Summary: Chapter V
Chapter V consists of several letters and a diary entry. In England, Mina Murray and her friend, Lucy Westenra, exchange letters about their respective romances. Mina is an assistant schoolmistress whose desire to be useful to her future husband has led her to study shorthand and typewriting. She happily reports that her fiancé, Jonathan Harker, has written that he is on his way home. Lucy replies with tales of her own marriage prospects. She has entertained proposals from several men, including Dr. John Seward—the director of a lunatic asylum in London—and a rich American named Quincey Morris. Her heart, however, belongs to a gentleman named Arthur Holmwood, whose proposal she has accepted.
The women’s correspondence is followed by a diary entry, on phonograph, by Dr. Seward. The doctor admits his unhappiness at Lucy’s rebuff, but occupies himself with an interesting new patient, a man named Renfield. Following this entry is a congratulatory letter from Quincey Morris to Arthur Holmwood.
Summary: Chapter VI
In her journal, Mina describes her visit with Lucy in the picturesque town of Whitby, on the northeast coast of England, and the ruined abbey there that is reputed to be haunted. Mr. Swales, an elderly resident who befriends the two girls and tells them stories about the town, scoffs at such legends. Mr. Swales asserts that most of the graves in the Whitby churchyard are empty, as their supposed occupants were lost at sea. After Swales departs, Mina listens to Lucy’s wedding plans and notes sadly that she has not heard from Jonathan for a month.
John Seward continues to report the curious case of Renfield in his diary. The patient has the curious habit of consuming living creatures. He uses sugar to trap flies, uses flies to trap spiders, and uses spiders to trap sparrows. He delights as one creature consumes another and believes that he himself draws strength by eating these creatures. Seward classifies Renfield as a “zoöphagous”—or life-eating—maniac who desires to “absorb as many lives as he can.”
Meanwhile, Mina expresses anxiety over her missing fiancé and over Lucy, who has begun to sleepwalk during the night. Although she seems healthy, Lucy exhibits an “odd concentration” that Mina does not understand. While out walking one day, Mina encounters Mr. Swales, who tells her that he senses his own death is likely not far off. He assures her that he is not afraid of dying and that death is “all that we can rightly depend on.” Mina and Mr. Swales see a ship drifting about offshore as if no one were at the helm. Guessing the vessel to be “Russian, by the look of her,” Mr. Swales assures Mina that they will surely hear more about it.
Summary: Chapter VII
Two newspaper clippings indicate that the ship Mina and Mr. Swales have seen, a vessel called the Demeter, later washes up on the shore at Whitby during a terrific storm. Its crew is nowhere to be found, while its captain, dead and clasping a crucifix, is discovered tied to the wheel. When the ship runs aground, a huge dog leaps from the hold and disappears into the countryside. The Demeter’s only cargo is a number of large wooden boxes, which are delivered to a Whitby solicitor.
Selections from the captain’s log of the Demeter follow, describing the ship’s voyage to England from the Russian port of Varna. The trip starts off well, but ten days into the voyage, a crewmember is found missing. Soon thereafter, another sailor spots a tall, thin man who is not like any of the crew. A search of the ship finds no stowaways, but every few days another sailor disappears. The crew becomes numb with fear, and the first mate begins to go mad. By the time the ship reaches the English coast, only four men remain to sail it. A great fog settles over them, preventing them from reaching harbor. After two more sailors vanish, the first mate goes below to find the intruder, only to rush out of the hold and throw himself into the sea. That night, in order to “baffle this fiend or monster,” the captain resolves to lash himself and his crucifix to the wheel and to stay with his ship to the end.
The narrative returns to Mina’s journal. Mina describes the night of the dreaded storm, her fears for Jonathan, and her concern for Lucy, who continues to sleepwalk. On the day of the sea captain’s funeral, Mina reports that Lucy is increasingly restless. One reason for Lucy’s agitation, Mina believes, is the recent death of Mr. Swales, who was found dead with a broken neck and a look of horror on his face.
