Dracula

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Blood Symbol Analysis

Blood Symbol Icon
One of the foremost colors in the novel is red, and perhaps the novel's most arresting image is that of blood. Dracula, of course, must feed on the blood of the living to survive—it is the "life-power" of one's blood that enables him to live for long periods of time. Dracula draws blood from Mina and Lucy, and attempts to draw blood from Harker; the Three Sisters, similarly, wish to drink from Harker's blood in turn. Renfield, Seward's patient at the insane asylum, has a desire to eat living animals, including their blood, in order to gain their "life-force." Arthur, Seward, Van Helsing, and Morris must all give Lucy blood transfusions, as Dracula is consuming enormous quantities of Lucy's vital fluid. The drawing of blood has, naturally, a violent undertone, and indeed Dracula's parasitic need to live off others is shared, in part, by the bat, which is his primary animalistic or bestial representation. But blood also contains a reference to sexual desire and sexual violence, as the flushing of cheeks, or "ruddiness," was considered a sign of sexual arousal in Victorian times, and Dracula's stealing of women's blood in the night is a thinly-veiled indicator of his desire to "take" from them, to "pollute" them in a manner not unlike sexual assault. Only when Dracula is stabbed through the heart, and when his head is cut off, does the cycle of blood-lust cease in the novel.

Blood Quotes in Dracula

The Dracula quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Writing, Journaling, and Messaging Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Dracula published in 2000.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I saw around us a ring of wolves, with white teeth and lolling red tongues, with long, sinewy limbs and shaggy hair. They were a hundred times more terrible in the grim silence . . . then even when they howled.

Related Characters: Jonathan Harker (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

As Harker is being taken out to the castle by the "strange driver," he notices that the woods along the road have taken on a sinister character. The animals that live in the wood are far from friendly - indeed, they appear to be possessed by a demonic energy. Here, and throughout the novel, Harker and other characters will perceive a natural world that has been suffused with and bathed in an energy they cannot explain. This is the energy that will animate Dracula, and that will threaten their lives and the lives of those around them.

At this point in the narrative, however, Harker is not aware of Dracula, of his supernatural powers, his desire for human blood. Instead, Harker wonders whether he himself isn't crazy - seeing something that isn't there. These ideas, of perception vs. reality, and of "seeing things" (madness) vs. accurately understanding the external world, will come to dominate the novel, as the primary characters hunt down Dracula and attempt to curb his violence. 

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Chapter 7 Quotes

Early this morning a large dog, a half-bred mastiff belonging to a coal merchant . . . , was found dead in the roadway opposite to its master's yard, It had been fighting, and manifestly had had a savage opponent, for its throat was torn away, and its belly was slit open . . . .

Related Characters: Mina Harker (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another instance of the haunting violence that appears to be afflicting those on the English coast, near Mina, Lucy, and their friends. This dog may or may not have been the same dog that escaped from the deck of an abandoned ship that washes up in the nearby harbor. The locals do not fully understand what is happening in their community, but they do sense that a violent foreboding is pervading everything - exciting, especially, the animals nearby to fits of odd behavior.

The parts of the dog that are maimed are not by accident. As will be revealed later, Dracula focuses on the necks of his victims, all the better to suck the blood from them in order to nourish himself. And the belly, too, is another symbolically-powerful location - hinting both at earthly hunger and at pregnancy, which in the context of the novel is shot through with dark notions of the integrity of the female body and the protection of sexual purity. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

Once again we went through that ghastly operation. I have not the heart to go through with the details. Lucy had got a terrible shock and it told on her more than before, for though plenty of blood went into her veins, her body did not respond to the treatment as well as on the other occasions. . . .

Related Characters: Dr. Seward (speaker), Lucy Westenra
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

The operation that Dr. Seward describes involves what would, today, be termed a massive blood transfusion. The blood of "four strong men" is poured into Lucy - interestingly, this blood is not checked for blood type, perhaps because Seward and Van Helsing are unaware of the scientific existence of blood types at this point in medical history. Nevertheless, the transfusion itself seems to work manageably. What is more difficult, however, is the process of retaining this blood - Lucy seems to be "leeching" blood out, although no one is sure who is taking this blood from her.

At this point, the dramatic irony in the text becomes so overwhelming as to be almost unbearable. It is clear that Dracula, or one of his minions, is sucking the blood from Lucy, such that no amount of blood can replace it. But apart from Van Helsing, who has experience in the hunting of vampires, no other character in the novel is aware that Lucy is being preyed on in exactly this way. 

Chapter 14 Quotes

Now that you are willing to understand, you have taken the first step to understand. You think then that those so small holes in the children's throats were made by the same that made the hole in Miss Lucy?
I suppose so.
Then you are wrong . . . . It is worse, far, far worse.
In God's name, Professor Van Helsing, what do you mean?
They were made by Miss Lucy!

