Dracula Ch. 15-17: Van Helsing’s Boy Band

This post contains spoilers through Chapter 17 of Dracula.

These chapters are really going for it. I just…I have…there’s so many…

Okay let’s start with something easy, like: BODY-SNATCHING!

No wait, not that kind of body-snatching.

But seriously, even though it’s a valid reason for Lucy’s body to be absent from her grave, I LOVE that Seward is the first one to suggest it (235). I found some interesting links about Victorian body-snatchers, if you’re interested. It really was the best way for a Victorian medical student to learn anatomy. Headcanon: Seward was a body-snatcher when he was in medical school. He knows all about how to do it. He was the best body-snatcher in his class. His classmates always went to him for advice on sneaking into graveyards or picking locks.

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I think it’s really interesting that the pediatrician they visit suggests the idea that a vampire bat may be to blame (232). Why didn’t Van Helsing bring up at least the bat theory before he mentions it to Seward in Chapter 14? It would at least have got Seward thinking in the right direction. On the one hand, it makes me CRAZY that Van Helsing doesn’t tell everyone from the get-go that they’re dealing with vampires. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have believed him. On the third hand, he could have said it was a vampire bat and that would at least have helped him get people to watch Lucy constantly, keep windows and doors closed, keep garlic around her, etc. ARGH.

I don’t really understand the rules for vampirism in this book, to be honest. But I think it’s really interesting that because Lucy died while she was sleeping, she is different from other vampires in that during the day she really does look like she’s a sleeping human rather than a soulless monster (239). Also I don’t understand how she can be a soulless monster but also tainting the original Lucy’s soul (necessitating the boys to “cleanse” her via staking, which, okay, YIKES).

I also don’t know how Van Helsing’s use of the Host and his indulgence really makes sense (249). There’s a good (and vaguely spoilery) blog post about it here (thanks to gamedevftw for the link). If anyone else has helpful information, I’d be interested.

I like how Van Helsing is SO READY to kill the vampire, when he and Seward go to Lucy’s tomb and find her in it, and then he’s like “oh wait, Arthur’s feeeeeelings” (240). Like, haven’t you put a lot of thought into this already, since you’ve already waited SO LONG since Lucy died? She’s wandering around preying on kids and you’re just now getting around to the staking and – whoops! Don’t have my crew with me! To be fair, Arthur IS having a terrible year. At least Quincey is around to keep him laughing with “Americanisms” and whatnot. Quincey seems like almost a redundant character at this point – what is his narrative function? DISCUSS. You have Seward and Arthur already as Lucy’s suitors, Seward is the rejected one and Arthur is the accepted one, Seward has plot-relevant skills and such…..Quincey’s just a hired gun.

There are a lot of gruesome and/or scary scenes in these chapters but I’m not sure what to say about them. Lucy throwing the small child onto the ground  “with a careless motion” (251) is the most chilling for me personally.

I love how this book includes letters that were not read by their original recipients at the time they were written: e.g. Mina’s last letters to Lucy and Van Helsing’s “if you’re reading this I’m dead” letter to Seward. It makes the fictional documents format of the book really interesting and purposeful and realistic; you can picture the characters putting together the documents afterward and slipping the “unread” ones in.

“Mina and I have worked all day, and we have put all the papers in order” (270).

The Harkers: DATA ANALYSIS DREAM TEAM! I’m really happy that the whole (?) team is together now. Seward and Mina’s scenes crack me up, from Seward’s thought of “I must be careful not to frighten her” (260) to Mina nerding out over Seward’s phonograph (261) to Seward’s realization that he has NO idea how to use his phonograph diary as a reference tool (262). I look forward to more of their dynamic. I’m glad Jonathan is able to show his skills now that he’s recovered, from hunting down Dracula’s mysterious boxes to collating data to just standing around looking pretty. Wait. Um. Yeah.

Harkers ftw.

“The world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it” (265).

Dracula Ch. 10-14: Science is (un)Dead

This week on Dracula: we learn, once again, that COMMUNICATION IS SUPER IMPORTANT.

I don’t know why it’s so difficult.

Communication as power is a huge theme in this book, intentionally or not. Keeping people ignorant is a terrible idea especially when there are vampires out to get you – Lucy’s mom agrees with me, I’m sure of it! Like, I understand that Van Helsing is struggling with other people’s inability to believe in blood-sucking monsters, but GOOD. GRIEF. All of the dudes keeping Lucy and her mom in the dark about everything, Van Helsing and Seward trying to keep Arthur in the dark about Lucy, Mina and Jonathan trying to stay in the dark about whatever happened to Jonathan….UGH. JUST. COMPARE NOTES ALREADY.

