Dracula: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Summary: In May, as the end of another academic term nears, Miss Mina Murray, an assistant schoolmistress and (as we know from previous chapters) the fiance of Jonathan Harker, writes to her close friend Lucy Westenra, inquiring in her postscript about “rumours… of a tall, handsome, curly-haired man.” Lucy writes back to tell Mina about this gentleman, one Mr. Arthur Holmwood, with whom she is very much in love, even though he has not yet professed his feelings for Lucy openly. In a letter later that month, Lucy writes to tell Mina that she has received three marriage proposals on the same day. The first came from Dr. John Seward, who has charge of a lunatic asylum and to whom she was introduced by Holmwood. The second came from Mr. Quincey P. Morris, an American from Texas. Lucy turned down both proposals because of her love for Holmwood. (She relates Holmwood’s proposal with much less detail, in a postscript to her second letter to Mina.)
The day after Lucy turned down his proposal, Seward is questioning one of his patients at the asylum, R.M. Renfield, whom Seward considers “a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish.” Meanwhile, Morris writes to Holmwood to invite him to meet with both he and their “old pal” Seward, that they may drink to his impending marriage to Lucy. Holmwood sends a brief telegram accepting the invitation, and promising that he has momentous news for his two old friends.

Analysis: Leaving the solitary, isolated Harker for the time being, Stoker shifts in this chapter to two perspectives that highlight friendship: Mina and Lucy, two young women—Mina, slightly older and already engaged; Lucy, younger, more effusive and coquettish and now newly engaged—and Holmwood, Morris and Seward, whose relationship to each other has yet to be disclosed, but which evidently stretches back some time: Morris reminds Holmwood, for instance, that they have done much world traveling together. American readers may be amused at Stoker’s broadly comic attempt to replicate Morris’ Texan slang: “Miss Lucy, I know I ain’t good enough to regulate the fixin’s of your little shoes…” (p. 77). Incidentally, Morris appears to be alluding to the biblical figure of John the Baptizer, who declared of the coming Christ, “I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals” (Mark 1:7, NRSV). Leonard Wolf finds another biblical allusion, Matthew 25:1-10 (Jesus’ parable of the wise and the foolish virgins) in Morris’ next words about “them seven young women with the lamps” (p. 77): “Actually,” writes Wolf, “there were ten young women with the lamps… Presumably, Quincey is suggesting that the bridegroom [for Lucy] has come [namely, himself]; and the the time is now. There is a bridegroom coming, but not the one she expects” (p. 77 n16)—in other words, Lucy will find herself “betrothed” to Count Dracula later in the book. Wolf fails to note, however, another biblical allusion in this chapter. In his brief telegram to Morris, Holmwood writes, “I bear messages which will make both your ears tingle” (p. 82). Holmwood’s language overtly echoes 1 Samuel 3:11, when God tells the young prophet, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle” (NRSV). Since God’s news for Samuel proves to be bad news (the judgment of the priest Eli and his rebellious sons), readers who recognize the allusion may find Holmwood’s choice of words ominous: will his news for Morris and Seward be, not joyful tidings of his upcoming nuptials, but presage to some imminent disaster?
Lucy, however, emerges as the chapter’s central figure. Wolf writes that, taken together with Mina, she is an “idealized portrait of Victorian womanhood” (p. 77 n15). For her part, however, Lucy also seems quite vain (although the quality is presented in a light-hearted manner). “Some girls are so vain,” she remarks to Mina (p. 74)—apparently without irony! In her second letter to Mina, Lucy gently mocks Seward, who (as he does with his asylum patients) attempts to discern something of Lucy’s character from a keen scrutiny of her face. Lucy writes, “…I flatter myself he has got a tough nut to crack. I know that from my glass”—that is, her looking-glass, or mirror. Readers will be reminded of the absence of such “glasses” in Castle Dracula (Ch. 2, p. 27); and of the absence of Dracula’s reflection in Harker’s mirror (Ch. 2, p. 34). Apart from reinforcing Lucy’s vanity, then, the passage introduces the possibility that mirrors will serve a symbolic function in Stoker’s text (as, of course, they do in much literature). When Lucy writes, “Do you ever try to read your own face?” (p. 73), the question may very well be one that Stoker is putting to each of his readers: Do you see your reflection in “the mirror” of this story—and, if so, what do you see? Who do you see yourself to be—and is that self-image a true reflection of who you really are? In other words, do you ask of yourself, as Harker has already asked of Dracula, “What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man?” (Ch. 3, p. 48).
This chapter may be further linked to what has gone before by the emphasis on marriage. All Lucy’s talk of proposals and of “soberly” becoming “old married women” (p. 74) may put readers in mind of the ghostly vampire brides at Castle Dracula. The extended description of Morris’ pleading for a chaste kiss from Lucy may also echo the erotically charged “kiss” one of those vampire brides attempted to place on Harker’s neck (Ch. 3, p. 52). “Little girl,” Morris tells Lucy, “I hold your hand, and you’ve kissed me, and if these things don’t make us friends, nothing ever will” (p. 79). Morris is no vampire, of course (presumably!), but his words do reinforce the idea that the kiss is more than a physical act; it links two people together at some deep level, whether the innocent kiss of friends, the romantic kiss of lovers, or the blood-sucking “kiss” of the vampire—in itself a symbolic representation of how the kisser may possess the kissed (see again Harker’s description of how vampires propogate their kind, Ch. 4, p. 67). Just as Harker felt some “wicked, burning desire that [the vampire brides] would kiss me” (Ch. 3, p. 51)—and thus become enthralled as a vampire—so does Lucy confess to Mina that, had she not already given her heart to Holmwood, she would accept Morris’ proposal: “I know I would if I were free—only I don’t want to be free” (p. 79). Stoker is developing, early on in his text, some connections between love, eroticism, freedom and slavery that he will further develop.