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.
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.