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Image from WikiMedia Commons, via thecount68 circa 2009

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Plot Summary

The storyline of Bram Stroker's Dracula follows four consecutive parts, each of which is told in an epistolary format composed of diary entries, journals, news articles, transcripts of phonograph recordings, and legal documents.

Count Dracula's Castle

The novel begins in the diary Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer summoned to the castle of Count Dracula of Transylvania to mediate the sale of a London estate to the nobleman. However, he quickly begins to uncover the supernatural nature of his host and finds himself unable to communicate with the outside world or leave. While imprisoned Harker discovers, to his horror the various powers of Dracula: his ability to scale walls, transform into different animals, manipulate the elements, superior human strength, and control over other vampires, such as the Three Sisters. He also uncovers his thirst for living human blood, inability to move about during the sunlight, and practice of sleeping during the day. His story closes with a plan to flee the castle.

The Decline of Lucy Westenra

The novel then directs its attention to the diaries, journals, and letters of London residents and relations Lucy Westenra, Mina Murrary - Jonathan's fiance and eventual wife - and Doctor John Seward. It also introduces the madman Renfield, a patient of Seward's with an obsession with feeding animals to each other in order to transfer their life force between them. The focus remains on Lucy, a prominent young noblewomen with multiple suitors. Shortly after she becomes engaged to Arthur Holmwood, Lucy experiences bouts of sleepwalking that leads to her becoming bedridden due to a sudden onset of anemia. Seward summons the aid of Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch doctor with knowledge in mysterious illnesses. He covers her room in garlic and bans her from leaving her house, temporarily improving her health. However, her mother removes the garlic against the Helsings orders and the two doctors are forced to administer multiple blood transfusions to sustain her life. Ultimately, a wolf breaks into the house during the middle of the night; in the ensuing chaos, Lucy's mother dies from shock and Lucy passes away shortly after. The men who loved her mourn her passing but Van Helsing expresses his concerns that there are other forces at work and that more horrors await them.

The Mystery of the Vampire

Picking up right after Lucy's death, a number of children become hospitalized with the same anemia Lucy experienced. Van Helsing theorizes that it Lucy has risen from the grave and is draining their blood just as her own was. He rallies Arthur, Seward, and the American Quincey Morris, all Lucy's suitors, to enter her tomb and put her to rest by driving a stake through her heart. Following this, they work with Jonathan Harker - who escaped Transylvania - and the newly wed Mina Harker to track and hunt Dracula, who've they realized killed Lucy and raised her as a vampire. To do so they begin compiling information on his various properties and record all information pertaining to him, resulting in various discussions with Renfield, who they believe to be his servant. However, their meddling in Dracula's affairs exposes Mina to his wrath and, at various times he attempts, to claim her as his next bride, one of which leads to Renfield's death. This section closes as the vampire hunters succeed in driving Dracula from England by destroying his various hidden coffins that he sleeps in.

The Hunt for Dracula

The climax of the novel takes place as the vampire hunters chase Dracula across Europe to Transylvania. In order to cover more ground, they spit into two parties, Mina and Van Helsing heading straight to Dracula’s castle, while Quincey, Jonathan, Arthur, and Seward follow Dracula. They succeed in cutting the vampire off from his home and Van Helsing cleanses it. In the final scene, the men attack the wagon transporting Dracula’s coffin and succeed in killing him forever; however, Quincey dies in the process, wounded by one of the vampire’s protectors.

One year later Jonathan and Mina have a son and name it after Quincey. Jonathan leaves a final note explaining that the entire novel cannot be proven because there are no copies of the original manuscripts (the novel itself was a copy Mina transcribed on a typewriter during the events of the book). However, he states that when his son is old enough Van Helsing will tell the story of his family to him.

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Dracula---Dracula is the primary antagonist within the novel. Mina eventually sympathizes with him, referring to him as an animal of prey. He is cunning, sexually threatening, precocious, and devious. He will use money to his advantage, employing the proletariats within the story to do most of his bidding.

Van Helsing---Van Helsing is the chief source of moral within the group. He possesses a wealth of knowledge on the subject of vampires and is consequently the first and only believer in their existence. He manages to bypass and even transcend gender roles, comforting both men and women during emotionally straining events; he is at one point referred to by Seward as being emotional like a woman.

Doctor John Seward--Seward, though his commentary is perhaps the most straightforward and dry, gives us a psychological outlook on the characters of Renfield, which, by extension, awards us insight into the mind of Dracula. He is the protégé of Van Helsing and the administrator of an insane asylum--eventually becoming the base of operations for the crew.

Mina Murray/Harker---Mina is Jonathan’s fiancée and could be interpreted as a ‘new woman’. She turns to typewriting because it proves advantageous in tracking Dracula, but also Stoker may be saying that women, too, can be intelligent, resourceful, and beneficiary in society. In many ways, Mina proves to be the heroine considering her ordering of events leads to the conclusion of the novel. She, like Lucy, will embody pure English values, magnified by her stoic resolve after being bitten as well as during her moving speeches both before and during their tracking of the Count.

