Dracula Summary and Analysis of Chapter 16-20

Summary Chapter 16

Includes the September 29th morning and night entries of Dr. Seward's diary.

That night, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Arthur, and Quincey Morris go to Lucy's tomb. As Van Helsing promised, it is empty. Van Helsing seals the Westenra vault with communion wafers and the four men hide and wait. After a while, a figure in white carrying a child appears. In the moonlight, it is unmistakably Lucy‹although far more cruel and wantonly sexual than she was in life. At Van Helsing's signal, the four men surround her. She urges Arthur to come to her, calling him "my husband," and Arthur begins to move toward her as if under a spell. Van Helsing, crucifix in hand, intercedes. Lucy tries to enter her tomb but cannot. Van Helsing asks Arthur if he can proceed with what must be done, and Arthur grants him permission. Van Helsing then removes the Host from the vault door, after which Lucy slips through the tiny opening back into her tomb. The child is hurt but still alive, and as before, they leave him on a path for a policeman.

The next day, they return. After they open the tomb, Van Helsing promises that if Lucy is killed, her soul will be free and with God. He also explains that anyone who dies as the hands of the undead become vampires themselves. Arthur takes the stake and hammer, and he stakes Lucy through the heart. As it happens, the body writhes and screams. After the deed is done, Lucy once again looks as she did in life. The sharp teeth are gone, and her face shows she is at peace. Arthur and Quincey leave the vault, and the two doctors decapitate Lucy and stuff her mouth with garlic. Van Helsing then urges the three men to help him: he wants to track down Dracula himself and destroy him. All four men swear solemnly to work together until Dracula is no more.

Analysis Chapter 16

The death scene of the vampire Lucy resonates with overtones of penetration and sexuality. Until this moment, Lucy has only been penetrated by Dracula‹the staking is, in a way, her fiancé's first chance at his nuptial rights. Note that Arthur does the deed, even though it might make more sense for a more detached man to drive home the stake. As with Lucy's description of her out-of-body experience, the imagery of the phallus, penetration, and the orgasm are the three dominant shapers of the scene. Arthur plunges his stake into Lucy's body, driving deeper and deeper with a ferocity that surprises the other men, while the vampire Lucy screams and quivers. Seward records that the body "Shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions," and afterward Arthur is exhausted from the effort.

One of the novel's important themes is Christian redemption. Even the vampires, hellish servants of evil, achieve peace and salvation when they die. Lucy is not condemned for her attacks on the children, but rather is returned to her former state of innocence when the stake is driven through her heart. Van Helsing promises that any vampire that is destroyed returns to God‹even agents of evil are not beyond the Christian God's saving grace. After she is staked, the look of peace on Lucy's face confirms the truth of Van Helsing's promise.

Summary Chapter 17

Taken from the September 29th entry of Dr. Seward's diary and the September 29th entry of Mina Harker's journal, interspersed; the September 30th entry of Dr, Seward's diary; the September 29th entry of Jonathan Harker's journal;

The Harkers come to stay with Seward at the asylum. Mina listens to Seward's diary and transcribes it (she is very impressed by the idea of a diary kept on phonograph), and Seward, in turn, reads the journals of Jonathan and Mina Harker. In reading Jonathan Harker's journal, he realizes that the Count's new estate is at nearby Carfax, and that Renfield's behavior might be connected to the vampire's arrival. Jonathan attempts to track down the boxes of earth and learns that all fifty of them were delivered to Carfax, but he fears that some may have been moved. He and Mina put all of the journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings in order.

The next day, Arthur and Quincey Morris arrive. Mina gives them the papers for study. Arthur is still overcome by grief. Although he and Mina have never met, he opens his heart to her, crying bitterly while she comforts him. A little later, Mina offers the same comfort to the more restrained Quincey Morris.

Analysis Chapter 17

Mina's fascination with the phonograph reflects a more general fascination that the novel has with gadgetry. The book is full of the latest inventions: phonographs, shorthand, electric lanterns. Part of the arsenal the group wields against Dracula is this knowledge of scientific method, reason, and the latest inventions‹which are the fruits of modern science.

