Dracula

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Dracula Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cutting from "The Dailygraph," August 8. (Pasted in Mina's Journal). Mina includes this article from the Whitby newspaper, describing the strange storm of August 8, and the beavhior of a ship entering the Whitby harbor—the same ship seen by Mina and the coast-guardsman earlier that day. The day was, at first, gray and silent, then a tempest ripped over the harbor, then a mist fell, obscuring most of one's sight of boats entering.
The inclusion of news reports is a device often associated with "modernist" and "postmodern" novels—that a narrative might be crafted out of the found materials encountered in the narrative by the characters themselves. Thus the account that Mina assembles, with her clippings, is the account the reader reads.
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Suddenly, the Russian schooner-ship is spotted running very quickly into the harbor, being steered erratically, but with sails set in fixed position. The Russian ship runs directly into the sandy shoal of the harbor, rocking the boat (but not destroying it); those gathered nearby find that a dead man has been lashed to the steering-wheel of the vessel. Just after the boat hits the shoal, a large dog bounds off its decks and runs away into Whitby. The dog is not found or caught.
A macabre and grisly scene—one of the most grisly in the novel. That a dead man might be lashed to his vessel and still steer it into port perhaps pushes beyond the reader's belief, but nevertheless Stoker succeeds, in this section, in crafting a genuinely scary and affecting tale of horror and suspense, even though the reader understands that Dracula is probably to blame.
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When members of the coast guard inspect the boat, they find only one man aboard, the captain lashed to the wheel—they realize he is holding a crucifix, and that he has tied himself down by his own power. The storm and mist pass as the boat stops as the harbor, but the authorities are perplexed by the strange and macabre scene.
The idea that the reader knows something the characters in the novel do not is called "dramatic irony." Here, the reader figures that Dracula is likely aboard the vessel, but Mina is not aware of Dracula's abilities as of yet, and so is unaware of his possible presence.
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Mina's Journal. August 9. Mina reports that the Russian schooner came from Varna, a port in what is now Bulgaria, near Transylvania, and that it contained a large number of wooden boxes, filled with earth, and no other significant cargo. The boxes were given over to a man named Billington, a solicitor in Whitby. Attempts were made by the animal humane society in Whitby to find the large dog that leapt from the boat, but he could not be located. Another dog was found dead, later that day, perhaps killed by the escaped dog; the other dog's throat appeared to have been ripped out.
Again, the motif of the dog recurs, and by this point the reader has been conditioned to associate these dogs with Dracula, as creatures that tend to presage his arrival, and to signal that something terrible is in the offing. As of yet, and as above, Mina does not know to associate dogs with Dracula, and so she wonders how it could be that the dog could leap from the boat and totally elude all those who wished to capture it, in the small town of Whitby.
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Mina is permitted by a harbor official to look over the logbooks of the ship, known as the Demeter; she is also permitted to read over a log found in a bottle lashed to the dead man's hands. Mina includes the account of this second log in her journal.
Mina seems more than eager to solve the mystery of the ship, and she notes down the particulars of its strange journey. Although Mina does not yet know that this ship, Lucy's illness, and Harker's stay at the Castle are related, she nevertheless wishes to document "everything" she sees and hears.
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Captain's Log of the Schooner Demeter. The Demeter set sail from Varna, in Bulgaria, on the 6th of July. No significant incidents were reported for the first two weeks of the ship's journey, as it passed through the Bosporus and Dardanelles, and into the Mediterranean Sea. On the 16th of July, men began fearing that "something" was aboard the ship, that it was disturbing their rest and comfort, and that it appeared to be some kind of ill omen, a living evil spirit assuming the shape of a man.
Although the reader knows that this strange disturbance, and the man not included in the ship's logs, is probably Dracula, that knowledge nevertheless does little to drain the suspense of this section, which owes a good deal of its power to the first-person narration of the ship journal. Stoker uses the first-person account throughout the novel to increase the characters', and readers', terror.
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On the 17th of July, a crew member reports a tall, thin man is living on the ship, though he is not included in the crew logs. The captain vows to looks for the thin man, but cannot find him, nor can any other member of the crew.
