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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Dracula, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Theme Icon

Dracula contains a study of the meaning of "sanity" and "insanity," of "wellness" and "illness." The treatment for both "insanity" and "illness" in the novel is confinement, which recurs throughout. Practically every character in the group questions his or her wellness or sanity at some point. Jonathan Harker, on his trip to Dracula's castle, is confined within the castle as a prisoner of Dracula's. Harker believes he is going insane there, and he has visions of Dracula turning into a bat, and of the ghastly Three Sisters. When Harker escapes, he is treated for a "nervous illness," before Van Helsing verifies his account, and tells him that, indeed, vampires are real. Lucy is afflicted with bouts of sleepwalking, one of which takes her out in the moors of England, where she is first attacked by Dracula. Lucy is then confined to her room by Dr. Seward, who eventually calls in Van Helsing to help with her case. After her "first death," Lucy is confined to a tomb, and her soul is only "set free" when Arthur drives a stake through her heart. Mina's blood connection to Dracula causes her to have hypnotic visions of Dracula's whereabouts. Van Helsing desires, first, that Mina also be confined during her "illness," but Mina is later brought along on the group's mission to Transylvania, as Mina can provide important information for the tracking of the Count.

Other characters have smaller bouts of illness of madness. Van Helsing and Seward both worry that they, too, are mad, though they believe they are men of "science," tracking Dracula according to the laws for hunting vampires. Renfield, an insane man confined under Seward's care, attempts to be Dracula's apprentice, and at times appears quite lucid in his desire to consume the blood of living organisms. Arthur, an emotional man, becomes so horrified after his fiancée Lucy's death that he collapses in Mina's arms, in a fit of hysterics approaching madness.

The function of this theme in the novel is manifold. First, the theme draws out late-Victorian cultural attitudes toward illness and madness—that is, any socially-aberrant behavior is "mad," and women are more prone to this behavior than men; both illness and madness require that the patient be removed from society. Dracula is compared, often, to a poison, or to vermin—he is an illness, a social virus that must be isolated and destroyed. His boxes of earth are systematically "sanitized" by means of communion wafers, meaning the Count cannot sleep in them, and, finally, Dracula himself, the viral host, is destroyed in Transylvania, by Morris and the others.

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Illness, Madness, and Confinement Quotes in Dracula

Below you will find the important quotes in Dracula related to the theme of Illness, Madness, and Confinement.
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 2 Quotes

In no place [in the castle] save from the windows in the castle walls is there an available exit. The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!

Related Characters: Jonathan Harker (speaker)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Harker realizes, on arriving at Dracula's castle that, after a short span of time, he is hardly a guest at all. Dracula, in this section, behaves suspiciously, telling Harker that bleeding in Transylvania can be "dangerous." Dracula also discards Harker's mirror - something that will be explained later in the text, attributed to Dracula's fear of being caught in a mirror and therefore defeated.

Again, however, Harker cannot understand what is happening to him and around him - he is not acquainted with the supernatural powers Dracula possesses, which would cause blood and mirrors to assume such terrible significance. This section, then, is a case of dramatic irony, wherein the reader perceives more of what is happening to the character than the character himself does. This will recur throughout the text - it is, indeed, a trope of horror fiction, where the reader understands that danger lies just ahead of a particular unsuspecting person. And, of course, that person is powerless to stop the violent act - only heightening the expectation of bloodshed. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will. Now go! go! I must awaken him, for there is work to be done.

Related Characters: Count Dracula (speaker), Jonathan Harker, The Three Sisters
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first explicit, and truly bizarre, supernatural act in the novel. The narrator never reveals the exact identity of the "Three Women," but they do appear to be under the direct control of Dracula. Dracula, for his part, argues that Harker's blood is, first, for him, and that only after he is done with Harker might the Three Women have their turn.

Here, Stoker makes most clear the link between sexual desire and a hunger, either for blood or for flesh. Throughout the novel, correspondences will be drawn between a hope for sexual coupling and for the satisfaction of Dracula's need for human blood. Dracula is, then, both a "real" character in the text and an embodiment of an abstract characteristic - sexual submission and perceived "sinful" perversions, afflicting (as seen in this passage) both women and men. Harker, for his part, is powerless to resist the Three Women, and it is only when Dracula intervenes that he is "saved" - although it is unclear for how long. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

At least God's mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At tis foot a man may sleep—as a man. Good-bye, all! Mina!

Related Characters: Jonathan Harker (speaker), Count Dracula, Mina Harker
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Harker writes in his journal and hopes that his imploring might somehow make its way back to Mina, his beloved (in case he dies without ever seeing her again). He has, at this point, largely given up hope that he might survive his time at Dracula's castle unscathed. He is completely imprisoned, threatened constantly by the strange forebodings of Dracula and the Three Women, and he has come to discover that Dracula sleeps in a coffin and feeds off human blood. He is, to Harker, a "monster."

