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.
Illness, Madness, and Confinement ThemeTracker
Illness, Madness, and Confinement Quotes in Dracula
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 . . . .
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. . . .
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.