Dracula: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Summary: Harker continues to feel trapped in Castle Dracula. He spies Dracula making Harker’s bed, confirming Harker’s suspicion that he and Dracula are the only people in the castle; there are no servants. The next night, Harker has another long, late conversation with Dracula, in which the Count relates something of his family history. He claims to be of the Szekely ethnicity, a descendant of no less a bloody figure than Atila the Hun. He mentions three ancestors in particular who bore the name Dracula: the first of whom “crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground”; the second, the first’s “own unworthy brother… [who] sold his people to the Turk” as slaves; and the third, who fought the Turks in battle after battle “since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph!” Several days later, Dracula asks Harker many specific questions about conducting business, particularly shipping, in England. He also asks that Harker write letters back to England, communicating Dracula’s wishes that Harker stay with him for the next month. Further, he warns Harker that, although he is free to move about the castle—save for the many locked rooms—that he should not fall asleep in rooms of the castle other than Harker’s own. Later that night, Harker looks out a window and, to his astonishment, clearly sees Dracula climbing the castle walls face down, entering another part of the castle. Three days later, Harker is wandering the castle at night and, growing sleepy, decides to disobey Dracula’s advice and goes to sleep on a couch in the budoir (the area of the castle in which the noble women used to reside). During the night, Harker is awakened by the noise of three women debating amongst themselves about who should kiss Harker. He pretends to remain asleep as, through his eyelashes, he watches one of the women draw near to him and bend over him, pressing her lips—and her teeth—to his throat. At that moment, Dracula intervenes, repelling the women the same way that he (as the carriage driver) repelled wild wolves. He claims that Harker belongs to him; in reply, the women accuse Dracula of never having loved. Apparently saddened by this accusation, Dracula reminds the women that they each know, from the past, that he can love; and that they can “kiss” Harker after Dracula is done with him. Dracula gives the women a bag from which Harker hears “a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child.” The women seem to fade away in the rays of moonlight that stream into the room. Horror prompts Harker to slip into unconsciousness.

Analysis: Chapter 3 is one of the most famous and memorable chapters in the novel, not only for its striking image of Dracula scaling his castle’s walls in a lizard-lik fashion but also and especially for the episode involving Dracula’s brides (might they be called a harem?—note Harker’s passing reference to The Arabian Nights, p. 42). Leonard Wolf writes, “Probably everyone who has ever read Dracula would like to know more about the mysterious vampire brides, but doubtless Stoker was wisest in giving only a tantalizng glimpse of them” (p. 53 n52). The passage is a masterfully crafted blend of horror and eroticism: e.g., “There was a deliberate voluptousness [about the woman bending over Harker] which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal…” (p. 52). Stoker’s attention to sensous detail—the whiteness of the vampires’ teeth, the moist redness of their lips—effectively conveys Harker’s conflicting reactions of arousal and fear, as do such paradoxical phrases as “an agony of delightful anticipation” (p. 52). The passage also reinforces the liminal, boundary-straddling nature of Castle Dracula, as the boundaries between sleep and wakefulness, sanity and madness grow blurred for Harker.
The chapter also alludes to historical information that informed Stoker’s creation of Count Dracula. Although some of his details seem confused, his tale of an ancestor who crossed the Danube to defeat the Turks on their own territory certainly brings to mind Vlad III (the Impaler), the brutal ruler (voivode, “prince” in Romanian) of mid-14th century Wallachia (1456-1462) and builder of the fortress of Bucharest. Wolf calls Vlad “one of Europe’s bloodiest tyrants” (p. xiv); for his part, Count Dracula hails him as “a Dracula indeed!” (p. 43). The name “Dracula” is derived from a Romanian word for dragon (or possibly also “devil”). Historical accuracy aside, however, Count Dracula’s point to Harker is clear, and echoes the point Dracula made in the previous chapter: the count desires to be in control. Of his ethnicity he says, “we are a conquering race” (p. 40) and “our spirit would not brook that we were not free” (p. 42). Later, he refers to Hawkins (the senior lawyer for whom Harker works) as “your master, employer, what you will” (p. 45)—the moment could be dismissed as a product of Dracula’s professed unfamiliarty with the English language; but we have heard too much from the Count at this point to be convinced that he chooses his words anything but carefully. Issues of mastery, “lordship” (p. 39), and control are very much on his mind and in his nature; note again how he controls the three vampire women with “the same imperious gesture that [Harker] had seen used to the wolves” of Chapter 1 (p. 53). Dracula also goes to great lengths to learn how he may use the services of several solicitors and agents when he arrives in England so that “the whole of [his] affairs [will not] be known by any one person” (p. 44). Harker can sense that he and the Count are involved in a power struggle: when commanding Harker to write letters back to England, Dracula “saw his victory in [Harker’s] bow [sic—brow?] and his mastery in the trouble of my face” (p. 45). Harker may not be able to explain fully the secret pleasure he takes in disobeying Dracula’s advice about sleeping in other quarters of the castle, but it seems clear that he is finding satisfaction in rebelling against an oppressive authority. He (and we) will discover the extent to which this particular authority, however, will tolerate rebellion.