan remarks that many of them are inflicted with goiter, and describes their outfits and superstitions with a kind of sympathetic condescension) the peasants know what Jonathan does not. When the coachman comes to collect Jonathan, the frightened carriage driver and the coachman have an exchange that makes it clear to the reader that the carriage driver was trying to trick (and save) Jonathan. He arrived an hour early and then tried to convince Jonathan to come to Bukovinaall to get him away from Dracula's castle. The irony here is that Jonathan is ignorant of what is waiting for him at the castle; the quaint and uneducated peasant knows what the sophisticated and educated Englishman cannot seem to understand.
Summary Chapter 2
Taken from the May 5th, 7th, and 8th entries of Jonathan Harker's journal. Jonathan is dropped off at the great castle of Dracula, where, he is welcomed by the Count himself. The Count is a tall old man, with a white mustache, dressed all in black. Despite the Count's apparent age, during their handshake Jonathan notices that the Count's grip is unbelievably strongand that his hand is as cold as a corpse.
Jonathan is shown his room and then brought to a dining room where a fine dinner awaits him. The two men talk, although the Count eats nothing. Jonathan observes him carefully: his face is aquiline, with a high bridge, thin nose, and arched nostrils, a high and round forehead, large eyebrows, scarlet lips, and unusually sharp teeth. His ears are pointed and he is unbelievably pale. At one point, the Count leans in and touches Jonathan; the Englishman is then overcome by nausea, and he cannot explain the source of his revulsion. Dracula also seems to take strange delight in the sound of the howling wolves down in the valley. The two men are still awake at the coming of dawn, when Dracula leaves and tells Jonathan to sleep well and as long as he likes, as the Count must be away until late in the afternoon.
Jonathan sleeps very late into the day, awaking near evening time to take his breakfast. A full meal is waiting for him in the dining room. Dracula is nowhere to be found, but a note tells Jonathan to eat up and await the Count's return. The house seems to have peculiar shortcomings: there are no servants at all, although the extraordinary furniture and dining set shows that the Count is incredibly wealthy. There are also no mirrors anywhere in the house. Jonathan wanders into a vast library, where he finds many books in English. The Count finds him there, and he grills Jonathan with questions about England. He also desires to speak with Jonathan so that he can improve his English, which he has learned so far only through books; his desire is to be nothing less than fluent so that he can blend in amongst the English. Through the firm for which Jonathan works, the Count plans to purchase a grand English estate called Carfax. Carfax is a giant, castle-like house built of heavy stones on a large property. It is also near an insane asylum, although Jonathan, like a good businessman, points out that the asylum is not visible from the house. The two men also talk at dinner, during which the Count, once again, does not eat. After dinner, the two men continue to talk, Dracula asking endless questions about England, until once again dawn approaches and the Count ends the discussion and leaves.
Jonathan retires to his room but only sleeps for a few hours. He uses his own small mirror to shave, and when the Count approaches Jonathan from behind Jonathan realizes that the Count has no reflection. Startled, he cuts himself with the razor. He checks again to be sure, and still the Count's image is absent from the glass. On seeing the blood dripping from Jonathan's cut, the Count seems to become possessed, clutching Jonathan around the throat, growing calm again only when his hand touches the beads of Jonathan's crucifix. He cryptically warns Jonathan not to cut himself and then throws the mirror from the window. Jonathan expresses annoyance at the loss of the mirror, wondering how he is to shave without it.
He goes again to the dining room, where breakfast waits for him. The Count is absent. Jonathan wanders around the castle, and he learns that the castle is built on the edge of an enormous precipice. On the south side, the drop from the castle windows is at least a thousand feet. Jonathan keeps wandering, and then he realizes that all of the exits from the castle have been boltedhe is a prisoner in Dracula's home.
