Chapters V–VII

Summary Chapters V–VII

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 (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), Victorian society was anxious about such primal urges, seeking to keep them hidden beneath the veneers of science, art, and polite conversation. Darwin’s works questioned the centuries-old belief in creationism and toppled the previously unassailable hierarchy of man over beast. Humans were no longer the undisputed crown of creation—they were merely another link in a great chain. Although the last decades of the eighteenth and first decades of the nineteenth century were ripe with scientific advancements, they were also marked by a profound sense of uneasiness at having to abandon old and refuted, but nevertheless comfortable, modes of thought. Thus, because it confirms the animalistic and possibly savage nature of human beings, Renfield’s behavior would have caused no small shock among Stoker’s original readers. In Seward’s lunatic, we see how fine a line separates the beast from the drawing-room dandy.