Dracula
Bram Stoker
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Chapter 5-7
Summary

Chapter V

Chapter V is comprised of a diary entry and several letters. In England, Mina Murry and Lucy Westenra, her friend, write one another letters about their respective romances. Mina currently works as an assistant schoolmistress. She learned typewriting and shorthand so that he will be useful to her future husband. She is thrilled to tell her friend that Jonathan Harker, her fiancé, has sent her a letter saying he is on his way home. Lucy’s reply offers information on her own marriage prospects. We find that several men have proposed to her. These include Quincey Morris, who is a rich American, and Dr. John Seward, who is director of a London lunatic asylum. The man she loves, however, is Arthur Holmwood. She has accepted his proposal.
A diary entry by Dr. Seward, on phonograph, follows the women’s letters. Dr. Seward admits that he is disappointed at Lucy’s rejection. However, he keeps himself occupied with a new patient that he finds very interesting. His name is Renfield. After this entry, we read a congratulatory letter written by Quincey Morris and addressed to Arthur Holmwood.

Chapter VI

In a journal entry, Mina describes a visit she paid to Lucy in Whitby, a picturesque town situated on England’s northeast coast. We learn that the ruined abbey found there is thought to be haunted. The two girls were befriended by an elderly resident of the town called Mr. Swales. He told them stories of the town and he dismisses the legend of the abbey being haunted. Mr. Swales says that the majority of the graves in Whitby’s churchyard are empty. This is because the people to whom they are devoted were lost at sea. After Swales leaves, Lucy tells Mina about her wedding plans and says with sadness that she hasn’t heard anything from Jonathan for a month.

In his diary, John Seward continues reporting on Renfield and his curious case. The patient is said to have the strange habit of consuming creatures that are still alive. He uses spiders to trap sparrows, flies to trap spiders, and sugar to trap flies. He feels delight when he sees one creature eat another and thinks that he is able to gain strength by eating these creatures himself. Seward says that Renfield is a “zoöphagous” (life-eating) lunatic who wants to “absorb as many lives as he can.”

Mina meanwhile expresses her anxiety about her missing fiancé and about Lucy, who has started to sleepwalk at night. While it seems like Lucy is healthy, she shows an “odd concentration” that Mina has trouble understanding. While she is out walking one day, Mina comes across Mr. Swales. He says that he senses that his own death might come soon. He declares that he has no fear of dying, explaining that death is “all that we can rightly depend on.” Mr. Swales and Mina see a shift that is drifting around offshore. It is behaving as if there were no one at the helm. They guess that the vessel must be “Russian, by the look of her.” Mr. Swales tells Mina that they are sure to hear more about it.

Chapter VII

A couple of newspaper clippings indicate that the ship Mr. Swales and Mina saw, which is called the Demeter, is later washed up on shore during a terrible storm. It ends up on the shore of Whitby. The crew cannot be found anywhere, and the captain is dead and holding a crucifix. He is tied to the wheel. When the vessel runs aground, a large dog emerges from the hold and runs into the countryside, disappearing. The only cargo of the ship is several large wooden boxes. They are sent to a solicitor in Whitby.

After this comes sections from the log of the Demeter’s captain. They describe the voyage of the ship to England from Varna, a Russian port. The journey begins well. However, ten days into the voyage, it is discovered that a crewmember is missing. Soon after this, a sailor on the ship sees a thin, tall man who doesn’t resemble any known member of the crew. A search is carried out, but no stowaways are discovered. Another sailor goes missing every few days. The crew becomes extremely fearful, and the first mate starts to go insane. There are only four men remaining to sail the ship by the time it gets to the coast of England. They are prevented from getting to harbor by an impenetrable fog. Once two more sailors disappear, the first mate ventures below to look for the intruder. He then bursts out of the hold and throws himself into the water. In an effort to “baffle this fiend or monster,” that evening the captain decides to attach himself and a crucifix to the wheel. He resolves to remain with his ship to the end.

The narrative comes back to Mina’s journal. Mina discusses the night on which the dreaded storm occurs, as well as her concern for Lucy (who is still sleepwalking), and her worries about Jonathan. The day of the sea captain’s funeral arrives, and Mina says that Lucy is becoming more restless. Mina believes that one reason for Lucy’s agitation is the fact that Mr. Swales recently passed away. When the man was discovered dead, it was reported that he had a broken neck and a horrified expression was on his face.

