Dracula

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Dracula Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Seward's Diary. September 26. (continued). Seward accuses Van Helsing of madness, but Van Helsing counters that he tried, slowly, to convince Seward of the nature of what was occurring to Lucy—Van Helsing says, further, that Seward must trust him, that he (Van Helsing) has Lucy's best interests at heart, and that he simply wishes to protect London, and the children near Lucy's cemetery, from harm. Seward finally agrees to help the professor, and they visit one of the boys who was briefly taken by the "dark lady"—he has puncture wounds on his neck, indicating that he has been bitten by a vampire, and that some quantity of blood has been sucked from his veins.
Seward eventually comes around to Van Helsing's view, although some of Seward's complaints mimic those common to late-Victorian values—the idea that the dead must not be disturbed in their "sleep," and that to do so would be unchristian or somehow unethical. It is interesting to note that Arthur, too, shares these concerns, whereas Harker and Morris are more willing to believe Van Helsing immediately and to aid in the fight against Dracula without questioning Van Helsing's interpretation of events.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Van Helsing and Seward go to the cemetery that evening to check on Lucy's tomb (she has been interred in a mausoleum above-ground). They both go into the tomb, and Van Helsing pries open the casket thought to contain Lucy; it is empty, and though Van Helsing says this proves that Lucy walks the night as a vampire, Seward says that, quite easily, Lucy's body may simply have been stolen by a graverobber.
This scene might be noted for its similarity to the Biblical scene, depicted in the Gospels of the New Testament, of Jesus being looked for in his tomb on the third day after his death, and the tomb being empty. Some people in the area at that time thought Jesus' body, too, had been stolen by grave-robbers. Yet the echo in this case serves as a contrast—whereas Jesus had ascended to heaven, Lucy is not in the tomb because she is locked, undead, into her body.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
They leave the mausoleum but stay in the cemetery. Seward believes he sees a "white streak" in the cemetery, among the graves, and he and the Professor soon find that this "streak" has deposited a child nearby—the streak then disappears. Van Helsing and Seward help the child and place him in the view of a police officer, then leave the cemetery to regroup—they do not want to involve themselves with the authorities, as they fear the police will believe they seek to rob or damage Lucy's grave.
It is interesting to note that both Lucy and Dracula have an interest in the blood of small children (remembering that Dracula took a child back when Harker was at the Castle). Small children are probably easier to catch, and it might be that their blood, being young itself, is more potent for the undead. Alternatively, taking children as "prey" functions to further deepen the vampire's evil, and also captures the Victorian idea of contagion—that bad morals could affect those around you, affect the next generation.
Themes
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Seward's Diary. September 27. Van Helsing and Seward wait through the night, then visit the grave the next afternoon. Van Helsing shows Seward that Lucy, in her tomb no (and "asleep," since she can only be "active" at night) is Un-Dead, meaning that she lives as a vampire; her incisor teeth have grown long and pointy, and she appears not to be dead at all—only asleep. Seward seems to believe, now, that Lucy truly is a vampire, but Seward hesitates to agree to "truly kill" Lucy.
Although it is not explained how biologically it happens, it is nevertheless reported by many of the characters in the novel that, once someone becomes a vampire, their teeth lengthen in order to be able to bite the necks of unsuspecting victims. As Lucy gets sicker, and later as Mina does, too, their teeth lengthen in anticipation of their final undeadness.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
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Van Helsing says that, if he had his way, he would "truly kill" Lucy now—thus releasing her soul from vampire-dom. To do this, he would cut off Lucy's head and drive a wooden stake through her heart. Seward is appalled by this, and Van Helsing says that he must have Arthur present for this "release," since it will provide him a measure of closure, knowing that Lucy's illness was really vampirism, and that this grisly method of "true killing" is necessary to let her soul rise to heaven. Van Helsing and Seward thus leave the tomb for the night and head out to find Arthur, for the next day.
Van Helsing's interpersonal and psychological intelligence is here on display. He recognizes at once that Arthur will not believe his fiancée was truly afflicted with the form of vampirism, unless he sees it for himself. Further, Arthur might never forgive Van Helsing and Seward for their "barbarism" unless he knows that the "true killing" is necessary to free Lucy's soul and guarantee her time in Christian heaven, after death.
Themes
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Note left by Van Helsing, for Seward (undelivered). September 27. Van Helsing leaves Seward a brief note, saying that he is going to procure more garlic and communion wafers (the "host")—since vampires cannot cross boundaries lined with these materials. Van Helsing says that he has left this note in case he disappears, or is attacked by Lucy, while performing the rituals designed to keep Lucy in her tomb.
Again, the mechanism of the wafers is never explained, but it is presented as fact by Van Helsing—vampires cannot be near anything holy, meaning that the wafers, as symbolic embodiments of Christ, are too much for the vampires, who need shadow instead of light, fear instead of God's grace.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Seward's Diary. September 28. In a brief entry, Seward wonders whether Van Helsing is, in fact, mad—but Seward decides that it is right to follow his professor and mentor, since Van Helsing is, after all, one of Europe's most learned men of science.
For the first time, Seward wonders aloud if he, like Harker before him, is going crazy. But Seward decides that it is more important to trust Van Helsing than to worry about his own sanity.
Themes
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Seward's Diary. September 29. Morning. Van Helsing calls a meeting, in his hotel room, of Arthur, Morris (who is still in London), and Seward, in order to determine what must be done regarding Lucy in her tomb. Arthur begins the conversation by saying that he is willing to help the cause (not knowing anything of what Van Helsing intends), but he cannot violate any principles of gentlemanliness or Christianity. Van Helsing agrees, then proceeds to say that the men must enter Lucy's tomb and open her casket. At this, Arthur says Van Helsing is mad, and that his proposal is un-Christian.
Arthur's response is typical for gentlemen of this time, and as above, it mimics the response Seward has, when he hears what Van Helsing intends for Lucy's body. Victorian views of propriety extended through marriage into "life after death," and it was thought that, to disturb a body in this way, while entombed, was to disturb also the soul within that body, and the Christian memory of the person who used to inhabit that earthly frame.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Van Helsing counters by saying that Lucy is Un-Dead—a vampire herself, hovering between life and death, capable of moving only at night, when she feeds on the blood of the young and innocent. Van Helsing attempts to convince Arthur, by saying that he must be with them to free Lucy's soul, so that she might receive her Christian reward of an eternity spent in heaven. After a while, Arthur, still with strong reservations, agrees at least to accompany the men to the tomb, to see Lucy in her Un-Dead state.
It is important to note that, despite their reservations, all the characters, including Arthur and Seward, come around, eventually to Van Helsing's point of view, perhaps because they trust Van Helsing's learning, or are persuaded by his words. Or perhaps the characters merely realize that Van Helsing is their best hope in a world they are struggling to understand.
Themes
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon