Summary: Chapter 15

Seward is appalled by Van Helsing’s suggestion that Lucy is in some way responsible for the rash of wounded children. However, due to his respect for the elder doctor, he accompanies Van Helsing on his investigation. The two men visit one of the wounded children and find that the marks on the child’s neck are identical to Lucy’s. That night, Seward and Van Helsing proceed to Lucy’s tomb, open the coffin, and find it empty. Seward suggests that a grave robber might have taken the corpse, but Van Helsing instructs him to keep watch at one side of the churchyard.

Near dawn, Seward witnesses a “white streak” moving between the trees. He and Van Helsing approach and find a child lying nearby, but Seward still refuses to believe that Lucy is responsible for any wrongdoing. Only after they return to Lucy’s tomb, finding her restored to her coffin and “radiantly beautiful,” does Seward feel the “horrid sense of the reality of things.” Van Helsing explains that Lucy belongs to the “Un-Dead” and insists that she must be decapitated, her mouth filled with garlic, and a stake driven through her heart. The two men meet with Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris, and Van Helsing explains what must be done. Holmwood is opposed to mutilating his fiancée’s corpse, but finally agrees to accompany them to the graveyard.

Summary: Chapter 16

That night, the four men go to Lucy’s grave and find it empty. Van Helsing seals the door of the tomb with Communion wafers to prevent the vampire Lucy from reentering. The men then hide in wait. Eventually, a figure appears, dressed entirely in white and carrying a child. It is Lucy—or rather, a monster that looks like Lucy, with eyes “unclean and full of hell-fire” and a mouth stained with fresh blood. As the men surround her, she drops the child and calls out passionately to Holmwood, telling him to come to her. Holmwood begins to move, but Van Helsing leaps between the couple and brandishes a crucifix. Lucy recoils. Van Helsing quickly removes the Communion wafers, and the vampire slips through the door of her tomb.

Having witnessed this horror, Holmwood concurs that the necessary rites must be performed, and the following evening, he returns to hammer a stake through Lucy’s heart. As Lucy returns to a state of beauty, Van Helsing reassures Holmwood that he has saved Lucy’s soul from eternal darkness and has given her peace at last. Before leaving the tomb, Van Helsing makes plans to reunite with the men two nights later, so that they may discuss the “terrible task” before them.

Summary: Chapter 17

At Van Helsing’s urging, Jonathan and Mina Harker come to stay with Seward at the asylum. Mina transcribes Seward’s diary with the typewriter and notes its account of Lucy’s death. Meanwhile, Seward reads the Harkers’ journals, realizing for the first time that Dracula may well be his next-door neighbor and that there may be a connection between the vampire’s proximity and Renfield’s behavior. The lunatic Renfield is calm at the moment, and Seward wonders what this tranquility indicates about Dracula’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Jonathan researches the boxes of earth that were shipped from Transylvania to England. He discovers that all fifty were delivered to the chapel at Carfax, but worries that some might have been moved elsewhere in recent weeks. Mina notes that Harker seems to have fully recovered from his ordeal in Transylvania. Holmwood and Morris arrive at the asylum, and, clearly, Holmwood is still terribly shaken by Lucy’s death.

Summary: Chapter 18

With Seward’s permission, Mina visits Renfield. The madman frantically swallows his collection of flies and spiders before she enters, but is extremely polite and seems rational in her presence. Van Helsing arrives at the asylum. Pleased to see that Seward’s diaries and letters have been typed and placed in order, he compliments Mina on her work but hopes that she will be spared a role in the business before them. The destruction of the vampire, he notes, is “no part for a woman.”

Van Helsing gathers the entire company and tells them the legend of the nosferatu, or “Un-Dead.” He says that such creatures are immortal and immensely strong; have command over various animals and the elements; and can vanish and change form at will. However, they also have certain weaknesses: they cannot survive without blood; cannot enter a house unless summoned; lose their power at daybreak, at which time they must seek shelter in the earth or a coffin; and are powerless before crucifixes, Communion wafers, and other holy objects. To kill Dracula, Van Helsing says they must first track down his fifty boxes of earth. He also resolves that Mina must not be burdened with or endangered by the details of their work. The men tell Mina that they “are men and are able to bear; but you must be our star and our hope.”

The entire company asks to see Renfield. They gather, and he makes a remarkably rational and passionate plea to be released at once in order to avoid terrible consequences. Fearing that this sudden display of sanity is but “another form or phase of his madness,” Seward denies Renfield’s request.

Analysis: Chapters 15–18

In this section, Lucy’s transformation reaches its terrible end. Lucy is now a perversion of the two most sacred female virtues in Victorian England: maternalism and sexual purity. In Chapter 17, Mina voices an expectation of Victorian culture when she writes, “We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked.” Like the three women Harker meets in Dracula’s castle, the undead Lucy counters this “mother-spirit” by preying on innocent children. Rather than providing them with nourishment and protection, she stalks and feeds on them. The hideous transformation of this once beautiful woman into a demonic child-killer demonstrates the anxiety the Victorians felt about women whose sexual behavior challenged convention.

Read more about the novel’s aversion to female sexual expression.

Van Helsing’s band of do-gooders feels this same anxiety about female sexuality as they face off against its hypersexualized opponent. As the men confront Lucy, whose purity has changed to “voluptuous wantonness,” we note the rather limited vocabulary Stoker uses to paint the scene. Lucy is described almost exclusively in terms of her sexuality: her face becomes “wreathed with a voluptuous smile,” and she advances with “outstretched arms and a wanton smile.” Lucy’s words to Holmwood echo her dying wish for his kiss: “Come to me, Arthur. . . . My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!” Her words are both a plea for and a promise of sexual satisfaction. Van Helsing and his crew’s response to Lucy’s words illustrate that the men are certainly aware of the words’ double meaning. The men are equally attracted to and horrified by the woman who would make such a bold proposition: “There was something diabolically sweet in her tones . . . which rang through the brains even of us who heard the words addressed to another. As for Arthur, he seemed under a spell; moving his hands from his face, he opened wide his arms.” Dracula’s power is indeed considerable, as it tempts even morally righteous men who are aware of the count’s diabolical plans.

Read an in-depth analysis of the Lucy’s demonic attempt to seduce Holmwood.

Tempted as the men are by Lucy’s carnal embrace, they are equally eager to destroy her. Throughout the descriptions of Lucy’s voluptuousness runs a strong indication of the men’s desire to annihilate her. Dr. Seward writes, “[T]he remnant of my love passed into hate and loathing; had she then to be killed, I could have done it with savage delight.” Having paid for sexual curiosity with her eternal soul, Lucy must now pay an equally steep price for her sexual appetite.

The act of Lucy’s final destruction strongly resembles an act of sexual congress. Holmwood’s piercing of Lucy with his stake unmistakably suggests intercourse: her body “shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions. . . . But Arthur never faltered . . . driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake.” Holmwood’s attack restores Lucy’s purity and soul, thus implying that Holmwood returns Lucy to the socially desirable state of monogamy and submission. As her fiancé, Holmwood cleanses the “carnal and unspiritual” from Lucy by consummating a sexual relationship that, without Dracula’s interference, would have not only been consecrated by God, but also would have legitimized Lucy’s troublesome sexual desires.

Read more about the symbolism of the stake driven through Lucy’s heart.