The group is beginning to work together. With the packet of papers assembled by Mina and Jonathan, the group has valuable information at their disposal. Mina and the men are also united by affection for Lucy and a desire to see her avenged. Finally, the characters of the novel have all of the information that the reader has had all along, and they know exactly what they are up against. The dramatic irony that was such a large structural part of all the previous chapters comes to an end here.

Mina's comforting of Quincey and Arthur shows the incredible reserves of strength she has at her disposal. She, too, has suffered great tragedies: she has lost her best friend, as well as Hawkins, who was the closest thing to a father she ever knew. She also has had to care for her recovering husband. Yet she has worked tirelessly at transcribing and compiling the papers, and she is the one that has provided a strong shoulder for the men to cry upon.

Summary Chapter 18

Includes the September 30th entry of Seward's diary; the September 30th entry of Mina Harker's journal; and the October 1st entry of Seward's diary.

Mina wishes to see Renfield, and is persuasive enough so that Seward allows it. Before she enters, Renfield swallows all of his flies and spiders. He treats her with extreme courtesy, and his speech becomes suddenly coherent and articulate. He even spouts philosophy and diagnoses his own former condition‹former, that is, according to him.

Van Helsing arrives. On learning that the journals, letters, and articles have been compiled at Mina's suggestion, he praises her virtues and her intellect but warns Seward that the men must shield her from the difficult business of destroying the vampire. The whole group meets after reading the compiled papers, and Van Helsing warns them about the monster they face. To fail is to become a vampire and to be eternally damned, but they must not shirk from their duty. He lists the vampire's powers: he has unbelievable physical strength; he can see in the dark; he can vanish and reappear; he can change his shape at will, to mist or wolf or bat or elemental dust; he can summon animals to do his bidding; and he can control the weather near him. But he is stopped by garlic, crucifixes, and the wafers of the Host; a sacred bullet, decapitation, and a stake through the heart can kill him; he loses his power at sunrise and must return to his coffin to rest; only in unholy places can he change his shape at will (otherwise he can only change at sunrise, sunset, or at noon); he can only cross running water at low or full tide; and he can only enter a place if he is invited‹though, once invited, he can come and go at will. At this point, they are all shocked by a gun shot‹Quincey Morris, who has just gone outside, has shot at a bat. The men decide to go to Carfax to see if all of the boxes of earth are present. Just as they are about to leave, an attendant tells Seward that Renfield wants to see all of the men. Speaking like a sane and very articulate man, he begs to be released‹eventually begging even to be released still chained, as long as he is out of the asylum. He warns the men that there will be dire consequences if he is not released‹not as a threat, but as the words of a man who does not wish to be guilty of something. When Seward refuses, Renfield asks Dr. Seward to remember that Renfield tried his best to convince him.

Analysis Chapter 18

Van Helsing praises Mina by saying that she is a good combination, a woman's heart and a gifted man's brain. God, according to Van Helsing, fashioned her for a great purpose. Mina's gifts are evidence of the hand of God, and the theme of fate is brought in once again. Mina is the focus of the second half of the novel, as Dracula turns his predatory attention on her. Although Van Helsing is Dracula's antagonist in one sense, Mina is the vampire's antagonist in the more vital spiritual sense. The struggle will be between Dracula's seductive powers and Mina's Victorian purity.

Some critics have argued that Mina's combination of a man's brain and woman's heart was a subtle fictional defense of "inversion," the nineteenth-century medical category for homosexuality. Dracula was published shortly after Oscar Wilde's trial, and scholars have convincingly argued that Stoker himself may have had strong homoerotic impulses‹as indicated by his relationship to the actor Henry Irving and his long correspondence with Walt Whitman. If Mina's attributes are a kind of accommodation of inversion, it may have been meant to articulate a position to himself rather than make a defense that was legible to the reader.

Van Helsing's speech to the group shows the mixed strategy they will take in hunting Dracula: Van Helsing argues for the use of the implements of Christian faith, but he also speaks of the advantages provided by science and reason. One of the book's themes is the contrast between East and West, and part of that contrast is the opposition between what might seem to be two mutually exclusive forms of knowledge. But the novel and the approach taken by Van Helsing present an argument for syncretism. The lessons and wisdom of Eastern European folklore will be combined with rationality and Western science.

The bat outside the window and Renfield's plea foreshadow the trouble the heroes might have. Although they are finally united, their enemy is resourceful and dangerous.