Renfield is the only other dude besides Van Helsing who knows what’s up (“the blood is the life; the blood is the life!” (170) and he’s insane, and as we all know you can’t trust insane people. Right, Seward?

“I am beginning to wonder if my long habit of life amongst the insane is beginning to tell upon my own brain” (163).

The incredibly detailed interview with the zookeeper is super random, but also, why would you name your gentle loveable captive wolf “Bersicker” (164)? I’m not picking up what you’re putting down, zookeeper. I presume that the wolf that escaped from the zoo is the same wolf that breaks through Lucy’s window and allows Dracula to get in to her. But then Lucy talks about dust floating around in the room and it’s mesmerizing (174), just like Jonathan with the dust that turned into the vamp-ladies, and it seems like if Dracula could shape-shift into dust he could just dust himself through a closed window??? DISCUSS?

But to be honest, Lucy’s diary entry at the end of chapter 11 is one of the more terrifying parts of this book for me. It’s so claustrophobic and helpless-feeling: even though she’s in a house (in the middle of town?) with her mom and a bunch of servants they’re all trapped and essentially at Dracula’s mercy. I don’t know, was it scary for anyone else? Or was there another part that was scarier for you?

Ok but picture this:

you and your doctor bro are bustling around trying to save this girl you have a huuuuge crush on and you’re like “bro we need more blood” and suddenly you realize your American gunslinging bro has been sitting behind you on the sofa the whole time (179).

Me to Quincey Morris.

I don’t have a point to this, I’m just amazing Quincey doesn’t have an attack of the hysterics or something since the girl he likes is dying and stuff. He’s just…sitting there. Creepin.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing has his priorities straight:

“You’re a man, and no mistake. Well, the devil may work against us for all he’s worth, but God sends us men when we want them.”
182 Quincey knows about vampire bats and yet no one has a brain
183 Lucy tearing the paper up is also terrifying
185 “I love you with all the moods and tenses of the verb” mina/lucy 4evah

And sometimes when we don’t want them, to be honest.

I’m trying to stay focused, here, but there is just so much WEIRD STUFF in these chapters, friends! Let’s list a few real quick:

  • There’s a really good Renfield joke to be made here about how the older generation characters are dropping like flies, but I can’t quite manage it. Seriously, though: Lucy’s mom, Arthur’s dad, Jonathan’s boss, all in a couple of chapters. Van Helsing is lucky his grey hair hasn’t killed him yet.
  • There’s Van Helsing’s surprisingly pro-American comment on Quincey Morris: “If America can go on breeding men like that, she will be a power in the world indeed” (207)
  • There’s Arthur’s claim  DURING LUCY’S FUNERAL that he’s totally married to Lucy now because they exchanged fluids (208) and Seward/Morris/Van Helsing probably all die a little inside
  • Van Helsing has an attack of the hysterics (208) but in a manly way I guess??? Seward’s comments on that are wild. Apparently you can lecture women right out of their hysterics, but men cling to their hysterics hard.
  • Ellen Terry name-drop, who was apparently a friend of Bram Stoker’s
  • Bizarre Twilight reference, ahoy: “I am daze, I am dazzle” (219). Are you sure Stephenie Meyer didn’t read this before writing Twilight?

I have two favorite scenes in these chapters.

Number one is when Mina and Van Helsing first meet. I absolutely love how she demurely hands him her notes, doubting if little ol’ me could possibly be of help to a brilliant physician – and then he can’t read shorthand. Of course, Stoker ruins it by making her reference Eve because Stoker hates fun:

“I could not resist the temptation of mystifying him a bit—I suppose it is some of the taste of the original apple that remains still in our mouths” (218).

That apple was delicious, okay.

My other favorite scene is the conversation between Van Helsing and Seward at the end of Chapter 14. Van Helsing completely tears apart Seward’s scientific empiricism and I’m here for it:

“Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain” (227).


“He meant that we should have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of a big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him; but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe” (229).

Whew! That’s all I got for this week!

But then again “Truly there is no such thing as finality” (225), so here’s some last facts:

Jonathon Harker makes a judgement of Van Helsing’s personality based on his eyebrows and Van Helsing mentions physiognomy. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically the study of human faces and how the way you look means you behave or think a certain way. Victorians loved it because it gives your racism some pseudo-scientific backing. Here are a couple of links.

There are a couple of references in these chapters to contemporary poems, and they’re both PRETTY EFFING DARK but enjoy:

Death-bed” by Thomas Hood (short and what it says on the can)
The Giaour” by Lord Byron (long and includes vampires)