In this message, Harker hints that perhaps the only way to escape Dracula is to kill himself - to throw himself from the walls of the castle-prison. Harker, nevertheless, plans to escape the fortress by crawling along its side, the same way Dracula does. Harker has noticed that Dracula is capable of moving in these strange, inhuman ways, especially at night - that Dracula assumes, essentially, the form of a bat in the evening. But Harker at this point does not fully understand Dracula's supernatural powers - he knows only that the Count is not of this earth, and that there is little he, Harker, can do to defeat him outright. He must instead escape him through cunning - or if he fails to escape, he must end his life on his own terms, and thus remain a "man" rather than being corrupted and transformed into a "monster." 

Chapter 8 Quotes

She looks so sweet as she sleeps; but she is paler than is her wont, and there is a drawn, haggard look under her eyes which I do not like.

Related Characters: Mina Harker (speaker), Lucy Westenra
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Mina begins to notice a change in Lucy's demeanor. Lucy exhibits symptoms that would be similar to those of, say, someone sick with a serious illness (like consumption). Lucy has very little energy, she sleeps for long periods during the day, and she has difficulty holding down food and water.

But Lucy's ailment has another dimension, too. She leaves the house at night and goes out walking among the grasses and by the seashore. Lucy, too, seems to have no recollection of these events the next day. Further, Lucy has the signs of bitemarks on her neck. It is not clear what animal has put these marks there, and Lucy does not actively recall being bitten. But the idea that Lucy's "disease" has been transmitted through contact with another force is a powerful and persistent one in the novel. It will be borne out, later, when it is revealed that Dracula draws blood from the necks of his unsuspecting victims in an identical process. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

I want you to do me a favor. Lucy is ill; that is, she has no special disease, but she looks awful . . . I told her I should ask you to see her . . . and she finally consented.

Related Characters: Arthur Holmwood (speaker), Dr. Seward
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Arthur is put in the position of requesting help from the doctor on Lucy's behalf. Lucy argues that she is okay, although clearly she has trouble completing even the most basic of waking tasks, and frequently must be confined to bed for long stretches. Arthur is worried about his fiancee, although at this point, he does not seem to suspect that anything out of the ordinary is wrong with her.

The conference between Seward and Arthur is an indication of another dynamic in the novel - that of men working among themselves to protect the health and security of women. Seward and Arthur feel they are in a position to insulate Lucy from whatever problem might be besieging her. Men and women outside this friendship circle seem to recognize that it is the responsibility of these men to care for Lucy. And, indeed, because Dracula presents himself as a male menace, Arthur and Seward are the men - so they style themselves - who will defend Lucy's honor and try to help her to survive. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

How good they all are to me. I quite love that dear Dr. Van Helsing. I wonder why he was so anxious about these (garlic) flowers. He positively frightened me, he was so fierce. . . . There is peace in its smell; I feel sleep coming already . . . .

Related Characters: Lucy Westenra (speaker), Abraham Van Helsing
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucy discusses, via her journal, how it feels to be protected by some of the supernatural charms Van Helsing and Seward have prepared for her. She does not necessarily understand their purpose, and in fact their presence is in some sense terrifying to her - because it points to something "beyond the normal," or beyond the medical, about her current situation. Lucy seems to understand that she is in the throes of no ordinary illness.

But, nevertheless, Lucy does what she can to soldier on despite the circumstances. She remains positive and, in her journal, thanks those around her for caring about her. Her confinement does nothing to alter her fundamental belief in God and in the goodness of people. She refuses to give in to the fear that surrounds her, even as she notes the concern on the faces of those charged with caring for her. Lucy achieves an almost saintly level of calm in this section of the novel - a state that will be horrifyingly contrasted with her violation by Dracula and her transformation into an un-dead being.

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 13 Quotes

I believe it is the Count, but he has grown young. My God, if this be so! Oh, my god! my God!

Related Characters: Jonathan Harker (speaker), Count Dracula
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

Harker is shocked to find, on the streets of London, a man who resembles the Count - the very same Count who imprisoned, and nearly killed, Harker many months ago in Transylvania. Harker, like other characters in the novel, is unsure of whether this "supernatural" appearance of the Count - who seems to be younger now than he was in the past  - is attributable to "actual" magic, or to a psychological disturbance on Harker's part. In other words, he does not necessarily trust his own mind, even though his eyes, and heart, tell him that he is in danger, that the Count's specter has returned.

This points to a much larger network of themes in the novel: that of life, science, magic, and their relation to human perception and right-mindedness. Harker wishes, above all, to leave the experiences of Transylvania behind him - to move on as a "regular" person in the world. But the reappearance of the Count causes him to distrust his emotions and his intellect. This, as much as the physical danger the Count poses, is what is truly terrifying about Dracula's influence and threat of violence. 

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 19 Quotes

Last night I slept, but did not dream. I must have slept soundly, for I was not waked by Jonathan coming to bed; but the sleep has not refreshed me, for to-day I feel terribly weak and spiritless.