Analysis Chapter 2
The novel's description of Dracula is fully in line with the superstitions surrounding the vampire: super-strong, cold to the touch, sharp-toothed, pointy-eared, shockingly pale. Jonathan also describes the more ordinary elements of Dracula's appearanceStoker was keenly interested in physiognomy, the pseudo-science that sought to classify personality types by features of the head and face. Later on in the novel, Dracula's physical appearance is used as proof that he has a "child-brain," the imperfectly developed mind of a criminal. The theme of the conflict between rationality and superstition, English thinking and Eastern world, continues. Although Jonathan is filled with an increasing sense of unease, he never once uses the word "vampire" in this chapter, nor is he able to make the leap to see Dracula for what he is. He takes comfort in the English books of the library, a little piece of home in this strange land, and he also takes comfort in discussing the specifics of real-estate deals with the Count.
Jonathan continues to have the same block: he observes remarkable phenomena, but he cannot put them together. Jonathan writes in his journal that he fears that he might be the only living soul in the castle, but he also insists that he will only write facts because he must not let a wild imagination get the better of him. The shaving incident seems the strongest example of Jonathan's cluelessness: Dracula has no reflection, lunges at the sight of blood, and retreats at the touch of a crucifix. Yet, rather than realize fully the danger that Dracula represents, Jonathan complains about the loss of his mirror! He continues to cling tenaciously to the supposedly rational and civilized world of England; this clinging is represented by his delight at finding the English books in the library. A bit of irony comes when the gift of the superstitious and ignorant peasant woman possibly saves Harker's life. As his supposed rationality renders him incapable of understanding the danger he is in, a bit of superstition (and an idolatrous bit, by the standards of enlightened English Protestants) is his only protection.
Summary Chapter 3
Taken from the May 8th, May 12th, May 15th, and May 16th entries of Jonathan Harker's journal. When Jonathan realizes he is trapped, he finally is able to realize the danger he is in. He resolves not to tell the Count, because the Count is clearly responsible. Jonathan spies on the Count, watching him make the bed and set the table for dinner. His suspicions that there are no servants are thus confirmed, and Jonathan wonders if the coachman was also Dracula in disguise. He fears the coachman's power to command the wolves, and the gifts from the peasants (crucifix, garlic, wild rose, and mountain ash) give him some small feeling of comfort.
That night, Dracula recounts the history of the country and of Dracula's family. There are tales of war and battle against the Turks, with the people of Transylvania united under one of Dracula's ancestors.
Later, the Count asks Jonathan questions about conducting business in England, particularly about how he could go about shipping goods between Transylvania and Carfax. He tells Jonathan that he must stay at the castle for another month to help the Count work take care of his business interests, and although Jonathan is terrified of the thought, he realizes he must comply. Not only is he a prisoner, but he still feels that he must follow through for the sake of his employer, Peter Hawkins. The Count tells Jonathan to write only of business in his letters home, making it clear that he is going to screen the letters. Jonathan decides to write on the provided paper for now, but to write full secret letters to his fiancée Mina and to his boss. To Mina, he will write in shorthand. He will try to find some way to send the letters secretly. At one point, when the Count leaves, Jonathan begins to snoop through the Count's correspondence. Before he can discover anything, the Count returns and warns him never to fall asleep in any room other than his bedroom. That night, Jonathan looks out into the vast open space on the south side of the castle. When he looks down, Jonathan sees the Count crawling down the side of the castle, face down.
On a later night, he observes the Count leave the castle this way. He takes the opportunity to explore the place, pushing his way through a broken door. He discovers a large and previously unexplored wing of the castle, ruined and full of moth-eaten and dilapidated furniture. Not heeding the Count's warning, he falls asleep. He has a dreamwhich may not have been just a dreamof three beautiful women who enter the room and talk of who will "kiss" him first. Jonathan is simultaneously full of fear and lust, and does not move but continues to watch the women through half-closed eyes. One of the women leans in and begins to bite at his neck, when the Count appears suddenly and forces the women back. Outraged, the Count tells the women that Harker belongs to him. He promises them that once he is through with Jonathan, the women can have him, and then he gives them a small bag that moves as if a child is inside of it. Horrified, Jonathan loses consciousness.