The ‘thin man' is also a common term, in West European legend dating back to the Middle Ages, for the devil, or for humans in league with the devil—as Dracula might be considered to be.
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Over the next week, men begin to be "lost" on the ship—the captain assumes they are jumping overboard, or being pulled over in the foul weather that besets the ship as it enters the Atlantic Ocean. Between July 24th and August 3rd, more men disappear, and the captain realizes that the ship has been enveloped in a thick fog, one that follows the ship as it travels northward.
Whatever is on the ship, it is certainly frightening enough to cause hardened sailors to risk their own lives by leaping overboard. Sailors, like the villagers of Transylvania, are known for being particularly superstitious, and clearly the presence of the "thin man" has stoked their fears aboard the Demeter.
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By August 3rd, it is only the captain, the mate, and the "thin man" aboard, although the captain still has seen no sign of the latter. The captain takes over steering the ship from the mate, who goes under the deck, and hears the mate, later, in the hold, with the large boxes of earth. The mate screams once and then falls silent. The captain wonders if the mate has survived, if the thin man is real, and if he will ever get the ship to England.
The captain seems prepared to follow the old sailing maxim, that the captain "go down with his ship." Although the captain is obviously afraid of the thin man, he seems, also, to be concerned about the precious cargo the boat is delivering to England—cargo that ends up being the wooden boxes used as safe havens for Dracula.
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The captain realizes that the mate, too, has jumped overboard after his screaming fit down in the hold; the fog around the ship grows even thicker, as the ship approaches England's coast. In his last log entry, on the 4th of August, the captain says that he must go down with the ship, that he will lash himself to the vessel in order to steer it to port, and that, if he dies, at least he will have died like a man. The log ends.
This final scene, wherein the captain ties himself to the wheel and sets the ship on course to land at the harbor, is one of the novel's more jarring and shocking, and is notable only for its implied presence of Dracula, rather than explicit description thereof. Some of the novel's most suspenseful scenes indeed involve only the hint of Dracula and his evil.
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Mina adds to the bottom of the account, in her journal, that it is unclear who this "thin man" might be, and that the ship's fate might remain another "mystery of the sea." But the town of Whitby is atwitter with the strange goings-on of the ship and the harbor.
Of course, this "mystery" will be gradually unraveled, along with the mystery of Renfield and of Lucy's illness—Dracula is at the center of all these intrigues.
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Mina's Journal. August 8. Mina returns to an entry dated before the arrival of the Demeter in the Whitby harbor. Mina reports that Lucy, still, is sleepwalking, and that Lucy's desire to sleepwalk seemed to increase the night of the terrible storm that brought the Demeter into the harbor. Mina wonders whether Jonathan is returning to England by sea or by land, and if he is safe.
It is not clear whether Lucy's sleepwalking predated Dracula's arrival by coincidence, or whether Dracula's arrival "activated" something within her, causing her to sleepwalk. In either case, Dracula soon takes advantage of Lucy's "hypnotized" state, outside, in the cemetery.
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Mina's Journal. August 10. Lucy and Mina attend the funeral service of the captain of the Demeter, held in the cemetery high in the rocks where Lucy and Mina used to talk to Swales. Mina reports, with fright, that Swales was found dead, in the cemetery, just before the captain's funeral; Swales' neck had been broken, and he had a look of fear in his face. Mina also says that dogs near the captain's funeral appear frighten by some kind of unseen spirit, although Mina is not sure what that might be.
Again, some of the most horrifying of the events of the novel tend to happen "off-stage," and are only described by characters, rather than experienced by them. Here, Swales has died, probably of fright or shock, and Lucy and Mina only hear, later, about the look of extreme horror that was frozen on his face.
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Mina reports, also, that Lucy appears to be troubled by strange dreams, although Lucy will not say what these dreams are about, nor will she admit that the dreams, or her constant sleepwalking, are serious conditions.
Strange dreams appear to presage a "meeting" or involvement with Dracula—Lucy, Mina, and Renfield all experience them at some point in the novel. Dreams are subconscious and non-rational, and there is a sense in the novel that the "civilized", rational characters are vulnerable at that level.
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