Summary: Chapter 19

The men make the journey to Carfax, arming themselves with holy objects for protection. There is no sign of Dracula in the chapel, but there is a terrible stench, and the men find twenty-nine of the original fifty boxes of earth. To the men’s horror, rats begin to fill the chapel. The men use a whistle to summon dogs that chase away the rats. Van Helsing’s spirits are high despite the fact that twenty-one boxes are missing. Upon returning to the asylum, Van Helsing asks to see Renfield again. Hoping to use the lunatic as a source of information, Van Helsing attempts an interview. Renfield curses Van Helsing and refuses to cooperate.

Mina records her mounting anxieties in her diary. One night in the asylum, she wakes up after hearing strange sounds from Renfield’s room and finds that her window is open even though she is certain she closed it. Mina stares out the window at a thin streak of white mist that slowly creeps across the yard toward the asylum, seeming to have a “sentience and a vitality of its own.” Mina sleeps fitfully and wakes to find a “pillar of cloud” in her room. She sees a “livid white face” bending over her, but assumes this figure is merely part of her dream.

Summary: Chapter 20

Harker’s investigations reveal that twelve of the remaining boxes of earth were deposited in two houses in London. He traces the remaining nine boxes to a house in Piccadilly, a London suburb. Harker’s companions worry over how they will manage to break into a house in such a highly populated area.

Seward chronicles rapid changes in Renfield’s behavior. The patient seems to have given up his interest in zoöphagy, but -reiterates his earlier desire, saying, “Life is all I want.” Seward questions Renfield, asking him how he accounts for the souls of the lives he plans to collect. Renfield becomes agitated at the inquiry, claiming that he has enough to worry about without thinking of souls. Seward concludes that his patient dreads the consequences of his life-gathering hobbies, which burden his soul. The following evening, the asylum attendants hear a scream and find Renfield lying in his cell, covered in blood.

Summary: Chapter 21

Dying, Renfield admits to the other men that Dracula often visited him, promising him flies, spiders, and other living creatures from which to gain strength in return for Renfield’s obedience. Later, when Mina visited him, Renfield noted her paleness and realized that Dracula had been “taking the life out of her.” He grew angry, and when the count slipped into his room that night, Renfield attempted to seize him. The vampire’s eyes “burned” him, and he was flung violently across the room as Dracula slipped away into the asylum.

The four men rush upstairs to the Harkers’ room. Finding it locked, they break down the door on a terrible scene: Jonathan lies unconscious, Mina kneels on the edge of the bed, and the count stands over her as she drinks from a wound on his breast. Dracula turns on the intruders, his eyes flaming with “devilish passion,” but Van Helsing holds up a sacred Communion wafer and the count retreats. The moonlight fades, and the men light a gas lamp. All that is left of the count is a faint vapor escaping under the door. Morris chases it and sees a bat flying away from Carfax. Meanwhile, the men discover that the count has torn apart their study in an attempt to destroy their papers and diaries. Fortunately, they have kept duplicate copies in a safe.

Mina and Jonathan regain consciousness. Mina says that she awoke that night to find Jonathan unconscious beside her and Dracula stepping out of a mist. The count threatened to kill her husband if Mina made a sound. He drank blood from her throat, telling her that it was not the first time he had done so. Then, slicing his own chest open, he pressed her lips to the cut and forced her to drink his blood. Dracula mocked his pursuers and assured Mina that he would make her “flesh of my flesh.” Mina cries out, “God pity me! Look down on a poor soul in worse than mortal peril!”

Analysis: Chapters 29–21

In these chapters, Mina stands ready as the count’s next victim. When she writes that “sleep begins to flirt with me,” we know that it is Dracula—not sleep—that is seducing her during the night. These suspicions are confirmed in Chapter 21, when, in one of the novel’s strangest and most debated scenes, Van Helsing’s crew barges in upon Dracula’s feeding frenzy. The scene, which likely shocks us as much as it does the men, challenges gender conventions in several ways. First, neither of the men appears to be the aggressor. Rather than jumping to his wife’s defense, Harker sprawls on the bed, while Dracula, rather than feeding, is fed upon. Although the count forces her into the position, Mina is in effect the instigator as she actively sucks from the wound on Dracula’s chest. Here, the vampire presents a perverse mockery of the nursing mother: rather than giving life by offering milk, the count tries to ensure Mina’s death by feeding her his blood. Symbols commonly viewed as male become female, and vice versa: aggression becomes stupor, and milk is transformed into blood. The entire scene defies gender categories, which would be especially troubling to Victorian audiences who relied upon rigid categories to structure their lives. In a world governed by reason and order, Dracula can pose no greater threat than by disordering gender roles.

Read more about Dracula as the antagonist.

The feeding ritual in Harker’s room perverts not only the image of a mother nursing her child, but also the image of the Eucharist. The Christian ritual of Communion celebrates Christ’s sacrifice through the ingestion of the wafer and wine, which, depending on one's beliefs, either represent Christ's flesh and blood or literally become them through transubstantiation. Participating in the Eucharist, some believe, confers immortal life after death. Dracula, by contrast, consumes real—not symbolic—blood. Though the blood grants the count immortality, his soul is barred from achieving anything that resembles Christian grace. Renfield, who lives according to Dracula’s philosophy, goes so far as to discredit the notion of a soul. Indeed, according to Dr. Seward’s diary, the patient “dreads the consequence—the burden of a soul.” Much of Van Helsing’s arsenal against the count comes from Catholic symbolism, including the crucifix and holy Communion wafers. Given the rising religious skepticism in Victorian society—as Darwin’s theory of evolution complicated universal acceptance of religious dogma—Stoker’s novel advocates a return to the more superficial, symbolic comforts and protections of the church. Stoker suggests that a nation that ignores religion and devotes itself solely to scientific inquiry dooms itself to unimaginable spiritual dangers.

Read a mini-essay on Count Dracula’s perversion of Christian tradition.