Analysis

It is common for conflict between clearly defined forces of good and evil to dominate plots in Gothic literature. In Dracula, this conflict is primarily waged over the fate of the female protagonists, Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra. Mina and Lucy are not very complex characters. Rather, they are representatives of Victorian ideals of female virtue. The novel has so far presented us with two sets of women, and there are clearly stark differences between them. While Mina and Lucy represent goodness and purity, the sister vampires in Dracula’s castle represent evil and corruption. The fact that the count is a threat to female virtue is highlighted by the reality that he has transformed refined ladies into sex-obsessed “devils of the Pit.”

Later in the novel, Mina and Lucy are both threatened by the possibility of this kind of transformation. Perhaps it is not surprising that Lucy falls most strongly under the count’s spell. While Lucy’s letters seem to allude to a kind of male fantasy of domination—“My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?”—they additionally show that she is, in fact, a sexualized being. Not only is Lucy seen as an object of desire who receives three proposals of marriage in one day, she is capable of desiring others herself. She writes: “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” Lucy promptly condemns these words as “heresy.” However, this does not make her wish to experience life outside conventional morality’s narrow confines any less real.

The correspondence between Lucy and Mina stands in sharp contrast with the fear-filled journal entries that make up the first four chapters. The London society in which Lucy, Mina, and Dr. Seward live is based on the ideas of reason, order, and progress. A schoolmistress, Mina spends her spare time on typewriting and shorthand lessons, and Seward, who hopes to diagnose and cure his patients of their mental illnesses, uses the technological innovation of a phonograph to record his diary entries. The world in which Dracula lives, by contrast, is governed by the seemingly unexplainable or impossible. Men are able to crawl down walls and people do not age or die. The foreign presence of Dracula presents the threat of the destruction of Western culture through subversion of morality and by letting superstition outrank logic.

Most of the important characters we will come across for the remainder of the novel are introduced in Lucy and Mina’s letters. When Lucy describes her suitors, we see they are mainly two-dimensional characters. Quincy Morris is described as a Texan who uses American slang, Seward is described as a serious intellectual, and Arthur Holmwood is described as a boring nobleman. Stoker focuses more on creating a group of men with unquestionable goodness than complex and multidimensional characters. This approach helps set up the novel’s framework for a the definitive moral battle that takes place later in the story.

Mr. Swales has a colorful character that is worth our notice for two important reasons. Firstly, he is unapologetic in his skepticism, and this makes him very different than the Eastern European peasants we see in the novel, whose lives are dominated by superstition. When Mina brings up the topic of local legends, Swales’ response is: “It be all fool-talk, lock, stock and barrel; that’s what it be, an’ nowt else.” While it’s true that he is uneducated, his mind has been formed by Western society. His commitment to reason will not allow him to believe in the existence of “bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ barguests an’ bogles.” Secondly, the way he is depicted demonstrates Stoker’s wish to accurately capture regional dialects. Van Helsing and several of the secondary characters in the novel have heavy accents that Stoker attempts to transcribe with precision. However, critics have argued that the author relies on stereotype more than accuracy in creating these characters’ dialogue. For example, in Chapter V Quincey’s proposal of marriage to Lucy comes across like a parody of language patterns found in the American South. It reads, “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 important character, Renfield, is introduced in this part of the novel. Renfield is the “zoöphagous” maniac under Dr. Seward’s care. The fact that Renfield consumes spiders, flies, and sparrows is a result of his belief that be eating these creatures, their lives are made part of his own, giving him new vitality and strength. This mirrors Count Dracula’s way of sustaining himself, and it highlights the attention Stoker pays to the relationship between human beings and beasts. In psychoanalytic theory, the wish to consume is a primal desire to make an object become part of one’s self and destroy the object at the same time.

Victorian society had a great deal of anxiety about primal urges such as these, hoping to keep them concealed beneath the veneer provided by polite conversation, art, and science. A significant reason for this was the publication of The Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) by Charles Darwin. Darwin presented an alarming challenge to belief in creationism, which had been an integral part of European culture for centuries. His theories also questioned the previously universally accepted idea of a hierarchy in which man ruled over beast. Darwin’s publications meant that humans no longer held the undisputed position of being the crown of creation. Rather, they were only one link in a great chain. While the final decades of the eighteenth century and initial decades of the nineteenth century had many scientific advancements, they were also characterized by a strong sense of discomfort with having to cast off old but comfortable ways of thinking. Renfield’s behavior must have caused a significant amount of shock among the novel’s original readers, as it serves as confirmation of the animalistic and perhaps even savage nature of human beings. In Renfield, we see proof that only a fine line separates beasts from even the most civilized human.

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