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Chapter 10

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 10 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 10 : Letter, Dr. Seward to the Hon. Arthur Holmwood | Summary

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Summary

Seward dispatches a brief letter to Holmwood on September 6th: Lucy's condition is worse, but Mrs. Westenra has confidence in Van Helsing's treatment.

On the 7th Seward updates his diary. Van Helsing advises him not to alarm Holmwood about Lucy's condition. Knowledge, he says, must be controlled and allowed to grow; he won't reveal his thoughts even to his former student. Van Helsing asks Mrs. Westenra about Lucy's symptoms before he and Seward examine Lucy in her room. Even her gums are pale now, and she's too breathless to speak. She needs a blood transfusion. Seward volunteers as donor, but when Holmwood arrives, Van Helsing senses his "strong young manhood" and knows his blood can save Lucy. Van Helsing allows Holmwood to kiss Lucy before drawing so much blood that Holmwood becomes pale.

Later, as Van Helsing tends to Lucy, the black velvet choker she wears—a gift from Holmwood—slips down, revealing the puncture wounds. Van Helsing hisses in dismay. He sends Holmwood home to recover, assuring him he has saved Lucy's life (for now). Seward notes the wound's worn, whitish edges. They couldn't, he thinks, be the cause of the blood loss. Van Helsing suddenly announces that he must travel to Amsterdam for supplies while Seward watches Lucy through the night. When he returns, he says cryptically, they will begin.

Seward's September 8th entry records that Lucy wakes feeling better. That night, he takes his post by her bed. She fights sleep until he promises to wake her at the first sign of nightmares; she sleeps soundly till dawn, when he leaves to catch up on work at the asylum. A telegram from Van Helsing arrives, urging him to meet him at Hillingham on his return. On the night of September 9th, Lucy sees Seward's exhaustion and insists that he sleep on a couch in an adjoining room. She leaves the doors open, intending to call him if she needs him. Before she sleeps, Lucy writes in her diary that she feels happy, strong, and close to Arthur. She blames her recent weakness on selfishness and says that love for others leads to health.

But, as Seward records in his September 10th entry, when Van Helsing awakens in the morning, they find Lucy in her bed, nearly white and weaker than ever. Van Helsing suppresses his anger and prepares to transfuse blood from Seward, for whom the transfusion is a rapturous act of love. Lucy sleeps under Seward's guard while Van Helsing dashes to the telegram office. When she wakes, she can't recall the night before. Van Helsing watches over her so Seward can rest.

The next day, Seward finds Van Helsing optimistic and Lucy stronger. A huge bouquet of garlic blossoms, which he ordered by telegram, arrives. Lucy jokes about the stinky flowers till Van Helsing gravely warns her to cooperate. He makes a wreath to hang in the window and smears garlic on the door and window frames. When Seward wonders whether the professor is "working some spell to keep out an evil spirit," Van Helsing doesn't deny it. Lucy promises to wear a necklace of blossoms that night.

Analysis

What does it mean to be a leader, a man, a woman, or a vampire in the context of the novel's setting? Chapter 10 provides some guidance. Although Van Helsing has just arrived on the scene, he is the leader that frustrated Seward and desperate Holmwood have been waiting for. Van Helsing models leadership somewhat oddly, yet he is effective. First, though he and Seward are supposed to be treating Lucy "conjointly," Van Helsing immediately takes over. He is the expert. He knows, readers can tell, why Lucy is sick—otherwise, he wouldn't order the garlic flowers. Van Helsing is also decisive. He acts quickly to stabilize Lucy with a blood transfusion. (Readers must set aside current medical understanding about transfusions, blood types, and Rh factors—knowledge Stoker and his contemporaries lacked—and meet the novel where it is.) Van Helsing displays concern to Seward, who can cope with it, optimism to Mrs. Westenra, and kindness to Lucy in her weakness. What he doesn't do is explain himself or answer questions. He justifies withholding and controlling information in an elaborate metaphor that subtly assigns him godlike judgment—all while tweaking Seward's ear as if he were a child. Van Helsing establishes himself right away as a man of paradoxes, both endearing and irritating—and the other characters trust him.

Masculinity is also modeled in the chapter, especially in the blood transfusion scene. Holmwood, torn between needing to be at his father's sickbed and wanting to be with Lucy, dutifully dashes back and forth between the Westenra's home and his own. Seeing Lucy so pale, Holmwood romantically and impetuously declares himself willing to serve her with "the last drop of blood in my body." Van Helsing, amused and moved, says, "You are a man, and it is a man we want." Holmwood is the superior choice for the transfusion, younger than Van Helsing and stouter than Seward. He's athletic; he's of aristocratic blood, as is Lucy; and he doesn't think too much. This last detail makes him superior to Seward, who thinks so much that he's nervous. His blood is "not so bright" as Holmwood's. In fact, Holmwood's blood is "so pure" that Van Helsing doesn't need to filter it ("we need to defibrinate it"). He transfuses the "brave young lover" to the point of paleness, yet Holmwood, who has apparently never experienced a transfusion, isn't even fazed. He is a model of young manhood whom Van Helsing later embraces as a son. More specifically, Holmwood is a model of young English high-born manhood—the best England has to offer.

Lucy, by contrast, is fading away. She and Holmwood should be the quintessential couple, young and fertile, happy parents of a brood to make the nation proud. But illness and exhaustion, she writes, make women "turn our inner eyes and sympathy on ourselves." Unlike Mina, who in robust health loves to tend her husband, Lucy can hardly lift her head and requires yet another transfusion. Seward, who had to cede the honor of saving Lucy to Holmwood, now is thrilled to see his "life-blood drawn away into the veins" of beloved Lucy. It is an intimate act, so much so that Van Helsing warns Seward not to mention it to Holmwood because it would "at once frighten and enjealous him." Blood exchange, throughout the novel, binds male and female closely. Now Lucy, though Seward doesn't know it, has the blood of three males in her—his own, Holmwood's, and Dracula's.

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