Dracula: Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Summary: Seward and Van Helsing arrive at Hillingham, fearful of what they will find. They must force their way into the house, and inside they discover the unconscious maids, Lucy and her dead mother. The wounds on Lucy’s bare neck have reappeared. Van Helsing concludes that the only remedy is yet another blood transfusion; fortunately, Quincey Morris happens to arrive at that moment (for the purpose of gathering information about Lucy to send to Arthur, who is still away, tending for his dying father), a suitable donor. After the transfusion, as Lucy is undergoing yet another laborious recovery, Van Helsing shows Seward the note that Lucy had written (at the end of Ch. 11). He and Seward discuss how to handle the matter of Mrs. Westerna’s death certificate: if they were to divulge the true nature of her passing, an inquest would have to be undertaken, and the two men wish to spare Lucy such a scandalous ordeal. Van Helsing even goes so far as to replace the paper on Lucy’s breast after he and Seward have read it. When Lucy awakes, she weeps for what has happened, falling asleep again at twilight. While sleeping, she tears the note in two; yet even after Van Helsing removes it from her hands, she continues to make tearing motions, as though scattering paper pieces. Seward notices, while she sleeps fitfully, that her teeth “looked positively longer and sharper than usual.”
Arthur Holmwood arrives (returning from his father’s funeral). Lucy awakens during the night of September 19-20, pressing the garlic chaplet Van Helsing makes her wear close to her; but whenever she sleeps, she pushes the flowers aside. Seward notes the sound of something flapping at the window, a sound he thinks of as symbolizing “the flapping of the wings of the angel of death.” About six in the morning, Van Helsing, come to relieve Seward of his watch, sees that the wounds on Lucy’s neck have vanished. Somehow, Van Helsing knows from this clue that Lucy is close to death. Arthur moves to kiss his intended, and Lucy urges him on in a “soft, voluptuous voice” quite unlike her; but Van Helsing forcibly prevents the kiss. Eventually, when Lucy’s brief spasm of rage at Van Helsing’s interference has passed, she thanks Van Helsing for interfering with the kiss, and makes the physician promise to guard Arthur after she is gone. Van Helsing allows Arthur to kiss Lucy only on the brow. With that kiss, Lucy dies. Seward believes that at least Lucy will now be at peace—but Van Helsing issues an ominous warning that such will not be the case.
Meanwhile, Harker’s employer Mr. Hawkins has decided to bequeath his fortune to Jonathan and Mina. The next day, he dies. Additionally, Renfield (on September 19) has broken out of the asylum yet again, and harassed the drivers who were conveying the large boxes to Carfax before being subdued. “Renfield’s violence is the clue that tells us Dracula is in one of the boxes” (Wolf, p. 197 n20).

Analysis: In this chapter, Stoker continues to use chronological interlacing to great effect: note, for instance, Seward’s impatience when the maids do not answer his ringing at the door—“I cursed the laziness of the servants that they should lie abed at such an hour” (p. 185). His mental reproach reflects the attitudes some members of the British upper class held toward the lower classes (a minor, recurring subtext in Stoker’s novel, as Leonard Wolf notes; e.g., p. 176 n9), but it also creates dramatic irony: we know, although Seward does not yet, that the maids are not slothful, but indeed unconscious because of Dracula’s schemes (at the end of the previous chapter).
We continue to see Van Helsing in a positive light. Note Seward’s description of the physician as possessing “his usual recuperative energy” (p. 186), his characteristically rapid responses to Dracula’s victims (“I never saw in all my experience the Professor work in such deadly earnest,” p. 188—although even he is, it would appear at this juncture, too late for poor Lucy!) or his reassurance to Seward, “You shall know and understand it all in good time” (p. 190). Clearly, Stoker is further positioning Van Helsing as the hero of the work (his unethical plan regarding Mrs. Westerna’s death certificate notwithstanding; see Wolf, p. 190 n8). Despite the tendency of some later vampire fiction to elevate Dracula and his undead brothers and sisters to heroic status, Stoker leaves no doubt that the Count is the villain, and that those who oppose him are to be viewed favorably: “Devils or no devils, or all the devils at once, it matters not; we fight him all the same” (Ch. 11; p. 173). Their heroism is further highlighted in Van Helsing’s comment, “Truly Miss Lucy… is at least happy in the friends that love her. One, two, three, all open their veins for her, besides one old man” (p. 190). Given the symbolic equation of blood with life (cf. Renfield’s outburst in the previous chapter), it is no great leap to think of the Bible’s maxim, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 KJV). In willingly letting their blood be spilled for Lucy’s literal salvation (from Dracula), her gentleman friends are in some sense acting as Christ-figures for her. Of course, this chapter complicates matters by ending on a note of despair and defeat, as Lucy succumbs to the vampire—perhaps casting this Christian motif of the saving efficacy of shed blood into doubt. After all, even before the chapter’s tragic closing moments, Seward writes that the sleeping Lucy “looked he own self, although a dying one” (p. 193). Here again we see an ironic reversal of the “new woman” motif (cf. Ch. 8): yes, Lucy’s friends have opened their veins for her in love—but to what end?