Analysis Chapter 3
Finally, Jonathan can no longer deny the supernatural nature of what is happening in the castlealthough still, he does not use the word vampire, nor does he often name the events explicitly as supernatural. Still, the reader is always one step ahead of Jonathan. When Dracula enthusiastically recounts the military exploits of his ancestors, an observant reader might wonder if the immortal vampire is talking about his own military exploits. Jonathan still seems strangely out of touch with the extent of the danger he faces and the danger Dracula would be if he were to move to England. He also says that he must carry out the deal made by his employer, as if he does not fully understand that his life is in peril and that the deal, when considering Dracula's demonic status, is unethical. The use of shorthand to baffle the Count illustrates the theme of conflict between the East/West, supernatural/scientific, old/new, as a modern invention is an unbreakable code for the ancient vampire.
The scene with the three women is one of the novel's most famous moments. By making the women a trio, Stoker creates a resonance with established patterns in folklore and mythology. The motif of the three evil women alludes to the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, as well as to the three witch sisters in the Greek myth of Perseus. The use of a familiar motif imbues the vampires with the power of folklore and myth: Harker, a modern English businessman, is encountering an evil that is ancient and primal. A modern man is thrown into a world of stories and folklore. The scene also establishes the vampire's power as one that is extraordinarily sensual and sexual. The pairing of fear and desire is one of the central themes of the novel. Even as the vampire approaches his throat, Jonathan's terror is mixed with lust. He does not cease to feign sleep, nor does he try to escape. The scene reverses standard depictions of rape: this time, it is a passive (and eager) male who faces a female aggressor (Hindle xiii). To further the parallel between sexual acts and the vampire's bite, the act of draining Jonathan's blood is described by the female vampires as a "kiss." The scene conflates sin with sexuality, making the vampires creatures in whom evil and lust are unitedand thus making an implicit moralizing statement about sexual desire. But the scene also depicts the vampires' degraded status in a way that is erotically stimulating for readers, particularly the male Victorian reader. Although Stoker makes it clear that the vampires' lusts are decadent and evil, the allure of their erotic power has been one of the novel's selling points from its first publication to the present day.
Summary Chapter 4
Taken from the May 16th, May 18th, May 19th, May 28th, May 31st, June 17th, June 24th, June 25th, June 29th, and June 30th entries of Jonathan Harker's journal. Jonathan wakes up in his room. He searches the castle and finds the door he used to reach the hidden wing in which he saw the three women; the door is now bolted. He admits that his dream could not have been a dream. Later, the Count tells him to write three letters, dated June 12th, June 19th, and June 29th: the first will say that he is nearly done with his work, the second will say that he has left the castle, and third will say that he has arrived at Bistritz. Jonathan recognizes that the letters are meant to buy time for the Count, so that Jonathan's loved ones will take some time to become suspicious when he does not return home. Horrified, he complies because he sees no alternative.
Gypsies have encamped in the courtyard of the castle. In an attempt to communicate with Mina, Jonathan drops letters with a piece of gold outside his window, hoping that a gypsy will take it to a post. The gypsy instead takes it to Dracula. The Count brings the letters before Jonathan, clearly having read the one to Peter Hawkins. The letter to Mina is in shorthand, which the Count cannot understand. Enraged, he burns it as Jonathan watches. Days later, Jonathan wakes up to discover that his clothes and papers have all been stolen. Almost a month later, in mid-June, Jonathan watches through a window as large square boxes are dropped off in the courtyard and loaded into the castle. No one heeds his cries for help. A week later, he sees the Count crawling down the castle wall again, this time in Jonathan's clothes. Jonathan realizes that the Count, by appearing in Jonathan's clothes, will provide sightings of Jonathan all the way back to Bistritz so that the Englishman's disappearance will not be traced to Dracula's castle. Jonathan also notices that the Count is carrying the same sack that was used to deliver the child to the three female vampires. Hours later, looking down through a window that faces the courtyard, Jonathan sees a woman who comes beating on the doors of the castle. She is screaming frantically, and calls out, "Monster, give me my child!" Jonathan hears Dracula whispering something from a tower high above, and a pack of wolves swarms through the gates and devours the woman.