Summary Chapter 19

Includes the October 1st entries of Jonathan Harker's journal, Dr. Seward's diary, and Mina Harker's journal; as well as the October 2nd entry of Mina Harker's journal.

Armed with crucifixes, garlic, holy communion wafers, electric lamps, knives, and revolvers, the men go to investigate Carfax. The break into the house, and, after they find some keys, Jonathan, having seen the plans to the place, is able to lead them to the chapel. The chapel is full of a nauseating smell, and the men investigate to find that twenty-one of the boxes are missing. A few of the men think that they see Dracula's face outside the window, but dismiss it after a moment as a trick of the light. The room then becomes overrun by thousands of rats. Arthur takes the keys and throws open a chapel door to the outside. He blows a whistle and his dogs, which he has brought to Seward's house, come to the rescue. Although initially timid at the chapel's threshold, once encouraged the dogs send the rats running. The men return, having accounted for only twenty-nine boxes but having survived a crucial first step. Jonathan remarks before going to bed that Mina looks paler than usual. The next morning, Van Helsing asks Seward for permission to see Renfield. The interview is short‹Renfield insults Van Helsing and tells him to leave, which he does.

Mina reports bad dreams. The night the men go to Carfax, a mist creeps over the lawn outside her window. She can hear Renfield screaming, but he is silenced by the asylum attendants. In a state of half-sleep, she has a dream that mist is pouring into her room. In the mist, she can see two red eyes, and later, she sees a white face bending towards her. The next night, she sleeps but does not dream. She wakes feeling unrefreshed. Renfield asks to see her, and when she does he kisses her hand and asks God to bless her. Later, she asks Seward for a drug to help her sleep, which he provides, but she goes to bed feeling a sudden fear that she might want the power to wake.

Analysis Chapter 19

The electric lanterns, a relatively new invention at the time, are combined with the more traditional weapons for fighting vampires. The men also carry revolvers. The synthesis of old and new continues, and helps the men to have some success on their first foray into Dracula's domain. Van Helsing also learns that although Dracula can control animals, they are still only animals‹as shown by the rats, which were driven back by Arthur's dogs.

The reader immediately realizes that Mina is Dracula's new victim. Mina's failure to realize what is happening is perhaps a failure in the novel's verisimilitude, especially considering that she has read Lucy's accounts of what happened. Perhaps Dracula's power to hypnotize his victims is able to convince her to interpret her experiences as a dream. The reader knows more than the characters, but the dramatic irony is no longer built structurally into the novel. Mina has as much information at her disposal as the reader; her failure is one of interpretation.

Summary Chapter 20

Includes the October 1st and October 2nd entries of Jonathan Harker's journal; the October 1st entry of Seward's diary; a letter from Mitchell, Sons and Candy to Lord Godalming, dated October 1st; and the October 2nd entry of Seward's diary.

Jonathan tracks down the destinations of the missing boxes, which have been deposited in houses in different places in and around London. Twelve boxes have been put into two houses in different parts of London, and the last nine boxes are in a house in Picadilly, a London suburb. The men wonder how they will break into houses in populated areas.

Seward speaks with Renfield some more. Renfield seems more articulate, but his ideas are still bizarre. He seems torn by the need to consume life, but he is fearful of consuming souls. Reports of Renfield's behavior show a man in deep conflict; he is at times articulate and at time seems as if he is consumed by a deep remorse.

The men try to plan an assault that will destroy all fifty boxes in one day, between sunrise and sunset. Van Helsing researches magical defenses and cures to use against the vampire. Seward characteristically wonders if they have all gone mad, and will wake up in straitjackets. The chapter ends with a report from an attendant that Renfield has had a terrible accident. Dr. Seward goes to investigate. . .

Analysis Chapter 20

While Dracula preys on the neglected Mina, the men plan to assault Dracula at his weak spots. Jonathan is able to use his training to track down the boxes, and all will be wiped away in a day. Renfield's ravings, for the perceptive reader, hint at the role he has had in Mina's victimization. His fear of consuming souls reveals guilt he feels over enabling Mina's damnation.

Notice that Seward is once again wondering about their sanity. Even though his musing is rhetorical, his comments continue to play on the theme of madness and its threat‹and are particularly weighted in a chapter that spends so much time dealing with Renfield's madness and crisis of conscience.