Dracula: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Summary: Count Dracula greets Harker at the massive doors to the castle. Dracula is “a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and claid in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.” (Harker also later notes his host’s “peculiarly sharp white teeth” and unusually pointed ears.) Dracula shows Harker to his rooms and converses with his guest as he eats; Dracula excuses himself from sharing the meal, claiming he has already eaten and does not “sup” (i.e., take a lighter evening meal). Although he has been received graciously, Harker’s first night in the castle fills him with foreboding. The next day, he does not see Dracula again until midday, and spends his time in the Count’s library, where he finds a large number of old books in English; as Dracula later explains, he has been researching the country in which his recently purchased estate is located. Harker notes that the castle is sumptuously furnished, but does mark one strange omission: “in none of the rooms is there a mirror.” Dracula, when he returns from unspecified business, engages in lengthy conversation with Harker; although he speaks fluent English, he wants to be able to present himself so well in England that he will not be identified and dismissed as a foreigner when he arrives. He is very glad to hear that Carfax (the name of the estate he has bought, located in Purfleet, in Essex) is an old, perhaps even ancient, house. He keeps Harker talking until dawn, at which time he abruptly takes his leave. Later in the morning, as Harker is shaving (having hung his own small mirror by a window), he is startled to feel the Count’s hand on his shoulder. Harker nicks himself. He is amazed because he did not—and does not—see Dracula’s reflection in the shaving-glass. Dracula, for his part, has a strong reaction to the sight of blood on Harker’s throat; as he reaches for it, his fingers touch the crucifix necklace given to Harker by the landlord’s wife in Bistritz, and Dracula’s fury instantly ceases. Chiding Harker that to cut himself “is more dangerous than [he] think[s] in this country, Dracula grabs Harker’s mirror from the wall and hurls it out the window, where it breaks on the paved courtyard below. Harker breakfasts alone, coming to realize: “The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!”

Analysis: Although Stoker’s titular character has already appeared in the previous chapter (by all indicators—note, for instance, that the Count is said to share the same “prodigious strength,” p. 21, as the carriage driver; cf. p. 23—“for a moment I doubted if it were not the same person”), it is with this chapter that Dracula truly makes his grand entrance (literally: the scene has been immortalized in countless stage and film adpatations of the novel although, as Leonard Wolf notes, “That Dracula is an old man at the beginning of the story has been persistently forgotten in all but one” of them, p. 22, n. 3). Stoker’s detailed description of the Count agrees with numerous details of vampire lore: great strength, sharp teeth, essentially colorless save for bright red lips, pointed (bat-like) ears. It is no accident that this old man has in his library books and bound journals not “of very recent date” (p. 27), or that he prefers to live in old houses, for—in his point of view—“how few days go to make up a century” (p. 32); because he is immortal. (Dracula’s peculiar perspective on time is also, of course, another instance of Stoker’s fascination with the temporal theme.) Add to these details the fact that Dracula casts no reflection (hence, of course, the absence of mirrors in his castle) and is repelled by holy objects (Harker’s crucifix necklace), and his identity as a vampire is established from the beginning, without question. Readers can thus enjoy a sense of dramatic irony, as they are privy to a knowledge that Harker is not—although, to be fair, Stoker is drawing details together from varied sources of vampiric lore; and his novel did much to popularize the image of the vampire in the public imagination. (In other words, Harker—although he surely sould have paid more heed to the whispered, “superstitious” warnings of chapter 1—may be excused for his ignorance in part because he has not had the benefit of reading Bram Stoker!) When Harker confides to his journal, “I fear I am myself the only living soul within” the castle (p. 34), he speaks far truer than he yet knows!
Note the recurrence of the liminal motif as Harker enters Castle Dracula: “The instant… that I had stepped over the threshold, [Dracula] moved impulsively forward, and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength that made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed as cold as ice—more like the hand of a dead than a living man” (p. 23). Dracula himself makes much of the fact that Harker must enter “freely and of [his] own will” (p. 23). In this moment, Harker is consciously (although not altogether knowingly) passing from the realm of the living to the dead; of the light into darkness; of the good into evil. Although he is a “prisoner” by the chapter’s end (p. 35), it is in part because he has placed himself in imprisonment, crossing a threshold he should nt have crossed. Whether this fact implies anything about Harker’s character remains to be seen.
Readers begin to ascertain something of Dracula’s plans as he impresses upon Harker his desire to assimilate fully into English civilization: “I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is” (p. 28). As Leonard Wolf points out, “No doubt a horrific irony is intended here” (p. 28 n. 13)—for Dracula indeed wants to drain London’s populace of its life to prolong his own; he has no desire to share its “change” and “death” at all! More deeply, however, we hear of Dracula’s desire for domination: “I have been so long master that I would be master still—or at least that none other should be master of me” (p. 28). It may prove that what truly makes Dracula a monster is not that he is a vampire, but that he is bent on dominating others.
The matter of the blue flames from chapter 1 is revisited in this chapter. Dracula tells Harker (accurately) that, according to popular lore, the flames on Saint George’s Eve mark the locations of buried treasure. Burial and soil, of course, will be important elements of the narrative that follows; and so Dracula notably tells Harker that “there is hardly a foot of soil in all this region [i.e., Transylvania] that has not been enriched by the blood of men…” (p. 30). Dracula is ostensibly speaking of the blood spilled by patriots and invaders alike in war, but the words more generally apply to the fact that Dracula needs his native soil because, as a vampire, he relies on the blood of others.