Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, Dracula, is a Gothic epistolary novel. It is narrated in the form of various journal and diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and telegrams written by the protagonists. The setting of the novel is mostly Transylvania and England. Moreover, the plot of the novel contains various Gothic elements such as haunted setting, mysterious happenings, supernatural elements, frightening tone and damsel in distress.
The Beginning Of ‘Dracula‘
The novel begins with a business trip of a young English lawyer named Jonathan Harker. He is travelling to the Castle Dracula located in Transylvania to meet with a client of his firm, Count Dracula. Dracula is actually planning to immigrate to England. He, therefore, needs Harker’s help in purchasing an estate in England and negotiating all the legal matters.
As Harker reaches Transylvania and tells the local peasants about his destination as the Castle Dracula, they react with terror and warn him. Some of them also give him crucifixes and other charms against evils. Although their reaction extremely disturbs him, he is still determined to meet Count Dracula.
As per plan, Harker meets the count’s emissary and continues onward. But his journey to the castle is fearsome as their carriage is nearly attacked by the pack of angry wolves. At the end of his journey, Harker finds himself at the crumbling old castle covered in pitch darkness accompanying the ominous howling of wolves.
Dracula’s First Impression on Jonathan Harker
When Harker first meets Count Dracula he finds him charming, but at the same time pale, thin, and bloodless. Besides, he is also impressed by the Count’s politeness, intelligence and generosity.
After spending a few days in Castle Dracula, Harker realizes that Count Dracula is a strange man. He can discuss the business details with Dracula only at night because he is not available in daytime. Although he likes the food that is served to him, yet he never finds servants in the castle.
Harker is, in fact, fascinated with the eerie life of the castle. He starts taking notes in his diary about the happenings in Castle Dracula. Over time, he also learns about the Count’s ability to communicate with wolves. All these happenings begin to alert him. He is further terrified when, after accidentally getting a cut while shaving, Dracula suddenly lunges at his throat in almost ‘demonic fury’.
Harker’s Imprisonment In Castle Dracula
Moreover, during his explorations, Harker finds out that the castle is located high on a mountain top and there is no other exit than the main door, which is locked at all times. He soon comes to realize that he has become a prisoner in the castle and the Count is, indeed, a demonic being who survives only by drinking the human blood. One day, he will also kill him to drink his blood. Harker further learns the purpose behind Dracula’s intention of moving to London; he is now intending to prey on the innocent people of London.
Harker’s Encounter With Female Vampires (dracula’s Brides)
While attempting to further explore the castle, Jonathan Harker unfortunately encounters three female vampires (the brides of Dracula) who try to attack him. However, at the last minute Count Dracula appears and saves him. He dispels the female vampires away, whispering violently that Harker only belongs to him. Later on, Harker realizes that Dracula is only keeping him alive for the accomplishment of his real estate transaction.
Moreover, Harker also sees an enormous bat descending the walls of the castle, and he is sure that the creature is actually Count Dracula. The following morning, in his desperate attempt to escape, Harker finds an old chapel containing many coffin-like boxes. He opens one of them and is shocked to see Count Dracula lying in there, seemingly dead.
Later on, in the evening, when Harker finds Count Dracula in his normal condition, he asks for his release from the castle. The Count opens the door of the castle in a seemingly friendly manner as if he is willing for his departure, but suddenly a pack of angry wolves surrounds the doorway and the Count starts laughing frantically. Harker is now a helpless person.
Dracula’s Departure for England
Soon, Dracula departs for England along with fifty boxes of earth. But before going, he leaves Harker to die at the hands of three female vampires. Later on, Harker hardly manages to escape from the castle alive. After a series of shocking experiences with the vampires, he suffers a mental breakdown. He is unable to go back to England and, therefore, finds refuge at a convent in the countryside in Hungary.
Mina’s Visits to her Friend Lucy
The novel then shifts back to England, where Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray, visits her beautiful and charming friend Lucy Westenra. Mina has two main concerns. Firstly, she is so worried about Jonathan Harker as she hasn’t heard from him in so long. Her other concern is about Lucy who has taken up her old habit of sleepwalking.
On the other hand, Lucy is only thinking about the three marriage proposals she gets from her suitors on the same day. Her suitors are Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood and Dr. Seward. She tells Mina that she has accepted the proposal of Authur Holmwood, an English gentleman, while rejecting the proposals of Dr. John Seward, a head of a lunatic asylum, and Quincey Morris, an American. Although Lucy accepts Holmwood’s, but all remain friends.
The Mysterious Shipwreck
Meanwhile, Mina and Lucy decide to go on holiday together to a beautiful seaside town, Whitby. While they are in that town, a Russian ship named “The Demeter” shipwrecks on the shore near the town with all its crew missing and its captain dead. The only survivor is a huge dog who jumps from the wreck and disappears towards the countryside.
The ship was carrying silver sand and 50 boxes full of mold or earth from Castle Dracula. It’s quite mysterious that despite the shipwreck, the boxes are delivered as ordered. Later on, we learn that Dracula has purchased several estates all over London as “Count De Ville”. Moreover, he has distributed the boxes to all of them by either using transport services or moving them by himself. These boxes will serve as graves that would give him safety and allow him to rest while he is regaining his strength.
Lucy’s Falls Victim to Dracula
Soon after the shipwreck, Mina discovers that Lucy is sleepwalking again. One night, while searching for Lucy, Mina finds her unconscious near the graveyard overlooking the town. She is further shocked to see a tall, thin, black shape with glowing eyes bending over Lucy. But when she arrives at Lucy’s side the shape disappears. Mina also notices two small red marks on Lucy’s neck and assumes that she must have inadvertently pricked Lucy with a pin. When wakes up, Lucy doesn’t remember anything of what has happened with her.
After that, strange things start happening every night. Lucy seems to be losing blood, and getting weaker and paler. While no one knows where the blood’s going. Besides, she is often found standing at the bedroom window next to a bat. Her condition makes her fiancé, Arthur Holmwood, worried. While Dr. Seward, being unable to arrive at a satisfactory diagnosis, sends for his old mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, an Amsterdam specialist.
Jonathan Harker’s Discovery
Meanwhile, Mina learns that Jonathan Harker has been found and he is extremely sick with brain fever. He can’t remember anything of his stay in Transylvania. Mina leaves Lucy and goes to meet Harker. She nurses him back to health with the nuns’ help and marries him there. Harker gives Mina a diary but is too afraid to read it. Mina takes it and promises to never read it unless it is for Jonathan’s sake.
Professor Van Helsing’s Arrival
Back in England, Lucy is getting worse day by day. Professor Van Helsing has come to Whitby for Lucy’s treatment. He learns everything about her from the beginning. The two tiny spots on Lucy’s throat and her apparent but unexplainable loss of blood constantly disturb him, especially when there are no signs of hemorrhage. He gives her a number of blood transfusions, but all in vain.
Van Helsing soon realizes that there’s a vampire involved in Lucy’s case. Though he is a scientist and doctor, he is also well-versed in ancient superstitions and philosophy, so he knows what to do to kill vampires. He orders to drape Lucy’s room with garlic. Also, he gives her a few garlic flowers to wear them at night around her neck, a traditional charm against vampires. This effort seems to stave off Lucy’s illness for some time. She begins to recover gradually.
Unfortunately, Lucy’s mother, unaware of the garlic’s power, takes away the garlic flowers from her room considering that their smell might bother Lucy. This leaves Lucy vulnerable and soon Dracula attacks her again.
This time, despite giving her multiple blood transfusions and trying various charms on her, they’re not able to save Lucy, and she dies. But Professor Van Helsing knows she’s not really dead. She now belongs to the “Un-Dead”—in other words, she has been transformed into a vampire like Dracula.
Meanwhile, Van Helsing takes possession of Lucy’s diary which ultimately leads him to Mina Harker.
Van Helsing’s Meeting With the Harkers
Harker and Mina have come back to England. One day, while they are in London, Harker encounters the Count Dracula. Although he doesn’t remember the past clearly, he has a nervous attack and falls unconscious. When gets back to health, he can’t remember what is disturbing him. Perplexed by his behavior, Mina decides to read Harker’s diary about his Transylvanian expedition. She is terribly shocked to read the contents of the diary
When Van Helsing comes to visit Mina and interrogates about Lucy, she is so impressed by him and, therefore, gives him Jonathan’s diary. The contents of this diary finally fills up the missing links for Van Helsing. He now learns how Count Dracula came to England. After discussing the matter further with Harker, Professor Van Helsing begins concluding the vampire’s mystery.
Van Helsing Solves the Mystery
Van Helsing urgently calls all of Lucy’s ex-suitors together and tells them that Lucy had been bitten by a vampire. He further tells them that a vampire is a creature who survives on the human blood and breeds his kind by attacking innocent people in the throat and turning them into vampires as well.
Van Helsing further claims that the only way to save Lucy’s soul is to dig a stake through the heart of her corpse, chop off her head, and then stuff her mouth with a bunch of garlic flowers. Listening to this, they protest vehemently and remain unconvinced.
The Vampire Hunt
The following midnight they all break into Lucy’s tomb and find it empty. When they see Lucy preying on a defenseless child, it convinces them that she must be destroyed. So when they see her coming back on the following morning, they do what Van Helsing told them with Lucy’s dead body. Now the four men begin their search for Count Dracula and swear to destroy him soon. Mina and Harker also join them in their mission to destroy Count Dracula.
With the help of Harker’s diary and various journal entries that Dr. Seward and the others have written in an attempt to piece together a narrative, they all begin to track down Count Dracula.
Firstly, they decide to destroy the boxes that Dracula had brought with him from Transylvania. The boxes contain sterilized earth made sacred by his family, and he can only survive if he sleeps in them during the day. The group attempts to demolish the boxes so that Dracula has no means of regeneration.
Mina Falls Prey to Dracula
While the men go in search of the boxes, Mina has to hide in Dr. Seward’s office at the hospital. Everything seems to be going well, but then one of Dr. Seward’s mental patient, Renfield, lets Dracula into the asylum, thus allowing him to prey upon Mina secretly.
Van Helsing soon realizes the dreadful change taking place in Mina. One horrific night, the men burst into Mina’s room and find Jonathan unconscious. Further, they see Mina being forced to suck blood from a deep slash across Dracula’s chest. While Dracula disappears instantly.
The case is now extremely urgent—if they don’t destroy Dracula quickly, Mina will turn into a vampire like Lucy did. Van Helsing tries to bless Mina by various charms and prayers. He also places a sacramental wafer on her forehead, which burns her and leaves a bad scar. Mina is gradually recovering by his efforts.
When Mina gets better, they set to work again and finally discover and destroy all of the fifty boxes except one. The last box, they learn that, has been transported to Dracula’s castle by a group of gypsies.
Van Helsing uses various methods, including the hypnosis of Mina, to track Dracula’s location. The men split up and begin their hunt. Van Helsing and Mina go to Dracula’s castle to destroy the female vampires. Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood chase Dracula’s ship on the sea, while John Morris and Quincey Morris parallel them on land. They follow Count Dracula all the way to Transylvania, where they find the last remaining box being transported to Castle Dracula by a group of gypsies.
The End of Dracula
Together, they overcome the gypsies, throw the box to the ground, tear open its lid, and discover the body of Count Dracula. Harker immediately stabs Dracula through the throat, while Morris stabs the Count in the heart with his knife. Dracula crumbles into dust and thus ceases to exist. Finally, Mina is freed from her vampirism curse. But, unfortunately, Quincey Morris gets a mortal wound during the fight with gypsies and dies ultimately.
The novel ends with a note by Jonathan Harker seven years later stating the details of his married life with Mina and their son whom they named after Quincey. The book ends with little Quincy sitting on Van Helsing’s knee as they all recount Count Dracula’s story.