Dracula: Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Summary: Van Helsing persuades Seward to accompany him to Lucy’s grave. They go at midnight and discover her coffin empty. Also in the graveyard, they spy a child being pursued by some larger, darker figure. They find the child before its throat has been injured, and leave it by the side of the road, where a police offer locates it (and presumably takes it to safety). The next afternoon, when the two men return to the graveyard, they find Lucy again in her coffin, appearing lovelier and healthier than she did when she was buried a week previously. Van Helsing explains that Lucy is not dead, but neither is she alive: she is Un-Dead as in the vampire’s thrall. Even though she is not acting (as the “bloofur lady”) of her own volition, Van Helsing declares the only way to bring her peace is to slay her in her sleep: he intends to fill her mouth with garlic and drive a stake through her body. He decides, however, that Arthur must be included in this knowledge and this plan. That night, then, Van Helsing goes alone to keep watch over Lucy’s grave; he affixes garlic and a crucifix to her, that she will not rise. He also writes a note (never delivered) to Seward detailing a fall-back plan in case his watch over Lucy should go awry: that Seward should read Jonathan Harker’s diary, find Count Dracula and behead him and burn his heart or drive a stake through it. The next day, Arthur and Quincey Morris share disbelieving reactions to Van Helsing’s intentions; however, Morris decides to trust the professor. Reluctantly, Arthur agrees to at least go and wait with Van Helsing at Lucy’s grave.

Analysis: Stoker begins to quicken the pace of his novel with this chapter. Van Helsing asks the rhetorical question of Seward, “Oh, my friend, why, think you, did I go so far around, why take so long to tell you so simple a thing?” (p. 239). Although readers may have been tempted to ask themselves the same question, now we can see how expertly Stoker has used drama and tension to bring us to this point. Now, with one of the text’s central mysteries resolved (i.e., What was the matter with Lucy?), he will bring a greater sense of urgency to bear on his narrative. One image that may reinforce Van Helsing’s role as the bringer of resolution and revelation is the image of the keys. “He handed me the key,” Seward says of Van Helsing (p. 243)—and the statement could be seen as applying to Van Helsing’s role in the story as a whole, when we recall other, earlier instances of Harker, for example, looking for but being unable to locate a key (Ch. 4, p. 62: “The door is always locked, no way for me”). With his prodigious knowledge of vampiric lore and his plans for swift action, Van Helsing, as the hero of the piece, carries the “key” to understanding the true nature of the threat, and to its peaceful resolution (“…we can act for good all round and send him peace….,” p. 247; “…so that the world may rest from him,” p. 249).