The first major conflict in Dracula emerges when the diabolical vampire Dracula travels to England, where he preys on the novel’s protagonists until they pledge to destroy him. While Dracula has wreaked destruction in Transylvania for hundreds of years, his move to England makes him a major threat to the foundations of the protagonists’ own society. The protagonists seek not only to remove this threat to their safety, but to rid the world of Dracula’s evil forever. Their underlying motivation includes a sense of duty to both nation and religion: Dracula’s presence is not only a danger to English society but also a threat to Christian life, as he can make dutiful Christians into unholy agents like himself.
The rising action begins with Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula, where he unknowingly assists Dracula with preparations for his transfer to England. Harker helps Dracula to finalize his purchase of an English estate, and spends many nights discussing the nuances of English society with him. While at Castle Dracula, however, Harker also discovers that Dracula is a vampire and that he himself is a prisoner. Although Harker manages to escape and later reunite with his fiancée Mina, Dracula successfully travels to England in the interim. Arriving at the seaside town of Whitby, Dracula preys on the beautiful Lucy Westenra. Lucy is friends with Mina, and a love interest for three different men: the English aristocrat Arthur Holmwood (who becomes her fiancé), the English doctor John Seward, and the American Quincey Morris.
Lucy becomes increasingly ill under Dracula’s influence. The mysterious nature of her sickness baffles her friends and family, who do not see that supernatural forces are at work. Dr. Seward invites his friend Professor Van Helsing—who embraces both “old world” superstitions and modern science—to attend to Lucy. He initiates four blood transfusions to save Lucy’s life: Holmwood, Morris, Seward, and Van Helsing himself all donate blood. Despite their efforts, Lucy finally perishes at Dracula’s hands. She soon rises again as a vampire.
The novel’s climax takes place when Van Helsing reveals Lucy’s vampirism to his companions. He visits the graveyard with Dr. Seward, where they see Lucy in vampire form. They visit again, this time bringing Morris and Holmwood, who mercifully drive a stake through Lucy’s heart. Joining forces with Harker and Mina, they all pledge to destroy Dracula together. At this point, there is no turning back either in terms of belief or action: they know Dracula for what he is, and they are committed to stamping out his evil. Drawing on Van Helsing’s knowledge as well as on records of their experiences (compiled by Mina), they realize that they must find and consecrate the fifty boxes of earth that Dracula has brought with him to England as safe resting places.
In the novel’s falling action, the protagonists execute their plans to defeat Dracula. The men search for the boxes of earth, excluding Mina from their proceedings in order to protect her. Dracula meanwhile begins to prey on Mina. The men realize that Mina is in danger after they find one of the patients at Dr. Seward’s asylum, Renfield, mortally wounded. Before he dies, Renfield explains that he gave Dracula access to the asylum. The men rush to the room where Mina and Jonathan are staying, finding Dracula there. Although they drive the vampire out, they realize that Mina will become a vampire herself unless they destroy him. Mina’s illness reprises that of Lucy’s, although this time the protagonists have the knowledge and the foresight they need to save her. The men confront Dracula once again, and although he escapes, they realize that he fears them.
Meanwhile, Mina realizes that she has a mental connection to Dracula. Under hypnosis, she can provide crucial information about his movements. The protagonists learn that Dracula is escaping England by boat, and they set out to chase him across Europe. Although Mina becomes increasingly difficult to hypnotize, she continues to provide key details about his location. At Castle Dracula, Van Helsing destroys the three vampire women. A second climactic moment occurs as Van Helsing and company converge with Dracula outside the castle. The men attack the gypsy caravan transporting Dracula’s coffin. Morris destroys him with a knife to the heart, although he dies in the battle as well. Afterward, the remaining protagonists find some peace and happiness. Harker and Mina have a son, whom they name Quincey, while Holmwood and Dr. Seward both make happy marriages.