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Unlike other nineteenth-century works, this novel is not told in a linear, orderly fashion. Rather, it is made up of letters, diary pages, journal jottings, and various news sections. Since the plot is essentially a mystery, this approach is extremely effective at maintaining suspense. Jonathan Harker's diary entries begin on May 3. The young London lawyer is on his way to Count Dracula's realm in Transylvania. Harker has been dispatched by his company to complete the final contracts for an acquisition of land in England that the Count has recently purchased. At sundown, and after arriving at Bistritz, Harker reads a note of welcome from the Count himself before turning in. In the morning when Harker gets ready to leave for a meeting with the Count, the strange reactions of the villagers put him on edge. Harker seems to be a man driven by logic, which makes the reader take the book seriously. Albeit unaware of the actual reason why villagers fear the Count, Harker pens how several things have made him uneasy and believe that all superstitions can be found here. He also talks about the howling of the dogs and his unusual dreams, putting it off to a bad dinner.
Upon arriving, Harker notes down the tiniest of details about the castle from the stone doors to the rattling chains and bolts that are comparable to a nightmare. The Dracula enters the scene, an old man with a long Victorian mustache and his colorless skin clad in black. His handshake is as cold as ice. The Count seems pleasant enough over dinner, putting Harker at ease. He takes into account Dracula's every feature from his pale complexion to his sharp white teeth protruding from his mouth. Harker goes to sleep with a journal entry: "I think strange things which I dare not confess to my soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me." The next day, Harker notices several odd things while exploring the castle. He notices the presence of a meal but no servant in sight, the table and curtains made of gold and expensive fabric, and the absence of mirrors. He spends another delightful day with the Count who manages to convince Harker to extend his visit, only to end the day feeling uneasy again. The following day, things become eventful. The Count's voice takes Harker by surprise when he is shaving in the morning, and two things subsequently take place. First, Harker notices the absence of the Count's reflection in the mirror. Secondly, Harker cuts himself on being taken by surprise, which elicits an animalistic response from the Count who lunges for Harker's throat. On instinctively grabbing his crucifix, Harker notices that the Count immediately backs off telling him to be careful about how he cuts himself in this country. Harker soon realizes that he is a prisoner in the castle and momentarily panics before coming back to rationally figure out how to escape. One evening, Harker is visited by three women, whether in reality or in a dream, which elicit a burning desire within him that makes him want to succumb to them. But then Dracula comes in to stop them, and the women leave with a bag containing a small child, while Harker becomes unconscious again. Dracula assures Harker that he can leave the next day. Harker wakes up early the next day to discover the Count in one of the large wooden boxes he had come across before. The Count seems to look younger, with blood trickling down his lips, making it evident that someone's blood is responsible for the Count's youthful look. Upon seeing this, Harker smashes a shovel into the Count's face, but the Count's eyes put Harker in a paralysis, thereby causing the Count no harm. Harker runs to the Count's room, and the on-going ruckus alerts him to the fact that the Count is leaving. Various events take place in these three chapters to alert the reader of Dracula's true legend in subsequent versions. These include but are not limited to a spooky location like Transylvania, populated and loaded with crying wolves. Often there is the nearness of a female vampire (or vampires), who will endeavor to allure the storyteller. Usually, the agent is detained in the palace and must impact his particular escape. Different elements of a lesser sort can be incorporated, elements such as the storyteller's investigations of the manor and his revelation of many caskets or boxes of soil or the multiplication of bats about the castle, the creepy clamors, and the baffling absence of mirrors. Also, here and there are the cries of youthful children and the nearness of blood at alarming spots.
The scene is set in London, to Harker's fiancé Mina and her friend Lucy. The correspondence between Mina and Lucy entails the upcoming safe arrival of Harker, Lucy's love for Arthur Holmwood, and Dr. John Seward's infatuation with Lucy. Lucy, soon to turn 20 has three marriage proposals that she is excited about. By the time July 26th comes around, Mina voices her concern about Jonathan still not having returned. She is also concerned about Lucy who has started sleep-walking again. Stoker contrasts the innocence of the two ladies with the oncoming horror, a gothic narrative style along with a gothic setting of old houses and graveyards. Lucy's sleepwalking corresponds with Dracula's arrival, and this habit will result in her becoming a vampire as well.
