Dracula: Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Summary: Arriving in Lucy’s room, Van Helsing and Seward are shocked to see how pale and weak she has become. Van Helsing prepares for an immediate blood transfusion. As he is getting ready for the operation, Holmwood arrives; glad for his arrival, for Holmwood is young and full of life and much in love with Lucy, Van Helsing transfers a large amount of his blood into Lucy’s veins. The transfusion does much to restore Lucy’s color and health. After Arthur has gone to recuperate, Van Helsing points out to Seward the puncture marks on Lucy’s neck. Seward is astonished, for such small wounds could surely not account for Lucy’s great loss of blood. Van Helsing departs to gather materials for further research into Lucy’s condition; Seward remains to sit awake while Lucy sleeps through the night. She appears to have none of the fearsome dreams she has been dreading…
The next night, Lucy insists that Seward get some sleep—he has gone without for two nights—and stay in the room next to her. Exhausted, Seward agrees, only to awaken the next morning to find Lucy once again pale and near death. Van Helsing (who has just returned) hastily arranges another transfusion, this time with Seward as the donor. Again, the operation does Lucy much good. The next day, Van Helsing brings Lucy garlic flowers to hang around her neck as she sleeps; he also rubs the garlic around the door and fireplace of her room. He believes these precautions will keep Lucy safe—although he still has not yet told Seward or Lucy from what.

Analysis: This chapter proves to be one of the most dramatic in the novel so far—if also one of the more medically and scientifically impossible. As Leonard Wolf notes, “In real life the hugger-mugger blood transfusions… would almost certainly kill both donor and patient, since no effort is made by Van Helsing or Seward to match blood types, which, in an event, they could not have known about until nearly three decades later” (p. 159 n7). Nevertheless, Stoker uses the transfusions to great dramatic effect. We recognize, for example, as Van Helsing does in the text itself, that Holmwood and Seward may still consider themselves rivals for Lucy’s love, even though Lucy has pledged herself to Holmwood. Yet Seward writes in his diary, “No man knows till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own life-blood”—note the compounding of the two words, a common enough expression that of course takes on added meaning in the context of Stoker’s novel—“drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves” (p. 166). Here Seward confesses his continuing affection for Lucy; and Van Helsing pledges Seward to silence about the second transfusion for fear of “enjealousing” Holmwood. This particular passage also continues the erotic undertones of Stoker’s novel: the transfer/exchange of blood is an intimate act, at some level even on par with sexual intercourse (note that Van Helsing allows Holmwood to kiss Lucy both before and after the first transfusion, as if to acknowledge the intimacy of the act). But this intimacy is not present when Dracula drains the blood from Lucy: he does not love her, he only uses her. He violates her. He dominates her—and we remember the Count’s earlier words to Harker, “in our [the Szekelys; also, perhaps, vampires in general] veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought… for lordship… we were a conquering race” (Ch. 2, pp. 39-40). The transfusions thus allow Stoker to develop a motif in which giving blood is equated with giving life (fecundity; even, perhaps, impregnation?) and taking blood is equated with dealing death (the vampiric “undead”; reproduction takes place, as Harker earlier realized, in that more vampires are created, but at the expense of the “mother”).
Van Helsing brings garlic to Lucy because, of course, it is identified in vampire stories as a protection against the creatures. Wolf notes also that garlic is “richly and widely praised as a remedy for nearly all the ills of mankind” in various culture’s folklores. Further, readers familiar with the biblical account of the Exodus may find echoes of the Passover when Van Helsing “with the wisp [of the garlic flowers] rubbed all over the jamb of the door, above, below, and at each side, and round the fireplace” to protect the room against any possible entry from Dracula (p. 169). Moses instructed the Israelites, on the eve of their delivery from bondage in Egypt, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house…  And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it… For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:3, 6-7, 12-13, KJV). As the blood on the door jamb and thresholds protected the Israelites from the Angel of Death, so will the garlic on her doorframe and thresholds protect Lucy from Dracula.