Related Characters: Abraham Van Helsing (speaker), Dr. Seward (speaker), Lucy Westenra
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Van Helsing recognizes that Lucy's illness, already thought to be caused by a supernatural infection brought on by continued bites from Dracula, is worse that he initially imagined. It is not just that Lucy has been infected with the vampiric illness - she is now an active vampire herself, and she requires the blood of others to survive. Perhaps Van Helsing was aware that this was a possibility before meeting with Lucy in person, but now he is convinced that the vampiric illness is one that is spread through bites - and that those bitten become those that bite.

The symbolic influence of this form of infection is clear. Van Helsing and Seward recognize that Lucy is not just in danger herself - she, potentially, can also bring great harm to others. In this way, vampiric infection is similar to any other kind of transmissible disease, including venereal (sexually-transmitted) disease. Those who have been infected can transfer that infection to others - meaning that the disease must be stopped in its tracks, through finding the initial vector (Dracula) and through quarantining those infected (like Lucy). Furthermore, the "disease" is presented as a kind of perverse passion - previously, Lucy had been saintlike and pure, but now she has been corrupted by Dracula's sexually-tainted affliction, and so she holds that same unholy passion and lust for blood.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!

Related Characters: Lucy Westenra (speaker), Arthur Holmwood
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucy, in her un-dead state, has become possessed not only with new "demonic" life. She is also more overtly sexual in her behavior. She has lost, in other words, the late-Victorian decorum that has characterized her behavior with Arthur for so long. She no longer observes the sexual mores of her time and place, no longer feels it necessary to comport herself like a modest lady.

This change is not coincidental. In Stoker's telling, Dracula not only takes the blood from those he attacks - he creates in them a thirst for blood itself, an unquenchable desire that can only be temporarily slaked through intimacy with another. Thus Lucy, when she beckons to Arthur, does not really wish to love him, or to engage in "appropriate" sexual relations with him - as she might have asked in private in her waking life. Instead, Lucy in her vampiric form uses this form of intimacy to attack Arthur, to attempt to drink his blood and therefore tap into his life essence. 

Chapter 18 Quotes

You will, I trust, Dr. Seward, do me the justice to bear in mind, later on , that I did what I could to convince you [to free me] tonight.

Related Characters: Renfield (speaker), Dr. Seward
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

Renfield exists on the other side of the spectrum of "insanity" - he lives in, and is confined in, an asylum. Seward has been observing Renfield there for some time, and it appears that Renfield, for his part, is attuned to the actions of the Count. In other words, the Count's proximity to Renfield seems to trigger that man's supposedly "insane" behavior. In this, then, Renfield is not so different from Lucy, who is also confined, and labeled "ill," when in fact she is being visited in the night by the Count - and he takes blood from her body. 

True "craziness," then, is called into question in this section. Is it, after all, "insane" to fear a man who wishes to kill one, to drink one's blood? Renfield wants to be protected from the Count, and yet, in the asylum, he is sitting prey. As much as Seward wants to protect, even to "cure" Renfield, he has trouble letting go of the idea that Renfield is truly insane, and that his confinement in the asylum is a means of making him healthy. 

Chapter 20 Quotes

The attendant came bursting into my room and told me that Renfield had somehow met with some accident. He had heard him yell; and when he went to him found him lying on his face on the floor, all covered with blood.

Related Characters: Dr. Seward (speaker), Renfield
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Even though Renfield has warned the others, especially Seward, that he is in danger, and that the asylum will not protect him from the violence of the Count, Seward and the others in the hospital still believe that Renfield has met with some "accident" here. This, despite the fact that there was no point of entry to Renfield's room, no way for any human attacker to find him there. The only answer, other than Renfield hurting himself (which seems very unlikely based on the location of the face wound), is that a supernatural force has indeed attacked him.

In another context, this supernatural explanation would seem, at best, far-fetched. But based on the other supernatural activity in the novel up till this point, such a conclusion would indeed be rational and warranted. This is Stoker's commentary, then, on the nature of the rational to begin with. Rational acts are those that can be explained by some causal connection. Because the supernatural has already been established in the text, it is not "crazy" to think that the supernatural might continue to pose a threat. Indeed, that is the explanation that makes the most sense here - and it seems "crazy" to have ignored the warning signs and to continue to assume that Renfield's death is just an "accident." 

Chapter 21 Quotes

First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!

Related Characters: Count Dracula (speaker), Mina Harker
Related Symbols: Blood, Bats
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

For the first time in the novel, the Count remarks explicitly on what it feels like to drink the blood of a human, to feed on the life essence of a living being. For Dracula this feeding satisfies several urges. It is, first, a way of refreshing his energies. It is not dissimilar to a human eating "normal" food. But it is, too, a way of restoring a supernatural balance of power. of refreshing his "un-deadness."