Dracula's ship arrives on 8th August, and the storm results in a shipwreck. The crazy circumstances surrounding the ship's arrival take over the town. On August 10th, Mina wakes up at 3 AM to discover Lucy's bed is empty. She goes in search of her and finds Lucy sitting on the bench of their hill with a dark figure bending over Lucy's white figure. Mina calls Lucy out of fear, and the figure disappears. Mina finds two pinpricks on Lucy's neck but thinks nothing of it. The next day, Lucy again tries to leave the room at night but seems healthy the next morning. Mina again discovers the dark figure next to Lucy on a subsequent night. She finds that Lucy is pale and haggard, but Lucy shrugs it off, growing weaker by the day. On 19th August, Mina receives news that Jonathan is in a hospital in Budapest and she leaves to attend to him. The calm and quiet Victorian life is gradually being taken over by everything that the Count represents. The illness of Lucy's mother and Arthur Holmwood's father seems to coincide with the Count's arrival. The Count represents a satanic presence in contrast to the purity of the two ladies, Mina and Lucy.
Mina informs Lucy via letter that she is with Jonathan who remembers little about what happened. While there, the two decide to get married. Meanwhile, Dr. Seward notes down the changes he sees in Renfield and that he is becoming worried. On September 2nd, Dr. Seward writes to Holmwood that Lucy's condition seems to have no cure, and out of concern, he calls for his old friend Van Helsing. The doctor continues to notice changes in Renfield and that he howls like a wolf and eats flies. Upon noticing the bite marks on Lucy, Van Helsing gives her a large bundle of flowers to wear around her neck that is made of garlic. Along with a focus on bloodsucking, these chapters include other examples of the Vampire-Gothic tradition.
Upon meeting Mrs. Westerna while checking up on Lucy, Dr.Seward and Van Helsing find out that she removed the garlic from Lucy's neck due to a stuffiness in the room. Lucy's condition continues to worsen upon her mother's death, and she sees sharp teeth begin to appear that grow longer. Lucy eventually dies in the next few days. However, a crucifix that was placed on Lucy upon her "death" has disappeared when she is checked on the next day, thereby leading Helsing to believe there is more to the story. These chapters talk about ways to ward off vampires, the garlic, and the crucifix. Evil spirits are known to accomplish their tasks one way or another.
Mina and Jonathan come back to hear the devastating news. Subsequent events take place after Lucy's burial that alerts Van Helsing to the fact that she may not be dead. He convinces the doctor to go with him to make sure Lucy is still buried. They find her lying in the coffin, but Van Helsing is unconvinced, noticing how she seems so radiant even after a week since she died. He then convinces the doctor that they must chop off her head and stuff her mouth with garlic to ensure she does not come back from the dead. Renfield's erratic behavior keeps everyone on edge as he seems sane one minute and insane the next. Mina also starts witnessing certain things that make her believe that something is not right. In subsequent chapters, Renfield is locked up, and one night, Dr. Seward is called because Renfield has been beaten brutally. The doctor also calls for Van Helsing. Upon the realization that he is bound to die, Renfield tells them everything, which opens them up to the realization of Dracula's true purpose. They rush to Mina's door, and upon breaking it down forcefully, find Jonathan unconscious on the floor and the dark figure of Dracula next to Mina's white appearance. A fight ensues, whereby the Dracula vanishes when the power goes out. Word eventually spreads of Dracula's return to Transylvania because he runs the risk of being discovered in England. Changes also begin to appear in Mina that resemble the features of a vampire. Harker, Mina, Van Helsing and Dr. Seward proceed to track down Dracula, and Mina has everyone promise that they will kill her if she becomes a vampire. The last chapter begins with a continuation of Mina's journal. As she has fed on the Count's blood, Mina can be hypnotized by Van Helsing, and she can then track the Count's movement. They arrive at Transylvania where Van Helsing drives a stake through the three female vampires' hearts. He then places holy material all around the castle's entrance so that the Count can never enter again. He crushes a holy wafer within Dracula's tomb saying, "and so vanished him from it, Un-Dead, forever." The book ends with a passage from Mina's journal dated 6th November. They come across gypsies presumably carrying Dracula in a box. There and then, the men encounter the gypsies and kill them. They open the box to discover Dracula whom Jonathan and Quincey Morris kill immediately. Quincey, however, dies as well because of sustaining a wound while fighting the gypsies. The curse on Mina' forehead disappears as the Count dies. Jonathan and Mina are shown to be happy family seven years later with a son named Quincey. The final chapters show a pattern of the good guys chasing the bad. Even as the book nears an end, the Count seems to have escaped, only to be killed by the good guys.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
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