Dracula Summary

Bram Stoker

Dracula

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Dracula Summary

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Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Told in epistolary form through a series of letters, diary entries, and other correspondence, it is considered one of the earliest works of vampire fiction, and it is the introduction of the iconic character of Count Dracula. Telling the story of Dracula’s attempt to leave Transylvania and come to England so he can feed more easily and spread his vampiric curse, it brings him into conflict with a group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Exploring classic themes of good and evil, Dracula also deals with the darker side of sexuality and romance and serves as an allegory for fear of immigration and “the other,” themes which remain relevant today. Although praised in its time, Dracula was not an immediate best-seller. However, it has since become one of the most influential books of all time. The characters and concepts within have been adapted too many times to count, inspiring movies, TV shows, video games, and stage productions. The title character has been portrayed by luminaries of stage and screen, perhaps most famously by Bela Lugosi in the classic 1931 Universal adaptation, and Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation.

Dracula takes place in the 1890s between May and November of an unspecified year. The novel begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly certified English solicitor, visiting Count Dracula in the Carpathian mountains to help him with a legal transaction. Although Harker is charmed by Dracula at first, he soon finds himself a prisoner. Wandering the castle against Dracula’s orders, he encounters a trio of female vampires. Although Dracula rescues him, Dracula soon abandons Harker to the sisters, and Harker barely escapes the castle with his life. Soon afterward, the Demeter, a Russian ship, runs aground in England. The captain’s log narrates the disappearance of the entire crew until only the captain remains. A large dog-like animal is seen leaping from the ship. It is revealed that the cargo is silver sand and fifty boxes of Earth from Transylvania, which Dracula intends to use to build lairs for himself in the UK and grant him refuge while feeding.

Dracula soon begins to stalk Lucy Westerna, a young woman vacationing in Whitby. She soon begins to suffer from sleepwalking and dementia, and her friend Mina Murray – the fiancee of Jonathan Harker – is worried about her. Lucy is weighing marriage proposals from three men, Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood. She accepts Holmwood’s proposal, but all three remain friends. Dracula, meanwhile, is communicating with one of Seward’s patients, a deranged man named Renfield who is obsessed with eating insects and rats. Renfield can sense Dracula and communicate information to him. Lucy begins to waste away mysteriously, and Seward asks his old teacher Abraham Van Helsing to investigate. Van Helsing instantly recognizes what’s going on, but refuses to tell Seward. While they attempt to keep Lucy alive with blood transfusions and protect her with charms of flowers and garlic, she continues to waste away. One night, Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf, and the older woman dies of fright. The next morning, it is revealed that Lucy removed her garlic charm and was bitten by something in the night. She dies, and Van Helsing attempts to keep her from being turned into a vampire with a golden cross. However, the cross is stolen by a servant.

After Lucy’s death, newspapers report children are being stalked by a woman in the night. Van Helsing knows it’s Lucy as a vampire and recruits Sward, Morris, and his friend Lord Godalming (the father of Holmwood) to hunt her down. They track down the vampire Lucy and dispatch her, destroying her body. Jonathan Harker returns from Budapest, and he and Mina get married. They soon join the fight against Dracula, meeting nightly at Dr. Seward’s residence. Mina turns out to be a born researcher, analyzing all the clues and journal entries. Van Helsing and Seward analyze Renfield’s behavior, while Jonathan tracks down the boxed graves from Transylvania. As they learn more about Dracula’s history and his plans, the men stage raids on his properties, fighting Dracula several times along the way. They pry open each grave they find and place sacramental bread in each one, rendering them useless to Dracula.

Dracula, seeking revenge for the destruction of his graves, targets Mina. He attacks her three times, forcing her to drink his blood to control her. This curses her with vampirism but doesn’t completely turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing attempts to cure her, but his attempts burn her with a scar from the sacramental wafer he uses. Although she is cursed, it allows her to sense Dracula’s presence and what he’s doing. Van Helsing can use hypnotism to put her into a trance and allow her to track his movements more effectively. They find out that Dracula has fled with the last box back to his castle in Transylvania. Mina uses her visions to guide them there, and they attack Dracula in his castle. Van Helsing raids the castle and destroys the vampire sisters, while Dracula attempts to escape in a caravan. The group ambushes him, and although Quincey is mortally wounded, he manages to stab Dracula in the heart. The Count crumbles to dust before Quincey succumbs to his wounds. Dracula’s death frees Mina from her curse, and her scar disappears as well. An epilogue has Harker telling of how he and Mina had a son, who they named after all their allies, but they call him Quincey.

Bram Stoker was a popular Gothic novelist who wrote twelve novels and three short story collections in his life, as well as multiple non-fiction books, although he is best known for Dracula, one of his earlier novels. In his time, he was better known for his work on the stage, where he worked as personal assistant to the famous English actor Henry Irving and later as business manager of the Lyceum Theatre. A strong activist for both Irish home rule and Ireland staying within the UK, he was a supporter of scientific advances at the time and often worked elements of scientific method into his writing. His influence, primarily through Dracula, persists to this day and he is honored with a street festival in Dublin each year.