Dracula: Chapter 8

Chapter 8
Summary: Lucy continues to suffer from sleepwalking episodes. In the early morning of August 11, she leaves the room, clad only in her lingerie, and makes her way down to the “suicide seat.” Mina awakens to find Lucy gone, and follows her. She catches a fleeting glimpse of some dark figure, “whether man or beast, [she] could not tell,” bending over Lucy; by the time she reaches Lucy, the figure is gone. In covering Lucy up, Mina believes she pokes Lucy in the neck with the safety-pin of her shawl, for Lucy reaches for her own throat in apparent pain. Mina is able to get Lucy back to bed without attracting notice; contrary to Mina’s expectations, the night-time adventure seems to have left Lucy strengthened rather than weakened. Twice the next night, Lucy again attempts to leave in her sleep, but Mina has taken the precaution of tying the key to her wrist. The next night, unable to leave, Lucy sits up in bed, asleep, and points to the window—outside of which Mina sees a large bat.
The next day at twilight, on their way back from the “suicide seat,” Lucy murmurs a strange comment: “His red eyes again!” Mina sees that Lucy seems to be gazing at a dark figure back at the seat; again, however, Mina sees this figure for only a moment. That night, Lucy sleeps with her head against the window; on the sill, Mina sees “something that looked like a good-sized bird.” Mina thinks about sharing her concerns over Lucy’s sleepwalking with Lucy’s mother, but decides against it, as Lucy’s mother is happy about Lucy’s impending nuptials—but also because the woman has recently been told by her doctor that she does not have long to live. Meanwhile, the wounds on Lucy’s neck are not healing, but “are still open, and, if anything, larger than before.”
On the night of August 17-18, however, Lucy sleeps soundly through the night, and seems restored to health and high spirits the next day. Mina’s joy is further increased when she receives a letter from Sister Agatha at the Hospital of Saints Joseph and Mary in Budapest, informing her that Jonathan is at last on his way home to England. He has been resting in the hospital for some six weeks, suffering from a delirium in which he raves “of wolves and poison and blood; of ghosts and demons; and I fear to say of what.”
Even as Harker is improving, however, Renfield, according to Dr. Seward’s diary, appears to be growing worse. Announcing that “the Master is at hand,” Renfield escapes from the asylum on the night of August 18-19, scaling the wall that separates the asylum from the deserted house, Carfax (to which, a few days earlier, solicitors in Whitby arranged for the delivery of fifty large boxes…). Seward manages to recover Renfield, restraining him a straight-jacket, and believing that he has stopped Renfield from carrying out whatever murderous plans he may be wildly imagining.
Analysis: Through Mina, Stoker pokes fun at the concept of the “new” (what modern readers would call “liberated”) woman. Leonard Wolf notes that the implied critique of feminism is ironic, given that Stoker’s own mother “had spoken publicly in 1864 in Dublin for ‘social welfare work and determined championing of the weaker sex’” (p. 120 n2). Biographical relevance aside, the phrase “new woman” takes on further irony because, in another and distinctly less liberating sense, Lucy has become a “new woman” under the thrall of Dracula. When responding to his presence in her sleepwalking episodes (and, now, at key moments during the day; witness her sighting of “[h]is red eyes” at sundown, p. 126), she is “not herself”—a further confirmation that the text accepts conventional Victorian understandings of sleepwalking (see Analysis of Ch. 7, above). Of course, Lucy becomes a “new woman” again by becoming her “old self” when Dracula leaves Whitby for London on the night of August 17-18: “Last night she slept well all night… She is in gay spirits and full of life and cheerfulness” (p. 129).
Mina’s description of Dracula’s encounter with Lucy on August 11 may remind readers of Harker’s encounter with the vampire brides (Ch. 3): a vampire (vampires) feeding (threatening to feed) on a victim who occupies a liminal state between sleep and wakefulness. Harker’s meeting with the three brides also finds resonances in this chapter in Lucy’s description of her “dreams”—in reality, her nocturnal trysts with Dracula, although she, of course, does not know them to be so. “I didn’t quite dream,” she tells Mina, “but it all seemed to be real” (p. 130)—a clear echo of Harker’s statement that he knew not whether he was sleeping or awake. Notice also how Dr. Seward’s description of Renfield’s nighttime escape from the asylum mirrors Lucy’s sleepwalking of a week earlier: both Lucy and Renfield are dressed “only in [their] night-gear” (p. 134) and so are described as “unclad” (p. 123) or “naked” (p. 135); both escape from supposedly secure locations; both are pursued (Lucy by Mina, Renfield by Seward); both are seen by their pursuers as “white figures.” Renfield, however, is awake and can articulate what Lucy cannot: he is responding to the powerful, even erotically charged summons of a lover/dominator: Renfield calls Dracula “Master” (pp. 132, 136) and, in a gender-reversing metaphor, “the bride” (p. 133). Leonard Wolf notes that this is the text’s second evocation of the biblical image of bridesmaids and bridegrooms, although in this case Renfield seems to be comparing himself to John the Baptizer, who said, “The friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice” (John 3:29, KJV; Wolf, p. 133 n36). Seward believes that Renfield is falling victim to “religious mania, and he will soon think that he himself is God” (p. 133). The doctor is close to the truth, but has not hit on it exactly: as Wolf explains, “Renfield casts himself into the role of an anti-John-the-Baptist announcing the coming of the Anti-Christ” (p. 132 n34).
Readers have clear evidence in this chapter that Stoker is paying close attention to the dates on which he sets the events of his plot: Lucy enjoys her first night of unmolested (literally!) sleep on August 17-18, the night before Renfield escapes from the asylum, August 18-19. Count Dracula is on the move. Critic Tom Shippey, in reference to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, calls this narrative technique “interlacing”: constructing a chronology in which important events happen alongside each other, although unbeknownst to the characters in the text. Interlacing can create “constant irony, created by the frequent gaps between what the characters realize and what the reader realizes—though the reader is of course almost as often in the dark as the characters” (Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000; p. 110). In addition to irony and suspense, interlacing can also be used to emphasize important themes.