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Dracula | Study Guide

Bram Stoker

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Chapter 12

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 12 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 12 : Dr. Seward's Diary | Summary



On September 18th Seward hurries to Hillingham in the morning and knocks, but no one answers. When Van Helsing arrives, they break into the house to find the drugged maids. In Lucy's room they see Mrs. Westenra's body, her face frozen in terror, and Lucy, her puncture wounds inflamed. Van Helsing rubs brandy on her lips and skin while Seward slaps the maids awake with wet towels. The maids sob as Seward orders them to draw a hot bath for Lucy. As Van Helsing and Seward work to save Lucy, Van Helsing says cryptically that if cheating death were the only goal, he would let Lucy "fade away into peace, for I see no light in life over her horizon."

They wrap Lucy in a hot blanket and assign a maid to guard her. Lucy needs another transfusion within the hour, but Van Helsing and Seward can't spare more blood, and the maids would be too scared, they assume, to undergo the procedure. A voice asks what's wrong with Lucy, and the men become aware that they're not alone. Quincey Morris has come at Holmwood's request. Van Helsing urges Morris, "A brave man's blood is the best thing on this earth when a woman is in trouble." Morris gladly undergoes the transfusion, which helps Lucy less than previous transfusions did. As she sleeps, Van Helsing and Seward read her diary entry. When Seward asks what it means, Van Helsing advises patience.

The men must avoid painful and perhaps incriminating investigations into Mrs. Westenra's death, so Seward writes up a certificate of death from heart disease and handles burial arrangements. Meanwhile, Morris heads to the telegram office to let Holmwood know of Mrs. Westenra's death and Lucy's condition.

After their errands, Morris insists on knowing what's going on. Why would Lucy need another transfusion? Why do Seward, Van Helsing, and even Holmwood look pale and tired? The men's condition reminds Morris of a horse he had in South America; it was attacked by a large vampire bat and had to be put down the next day, too weak from blood loss to stand. Seward has no answers, but both men agree to help Van Helsing care for Lucy however they can.

Lucy wakes late in the afternoon and takes the diary page from her nightgown, where Van Helsing had replaced it. She cries weakly over her mother's death. They assure her that they will not leave her side, and she sleeps again. In her sleep she tears the page in two. Van Helsing takes it out of her hands, which continue the shredding action.

On September 20th Seward reports a night of fitful sleep that leaves Lucy weaker. She can hardly move; food doesn't help her; oddly, she seems stronger when asleep than when awake. Her blood-starved gums recede, making her white teeth look longer and sharper. Morris patrols the house while Seward and Van Helsing guard Lucy, who, in the afternoon, asks for her fiancé. He arrives around sunset, nearly overcome with sorrow when he sees her condition. Yet both feign optimism.

A letter from Mina to Lucy, written on September 17th but never opened by its recipient, follows. She and Jonathan have finally returned and are staying in Exeter with Mr. Hawkins. A bachelor with no heirs, he announces that he will leave everything to them. Mina is busy arranging housekeeping while Jonathan, now a partner, and Mr. Hawkins tend to business. Mina wants to visit Lucy, but Jonathan is still too weak to be left without her care.

Patrick Hennessey, a doctor working under Seward at the asylum, writes a letter on September 20th to report an incident with Renfield. Several men pass the asylum, stopping for directions to Carfax, where they need to deliver heavy wooden boxes. Seeing them from his room's window, Renfield shouts abuse, which they ignore. An attendant checks on Renfield, who acts calm but then escapes through his window, chases the men, and attacks them. Hennessey and two large attendants restrain Renfield with difficulty as he shouts, "I'll fight for my Lord and Master!" They return him to the padded room and Hennessey lists the men's names in case they are needed for legal matters.

A letter of September 18th, from Mina to Lucy (who never reads it), follows. Mina reports that Mr. Hawkins has died unexpectedly; she and Jonathan feel they've lost a father. Jonathan is anxious because now all the work of the law firm falls on him, but Mina encourages him daily and hides her worries. They must come to London for the burial, and Mina will try to visit Hillingham briefly.

Seward's discouraged entry on September 20th reports that Holmwood's father died shortly after Mrs. Westenra. That evening, after Van Helsing and Holmwood go to rest, Seward guards Lucy, noting that her canines seem longer and sharper than before. He hears something at the window and sees a large bat hitting the panes with its wings. Lucy, apparently asleep, removes the garlic necklace, which he puts back. When she wakes, he offers her food, but she eats little. As the hours pass, Lucy wakes, clutches the garlic close, and then sleeps and thrusts it away.

At dawn Van Helsing checks Lucy's neck. He gasps: The wounds are utterly gone. Van Helsing predicts that Lucy will not last long, so Seward wakes Holmwood to say goodbye. She wakes, glad to see Arthur, who leans to kiss her, but Van Helsing holds him back. Her breath slows, then becomes raspy, and she asks Arthur to kiss her. As he bends to do so, Van Helsing flings him back. Fury mars Lucy's face for an instant, but then, she sorrowfully begs Van Helsing to protect Holmwood and to give her peace. He swears to do so. He allows Holmwood to kiss Lucy's forehead; then Lucy's breathing stops, and Seward leads Holmwood from the room.

When Seward returns, he sees Van Helsing sternly watching Lucy, who seems to have regained some beauty in death. Seward mourns the end of Lucy's life, but Van Helsing warns that her death is just the beginning. As usual, he doesn't explain.


Chapter 12 is long and packed with tragic events as Lucy succumbs to Dracula's curse, the men mourn, and Renfield unravels further. As these things happen, secrets and doubts undermine Dracula's opponents. Dracula himself is absent from this chapter; in fact, readers haven't seen much of him since the end of Chapter 4. But his power and threat is felt despite his absence, in the effect he has on Lucy, Renfield, and Jonathan Harker, still traumatized, as Mina writes from Exeter, by his experiences in Castle Dracula.

In fact male influence is powerful in general in this chapter. Van Helsing proves himself adaptable and unstoppable. When he meets Seward outside the house, Van Helsing quickly infers what might await them inside. He pivots from a grave admission—"I fear we are too late"—to humble acceptance—" God's will be done!" to action, with his "usual recuperative energy," in the space of four lines of text. Van Helsing is a dynamo whose resolve is infectious. He assesses and triages the scene in Lucy's bedroom rapidly and improvises treatment on the fly. Under Van Helsing's leadership, Seward and, later, Morris forestall Lucy's death long enough for Holmwood to arrive. What Van Helsing says about Morris, "A brave man's blood is the best thing on earth when a woman is in trouble," applies not only to the transfusion Morris gives Lucy but to all the vigorous action the men take during the crisis. When Lucy is somewhat revived, Van Helsing exults: "Check to the King!" The chess metaphor acknowledges Dracula's power, which the men have overcome—for now.

It's not only a matter of male and female roles and expectations that places the focus on manly action in these scenes. Class is at work as well. The maids, who impress and surprise Seward with their devotion in Chapter 11, become little more than tools in this chapter. Seward wakes them from their drugged sleep by hitting them with wet towels and then sternly orders them, as they sob, to draw the bath for Lucy (who is bathed in her nightclothes, modestly, while the maids are only "half clad" and have not a moment to look to their own needs). The Westenras' maids and Seward's attendants are generally depicted as barely competent and ready to desert their posts or seize opportunities to enrich themselves at their employers' expense, as one maid indeed does in the next chapter, stealing the golden crucifix from Lucy's body. The effect, here and elsewhere, is to reinforce Victorian ideas about class structure and the unworthiness of the lower classes to advance.

But despite Seward's misgivings about the servants, he and Van Helsing also engage in less than ethical behavior to cover up the cause of Mrs. Westenra's death. They justify their legal lies as necessary for the common good, and perhaps they're right, but their actions add another layer of secrecy to perplexing events. The hesitation or outright refusal to share vital information is a recurring problem in much of the novel. Because Van Helsing still won't explain what's happening to Lucy, Seward can only report odd changes that readers know are stages Lucy passes through as she is transformed. She seems stronger at night; food doesn't help her; her gums recede to expose her teeth; she pushes the garlic away when she sleeps. The only character besides Van Helsing who grasps Lucy's condition is Lucy herself, as readers realize when she begs Van Helsing to protect Holmwood and to give her peace. The chapter ends with more questions, to which the enigmatic Van Helsing will only say, "Wait and see," increasing the suspense for Seward and for readers.

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