Dracula

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Dracula Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jonathan Harker's Journal, May 3. Bistritz. Harker begins by narrating his journey up till this point (he is in Bistritz, in present-day Romania). He started out in Munich on May 1, then traveled by train to Budapest, in which he reports that Eastern and Western cultures blend together. He then takes a train to Klausenbergh (also present-day Romania), where he stops at a hotel and dines.
This begins a motif in the novel: as characters travel eastward across Europe, events tend to become more complex, strange, surreal, and occult; as they travel westward, events tend to become more easily parsed, rational, and comprehensible, all of which corresponds with a general idea popular at the time of Western Europe as being more civilized and rational than Eastern Europe.
Themes
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Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Before leaving London, Harker did research on the part of the world where Count Dracula lives, in his castle—it is a region known as Transylvania, in present-day eastern Romania, bordering Moldavia and Bukovina. Dracula is of the Szekelys race, whom Harker describes, in this journal, as being descended from Attila the Hun. Harker read, in London, that a great many superstitions are concentrated into this region—in other words, that the people of Transylvania maintain and still believe ardently in their ancient and medieval good-luck rituals.
Introduction in the novel of the idea of superstition, and its interaction with local religious beliefs and practices. Transylvania is a remote region, without much contact with the outside world (particularly at the end of the nineteenth century when the novel was written)—thus, its superstitions have developed in their own insular way, and though Transylvania has been "Christianized," it is also influenced by eastern ideas and local practices unknown to the English.
Themes
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Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Harker makes the morning train from Klausenbergh to Bistritz, but notes that it is running late, and that trains run later the farthest east one travels. From the train he spots the beautiful mountainous countryside, and groups of peasants: some resembling those in France and Germany, others, the Slovaks, seeming more "barbaric" than others, with long hair and mustaches.
Another reference to the perceived "barbarism" of the locals near Bistritz. Harker, at this point in the novel, is an agent of English economic and political power—a lawyer's assistant who wishes to do business with the Count. He soon realizes, however, that his relationship with the Count will extend beyond purely financial matters.
Themes
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Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
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Harker reaches the Golden Krone Hotel, recommended for him by Dracula, in Bistritz, which is connected to the Castle Dracula by a patch of difficult terrain called the Borgo Pass. At the hotel, Harker receives a telegram from Dracula, saying that, the next day, one carriage will take Harker from Bistritz to Bukovina, a midway stopping point; from there, Dracula will send a man to carry Harker from Bukovina through the Borgo Pass to Castle Dracula. Dracula wishes Harker a "happy stay" in his "beautiful land."
Harker must pass through a series of way stations in order to reach Dracula's castle. This makes explicit just how difficult-to-reach and remote the Count's castle is. Even in a land known for its large hills and rocky roads, Dracula's castle stands out as an especially hidden and mysterious place. Harker begins to notice just how isolated Dracula is from the rest of local society.
Themes
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May 4. That night, at the hotel, Harker asks his landlord and landlady, the owners of the hotel, if they can give him any information about the Count, but they only cross themselves and seem too afraid to speak of Dracula. Harker writes that this disturbs him somewhat.
Although the landlord and landlady do not have a very large part in the novel, they nonetheless serve an important purpose. At first, Harker dismisses their worries as the ramblings of uneducated peasants, but later, when he reaches Castle Dracula, he understands just how right they were to fear the Count.
Themes
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The next morning, before his departure, Harker reports that the landlady came to him and asked if he absolutely had to go to the castle; that Dracula is a dangerous man; and that the fourth of May is the eve of St. George's Day, a time when "all the evil things in the world have full sway." But Harker brushes off the woman's comments as mere superstitions of an old woman. The landlady gives Harker her cross to wear.
It is important to note that Harker takes the woman's crucifix, despite believing that the cross will do nothing. Harker thus has a kernel of "superstitious" belief himself, even as he discounts the "uneducated" thinking of those who argue that superstitions are real. Harker will come to believe, more and more, in the myths, legends, and occult truths surrounding Dracula and his family.
Themes
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Harker writes this entry while still wearing the woman's crucifix, which he finds somewhat idolatrous (since he is Anglican, and they do not put such an emphasis on religious adornments like crucifixes). He admits, in writing and to Mina, who appears to be his intended and lover, that he is beginning to have some reservations about his journey to meet Dracula.
This is the introduction of Mina, who is one of the characters to "glue" different aspects of the narrative together. Mina is Harker's correspondent in these early sections—she will help him recover from his later "illness"—and she will be the primary recorder and editor of the accounts of the hunting and capture of Dracula.
Themes
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May 5. The Castle. Harker writes this entry from Dracula's castle, which he has reached since his last entry. On the coach from Bistritz to Bukovina, which Harker takes with other Romanians, he notes that the locals are speaking of him in hushed tones, but he can only make out a few words of their various languages. He consults a "polyglot dictionary" he has on him, and realizes they are using words like "witch," "hell," "devil," and "vrolok," which means, Harker says, either werewolf or vampire. Harker resolves to ask Dracula about what these superstitions might mean. Some of the villagers also carry garlands of garlic and roses.