Desperate, Jonathan attempts to scale the castle wall. He successfully makes it down to the window into the Count's room. The room is empty except for a pile of ancient gold and jewelry. He wanders through hallways and down stairs, into the ruins of a chapel that has since been used as a burial ground. Jonathan finds the boxes that he earlier saw being delivered to the castle. The boxes are full of earth. In one of the boxes, on a pile of earth, the Count lies in a trance-like state. His eyes are open but he seems like one dead or asleep, and even though he does not move his eyes are fixed in an expression of hate. Jonathan flees and climbs back to his own room.
On June 29th, the date of the last false letter, the Count tells Jonathan that he is free to leave. He mockingly opens the door for Jonathan, but the courtyard outside is full of hungry wolves. Later that night, Jonathan hears the Count talking to the three vampire women; they are just outside of Jonathan's door. The Count promises the three women that Jonathan is to be theirs the very next night.
June 30th is Jonathan's final entry. He awakes just before dawn, only to discover that the exit from the castle will not budge. In a desperate search for the key, he scales the outside wall down into the Count's room and the ruined chapel again. There he sees Dracula sleeping in a coffin, as still as before. But the Count looks much younger: his hair is no longer gray, and his skin is glowing with youthful vigor. He looks as though he has been feasting on a significant amount of blood. Jonathan grabs a nearby shovel to destroy the vampire, but when he strikes, Dracula's head turns toward him and his hypnotic gaze makes Jonathan lose control, so that the shovel strikes far from the Count's body. He goes back up to the Count's room, and then hears the gypsies open a new entrance down in the vault, but as he tries to go down the stairs again, the door to the stairs is blown shut by a gust of wind. He hears the gypsies shutting all of the boxes (including the one in which Dracula sleeps) and carrying them off, to be transported all the way to England. Jonathan resolves to try and climb the wall down farther than he has ever attemptedhe must escape before night falls. Jonathan believes that it would be better to fall to his death while attempting escape than to remain as prey for the undead.
Analysis Chapter 4
Notice that part of Jonathan's immersion in the world of Dracula's castle was his adaptation to a nocturnal schedule. Jonathan was beginning to sleep during the days and wake for the nightshis adaptation shows the signs of a kind of travel. Part of travel is adjusting to new time zones and schedules. Travel here involves adjusting for the "time zone difference" not only between England and Romania, but also between the living and the dead. For escape to be possible, Jonathan has to revert to the sleeping schedule of the livingonly daylight can provide him safe cover for escape, allowing him to return to the world of the living.
The scene in which the peasant woman is devoured by Dracula's wolves plays out a familiar theme of Gothic fiction: that of the wicked aristocracy preying on the common people. The heroes of the tale are in a range of professions, but are plucked mainly from the upwardly mobile middle class. The bourgeoisie defined themselves against the aristocracy in terms of codified virtue. What they lacked in blood, they tried to compensate for through self-regulation of behavior, particularly sexual behavior. In many Gothic novels, a decadent nobleman deflowers and abandons virtuous young maidens of lower social status; Dracula will obsessively pursue young women throughout the rest of the novel.
In this chapter, we learn some things about Dracula's strengths and weaknesses. Apparently, he must sleep on a pile of very particular soilhence the many boxes full of Transylvanian earth. Later, we learn from Van Helsing that it must be soil sacred to his family. The boxes will be an important target towards the end of the book. During the sleeping stage, he cannot move, but he is not helpless: Jonathan's attempt to kill him is thwarted by a glance, and when Jonathan tries to escape a gust of wind slams the door shut before him. With feeding, the Count grows younger and stronger; with the population of London to prey on, he will grow stronger still. Dracula's inability to comprehend shorthand foreshadows part of the way that he will be defeated: though clever and powerful, the modern code is unbreakable for him. One of his greatest limitations is that in many ways he is a creature of the past, and the heroes of the story will be able to mobilize modern gadgetry and sciencealongside superstition and Christian iconsagainst him. Jonathan's diary, it is worth noting, is kept in shorthand. Although Jonathan's unimaginative nature made him unable to understand the true nature of Dracula, rationality, science, and modern sensibilities (when combined with a good crucifix and knowledge of vampire lore) are valuable tools in the battle against the vampire.
