Dracula

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Dracula Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Seward's Diary. September 30. Seward reports that Mina asks to meet with Renfield at the insane asylum, since Mina, too, believes there to be a link between Renfield and the Count, next-door at Renfield. When Mina goes to him, accompanied by Seward and Van Helsing, Renfield appears to act quite sane, and repudiates his previous "madness," saying that he (Renfield) once believed he could acquire life-force from eating live animals, but now, he understands, rationally, that this cannot be done.
What is not clear, in this section, is whether Renfield is truly "cured" or whether he is so far advanced in his insanity that he is capable of mimicking the behavior of a well person. The other option, the third, is that Renfield is neither ill nor sane, but rather under Dracula's spell, and Dracula himself is asking that Renfield be released, using Renfield as a kind of puppet.
Themes
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Mina finds Renfield somewhat rational, but Seward believes that Renfield is only hiding his madness—or only appearing to repudiate his illness in order to disguise the influence Dracula has over him. Mina and the others leave Renfield, and Mina finishes the typing up of the documents related to Dracula—in effect "finishing" the account of Dracula up till this point in the novel.
Now all the characters are caught up on all the activities of the other characters in relation to the Dracula problem. This presents a strange reality in the novel—that there is now no gap in knowledge among the protagonists. This is not a normal state of "information awareness" in a novel, as usually some characters know a great deal more about given events than others.
Themes
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Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Mina's Journal. September 30. Van Helsing calls a meeting of the "group": Seward, his "first mate," Mina, Jonathan, Arthur, and Morris. Van Helsing begins this "meeting" by going over, briefly, Dracula's history, and the nature of his vampirism. Vampires can do the following: they possess the strength of many men; they can marshal the forces of wind, thunder, and rain; they can command rats, bats, wolves, foxes, and other "lower" animals; and they must suck the blood of the living in order to survive.
Van Helsing finally takes the time to go through the basic blueprint for vampire behavior. It seems that Dracula is the chief among this group of vampires, and that others like the Three Sisters must obey him. Dracula's history, too, is simply Dracula's own long life, rather than the history of his family, since Dracula can live a very long time, feeding on the blood of the innocent.
Themes
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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
But Van Helsing tells the group, too, that Dracula can be defeated—his thoughts are the thoughts of a "child-brain," although he is quite strong—it is difficult for Dracula to make and maintain complex plans of attack. Dracula can only enter a space once invited by the victim whose blood he wishes to take. Dracula can operate only at night, between dusk and dawn. And Dracula can be stopped by crucifixes, garlic, and the holy host.
Conveniently, however, Dracula can be defeated easily, so long as the group follows the simple rules of vampire hunting that Van Helsing here lays out. In essence, what Van Helsing is doing here is taking a scientific, methodical approach and combining it with an openness to the occult.
Themes
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Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
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Van Helsing goes on to say that Dracula has no reflection—as observed by Harker—and can slip through difficult spaces once invited into them, as Lucy did while entering her own tomb (once the garlic-and-host were removed). Van Helsing says that a comparative review of the superstitions and traditions of various eastern and western European countries reveals a common mythological understanding of the reality of vampires.
Again, the scientific basis for Dracula's lack of reflection is never explained, but it seems that having a reflection, in this account, is related to having a soul, and because Dracula's soul is trapped inside his body, this soul cannot be shown back to him in a mirror. This is an extension of an ancient legend in medieval Europe related to the "nonreflectiveness" of all demoniac figures.
Themes
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Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
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Van Helsing also states that Dracula has lived an immensely long time, and that Dracula himself fought in the battles he claimed to have involved his "ancestors" in the Middle Ages. Van Helsing adds that Dracula can be defeated—i.e., released from his vampirism—with a sacred bullet shot into his casket; with a wooden stake in the heart; or by having his head cut off. Rose bushes may also be laid on his casket to prevent him from entering or exiting it.
Now Van Helsing lays out exactly how Dracula will be killed, when that killing is possible. The readers of the novel probably have very little doubt as to the ultimate conclusion of the tale—that Dracula will be defeated—and yet it is the hunt for Dracula that provides a good deal of suspense nonetheless.
Themes
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Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
Romantic Love, Seduction, and Sexual Purity Theme Icon
Life, Death, and the Un-Dead Theme Icon
Morris, after this speech, walks outside and tries to shoot a bat which has flown around the house—he misses, but this reminds Van Helsing that the Count could be near them at any moment, in the form of a bat or rat. Van Helsing goes on to add that the group's goal is twofold: they must find and neutralize the fifty wooden boxes, through a method Van Helsing will demonstrate, in order to keep Dracula from repairing to those boxes to rest during the day; and once all these safe-havens for Dracula are destroyed, the group must find Dracula himself and free him from his vampirism, using one of the methods above. The group agrees to put this plan in motion, starting the next day.
It is unclear whether Morris senses that this bat might be Dracula himself, or whether Morris simply believes the bat to be a pest and a nuisance, something that he should shoot as he would have done back in the old days of his youth in Texas. But Van Helsing and Seward realize that this bat is in fact a physical manifestation of the Count, meaning that the group must waste no time in eliminating his boxes and freeing his soul, lest they all be targeted by Dracula and turned into vampires themselves.
Themes
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Seward's Diary. October 1. 4 a.m. Early that next morning, however Seward is called to see Renfield by one of the asylum's orderlies—Renfield has asked to speak with Seward, Van Helsing, and the rest of the group. When they go down to see Seward, they realize that his reason has been completely restored—or at least it appears this way. It turns out that Renfield knows a friend of Arthur's father—and Renfield, in turn, discusses Van Helsing's scientific achievements, making it evident that he has researched the personal histories of all members of the group.
Renfield, in this section, makes a final appeal to Seward. It is interesting to note that this appeal takes place as a kind of "chat" between gentlemen, as it is implied that Renfield himself is of upper-class stock. Seward is willing to listen to Renfield for this reason, but of course, in the end, Seward does not free Renfield in accordance with the patient's wishes, and this spells final doom for the patient, at the hands of Dracula.
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The group, after this speech of Renfield's, believes that he is sane, and is poised to accede to his request—that Renfield be permitted to leave the asylum at once, and to go far away as a free man. Seward, however, worries that Renfield is again only feigning his rationality, as a means either of getting closer to Dracula or of wreaking other havoc in London. Seward tells Renfield that he cannot support Renfield's release. Renfield responds that Seward can throw him in jail, or do anything to him so long as Renfield is not kept in the asylum near Carfax and Dracula.
Seward seems to place a great deal of faith in Renfield's ability to dissemble his true emotional state—to pretend that he is in fact sane, when in reality he is still not well psychologically. Renfield's desperation here is quite affecting, and it makes his death a little later on all the more tragic, in the sense that it could have been prevented, if only Seward could have seen the link between Dracula and Renfield more clearly.
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But Seward ultimately decides to keep Renfield in the asylum. Renfield appears to understand Seward's hesitation, but he asks ominously, to close the chapter, that Seward and the rest of the group remember that Renfield did "everything he could" to convince Seward he had to be far away from Dracula. Renfield implies that, if anything bad is to happen to him in the near future, Seward has kept Renfield from running away and protecting himself.
Renfield's words, that he has begged Seward with all his heart to be removed from the asylum, are intended to weigh heavily on Seward, and in fact they do, when Seward realizes that he is partly, by neglect, responsible for Renfield's death. But Van Helsing will later cheer Seward up by reminding Seward that he has an obligation to keep the whole group safe, not just one insane man, his possibly-dangerous patient Renfield.
Themes
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Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon
Christianity, Science, and the Occult Theme Icon
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