The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, visits Count Dracula in Transylvania. He finds death’s aura and aroma surrounding Dracula. Harker is attacked by three female vampires, who are warded off by Dracula. Harker is his; they are given a baby to feed on. When Harker demands to be released, Dracula obliges, but a pack of wolves surrounds the castle entrance. The next day, Harker awakes, weak and sick, with a wound on his throat. Dracula leaves Harker at the castle as a prisoner.
In England, Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray, visits her friend, Lucy Westenra, a “New Woman” who plans to marry nobleman Arthur Holmwood. During Mina’s visit, a ship runs aground in Whitby. The only living creature aboard is a gray wolf, which escapes into the countryside.
Lucy begins to sleepwalk. Mina follows her and sees a tall, thin man bending over Lucy in a churchyard. The man disappears when Mina approaches. Lucy grows so ill that Mina is forced to call Dr. Seward, Lucy’s former suitor. While Lucy improves, Mina receives word that Harker, who had been reported missing, has been found near Budapest. Mina goes there and marries Harker.
Lucy’s condition worsens, and Seward calls Dr. Van Helsing from Amsterdam. Van Helsing notices two puncture wounds on Lucy’s throat. Lucy is given transfusions directly from the men, who guard her by night. Seward falls asleep while guarding Lucy and finds her more ill when he awakes. More transfusions...
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Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Dracula takes the form of a series of documents, most of them extracted from diaries and journals, the remainder being letters and a handful of press cuttings. The early chapters, from Jonathan Harker’s journal, record his journey to the Carpathian mountain region of Transylvania and his meeting with Count Dracula, who wishes to purchase the Carfax estate at Purfleet near London. Once the papers are signed, Jonathan finds that he is a prisoner. He discovers that the count has supernatural powers and nearly falls victim to three female vampires, but he manages to escape.
The next few chapters introduce Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray, who is becoming anxious for his safety, and her friend Lucy Westenra, who has received three proposals of marriage: from Dr. John Seward, from his American friend Quincey P. Morris, and from Arthur Holmwood. Seward is the proprietor of a lunatic asylum situated at the edge of the Carfax estate; the earliest entries from his diary inserted into the text concern the eccentric carnivorous activities of a patient named Renfield, who is awaiting the advent of his “Master.”
Mina collects some press cuttings dealing with the arrival of a sinister deserted ship in Whitby, where she and Lucy are staying. Shortly thereafter, Lucy begins to act strangely. She falls ill and must be returned to Dr. Seward’s care. Mina is buoyed up, however, by news from Budapest that Jonathan is alive, although stricken...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Castle Dracula. Ancestral home of Count Dracula in Transylvania that is visited by the English estate agent Jonathan Harker at the beginning of the novel. The gate of admittance to the unearthly horrors that are to come, Castle Dracula is the catalyst for the forces of evil in the novel and the place where the young solicitor sent to transact business with the count encounters things worse than any death. An avatar for the loneliness of terror, the castle, “from whose tall black windows came no ray of light,” also becomes the setting for one of the most seductive scenes in the novel—Harker’s encounter with the three vampire “sisters.”
Almost everything that happens at Castle Dracula is chilling or unnaturally suspenseful. What seem to be ordinary circumstances gradually begin slipping into the realm of nightmare, and by the time Dracula leaves his home for England, the castle has already worked its spell, setting the stage for the unholy dread that is then unleashed.
Modeled on Prince Vlad Dracula’s real castle (located in Romania), Castle Dracula is eerily like its historical counterpart although the partially restored ruins are actually quite far from Stoker’s conceptualized fortress. It is to Stoker’s credit that Castle Dracula’s haunting spectral form retains its extraordinarily powerful aura both at the novel’s beginning and again at the end.
*Whitby. Picturesque Yorkshire fishing port off the coast of northern England and the setting of Count Dracula’s dramatic arrival in Great Britain. It is here, in fact, that the Russian schooner Demeter runs ashore—its captain dead at the mast—with a horrid account in its log of the crew’s disappearance at the hands of a fiend, and it is here that a few nights later, Mina Murray (Harker’s fiancé) rescues her sleepwalking friend, Lucy Westenra (Dracula’s first victim), in the local churchyard. With its naïve charm symbolically mirroring the girlish innocence of the two young women, Whitby represents the perfect location for the unsuspecting intrusion of evil.
Hillingham. Westenra family mansion in London. This house does not appear to have been modeled on a real location but may be a composite based on Stoker’s own residence at Cheyne Walk. This is the scene of Lucy’s continued agony at the hands of Dracula after she returns home from Whitby, and it is where the reader is first introduced to Professor Van Helsing, the doctor-philosopher-scientist-metaphysician who later becomes the acknowledged leader and mentor of the group in its relentless pursuit of Dracula. Hillingham not only witnesses the pathetic death of Lucy—despite the countless transfusions she is...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Carter, Margaret L., ed. Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1988. Part of the Studies in Speculative Fiction series, this work examines some of the major critical interpretations of Dracula.
Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula, the Novel and the Legend: A Study of Bram Stoker’s Gothic Masterpiece. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1985. An excellent critical study, which offers interpretation of perspectives in Dracula including sexual symbolism, religious themes, occult and literary myth, and political and social allegory.
Roth, Phyllis A. Bram...
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