Note also that Dracula sleeps in the vicinity of a ruined chapel. In this and in many other ways, the Count represents a perversion of Christian belief. His diet of blood gruesomely parallels the Christian Eucharist, in which believers drink and eat the blood and body of Jesus Christ. In many ways, the vampire perversely parallels Christ himself: like Christ, he has died and been reborn, but his resurrection is a blasphemy and a reverse-miracle of evil. While Christ sheds his blood so that others might have eternal life, Dracula drinks the blood of others so that he himself might live eternally. His immortality is a mockery of lifehe is not truly immortal but "undead," a term that Bram Stoker coined.
After this chapter, Dracula will rarely appear in the actual narrative. The first few chapters give us a foundation for a sense of his character: his aristocratic bearing, his cunning, his ruthlessness. From this point forward, he dominates the novel as a more mysterious force, absent but still at the center of the action. Absent but dangerous, he terrorizes the English men and womenwhose perspective we adopt through their journals and letters. Like them, we do not see Dracula but know that he is out there; Dracula is all the more frightening because we cannot know when and where he will strike.
Summary Chapter 5
Taken from letters between Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra, dated May 9th, May 17th, May 24th; also from the April 25th entry of Dr. Seward's diary (kept in phonograph); a letter from Quincey P. Morris to Arthur Holmwood, dated May 25th; and a telegram from Arthur Holmwood to Quincey Morris, dated May 26th.
After the dark world of the first four chapters, Chapter 5 takes us back to England and the correspondence between two beautiful and charming young women. Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra are dear friends, and the first part of the chapter is in the form of letters between the two of them. Mina tells Lucy that she is interested in working at acquiring the skills of a lady journalistnot for the sake of a career, but for her own betterment. She is going to keep a detailed journal, and she hopes to practice her powers of observation. She also reports that Jonathan will be returning home soon, according to a letter that she just received. This moment places a bit of dark dramatic irony into the bright world of the women. The reader knows, although Lucy and Mina do not, that Jonathan is actually in great danger and that the letter Mina received was a false one, extracted from her husband and sent by a monster.
Lucy reports that she received three marriage proposals in a day, although her heart truly belongs to Arthur Holmwood. Dr. John Seward, the director of a lunatic asylum, and Quincey Morris, a wealthy Texan adventurer, are both rejected by Lucy in favor of Arthur Holmwood, a handsome young man who has been friends with Lucy since they were both children.
Dr. Seward reports in his diary that he has been feeling low since his rejection by Lucy, but his work has been made more interesting by a madman named Renfield who is under his care. Quincey's letter to Arthur is one of congratulations, inviting him to join Quincey and Dr. Seward for a night of drinking. Arthur sends a telegram saying that he will be there.
Analysis Chapter 5
The return of the narrative to England is both a relief and cause for apprehension. The world of England is bright and full of normal human drama, but the reader knows that this world will soon be invaded by the destructive power of Dracula. Mina and Lucy will become two of the Count's targets: the two women are friends, but there are important differences between them. Mina is the more calm and less flirtatious of the two. Her desire to improve her powers of observation brings us back to that important theme of the conflict between modern England and the ancient East: in addition to lending her letters and journal entries added credibility, her goal provides the setup for observational skills becoming a tool of survival. Lucy is a good woman, but she is also far more flirtatious. She asks in her letter why it is that a woman should not be able to take three husbandsalthough she withdraws from her own question with worry, seemingly sorry that she asked. Her more overt sexuality will make her more vulnerable to Dracula.
This chapter introduces the rest of the main characters, with the exception of the vampire hunter Van Helsing. The three young men are all of upstanding character, and the good-natured acceptance by Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris of Lucy's decision shows their basic decency and goodness. All three of the men are friends, and remain so even after Lucy agrees to wed Arthur. By showing us the decency and goodness of these characters, Bram Stoker is preparing us for a clear-cut battle between good and evil.
Dracula Essays and Related Content
- Dracula: Essays
- Dracula: E-Text
- Dracula: Questions
- Dracula: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Bram Stoker: Biography
- Dracula Summary
- About Dracula
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 21-24
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 25-27
- Related Links on Dracula
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources