Old Professor Van Helsing is an experienced, competent man, but due to the unfortunately unskilled manner in which Stoker renders Van Helsing’s speech, he often comes across as somewhat bumbling. Nevertheless, Van Helsing emerges as a well-matched adversary to the count, and he is initially the only character who possesses a mind open enough to contemplate and address Dracula’s particular brand of evil.
A doctor, philosopher, and metaphysician, Van Helsing arrives on the scene versed not only in the modern methods of Western medicine, but with an unparalleled knowledge of superstitions and folk remedies. He straddles two distinct worlds, the old and the new: the first marked by fearful respect for tradition, the second by ever-progressing modernity. Unlike his former pupil, Dr. Seward, whose obsession with modern techniques blinds him to the real nature of Lucy’s sickness, Van Helsing not only diagnoses the young girl’s affliction correctly, but offers her the only opportunity for a cure.
Like many of the other characters, Van Helsing is relatively static, as he undergoes no great change or development throughout the course of the novel. Having helped rid the Earth of the count’s evil, he departs as he arrived: morally righteous and religiously committed. Van Helsing views his pursuit of Dracula with an air of grandiosity. He envisions his band as “ministers of God’s own wish,” and assures his comrades that “we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more.” Hyperbole aside, Stoker portrays Van Helsing as the embodiment of unswerving good, the hero he recruits “to set the world free.”