Related Characters: Mina Harker (speaker), Jonathan Harker
Related Symbols: Bats
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

Dreams are an important part of the narrative. Because they exist outside of waking life, they are a means of tapping into whatever supernatural or spiritual energies flow beneath life's surface. They are also a window into other consciousnesses - and when Dracula is present, dreams allow the dreamer to see him, perhaps to confront him or flee from him. That is why Mina reports that she does not remember her dreams - she does not remember having contact with Dracula at that time.

But Mina also notes that the sleep she slept did not possess characteristics typical of sleep. That is, it did nothing to restore her. It was not a respite from anything - it was a way of coming closer to Dracula's dangerous energies, even if she does not remember them. Sleep, in the novel, is therefore not a way of refreshing the body. It is instead a plane on which supernatural forces can act, without regulation of the conscious mind in waking life. 

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 22 Quotes

And now, my friends, we have a duty here to do. We must sterilize this earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a far distant land for such fell use. He has chosen this earth because it has been holy.

Related Characters: Abraham Van Helsing (speaker), Count Dracula
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

Van Helsing is a man of science, and he uses scientific methods of rationalism to dispatch Dracula, to make sure that he can no longer endanger those in the immediate vicinity. But there is a trick, or a hitch, to the scientific method that is elaborated in the novel. For it is not, of course, the science one might be taught in a university setting, either today or at the time the novel was written.

Instead, it is scientific rationalism used in the service of explaining events that appear to have no rational explanation. For Stoker, the rational can apply to things that are not necessarily observable, that do no appear to be normal or run-of-the-mill. The supernatural world, then, obeys the same laws as the natural and observable world. Only those laws must be discovered using special methods, and charms, that are not available to the layman. The special knowledge of the scientist, then, is occasionally hard to distinguish from the special knowledge of a priest, or of any other practitioner of occult "magic." 

Chapter 23 Quotes

You think to baffle me, you—with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher's. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest; but I have more. My revenge is just begun!

Related Characters: Count Dracula (speaker), Jonathan Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

The Count, in this section, reveals that he is aware of the efforts put into motion to stop him. He knows that there are charms that can defeat his powers, that he is not immortal, but rather that mirrors and garlic can affect him a great deal. Dracula figures, in this portion of the novel, that the only way to disrupt the plans of those in the "circle" is to continue to threaten them with the violence of his blood-sucking - and with his ability to appear, without warning, in places where he is not expected. If Dracula can be defeated, he is also very, very difficult to intimidate.

In this way, then, Dracula's activity continues to resemble that of a virus. He moves often invisibly, and he crops up where he is least expected. His potential for appearance prompts a feeling of continual paranoia in those around him. And although he can be dispatched, it is only through the utmost care, and the use of special tinctures that must be prepared in advance of his arrival. 

Chapter 25 Quotes

He has so used your mind; and by it he has left us here in Varna, whilst the ship that carried him rushed through enveloping fog up to Galatz, where, doubtless, he has made preparation for escaping from us.

Related Characters: Abraham Van Helsing (speaker), Count Dracula, Mina Harker
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel closes with a chase scene. In many ways, the chase for Dracula has occurred throughout - the novel is structured as a sequence of scenes in which Dracula appears and is then repelled, either by chance or by the concerted efforts of the vampire hunters. The plot is not so much a web of intrigue as it is a set of plans that are put into place to trap Dracula, and, after he escapes, to find him again.

In this closing sequence, then, Dracula is chased back into Transylvania, his ancestral homeland. Thus, although a good part of the middle of the novel takes place in England, the beginning and the end occur abroad, in what is now Romania. The "otherness" of these scenes, surrounded by fog, strange animals, and forbidding castles, is a counterpoint to the "home" that is described in and around London, where modern life goes on more or less uninterrupted, even as Dracula attacks. 

Chapter 26 Quotes

Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! the snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!

Related Characters: Quincey Harker (speaker), Mina Harker
Page Number: 325
Explanation and Analysis:

The idea of a "curse," and the related idea of a "mark" or "stain," are central to the text. The reader becomes aware of Dracula's presence through physical traces - that one character seems pale, or that another has bite marks on her throat. Dracula steals the soul, the essence of a person (and also violates them in an almost sexual manner), and in doing this, he leaves unmistakeable marks on that person's body. These traces are the clues by which the scientific mind can work to find Dracula. And even though Dracula is a cunning villain, he can nevertheless be tracked using these clues.

Thus Stoker combines, again, the spiritual elements of a religiously-infused thriller with the cold, hard scientific rationalism of a detective novel. We know Dracula's presence by his physical traces, and when Dracula is defeated, we see those traces, as if by magic, removed from the bodies of those who have been afflicted by him. This is a perfect cycle of, and encapsulation of, Dracula's power and influence in the text. He is the presence always present, always noticeable to the trained eye - and yet he is terribly difficult to track, and even more difficult to defeat. Here, he is finally overcome.