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Chapter 11

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 11 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 11 : Lucy Westenra's Diary | Summary

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Summary

Before she sleeps on September 12th, Lucy records her gratitude for Van Helsing's help. She has been torn between "the pain of the sleeplessness" and "the pain of the fear of sleep." But tonight she will sleep well.

Seward's September 13th entry records that Mrs. Westenra greets him and Van Helsing warmly in the morning and reports that Lucy is much better, in part because, halfway through the night, Mrs. Westenra removed the smelly garlic from the room and opened the window to let in fresh air. Van Helsing controls his emotions until Mrs. Westenra leaves the room and then begins to sob. He can't tell Mrs. Westenra her actions may have killed Lucy because Mrs. Westenra's weakened heart might succumb to shock. As they go to Lucy's room, Van Helsing vows to fight someone but, as usual, doesn't explain. Lucy is deathly pale again, so Seward transfuses Van Helsing's blood to keep her alive. Later Van Helsing patiently explains to Mrs. Westenra that the garlic is part of Lucy's treatment. He offers to watch Lucy through the night. Seward, more confused than ever, wonders whether his work at the asylum is affecting his sanity.

By September 17th Lucy writes that she's had four peaceful nights and feels as if she's emerged from a nightmare she recalls vaguely. Van Helsing has stayed in a chair in her room each night. Now he must travel to Amsterdam, but Lucy is not afraid. She trusts the garlic cure. She reports, however, that something—perhaps bats or tree branches—lashes at the window at night.

The next section of this chapter is a long interview from a London paper with Thomas Bilder, a crusty old zookeeper at London's Zoological Gardens. Dated September 18th it describes the escape of a wolf named "Bersicker" (a Cockney English pronunciation of Berserker) . After feeding time, Bilder hears howling from the wolves' pen and finds Bersicker attacking the bars. The only visitor, a tall, thin man with red eyes, observes that the wolves seem upset, and Bilder suggests they want to devour the man. With a disrespectful smile, the man says the wolves wouldn't like how he tastes. As Bilder and the visitor talk, the wolves quiet down; the man reaches confidently through the bars to pet Bersicker's ears, saying he's had several pet wolves. Bersicker watches the man leave; later that night, Bilder hears howling again and finds Bersicker's cage destroyed and the wolf gone. Bilder believes that Bersicker just wanted out and, used to being cared for and fed, is skulking about looking for food. As the interviewer prepares to leave, Bilder sees Bersicker at the window and lets him in as if he were a "vulpine prodigal son." Broken glass has cut the wolf's head; Bilder locks him in a cage with some meat, and the interviewer leaves to file his report.

On September 17th, according to Seward's diary, he is working on the books and eating dinner when Renfield escapes his room and rushes at Seward with a dinner-knife, with which he slashes Seward's wrist. Seward knocks Renfield down as attendants come to his aid, but Renfield, rather than renewing his attack, crouches and licks the blood that dripped to the floor. He returns calmly to his room, muttering, "The blood is the life!" Already tired from the transfusion, Seward needs sleep. Fortunately, Van Helsing has not asked him to guard Lucy that night. However, Seward is not aware that a telegram from Van Helsing, warning him to guard Lucy, has been delayed nearly a day because of an incomplete address.

On the 18th Seward records his dismay over the late message. He wonders whether some force is working against them through unfortunate coincidences.

Lucy also writes on the 17th, leaving a record of events in case she dies in the night. She had placed the flowers as directed and fallen asleep, but she wakes to the familiar sound of flapping at the window. She hears a wild howl and sees a large bat outside the window. Unable to sleep, she calls for her mother, who comes to her room. Lucy asks her mother to stay with her, and the two lie in the bed, holding each other. But the sounds at the window cause Mrs. Westenra's heart to beat too fast. When the glass breaks and a large wolf thrusts its head into the room, Mrs. Westenra bolts up, accidentally pulling the garlic wreath off Lucy. Then she collapses and dies as hundreds of shiny specks float into the room and Lucy loses consciousness.

When she comes to, she hears dogs howling and a bell tolling. Maids rush into the room and, dismayed, cover Mrs. Westenra's body with a sheet. Lucy sends them to get a reviving drink of wine from the dining room. She lays the flowers—all she has to honor her mother—on the body and follows the maids to the dining room, fearful to be alone. There, she finds the maids on the floor, breathing heavily. Someone has poured Mrs. Westenra's sedative into the wine. Now Lucy is alone in the house, with her mother's body and the specks swirling in the blue light. Lucy tucks her diary entry in her gown for Arthur to find, should she not survive the night.

Analysis

The battle to control Lucy's destiny intensifies in Chapter 11. She's living a dual life, much as Harker did in Castle Dracula when night replaced day as his active time. Lucy writes briefly that she is both fearful (of sleep) and grateful (for everyone's care). For most people, and for her till recently, sleep is a blessing. Lucy needs sleep desperately but fears the nightmares that come. She can't know, and readers can't help but guess, that Dracula assaults her each night, in her bedroom, a place of intimate privacy and rest. Critics who interpret Dracula's predation on the women as sexual point out the bedroom as a fitting place for this kind of attack, and when Lucy likens her condition to that of Shakespeare's Ophelia, wrapped in a virgin's garments for her burial, the comparison reminds readers of the high price Victorian culture placed on a young woman's purity and sexual innocence.

Despite the doom that pervades Chapter 11, Stoker inserts comic relief as well (in the service of the plot) by way of the interview with Thomas Bilder, with his quirky dialect, cheery nature, and attachment to the animals he cares for. It's easy to read right past significant details in Bilder's story. The missing wolf, for example, is named Bersicker; earlier, Dracula regaled Harker with tales of the fierce Norse "berserker" warriors, and now Dracula admires and feels an affinity for this wolf. Dracula uses the wolf, readers later learn, to break the window in Lucy's room and push the garlic away, so the wolf becomes, temporarily, one of his allies before returning meekly to Bilder. However, Bilder's description of wolves insults Dracula indirectly. A wolf, he says, is a "low creature," not as "clever or bold as a good dog." Bersicker may look threatening, but he's really a skulker and a mooch who'll come home when he's hungry. Such, the episode suggests slyly, is Dracula, skulking in the dark, attacking girls who can't fight back, and hurrying home to his box of earth to hide afterward. The great prince, Bersicker's story suggests, is less terrifying than he seems to be. Like his "low" ally, whatever was once noble or admirable in Dracula is now degraded and grasping.

Despite this, Stoker reasserts Dracula as a worthy foe. As he did before leaving his castle, Dracula works out a careful plan for his assault on Hillingham. He borrows a wolf for his ally, manages to drug the wine, and takes advantage of Van Helsing's absence after four nights of vigilance. While Seward frets that "some horrible doom," some hand of fate, keeps throwing obstacles in their way, Dracula prepares, watches, and seizes opportunities to act. At this point in the novel, the Eastern prince seems to have the advantage over the brilliant Van Helsing and the brave young Western Englishmen.

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