Harker has come to Transylvania prepared, in the way a civilized, rational, Western European would be prepared—he's brought a dictionary. Yet despite the fact that the dictionary lets him understand the words the peasants are saying, he doesn't understand their meaning—as illustrated by the fact that he is planning to ask Dracula what they are talking about, not realizing that they're talking about Dracula. Harker at this point sees the peasants as backwards people who the rich and supposedly more civilized Dracula will be able to explain to him.
Themes
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When Harker leaves the inn, he sees villagers gathering around the coach, crossing themselves—Harker asks a Romanian, in German, on the coach what this means, and the Romanian says it is a charm to ward off the "evil eye." Nevertheless, the coach begins on its way from Bistritz to Bukovina, and Harker describes the charming green landscape, sloping up to the large Carpathian mountains, in which Transylvania is nestled.
Another motif in the novel is the pure physical and geographic beauty of Transylvania. Harker—and the other characters, when they visit the Castle Dracula at the end of the novel—are wowed by the majestic scenery, the mountains, the green fields. This beauty juxtaposes with the ugliness and decay inside the Castle, but also emphasizes the sublime wildness of Eastern Europe in comparison to the tamed world of Western Europe.
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The road begins to get steeper, and they ride through the night in the carriage. When Harker steps down, during a brief stop, he is warned by the driver that he must not, since the dogs in this region are ravenous and dangerous to men. Harker then stays in the carriage, and they continue on, in the earliest part of the Borgo pass. The other villagers on the cart cross themselves and continue saying charms to ward off the evil eye.
The introduction of dogs, another recurring motif in the novel, which often presage violence or death, and are associated with Dracula. Again, note the difference between this land of wild, man-eating dogs and Western Europe where dogs are domesticated. Also note how Harker continues to notice but pay little heed to the villagers' superstitions.
Themes
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After driving quickly and stopping in the middle of the Pass, the driver turns to Harker and says that no one is coming for him tonight, and that Harker ought to continue in the carriage to the next town, with the other villagers. Just at this point, however, a "strange driver" arrives in a quickly-driven horse-drawn carriage of his own. This driver says he knows that the peasant-driver wanted to flee to Bukovina, and that he, the strange driver, "knows all." The strange driver is described by Harker as a tall man with a brown beard.
It appears that Harker's peasant driver wishes to save Harker from the Castle and from the "strange driver" who arrives just after. It is not clear whether the peasants in the first carriage know that the strange driver is, in fact, Dracula. The strange driver's comment about himself that he "knows all" hints at his occult knowledge which extends beyond the comprehension of Harker's reason.
Themes
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Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
One of the villagers on the first carriage whispers to another that "the dead travel fast"—the strange driver hears this and smiles, then asks for Harker's luggage, and with a swiftness and strength that shocks Harker, flings it into the carriage. Harker enters, and the strange driver tells Harker that he, the driver, has been instructed by the Count to take care of Harker, and to bring him quickly to the castle.
Again, a hint that the villagers appear to understand just who the strange driver actually is. The attitude of the villagers is one of quiet resignation—they believe they have warned Harker, sufficiently, of the dangers he faces, and now he must choose whether or not to see the Count. Yet Harker has always seen what the peasants know as mere superstition, and so does not understand what's going on.
Themes
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They continue quickly through the Borgo Pass, and Harker is scared at the sound of howling dogs and wolves, although the strange driver does not seem to notice these sounds. The air grows colder, and they increase in altitude. Harker remarks that the strange driver periodically jumps out of the carriage, quickly, and tends to small blue flames lining the edge of the roadway, by encircling the flames with stones. Harker can't be sure if he is dreaming this ritual of the blue flames, but when he looks at the driver, during one such instance of the ritual, it appears that the blue flame shines right through the driver's body. Harker dismisses this vision, however, as part of a dream on the long journey through the pass to the castle.
Harker's reason and civilized background made him unable to truly engage with or treat as serious the peasants superstitions. Now he is faced with an experience of truly occult events—mysterious blue flames shining through the driver's transparent body—and he can't allow himself to believe that it could be real, instead coming to the conclusion that it must have been the product of a dream. Western rational thought again dismisses the occult as something that couldn't possibly be real.
Themes
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As they continue on, Harker notices that the carriage is surrounded by a ring of wolves; Harker grows scared, but he notices that the strange driver has gotten out of the carriage and, after extending his (the driver's) arms and shouting in a loud voice, has driven away the wolves entirely—in fact, the wolves seem to obey the strange driver. Again, Harker is confused and unnerved by the bizarre events of the night, but he soon notices, again in a kind of half-sleep, that they are pulling into the ruined front portion of the old castle—the estate of Dracula.
Once again, wolves (like dogs) tend to be associated with death, decay, and the presence of Dracula. The wolves—dangerous to men—obey Dracula's commands. Harker's condition in the wagon, is one of half-sentience, almost like a kind of mesmeric trance. These sorts of trances will recur throughout the novel, and many characters, including Mina and Lucy, will experience them. The trances seem like a reaction of the Western rational mind to the deep truths of the occult that they can't understand.
Themes
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