Summary and Response Bram Stoker’s story of Dracula is very popular and has been depicted in numerous films and other materials for years. It is therefore difficult to come to the book without any pre-conceived ideas about the plot. However, reading the book is vastly different from simply watching the movie. The book begins with the journal entries of Jonathan Harker, a British lawyer traveling through Transylvania in order to complete a deal for his employer with Count Dracula who resides deep within the Carpathian Mountains. His journal is so detailed because it is addressed to his fiancé Mina Murray, which is important to establish the rest of the book. During his travels, he gets several hints that he is heading into great danger, but he tries to talk these fears away, even after he meets his host, a very creepy man who has many of the characteristics we today recognize as being vampires. Harker becomes a prisoner of the castle and has many disturbing experiences. His entries end with his desperate plan of escape, knowing he is about to lose his soul to an evil creature or creatures. The story then picks up through a variety of communication forms – letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, etc. These more fully flesh out Mina and introduce the characters Lucy Westenra, John Seward (a physician at the lunatic asylum near Dracula’s new London home), Dutch doctor Van Helsing, the lunatic Rensing and a few other minor characters. Through these pieces of correspondence, the reader learns about the arrival of Dracula to Britain and the mysterious illness that befalls Lucy, eventually leading to her death by the end of Chapter 12, as she is treated by Seward and Van Helsing. Mina escapes Lucy’s fate in these chapters because she is called away to Buda Pest in order to help nurse Harker, who was found suffering from brain fever. She returns to England just in time to hear about Lucy’s death. Reading through these chapters was enlightening. Although I thought I knew the story, I had never realized the strange way that it is delivered, as a series of writings made by the characters themselves. This approach continuously reminded me to view the story from the characters’ perspectives rather than my own. When I was reading about the warnings of the villagers and the description of Dracula, my own experience told me the character is obviously a vampire and Harker is already trapped. Looking at it from the character’s perspective though, I suddenly realized that everything I think I know about vampires actually came from this book. Of course the character would not have heard about them before now and would not recognize one! The same effect happens when Dracula arrives in England and no one knows it. I know what’s going on because my society has been so focused on the ideas of vampires that I know they can shape shift into a wolf or a bat or fog, I know they need to feed every couple of days and I know that the boxes of dirt are essential to Dracula’s survival. But because the story is being told through letters, journals and newspaper articles, I am still constantly reminded that no one in England has ever had direct experience of vampires. I automatically put more faith in Van Helsing just because he is able to see beyond the basics of known medicine to recognize the signs of mythology when he’s confronted with them. That his treatment seems to work when it is put into practice and fails miserably when interfered with helps build the other characters’ confidence in him. Meanwhile, Renfield provides us with an idea of why the vampire does what he does and Mina brings Jonathan home to add to the knowledge base.
Dracula chapter 112