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Plot Summary of Bram Stoker's Dracula

Updated on March 10, 2018

Bram Stoker's Dracula

First published in 1897, Dracula is the most famous piece of literary work written by Bram Stoker. Written as if the work is a collection of journal and diary entries, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the book against which all vampire centred forms of entertainment are judged.

Prior to writing Dracula, Bram Stoker was the business manager at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Whilst it was a decent job, Bram Stoker would make extra money by writing novels and stories. Some were quickly written and others took their time.

Before publishing Dracula, Bram Stoker would spend several years researching folklore, and it was during this time that Stoker heard of Vlad Dracula, the man who gave his name to the title character. Eventually, the story was ready to be published, something that occurred on the 26th May 1897 when Archibald Constable and Company launched the book.

Bram Stoker's Dracula First Edition

PD-life-70
PD-life-70 | Source

Spoiler Alert - Plot Summary of Dracula

The titular Dracula, is in fact Count Dracula, the owner of a castle estate in Transylvania. It is to Castle Dracula that Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer from England, must travel, in order that a business transaction between Count Dracula and Harker’s employer, Peter Hawkins.

As Harker makes his way through the Carpathian Mountains, locals tell him about the evil that lurks in and around Castle Dracula. Strange things are definitely afoot, because on the last leg of the journey, the carriage in which Harker is travelling is attacked by a pack of wolves. Seemingly it is only the strange actions of the coachman that saves them.

Initially though, Harker decides that the warnings of the locals are unfounded, as Count Dracula himself, is both courteous and friendly. Gradually though Harker realises that he is being effectively kept as a prisoner within the castle; and strange undertakings occur during the night. Harker concludes that Dracula has supernatural powers.

Searching for an escape route one night, Harker is attacked by three female vampires, “the sisters”, and Harker is only rescued at the last second by Dracula. Dracula has not finished pumping Harker for information about England. It now seems that, the now revealed vampire lord has his sights on the rich pickings of London. Dracula eventually gains everything he needs from Harker, and as the count departs from Transylvania, Harker has to make a desperate escape down the walls of Castle Dracula in order to avoid “the sisters”.

Dracula's Castle

Mark Ahsmann CC-BY-SA-4.0
Mark Ahsmann CC-BY-SA-4.0 | Source

Harker does escape, but cannot immediately depart for England, nor send warning, as he is taken ill, and spends a number of weeks in Budapest recovering from brain fever.

Life of course goes on in England, where Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray, is worried about the lack of news from her intended. Mina’s best friend, Lucy Westenra, also has worries of her own, as she must decide which of her suitors, Arthur Holmwood, Dr John Seward or Quincey Morris, she should marry. Arthur Holmwood is heir to the title of Lord Godalming, Dr Seward runs a mental institute, whilst Morris is an American adventurer. Holmwood has the best prospects of the three suitors, and so Lucy chooses him, although all of the suitors remain on friendly terms. Mina and Lucy, after some correspondence, meet up in the coastal town of Whitby.

Strange events start to take place in England. A Russian ship beaches at Whitby, but all bar the captain of the crew have disappeared. The ship’s manifest reveals that the vessel was carrying fifty boxes of earth from Transylvania (this being the native soil on which Dracula had to sleep). The ship’s log also reveals that during the journey, the crew had disappeared one by one.

At the mental institute one of Seward’s patients is acting strangely. A lawyer by the name of Renfield keeps making reference to a “Master”, and has begun to eat insects, spiders and birds in order that he should take on their life force. It is of course becomes obvious that Renfield is under the influence of Dracula.

Similarly Lucy is acting strangely, sleepwalking at night and losing blood. Mina even discovers Lucy one night in a graveyard. Mina briefly leaves England to retrieve her fiancé from Hungary; and whilst in Budapest Mina and Jonathan Harker wed.

Dr Seward cannot discern what is wrong with Lucy and with all of the former suitors extremely worried, Seward sends word to one of his old tutors, Dr Abraham Van Helsing.

Van Helsing is a man of science and soon makes use of blood transfusions to try and save Lucy; the doctor though is also an expert in the supernatural, and also makes use of garlic to protect the woman from future vampire attacks. Initially though, Van Helsing does not reveal that it is a vampire who is causing the change in Lucy.

Van Helsing’s work though is undone when a wolf attacks the home of Lucy and her mother, and ultimately Lucy dies.

Van Helsing then has to reveal to the old suitors, that Lucy is not actually dead but has become one of the undead. News has already started to spread amongst the locals about children being stalked at night, but it is only the sight of Lucy herself that convinces the three men. Van Helsing and his vampire hunters manage to corner the undead Lucy, and ultimately kill her by staking her, decapitating her and then filling her mouth with garlic.

Whitby Abbey

Ruins of Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire, England. Chris Kirk CC-BY-2.0
Ruins of Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire, England. Chris Kirk CC-BY-2.0 | Source

Van Helsing, Seward, Morris and Holmwood are joined by Mina and Harker, and then start to plan the destruction of Dracula, the one who has caused all of the anguish so far. Van Helsing determines that a major step will be in sanctifying the fifty boxes of Transylvanian soil that Dracula had transported to England, and the men set out on the task.

Mina is hidden away from danger, but her hiding place is not the best, for it is in Seward’s institute, and Renfield reveals Mina’s location to Dracula, and allows the vampire access. Dracula turns the table on the hunters, as Mina becomes his prey. To create a telepathic link, Dracula also feeds Mina some of his blood; but whilst this allows Dracula to see into Mina’s mind, it also allows her to see into his.

Mina is turning into a vampire, just as Lucy did before her. It is now a race against time for the vampire hunters to stop the transformation, something that they can only do if they kill Count Dracula. Van Helsing’s companions are sanctified all of the boxes of earth in England, and this has forced Dracula to flee back to Transylvania, and the hunters are quickly on his trail again.

Van Helsing kills the three sisters, and cleanses Dracula’s castle before the count can return; and then all of the hunters start on their main objective. They find the coffin of Dracula being transported back to the castle by a group of gypsies (Szgany) Harker and Quincey Morris use their knives to stab the vampire, and Quincey’s goes through Dracula’s heart, turning him to dust, just as the sun was setting. During the fight with the gypsies Quincey himself had been mortally wounded.

The book though ends on a happy note, as seven years have passed since events. All evidence of Dracula has been cleansed from Transylvania, and in England, Jonathan and Mina Harker have been blessed with a son, a boy they call Quincey in honour of their departed friend.

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