This is the paradox of the Count. He is a being who is so dead as to be beyond death - he lives in that state of un-deadness that Lucy also occupied. In order to maintain this state, he must consume the very thing that keeps human beings actually alive - and that is the blood that runs through their veins. Thus blood, symbolically, is revealed to be the key of human life, and also the key to life beyond the pale of the human, in the realm of those existing beyond death. 

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Blood Symbol Timeline in Dracula

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in Dracula. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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...to greet Dracula himself, he realizes he has cut himself on the chin, while shaving; blood is trickling down his chin. Dracula sees the blood and, in a frenzy, immediately grips... (full context)
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...be careful how he cuts himself—that it can be "dangerous" in Transylvania to show one's blood. Dracula also throws the shaving-mirror (which Harker brought with him) out the window, calling it... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...Count "asleep" in his wooden box filled with earth. Dracula's mouth has been smeared with blood—Harker does not know whose, but seems dimly aware that it might be his—but Harker cannot... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...July 20. Seward walks in to find only masses of feathers and a speck of blood on Renfield's pillow—the birds are gone. An orderly tells him, later that morning, that Renfield... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...at Lucy, sleeping soundly, as sees that Lucy has a small cut and trickle of blood at her throat. Mina believes she has cut Lucy by pinning her nightgown, and so... (full context)
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...The nurse says that Jonathan was found in Klausenbergh by a policeman—Jonathan was raving about blood, demons, and violence, and the policemen helped him onto the train to Budapest, where he... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...and Seward were alone, however, Seward examined her more closely, and saw that she looked "bloodless," without the usual signs of anemia. Lucy also complains of occasionally difficulty breathing. Seward tells... (full context)
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...Lucy, that Van Helsing agrees with Seward that Lucy has lost a good deal of blood but does not seem typically anemic. Van Helsing, who must return briefly to Amsterdam before... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Van Helsing visits Lucy and sees that she has lost even more blood. Van Helsing determines that Lucy must have a blood transfusion, and Seward, who is younger... (full context)
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...ever, though Van Helsing detects a pulse, and says that Lucy can survive with another blood transfusion. Van Helsing asks Seward, this time, to donate blood, which Seward does. The transfusion... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Van Helsing proceeds to give some of Lucy his own blood—she has again lost some in the night, and looks more waxy and pale than ever.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...stone-dead, and the former on the verge of death, having lost a great deal of blood. Van Helsing begins working in a fury to bring her back; he notices that the... (full context)
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...house, since Arthur had not heard from Lucy for several days. Morris agrees to transfuse blood to Lucy, and the operation appears, once again, to improve her condition. After the operation,... (full context)
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...explain to Seward. Morris draws Seward aside and reminds Seward that Lucy has had the blood of "four strong men" in her veins, in large quantities, but that something appears to... (full context)
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...severely weakened condition—although the transfusion helped, it seems that Lucy simply has lost too much blood to survive. Seward worries what will become of her, and continues speaking his journal entries... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...in a cemetery near her house; after doing so, Arthur remarked that, by transfusing his blood into her veins, he felt that he and Lucy were truly married. None of the... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...bat and slowly transformed into one, and this is why Lucy was losing so much blood. Seward is shocked by this, and has a difficult time believing, but Van Helsing reiterates... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...neck, indicating that he has been bitten by a vampire, and that some quantity of blood has been sucked from his veins. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...can command rats, bats, wolves, foxes, and other "lower" animals; and they must suck the blood of the living in order to survive. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...souls, nor souls at all—he has found another source, which he strongly hints to be blood. Seward is terrified by this, at a second meeting later that day, and realizes, after... (full context)
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...found in his room, his face smashed, lying face-down in a pool of his own blood. Seward rushes back into the room to investigate the cause of this. (full context)
Chapter 21
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...two that Dracula appeared outside his window and promised Renfield an "infinite" amount of red blood in the form of rats, bats, flies, moths, and other forms of life—Renfield was so... (full context)
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...a terrible scene in the bedroom. Mina has been bitten on the neck by Dracula—her blood is smeared all over his face, and he is holding her head to a wound... (full context)
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...Van Helsing, who attempt to calm him down. Mina, realizing that she has drunk Dracula's blood, fears that she has been "contaminated," and that she is now unclean, and unfit even... (full context)
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...her, and saw, on waking in the dream, that Dracula was bending to suck her blood—she was powerless to stop him, and then Dracula forced her to drink his own, in... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...discovers a red scar there—a mark, she believes, of her "pollution" by having drunk Dracula's blood. Mina is horrified, but the men of the group bend on their knees and pledge... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...asks him if he can hypnotize her—she feels that, since she is now "connected by blood" to Dracula, perhaps she can be hypnotized into a state in which she communes with... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...recounted interactions with a strange passenger, whom they could not name but who brought up "blood" several times, and sounded a good deal like the Count. (full context)
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...from her, as she fears she will share them unknowingly with the Count, since her blood has been "linked" with his, in some sort of shared consciousness. Harker agrees not to... (full context)