Bram Stoker
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Chapter 15-18

Chapter XV

Seward finds Van Helsing’s suggestion that Lucy could be responsible for the attacks on children to be appalling. However, his sense of deference to the elder doctor makes him go along with him on his investigation. The men go to one of the victimized children and discover that the marks on the neck are exactly the same as Lucy’s. Seward and Van Helsing go to Lucy’s tomb that night. When they open the coffin, they find that it is empty. Seward says that perhaps a grave robber stole the corpse, but Van Helsing tells him to stand and watch in one area of the churchyard.
As dawn approaches, Seward sees a “white streak” in motion between the trees. The two men go near and discover a child lying close-by. Seward persists in disbelieving that Lucy could be responsible for any sort of wrongdoing. It only after they go back to Lucy’s tomb and they find her back in her coffin and looking “radiantly beautiful” that Seward finally has a “horrid sense of the reality of things.” Van Helsing tells him that Lucy is now one of the “Un-Dead.” He explains that she must be decapitated, her mouth must be filled with garlic, and a stake must be driven through her heart. The men meet with Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris. Van Helsing tells them what must be done. Holmwood expresses his opposition to mutilating the corpse of his fiancée. However, he ultimately agrees to go with them to the graveyard.

Chapter XVI

The four men venture to Lucy’s grave that night. They find it empty. Van Helsing uses Communion wafers to seal the tomb door, so that Lucy is unable to re-enter. The men hide and wait. A figure eventually shows itself. It is dressed in white and has a child in its arms. It is Lucy. Perhaps it could be better described as a monster who has the appearance of Lucy. It has eyes “unclean and full of hell-fire.” The mouth is stained with blood. The men surround the vampire. After dropping the child, Lucy calls out to Holmwood in a passionate voice. She tells him he must come to her. Holmwood starts to move. Brandishing a crucifix, Van Helsing leaps between the man and woman. Lucy backs away. Van Helsing takes away the Communion wafers from the entrance. The vampire leaves through the door.

Holmwood now agrees that the necessary rites need to be carried out. The following night, he comes back to drive a stake through Lucy’s heart. However, the woman returns to a state of beauty. Van Helsing tells Holmwood that he has rescued Lucy’s soul from the evil of eternal darkness. He explains she has peace at last. Prior to leaving the tomb, Van Helsing sets up plans to come together with the men two nights after this, so that they can talk about the “terrible task” that stands before them.

Chapter XVII

With Van Helsing’s encouragement, Jonathan and Mina Harker comes to the asylum to stay with Seward. Mina uses the typewriter to transcribe Seward’s diary. She makes note of its story of Lucy’s death. In the meantime, Seward reads through the Harkers’ journals. For the first time, he realizes that Dracula could be his next-door neighbor and that there could be a connection between the proximity of the vampire and the behavior of Renfield. Renfield is presently calm, and Seward ponders if this tranquility might be indicative of the count’s whereabouts.

Jonathan does research into the boxes of earth that were transported from Transylvania to England. He finds that all fifty boxes were sent to the chapel at Carfax. However, he worries that some could have been recently moved somewhere else. Mina makes note of the fact that Harker appears to have fully recovered from his time in Transylvania. Morris and Holmwood get to the asylum. It is clear that Holmwood remains horribly shaken by Lucy’s death.

Chapter XVIII

After having gained Seward’s permission, Mina goes to see Renfield. The madman is frantic as he swallows all of his spiders and flies before she comes in, but he appears very polite and seems even rational while she is there. Van Helsing gets to the asylum. Happy to see that Seward’s letters and diaries have been typed and put in order, he pays compliments to Mina on her work. He hopes that she will not have to play any role in the business that awaits them. He says that the destruction of the vampire is “no part for a woman.”

Van Helsing brings the entire company together. He tells them about the legend of the nosferatu, or the “Un-Dead.” He declares that these creatures are not only immortal but remarkably strong. They have command over the elements and a number of different animals, and they are able to vanish and can change form whenever they desire. They do have certain weaknesses, though: they are unable to survive without access to blood; are unable to enter a house without being summoned; lose all their power at the break of day, at which point they need to have the shelter of the earth or a coffin; and are entirely without power when in the face of crucifixes, as well as Communion wafers and other holy objects. Van Helsing says that in order to kill Dracula, they first must find his fifty boxes of earth. He also decides that Mina should not have the burden of knowing the details of the work. He feels this could endanger her. The men inform Mina that they “are men and are able to bear; but you must be our star and our hope.”

They ask to see Renfield. Once they gather, Renfield passionately yet rationally pleas with them to be released immediately in order to avoid horrible consequences. Seward denies this request, believing that this sudden display of seeming sanity is only “another form or phase of his madness.”


The transformation of Lucy reaches its horrendous end in this section of the novel. The young woman has been rendered a perversion of two of Victorian England’s most sacred virtues: sexual purity and maternalism. In Chapter XVII, Mina alludes to an expectation of Victorian society when she says, “We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked.” Similarly to the three vampire women Harker comes across in Dracula’s castle, the undead encountered by Lucy stands in opposition to this “mother-spirit” by victimizing innocent children. Instead of giving them protection and nourishment, she stalks them and feeds on their blood. The terrible transformation of this once lovely woman into a demonic killer of children reveals the anxiety felt by the Victorians about women who had unconventional sexual behavior.

Van Helsing and his companions experience this same anxiety about women’s sexuality as they challenge their hypersexualized enemy. The men face off with Lucy, a woman who has transformed from a state of purity to one of “voluptuous wantonness.” It is easy to notice the limited vocabulary used here. Lucy’s description centers almost completely on her sexuality: it is said that her face is “wreathed with a voluptuous smile.” She advanced towards the men with “outstretched arms and a wanton smile.” The words Lucy says to Holmwood echo the wish the described when dying, for a kiss: “Come to me, Arthur….My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!” These words are not only a plea for sexual satisfaction but also a promise. Van Helsing and the other men’s response to these words show that these men are very much aware of their double meaning. They are equally horrified by and attracted to this woman who would say something so bold: “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 As for a spell; moving his hands from his face, he opened wide his arms.” We see how considerable Dracula’s power is. It is even able to tempt a morally righteous man who is very aware of the vampire’s diabolical intentions. The men are very tempted by Lucy’s carnal temptation. However, they are equally eager to destroy the vampire. All through the descriptions of Lucy’s voluptuous nature is a strong implication of the men’s wish to annihilate her. Dr. Seward says, “[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.” The price of Lucy’s sexual curiosity has been her eternal soul. She is now made to pay an equally heavy price for her sexual appetite.

The act of the final destruction of Lucy bears a resemblance to a sexual act. Holmwood’s piercing of her with the stake is unmistakable in its resemblance to intercourse. We read that her body “shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions….But Arthur never faltered…driving deeper and deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake.” This attack is able to restore Lucy’s soul and purity, and this implies that she is now returned to the socially acceptable state of submission and monogamy. Holmwood cleanses the “carnal and unspiritual” from the young woman by consummating a sexual relationship that would have been consecrated only by God if not for the count’s interference. It would also have legitimized Lucy’s sexual desires, which are seen as troublesome.

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