Jonathan Harker---Jonathan is a lawyer who kicks off the novel and works out real estate dealings with Dracula. Unbeknownst to him, he will inadvertently aid Dracula with his invasion. More than any other character in the book, Jonathan takes a number of detours in not just character, but in action. He will take the courageous plunge to escape Dracula’s clutches; go mad, passive, and later helpless to Dracula’s dealings with Mina; emerging as a hero whose knowledge of paperwork aids in the tracking of Dracula’s coffins, eventually giving the killing blow to Dracula outside of his castle in the final chapter.

Arthur Holmwood---Holmwood is the fiancé of Lucy and a mutual friend to the other members in the group. He is the son of a Lord and eventually is bequeathed both land and title by his father. Arthur remains in the background for the majority of the novel, with the exception of his love for Lucy; he takes the initiative to give her blood after she is bitten and also offers to give her the final blow after she transforms into the ‘bloofal lady’.

Quincey Morris---Quincey embodies many American stereotypes, beginning first with a southern drawl thanks to being raised in Texas. He has earned both his title and his land through manual labor and a strong work ethic. He claims to be a great hunter even though he misses what can safely be assumed as Dracula in bat form. Ever faithful to the group and always determined to help, the laconic Quincey will be the only member of the group to die, effectively showing that American’s cannot exist in an English world.

Lucy Westenra--Lucy is Mina’s best friend and eventually succumbs to the will of Dracula--becoming the ‘bloofal lady’. She is the first to fall victim to being transformed into a vampire, detailing what can happen to the ideal English woman when her chastity becomes compromised. She is eventually killed by the group, but not before biting a small number of children,

Renfield---Renfield’s psychosis will be a very interesting tool in not just understanding the mind of a would be vampire, but also in his categorization as ‘mad’. He is eventually brutally murdered by Dracula, but not before providing a lot of insight into his motives, desires, and treatment of his subjects.

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Motifs and Themes

Following this link will take you towards our Motif and Theme child page, wherein we discuss a handful of prevalent ideas laden within the text.
Link to Motifs and Themes...

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Cultural Adaptations

Link to Cultural Adaptations..

Dracula Adaptations: Stage and Early Film

Bram Stoker protected his rights to produce his work on the stage. The first reading of the play-script was at Lyceum Theatre on May 18 1897, it was 5 acts and 47 scenes, over 5 hours long. It was first licensed for dramatization in the mid 1920’s.

The first play was in 1924, and was a great hit. It changed the image of the gaunt Dracula with bad breath into a suave man. There were lots of magic effects including flash boxes, demonstrations of hypnosis, and a coffin where the vampire corpse vanished. The critics did not respond well to this play, but the fans liked it a lot.

The play first came to America on October 5, 1927. It was restaged in 1977, and got average reviews. Since 1970, at least 9 other theatrical versions have been staged, including 3 musical productions.

The earliest known film was made in 1921 in Hungary and it was probably called Death of Dracula. There are no remaining copies of the film available, but the filmbook still exists. The movie was similar in theme, but there was no blood sucking, just hypnotizing.

In March 1922 Nosferatu opened in Berlin. When Florence Stoker found out about the film, she sued them and the court ordered all copies to be destroyed in 1925. However, copies of the film kept popping up and still exist today.

The 1931 film adaptation of Dracula is considered the most successful. It stars Bela Lucosi as Dracula, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, and Dwight Frye as Reinfeild. These became iconic roles for them.

In 1931 another Dracula was filmed using the same set, except using the set at night. This film was in Spanish.

In 1958 there was a successful movie called Dracula or The Horror of Dracula, then another called Count Dracula in 1978. I Am Legend was initially a vampire novel written by Richard Matheson. There was a vampire soap opera called Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966 – 1971, where Dracula saw Mina’s picture in a newspaper and thought she was a reincarnation of his long lost wife.

In 1979 there was yet another film made named Dracula, which downplayed the horror of the story and focused on the romantic aspects and the campiness and humor. Then in 1992 there was an adaptation called Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, which won 3 Oscars and focused on the redemptive power of love.

Several humorous adaptations came out, including Abott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Love at First Bite (1979), and Dracula: Dead and Loving it (1995).

Discussion Questions

What role does technology and advancement play in the novel? Does it aid or weaken the characters as they combat Dracula?

Stoker knew many magnetic, powerful people in his life. How does it affect your reading of the text knowing that Dracula could be based on one or more of these figures?

What effect does the structure of the novel achieve? That is, how does the combination of journal entries and telegrams from multiple points of view enhance the novel in ways that having just one narrator would not? How does the epistolary form detract from the novel?

Resources and Links

Doctor Emily Miller's "Dracula Homepage" hosts a variety of essays and articles pertaining to various aspects of the novel: famous sites, Dracula's origins, Vlad the Impaler, just to name a few.

Victorian Web is a great resource for everything relating to Victorian-era history, literature, and culture.

U2Know offers a wide array of photos of Bran Castle as well as a detailed account of the myths and legends surrounding the tourist attraction.

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Image from WikiMedia Commons, via William and Daniel circa 1906

Link to Biography...

Born on November 8, 1847, in Cluntarf, Dublin, Ireland

Died April 20, 1912, in London, England

Bram Stoker was often sick as a child, and the stories told to him by his mother during the time confined to his bed may have first piqued his interest in the supernatural.  When he recovered from his illness, he went on to become an accomplished athlete at Trinity College in Dublin. In 1878 he moved to London, where he met other notable authors of the time, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats.  It was rumored that he was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a circle of occultists, but this has never been confirmed.  An 1890 trip to Whitby, where he first learned of the historical Dracula, provided much of his inspiration for Dracula.  While Dracula was the novel that propelled him to fame, Stoker also wrote many other novels and short stories, a collection of children's stories, and essays on censorship. 

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Stoker's Vampire

Link to Stokers Vampire...
Stoker's 'Original' vampire possesses the following traits:

  • potential immortality
  • feeds on the blood of others
  • has the strength of twenty men
  • can shapeshift into the form of a wolf or bat
  • can appear as mist or elemental dust
  • has no reflection in a mirror
  • has no shadow
  • has ability to "hypnotize" his victims
  • can turn victims into vampires

Stoker's vampire possesses these limitations:

  • may not enter a household unless he is invited in
  • loses his supernatural powers during daylight hours
  • must sleep on the soil of his native land
  • repelled by garlic and holy symbols (crucifix, communion wafer)
  • can be destroyed by driving a stake through his heart

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Related Dracula Criticism

A Vampire in the Mirror: The Sexuality of Dracula

  • Author: John Allen Stevenson
    Stevenson wants to use an “anti-incestuous” model in place of the common Freudian psychosexual model, and instead think of Dracula’s relationship with the women in this novel as interracial foreigner.

Vampurella: Darwin and Count Dracula

  • Author: Charles S. Blinderman
    Dracula’s clear intention to profess the supremacy of the spirit over scientific materialism using Darwinism as a “lightning-rod” in Victorian Britain’s struggle with the spirit/science dualism

Whitman’s Influence on Stoker’s Dracula

  • Author: Dennis R. Perry
    “Explores the hitherto neglected topic of Whitman’s potential influence on his admirer, Bram Stoker, emphasizing the writers’ mutual fascination with death, with the boundaries of body and self, and with the connectedness between things; explicates Stoker’s “nightmarish inversion” of Whitman’s themes.” -Perry

The Narrative Method of Dracula

  • Author: David Seed
    Focuses on Stoker’s choices in his narrative method, examining his intentions in creating the novel using an epistolary structure in a logical way.

Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media

  • Author: Jennifer Wicke
    Instead of focusing on the more salient terrors of Dracula’s modernism, Wicke turns to the “more banal” fears of everyday life through the use of typewriters and other media in Dracula.

The Scientific Spirit and the Spiritual Scientist: Moving in the Right Circles

  • Author: Elisabeth Wadge
    Wadge explores the ever-present binaries of the spiritual versus the scientific apparent in Dracula and tries to determine how to deal with Stoker’s interrelation of the two.

"A Wilde Desire Took Me": The Homoerotic History of Dracula

  • Author: Talia Schaffer
    Apparent through the pun in Schaffer’s title, this author examines the relationship between between Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker and tries to make an analogous view apparent in Dracula’s treatment of male relationships.

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Notable Settings

Dracula's Castle

Though Bram Stoker never visited Romania, analysis of the various settings of his novel suggest that Dracula's castle was inspired by the real world Castle Bran. Located near of Bran and Bravos, the castle acted as a fortress to defend against Turkish invasion. While there is little documented association between Vlad the Impaler - Stoker's inspiration for Dracula - and the castle, various legends associate it as one of his main fortresses and, through his connection to Dracula, is considered to be haunted by his spirit. Based on these rumors, the castle serves as one of the largest tourist attractions and national monuments in Romania.

Source: U2Know


Located on the North Sea just 50 miles north of York, the fishing port of Whitby is considered the first location in England Dracula set foot on as well as where he first encountered Lucy. In reality, the town served as the birthplace for the novel. Based upon his notes, it appears that, while vacationing in the town, Stoker came upon the name of "Dracula," the history of Vlad the Impaler, and the estate that would serve as Dracula's English home. Today, the town exhibits the Bram Stoker Memorial seat, a donation of the Scarborough Borough Council and the Dracula Society, in honor of Stoker's legacy.

Source: Doctor Emily Miller


1. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Maurice Hindle. 25th ed. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print. Penguin Classics.
2. "Top 101 Castles." U2Know. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2012.
3. Miller, Emily. "Dracula's Homepage." Dr. Elizabeth Miller, 2006. Web. 4 May 2012.

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