Analysis: Chapters V–VII
In Gothic literature, the battle between well-defined forces of good and evil frequently dominates plots. In Dracula, that battle is largely waged over the fate of its female protagonists, Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. Neither Mina nor Lucy is a particularly profound character—instead, both represent the Victorian ideal of female virtue. The two sets of women we have seen thus far in the novel stand in stark and obvious opposition to each other: Lucy and Mina represent purity and goodness, while the predatory sisters in Dracula’s castle represent corruption and evil. The count threatens womanly virtue, as the frighteningly voluptuous sisters testify to his ability to transform ladies into sex-crazed “devils of the Pit.”
Both Lucy and Mina face the threat of such transformation later in the novel. It is perhaps no surprise that, of the two, Lucy falls most disastrously under Dracula’s spell. Although Lucy’s letters pay homage to a certain male fantasy of domination—“My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?”—they also reveal that she is a sexualized being. Lucy is not only an object of desire who garners three marriage proposals in a single day, but is herself capable of desiring others. Lucy writes: “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” Though Lucy immediately condemns her own words as “heresy,” her apology does not blot out her desire to experience life beyond the narrow confines of conventional morality.
Mina and Lucy’s correspondence contrasts sharply with the terror-filled journal entries that comprise the first four chapters. The London society that Mina, Lucy, and Dr. Seward inhabit is marked by order, reason, and progress: Mina is a schoolmistress who occupies herself with shorthand and typewriting lessons, while Seward, ever hopeful of diagnosing and curing his mentally ill patients, records his diary entries on a newfangled phonograph. The world that Dracula inhabits, in contrast, is ruled by the seemingly impossible or unexplainable: people neither age nor die, and men crawl down sheer walls. Dracula’s foreign presence threatens to overturn the whole of Western culture by subverting carefully constructed and policed morals and by allowing superstition to trump logic.
Lucy’s and Mina’s letters also introduce most of the main characters we see in the remainder of the novel. Lucy describes her three suitors, who are largely two-dimensional characters: Seward is a serious intellectual, Quincey Morris a slang-talking Texan, and Arthur Holmwood is a bland nobleman. Stoker is more -concerned with creating a band of men whose goodness is -unquestionable than with creating complex, multifaceted characters. This characterization sets up a framework for a clear-cut moral battle later in the novel.
The colorful character of Mr. Swales is noteworthy for two reasons. First, as an unapologetic skeptic, Swales stands in contrast to the Eastern European peasants, whose lives are ruled by superstitions. When Mina directs their conversation to local legends, Swales responds, “It be all fool-talk, lock, stock and barrel; that’s what it be, an’ nowt else.” Though uneducated, Swales stands as a product of Western society: he is too committed to reason to allow for the existence of “bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ barguests an’ bogles.” Swales is also noteworthy because he exemplifies Stoker’s dedication to capturing regional dialects. Van Helsing and many of the novel’s secondary characters speak with heavy accents that the author transcribes carefully. But some critics have pointed out that Stoker relies less on a precise ear than on stereotype to generate his characters’ dialogue. In Chapter V, for instance, Quincey’s proposal to Lucy Westenra reads like a parody of the language patterns of the American South: “Miss Lucy, I know I ain’t good enough to regulate the fixin’s of your little shoes, but . . . won’t you just hitch up alongside of me and let us go down the long road together, driving in double harness?”
Another significant character introduced in this section is Renfield, Dr. Seward’s “zoöphagous” maniac. Renfield’s consumption of flies, spiders, and sparrows is spurred by his belief that their lives are transferred into his own, providing him with strength and vitality. Renfield’s habit mirrors the count’s means of sustenance and confirms Stoker’s concern with the relationship between humans and beasts. From a psychoanalytic standpoint, the desire to consume is a primal urge to incorporate an object into one’s self and at the same time to destroy the object.
Largely because of the relatively recent publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (