Dracula: Chapter 21

Chapter 21

Summary: On the night of October 2-3, Dracula visits Mina for the third consecutive night. He enters her room again as a mist, and induces a stupor in Jonathan, who is in the room with Mina; she is unable to awaken her husband. Dracula drinks from Mina’s neck, who finds herself unable to resist, then opens a vein in his chest and forces Mina to drink the blood that spurts forth. While the vampire is assaulting Mina, Van Helsing, Seward, and Quincey Morris burst into the room; they threaten Dracula with holy water and crucifixes. Dracula escapes, turning himself back into mist.
The men had been alerted to Mina’s peril by none other than Renfield. When they investigated Renfield’s accident, they found him terribly bloodied and broken. He had been engaged in a struggle with Dracula. Renfield had promised to worship and serve the vampire in exchange for the lives of countless rats and flying insects “through countless ages”—but in the day following Renfield’s oath of loyalty, Dracula sent him nothing. When Dracula finally returned, he treated Renfield with contempt—and he smelled like Mina Harker, whose blood now flowed through his veins. When Mina came to see Renfield, Renfield noted how pale she was, and how much blood she had lost. So when Dracula returned that night, Renfield resolved to resist him. He did not, obviously, succeed.
Analysis: In this chapter we as readers notice how we are losing the straightforward chronological recounting of the action that we had so recently gained. The mutual decision of the men and Mina to keep things from each other here plays out some of its unfortunate consequences. Notice, for instance, how Mina is unsure whether the men know of the mist that she saw previously: “I forget now if you know of this; you will find it in my diary which I shall show you later,” p. 342). How differently events might have transpired had all the characters involved continued to be open and forthcoming with one another! Once more, then, we sense the importance of trust as a theme in the book.
Domination, in contrast to trust, is Dracula’s coin; and we see that will to dominate dramatically displayed in Mina’s description of, again, what amounts to her rape at Dracula’s hands. When the men break into her bedroom, the details speak of violent sexuality; e.g., “Her white nightdress was smeared with blood” (p. 337; readers might also find here a hint of the ancient custom of displaying the bride’s blood-stained bedsheets after her first night with the groom, to prove that the marriage has been consummated—if so, it is a perverse parody of a marriage that has transpired between Mina and the vampire). The scene in which Dracula forces Mina to drink his blood may carry with it distasteful connotations of oral sex: “When the blood began to spurt out, he… pressed my mouth to the wound, so that I must either suffocate or swallow some of the—Oh my God!” (p. 344). Dracula himself expresses his motivation as one of the need to dominate and control, which is, of course, the motivation for rape: he describes what he does to Mina as, essentially, punishment for her daring to help the men defeat him: “Whilst they played wits against me—against me who commanded nations…” (p. 343). And, very tellingly, Leonard Wolf points out that Mina’s feeling of being polluted by Dracula’s actions “echoes the Victorian (and not yet wholly altered) masculine view that the rape victim was morally stained by the violent embrace she endured” (p. 340 n24). One element of the situation that may counterbalance that view, however, is the fact that Jonathan is rendered completely impotent (in perhaps more than one sense?) by Dracula’s presence: not only does he swoon in a stupor as Dracula is molesting his wife, but also he fails to recover fully after the attack: “Harker was still and quiet; but over his face… came a grey look which deepened and deepened… [his] flesh stood darkly out against the whitening hair” (p. 344). Dracula has victimized not only (although principally) Mina, but Jonathan as well. He has violently supplanted Harker as Mina’s husband—a development borne out by Dracula’s “naming” of Mina as “flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin” (p. 343), language lifted virtually verbatim from the “marriage” of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.